Luke Helder and Crime and Punishment

posted by Jason Kottke   May 08, 2002

I just finished reading Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky. As it happens, the subject matter of the book mirrors this business with pipe-bomber Luke Helder. Reading through the text of letters Helder left with bombs in mailboxes and the manifesto (mirror) he sent The Badger Herald, I was reminded of the writings, mutterings, utterances, and internal dialogue of C&P’s Raskolnikov.

In the book, Raskolnikov writes an article for a newspaper in which he states that “extraordinary [people] have the right [that is, not an official right, but his own right] to commit all sorts of crimes and in various ways to transgress the law, because in point of fact they are extraordinary.” He goes on to say that great people can do great deeds, whether right or wrong, because they bring about great change in the world. In his madness (or is it?), he tests this theory and himself. Is he an extraordinary man? Can he kill and steal because he is extraordinary? What changes might he be helping bring about? Can he get away with it? Can he drop hints about his crime and still not be caught?

There are glimpses in Helder’s writings that hint that he might be of Raskolnikov’s mind and considers himself an extraordinary man out to change the world, preaching his gospel. “I’m here to help you realize/understand that you will live no matter what!” “You have been missing how things are, for very long.” “I’m happy because I know. I often wonder why anyonewould be so content with believing when they could know.” “I’m here to help you, to expose you, to inform you, to provide for you the answers for where to look, so the ‘spiritually sleepy mass’ can transform themselves from believing to knowing, to have an awareness to life, and to begin understanding.”

(Or maybe not. Maybe Helder is just a dumb kid that smoked too much pot and watched The Matrix one too many times. Either way, the whole situation is horrible and fascinating, as was Dostoevsky’s account of Raskolnikov.)