Thursday, November 09, 2006

It's salvation, stupid

There are some things we should all know. Such as, what happened at Auschwitz and what didn't happen in the Soviet Union and China.

There are other things we probably do know, but are not inclined to acknowledge. Such as, even when we do good, our motives are, at best, mixed, and that this usually doesn't matter. And then there's this. Martin Amis in a Time interview.

In the story you describe jihad as the most charismatic idea of Atta's generation. Do you really believe this?

It's self-evidently true. You're always onto a winner if you can persuade people they can be righteous and violent at the same time. Nothing beats that. Officially sanctioned violence is unimprovable. And with this paradise which they've stirred into the mix - whereby with an act of mass murder, you gain the keys - you've got a very attractive idea. Also, it gives the "nobody" a chance to play a decisive role in world history, and there are lots of people who are going to be drooling at the thought of that.

So you think that's what motivates terrorists?

I'm sure. I say in the story [that Atta] was in it for the killing, and I think that's another underestimated consideration: killing people is obviously terrific fun. It's a crude expression of power to kill people, and it's arousing.

That rings true. It doesn't explain everything, but it explains a damn lot and far more credibly than the self-flagellating grievances so many are keen to attribute to the brothers. Amis has words about that, too.
You've written that Western ideology is to blame for weakening the West in the war on terror. How?

Because moral relativism is so far advanced that we don't believe we can be right about anything. It just hasn't been accepted in the consciousness of the West that we have a fight with irrationality on our hands. Everyone's casting about, saying, "Why are they doing this?" And gooey-eyed newscasters on CNN say, "Why? Why this anger?" Paul Berman, the author of "Terror and Liberalism," calls this tendency "rationalist naïveté." [Terrorists] rejected reason. This is what Hitler did, and it's what Lenin did. They want to believe anything is possible, and they're not constrained by the laws of logic. This, plus the death-cult element, gives any movement a huge surge of isn't a matter of reason. It's a psychopathology. Their war is against God's enemies and it's meant to last for eternity, and how rational an undertaking is that?
Amis has spent a lot of time studying and writing about the Soviet Union. He is attuned to the ineffable core of nihilism that informs salvational ideologies. Unlike many in the West, he is not susceptible to its Siren call.

(via Norm)

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