Posted by Jew from Jersey
15 June 2005
Suicide bombers hold a curiously powerful attraction to the privileged members of Western society. Such would-be aristocrats are usually opposed to all forms of violence, but strangely, they have never been known to say anything negative about suicide bombers outside of a brief introduction to a longer and more emotional statement of deep sympathy and understanding for such bombers. The clue to understanding this apparent paradox is to realize that the violence of suicide bombers differs from other forms of violence in appearing to be spontaneous and the act of an individual. In reality, most suicide bombing operations are planned weeks if not months in advance and involve collaboration between large numbers of people who are usually members of well-organized, well-funded and well-known organizations. But none of this is apparent in the act of the bomber as seen on TV, and it is appearances that matter most to western elites.
The intelligentsia view the suicide bomber on the one hand as a wild animal, an uncontrollable primitive force that defies mechanized human society. The bomber is like the wild lion or eagle that expresses the primal animal magnetism that these aristocrats worship. He is like the untamed beast in whose name land must be seized off the market and made into an eternal wildlife refuge where no man shall set foot except for the aristocrats in their expensive hiking gear on their long vacations. The conservative politicians and the general public who support a war on terror are seen in the same light as the evil corporations and housing developers, planning to build on the virgin primitive soil and make extinct the last of the unfettered hunters of the wild, only to make room for shopping malls and cheap housing.
On the other hand, the suicide bomber is also a paragon of self-expression. He exudes a spontaneity and an excited emotional level that the soldier lacks. He is somehow less cognizant of his own violence, and so potentially less culpable. The soldier or policeman who uses force, or simply waves a billy-club as a threat, is guilty of premeditated institutional violence. But the suicide bomber is not seen by the elites as institutional or premeditating. He wears no uniform. He is not deputized. He follows neither orders nor rules of engagement. He carries no recognizable weapon. He waves no club or even a fist. He doesn’t yell or threaten. He simply explodes. True, this explosion may cause the deaths of dozens of men, women, and children and painfully wound and cripple hundreds of others, but this happens after the bomber is dead. He is not conscious of it. Unlike the policeman or soldier, he could not have looked his victims in the face at the moment of their agony. Furthermore, he did not know his victims and probably devoted little or no thought to who they would be.
The violence of the suicide bomber is markedly different from any kind of violence known in the western world because it appears to be at the same time passionate and abstract. It is emotion so powerful and unfettered that it can not be kept inside. This is why it sets off the imaginations of western sophisticates. It is very reminiscent of the kind of qualities that are so highly sought after in their art and personal lives. It mirrors their main criterion in their art, which is neither esthetic beauty nor philosophical wisdom, but the flouting of traditions and the violation of boundaries for its own sake. It also parallels their personal values, which are often focused on ever-expanding realms of personal expression and thrill-seeking, impulsive behavior. The suicide bomber is clearly crossing more boundaries, violating more sensibilities, and experiencing a deeper range of emotional expression than any of the members of these privileged western classes. To condemn him would be to condemn what they value most about themselves. It is almost as if chic westerners believe that suicide bombers do not carry explosives at all (that would be too premeditative). It is almost as if they believe that the suicide bomber simply feels his emotions so purely and so intensely that he actually spontaneously combusts as an act of self-expression. This sounds quite fantastic, but what is one to make of the worshipful tones in which western elites speak when they insist that someone who could have committed such an act must have felt an impulse so strong that they had no choice in following it. It is as if the very brutality of the act proves that it could not have been a premeditated conscious decision. Just as the aristocrat sees in the suicide bomber as a surrogate for his beloved wild predator caged in by land development, he also sees in him a surrogate for the misunderstood uncompromising artist and liberated bohemian, who is censored by the pig-ignorant bourgeoisie. What aristocrat (or dictator) doesn’t fancy himself a great artist?
The suicide bomber is viewed above all as authentic, perhaps the quality most highly valued by today’s Western glitterati. Hannah Arendt once described the bureaucracy behind the Nazi holocaust as “the banality of evil.” To the western upper classes, it is almost as if everything that is banal is evil and something that is not banal can not possibly be evil.
In an article about Marlon Brando and James Dean, Pauline Kael wrote in 1955: