Sunday, April 07, 2013

Mick Philpott, existentialist, rascal

Far as I am from the UK, I find that the story of Mick Philpott, guilty of killing six of his children, somehow encapsulates all that is wrong with the sceptered isle. His appearances on daytime tv, his status as archetypal layabout, with an origin intriguingly including a period spent as a soldier in the army; his previous convictions being of such serious crimes as aggravated attempted murder, but so underpunished as to teach him all he needed to know about the malleability of the values of the society he leeched from; all these and more suggest, in a kind of odiferous compot, the precise elemental excretia of the body politic in the era in which we live. 

In fact Philpott's life history suggests a man who acted entirely on his desires and behaved with an almost poetic sense of freedom, insofar as whatever he could get away with, he did. He may well have known what good behaviour was, in the abstract- he could certainly impersonate it when he wanted to-, but in reality he was committed to doing whatever he was able to get away with at the given moment, and in the process imposing a Philpott-shaped indentation on the society through which his antics cut a swathe.

The details are oh-so-very tabloid, to such an extent that it's clear Philpott understood and even lusted after placing himself within the tableaux of selfish extremity which is their constant emanation. We learn, for instance, that Mick Philpott and his wife Mauraid went to a karioke evening in the days after they had caused the death of six of Philpott's children, and that he sang 'Suspicous Mind' by Elvis Presley, including the lyric 'caught in a trap'. The macabre dark humour of the Philpotts is an element of the artist of the moment trying to impose his will on reality.

Murder, as Dostoyevsky illustrated in his work Crime and Punishment, is the ultimate assertion of the will. Thus did Philpott consider the deaths of his children: as the assertion of his will. He considered himself, and forced others to admire him as, one of life's winners, one of life's survivors. He considered it his role to dominate: women, children, even society itself. He dominates the headlines today, and that itself is a form of continuing victory. For this, Philpott can be considered one of the world's great existentialists. Dostoyevsky's Raskolnikov would have agreed, and this latter day rascal shows how the world has advanced since those times.

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