Thursday, September 11, 2003

The aetiology of suicide bombing

Occasional moments of job-market despair aside, and despite my fitting their usual demographic (young, male, educated and middle-class) almost perfectly, I have zero sympathy for suicide bombers. Quite simply, if they think they’re fucked-up, they’re dreamin’. Anger is a surplus emotion – a luxury rather than a necessity. So if you’ve got it in bucketloads, you are most definitely NOT more fucked-up than anyone else; you are just hoarding something away, in telltale middle-class style. Most pathetic of all is the suicide bombers’ conceit that anger can be channelled into producing a payoff – murder, glory, martyrdom, being on the next night’s news – it’s all the same old yawn. There’s never One Big Payoff when everyone’s a seller – think about it. I’ve got bucketloads of it too, if you must know.

Googling “I don't have much to live for” does not – as you may think – lead to Suicide Bomber Central. The phrase, in fact, stuck in my mind because it was used recently by an “I’m fucked-up enough to be a suicide bomber, so watch out!” type, but the speaker was (like me) a fifth generation Australian. Otherwise, the online ranks of those self-proclaimers of little to live for are the First World’s more conventionally depressed and/or suicidal.

I suspect that it’s an understatement to say that mental health facilities in the Palestinian territories could be improved. But in the end, suicide bombing is as much, or more, a medical problem as an economic or ideological one. Maybe I’m being wildly optimistic in saying this, but couldn’t the entire psychic economy of commoditised murder-suicides be pricked to nought by a bit of spending the anger?

And I’m not proposing the dreaded c-word (“constructive”) here. If you want to live the rest of your life as a goth passively malingering on the edge of the abyss, go for it. Alternatively, go shake shit up and go in hard. Just don’t confuse the two – when it comes to surplus anger, no one’s buying it.

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