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“Murder by Numbers”

Posted by purplemary54 on April 7, 2013

So I’m finally starting to catch up with some books (I’ve got a long list).  First up is Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, which I found for cheap at the new used book/music/DVD store at our local mall.  It’s a whodunit of sorts.  Wife goes missing on her fifth anniversary, and husband is prime suspect; things start getting complicated after that (I’m about halfway through, so I don’t know exactly how complicated yet).  I like mysteries, although I’m not generally a big fan of fictional ones.  I don’t like the way they hide clues behind smoke and mirrors and how the solution is supposed to seem so obvious.  There’s also often a moral component I find distasteful.  Not that I object to morals, not in real life anyway.  But I like my fiction to be kind of morally ambiguous.  My favorite mysteries are the ones where the crime doesn’t necessarily get solved, or there’s some loose ends left untied.  I like it if the bad guy gets his/her comeuppance, but it’s really fun if you’re having a little trouble figuring out exactly who the bad guy is.

This is the most morally ambiguous song I’ve ever heard.  It’s jaunty, jazzy tune is a cover for the musings of a sociopath.  I’ll be honest, I’ve occasionally wanted to kill people.  Who doesn’t?  That one moment where your fury blinds you, and the only thought in the red haze hovering at the corners of your vision is “Die, motherfucker, die!”  Of course, once that red haze lifts, you stop feeling homicidal.  I’ve never considered premeditated murder, which is what this song is about.  The idea that murder could be so casual is frightening.  It would be less so if it weren’t so damn true for some people.  There are serial killers, of course, but they’re such anomalies in society.  So are the mass shooters, even though we’ve had a lot of those lately.  What’s truly scary is the way gang members and mobsters and spouses and roommates and so many others can logically and easily take the life of another person.  I have trouble killing bugs.  I won’t eat lobster because they have to be cooked alive.  Killing a human being is anathema to everything I believe in.

Of course, the song is satirical.  It’s meant to be taken as seriously as Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal.”  Which means we should take it very seriously.  See, there’s more to this than “Murder by numbers, 1-2-3.  It’s as easy to learn as your ABC’s.”  This is just highlighting the inhumanity of murder.  And if you take Sting’s comment at the beginning of the clip at face value (“This song is about the cynical manipulation of large numbers of people.”), then it takes on even more sinister connotations.  Corporate and political connotations.  Just like Swift’s infamous essay was a criticism of the British government’s neglect of poverty and famine in Ireland, “Murder by Numbers” becomes a not-so-gentle poke at the way we are convinced to accept unacceptable things.  So what if non-smokers are dying of lung cancer caused by air pollution?  Who cares if people keep dying from e-coli caused by filthy food production, or infections caused by sloppy medical care?  Safety standards for automobiles?  Who needs ’em!  As long as we can keep going to Walmart and buying cheap plastic crap we don’t really need at rock bottom prices, we don’t need to consider the lives put at risk manufacturing any of it.  Now, please direct yourself to this lengthy story about Lindsay Lohan’s most recent court appearance.  Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.  Move along now, nothing here to see.


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