Monday, October 20, 2008

Career Options

"We're here to save lives. If anyone tries to harm them, we fight."

Or words to that effect. I can't recall, all these decades later, exactly what the medic said. But that's exactly what he said, if not in those exact words. Medics with guns. Sometimes I argue, from the same understanding, for school teachers with guns.

Douglas Stone "Terrorism as a Career Option," American Thinker. 11 October 2008

Among the greatest underrated factors energizing the tides of history is boredom. Boredom and peer pressure and the love of personal power and wealth, and all the other mundane and often ugly personal drives that have a force that can exceed the most profound political or religious beliefs -- and for that reason have often built or broken empires.

It was partly boredom that urged young men onto ships to explore the New World and later prompted them to join wagon trains to settle the West. In the early days of the Civil War, peer pressure worked on state legislatures to prod many former Union stalwarts to embrace the Confederacy. And in our own time, in the 1960s, rioting in the ghettos and among students was often motivated by nothing more than a testosterone-fueled sense of power and a desire to loot and destroy.

In the Middle East today, it is often boredom and peer pressure, and -- among the leaders especially -- the desire for sheer power and wealth, that entices young men into radical politics. Many of the top Palestinian "militants," for example, may cloak these motivations in politics or religion, but ultimately they are little more than gangsters whose venality conveniently coincides with the prevailing public orthodoxies.

Pssst! Wanna job? You're in the occupied West Bank or Gaza; there's massive, entrenched unemployment; you're young and not particularly educated. What do you do?
How about a "job" that may after a few years yield a substantial bank account and serious power; in fact, the power of life or death. Joining a terrorist outfit is not only somewhat expected, but you can take care of your family and cousins and friends, and have women swooning in their nijabs and men shaking in their Nikes.

One of the largely unremarked facts of life in the Palestinian territories is that the life of a "militant" often isn't such a bad deal, and there's reason to believe that some of the ongoing troubles in that benighted place are due to the simple fact that for the sociopathic personality being a militant can be a great job opportunity.

A number of the terrorist leaders are men in their 40s without skills or the prospects of decent employment. What's the appeal of a clerk's job in the local equivalent of a 7-11 when you can have money and power and be in service to a nationalist political cause that makes you the toast of the Arab world and left wing salons from Paris to London to, yes, even New York.

Great job being a freedom fighter, if you can get it -- and keep it. This is often true for the leaders, of course, but it can also be true for mid-level operatives. There is no doubt that for some there is a real belief in the cause, but for many it is merely a job.

The same way of thinking that allows one to eschew democracy, lord it over one's fellows or simply to kill political opponents, is the same mentality that allows a former "idealist" simply to begin killing and stealing -- and prevents him from embracing peace.

Money. Power. Fame or popularity. These are the rewards that go to those who keep the pot boiling. Keep it boiling or agree to a settlement that will yield peace and increased prosperity for your people but to the now-aging militants might only mean the drudgery of performing the mundane duties of a real politician in a poor backwater.


Imagine a group of guys holding down a little girl and cutting off her leg. It's enough to make you weep. It's hardly better when you know the guys are medics saving the girl from death. It's a hard job, and it's not for those who weep at the sight of suffering. It's a job that transcends sentimentality and goes deep into the heart of Human goodness.

You can carry that leg all your life.

No comments: