Friday, December 10, 2010

Sad Guys

Depending upon how you look at it, Muslim suicide bombers are either (a) brave martyrs giving their lives in defense of God's people; or (b) deluded religious fanatics bent on mass homicide. Right?

Or maybe they are really (c) clinical depressives committing suicide by the one means their society sanctions.

Here's a Boston Globe report on some new research, which suggests the last of these possibilities may often be the case. A jihadi recruiter says that they "look for sad guys" to do their dirty work. More quantitatively, an Israeli researcher studying both would-be bombers and the men who organized their mayhem found that 53% of the bombers exhibited 'depressive tendencies" versus 21% of the organizers, and that 40% of the bombers had actually attempted suicide, versus zero percent of the organizers. Big surprise, right? Suicide bombers are crazier than the average person.

We know nothing about the state of mental health care in Muslim societies. But we will bet that even if he elites can have their heads shrunk and their meds prescribed just like any Westerner, the average guy on the street has fewer options. And, as the Globe says, Islam is the only one of the three "Abrahamic" faiths (shudder, and move on) which has a scriptural prohibition against suicide. Meaning that, for a very long time, "martyrdom" in which one dies by killing other people has been the socially-appropriate vehicle for self-destuctive urges.

This would actually move us to pity for the poor saps, except that after 9/11 our heart was turned to stone. And, okay, it actually does. People who are sick should get the help they need. Still, our compassion for mass murderers is limited. So, to the part of our stony heart that lacks compassion, this report offers some interesting ideas for the place where foreign aid and defense spending overlap. The DoD might buy caseloads of Zoloft and ship them abroad. Or hook up gas mains in certain countries, and buy the inhabitants nice big ovens. Like the one Sylvia Plath had in her apartment.

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