Theodore Dalrymple turns his invariably-jaundiced eye in the direction of Britain’s homegrown homicidal Islamist fanatics.
With the downfall of the Soviet Union, Marxism lost almost all of its appeal for hormonally disaffected young men of the West, leaving them bereft of significance and purpose. Except for one group among them, they now had only a potpourri of causes (sexism, racism, the environment, etc.), none of which quite met the need or filled the gap.
The group excepted, of course, was the Muslims. Islam was waiting in the wings with a ready-made ideology. Nature hates a vacuum, especially in young menâ€™s heads, which are all too easily filled with quarter-baked ideas. Islamism is so stupid, so preposterous and intellectually nugatory, and so appallingly catastrophic in its actual effects, that it makes one almost nostalgic for the days of Marxism. At least Marxism had a patina of rationality, and most of its adherents (in the West at any rate), while not averse to violence in the abstract, were willing to postpone the final, extremely violent apocalypse to some future date and did not believe that by blowing themselves up or cutting peopleâ€™s throats they would ascend directly to the classless society or meet Marx in his pantheon. You could be a martyr in the Marxist cause, but only on the understanding that death was final. The best you could hope for was that, after the final victory of the proletarian revolution, you would have a postage stamp issued in your memory. This does not have quite the same attraction as an everlasting orgy in a cool desert oasis while everyone else is roasting eternally in Gehenna (no bliss is quite complete without someone elseâ€™s agony).
The other great advantage of Marxism, from the point of view of national security, was that it was not dominated by ethnic minorities (as Islam is, give or take some converts), so that, however vehement the language of Marxism or its imagined solutions to the worldâ€™s problems, its organizations were easy to infiltrate. The observed and the observer shared the same general culture; there was no foreign and unfamiliar tongue to learn; and though it had its jargon, it was easy to master. Moreover, very few young men in the West went off to join Marxist insurgencies around the world or posed a threat to their own countries when they returned. They preferred support in theory to participation in practice, certainly after World War II. Only the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War attracted Marxists to real combat.
But the sheer stupidity of a belief that is incompatible with the most obvious reflections on current reality and on history is, alas, no obstacle to its spread; and Islamism has been able to inspire, if that is quite the word, hundreds or thousands (no one knows exactly how many) of young Muslims from Europe, and a few from North America, to fight for Islamist causes in the Maghreb, the Sahel, the Middle East, and Afghanistan. Among them are thought to be about 700 from Britain, the largest contingent of any Western country. Though France has a Muslim population twice as big as Britainâ€™s, its jihadist contingent is estimated to be about half the size of Britainâ€™s.
The South London accent and intonation of the apparent killer of James Foley, Steven Sotloff, and David Haines, and the manner of the murders, have shocked and horrified people in Britain. Very little is known of the man, not even his ethnic origin: In London, a third of whose population was born abroad, there are so many possibilities, even among Muslims. But his joy in his own brutality, his sadistic delight in doing evil with the excuse that it was for a supposedly holy cause, in inflicting such a death under the illusion that it was a duty rather than a crime, was obvious. His â€œfaithâ€ allowed him to act out the fantasy of every dangerous psychopath dreaming of revenge upon a world that was not good enough for him and that otherwise failed to accord him the special notice or place that he thought he merited.
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