I know that bombers or bomb suspects are not news. Almost every day one reads about yet another suicide bomber who has killed a number of people, including himself. I am not about to try and understand terrorism in 500 words. That would be foolish, arrogant and naive. The three men in the photo are those most recently arrested in Birmingham for allegedly planning a bombing in London that would eclipse the 7/7 event.What shook me was their view that 7/7 ” had gone a bit wrong” because those bombers had not used nails. I found myself shaken by this small detail-more than the bigger picture of a bombing itself, which would have caused enough death and maiming. It is the additional cruelty that shocked me. The idea that additional damage should be done to maximise the effect shook me.
I read the accounts of these men’s conversations and wondered how they became so anti-life. Their inner worlds seemingly dominated by what Freud called the death instinct (thanatos.) Stuart Tremlow in his paper The Relevance of Psychoanalysis to an Understanding of Terrorism has suggested that terrorists may hold ” …an endless resentment about their impossible needs which cannot… be accommodated by the objects of their love or hate.” Perhaps this endlessly unfilled neediness goes someway to explain how the Taliban can shoot a 14 year girl who wants to go to school. The resentment that someone else may have privileges denied to them. More, that it is inconceivable that this girl should receive an education simply as a right when, in fantasy, they are denying themselves all manner of comforts and pleasures.
Perhaps it is this sense of resentment of others’ privileges-real or perceived- that moved these three men from Birmingham to plan their bombings. And with resentment comes hatred, envy and a wish to destroy in others what one does not have oneself- and by destroying oneself, one ends that neediness. (This self destruction is, of course, the tragedy of any suicide. It says “I am beyond help.You have all failed me. I will provide my own solution. And thereby demonstrate my own omnipotence by meeting the needs you all failed to meet.”)
We do not know very much about these men’s inner lives. We may assume that by adopting an extreme fundamentalism, they were trying to find a structure and meaning that they had not so far found. We may also assume a deep sense of resentment about their lives as they experienced them. ( To define oneself only as a victim justifies all manner of things thereafter that are inexcusable.One risks becoming the very thing one hates.)
In the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy God is recorded as saying to the Israelites “… I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life that both thou and thy seed may live.” (Deut.31:19) The trouble with choosing life is that it is so messy and uncertain. Unlike Death which is absolute.