July 25, 2005

The weight on their shoulders

I'm out of London - where when people stampede over each other to save their own necks they do so stoically - for a couple of weeks, so posts are likely to be intermittent for a while.

To reinforce the points made in a number of recent posts, here's David Canter, Director of the Centre for Investigative Psychology at the University of Liverpool, writing in The Times on Saturday:

'Interviews with would-be Palestinian suicide bombers have revealed that they were not always idealists committed to a well-understood cause. Some had volunteered only a few weeks earlier. They often did not have a detailed understanding of the purpose of the destruction they intended, but were motivated by personal experiences.

The London bombers do not live under an occupying force but they may believe they do. They may not have suffered the daily insults of a foreign army but may have formed a view that killing themselves in the name of a “cause” was the only way to regain personal pride. It is this intention to kill themselves that must be kept in mind when trying to determine how the bombers are thinking and feeling now.

Suicide by young men is such a serious problem in Britain that it is a declared NHS target to reduce the occurrence. So it is no coincidence that these bombers are broadly of the same age and gender as the many others who kill themselves at the stage between adolescence and manhood when the pressures can seem too great and the only way out is seen to be death. If such confusions are channelled by manipulative adults and dressed with the plaudits of courage and martyrdom then vulnerable young men will succumb.'

This does suggest that, in the young men who typically become suicide bombers, the will to (self-)destruction comes first and the Cause second. Hence, once again, Schrader's acuteness in his depiction of Travis Bickle: Bickle's ultimate role as redeeming avenger (although are those final scenes a fantasy sequence? I'm never sure) is somewhat arbitrary. He could just as easily have been the assassin of a presidential candidate, pursuing his own damnation and self-destruction through the destruction of an other. Too much commentary on the suicide bombings has presupposed that the perpretrators of the attacks are committed zealots rather than confused drifters, carriers of thanatoidal teenihilstic death force for hire.

Posted by mark at July 25, 2005 04:16 PM | TrackBack