I just read Micheal Finkel’s book, TRUE STORY, about Chris Longo, who murdered his wife and three small children in 2001. The author based his book on hundreds of pages of letters and jail interviews that he collected over the course of two years. Longo now faces the death penalty. The big question in the book is why he murdered, as he seemed to be so normal. Psychiatrists who examined him claimed he was a narcissist.
However, Longo's crime cannot be reduced to his personality disorder. Millions of people - in the US especially, are afflicted with narcissism, yet they do not commit violent crimes, let alone murder their families. Indeed, narcissism is seen by some as a virtual requirement for success in business.
In order to turn a personality disorder in a criminal direction, the proper environment must be provided.
In Longo's case, there were two-inter-related conditions which led him to kill his family. One of these was the conservative consumer-obsessed culture. The other was authoritarian religion. One can easily imagine a different, yet still narcissistic Longo arising in a different cultural-environmental context. A Longo who cares nothing for bourgeois convention, fantasies himself as an artiste and sponges off everyone. A pain in the ass, but not a criminal.
The Longos wanted a yuppie lifestyle, but they couldn't afford it. This need led Chris Longo to engage in fraud and theft, in a kind of vicious circle that led to murder. What initially sparked his criminal activity involves a political context. His youngest daughter had severe health problems which drained his limited income and drove him into bankruptcy. In any civilized country health insurance would have covered these costs. Not so in the USA. Could it be that for want of a decent health care system a family was murdered?
Why did the Longo's have to have a middle class living standard? Because it was the thing to do. They were highly conservative, never questioning anything, always seemingly obedient to every convention, which included being overly polite, not drinking alcohol or swearing. For such people, the outward display of wealth is a compensation for their insecurity and their shallow, boring lives. Indeed, the latter aspect was to encourage Longo in his crime sprees. He got a thrill from stealing a car or writing a bum cheque.
But why couldn't the Longos afford their yuppie lifestyle? Both were highly intelligent and capable individuals. The cult they belonged to considered higher education to be a sin. Longo had only a Grade Nine education. With the destruction of US trade unions - another political context - the poorly educated can only get minimum wages. Yet they wanted to be middle class. Their cult however, didn't see anything wrong with materialist aspirations. Had Longo been a Quaker, Buddhist or Amish - no murders.
The cult also demanded subservience from women. The wife was not to question her husband's actions. A normal woman would have demanded to know where all the expensive automobiles and gifts were coming from on a $7.00 an hour job. A normal woman would have left Longo when his behavior became increasingly bizarre.
At the most crucial period in their lives - when Longo was finally revealed as a thief, fraud-artist, liar and cheat, the cult failed them. The family was ostracized, driving them into complete isolation, furthering the mad spiral that led to death.
Yes, Longo must die, yet not a word is said about the crazy system that produced him.