As the media gird their loins for days and weeks worth of satisfying bleeding, crying, heart-rending front pages, one question stands out ‘How could young men become so radicalised that they turn into suicide bombers’.
We seem to be forgetting that we in the West also have a society where young men are prepared to die for their beliefs – the only difference, and it is a marked difference, is that they have no wish to kill anybody else at the same time.
1217 young men in Britain in 2013. Suicide remains the leading cause of death for men between 20 and 34 in England and Wales.
Suicide is a complex subject, but we cannot avoid the realisation that as a society, we too have many, far too many, young men who believe that their life has no meaning, holds no joy for them, cannot be improved, and therefore they are prepared to end it rather than endure it.
It is too simplistic to state that it is merely religion, or more prosaically, the prospect of the mythical ’72 virgins’ as on-line commentators are prone to quote with monotonous regularity, that separates our young men that are prepared to take their own life, from those in the fundamentalist regions of the Islamic faith.
Mainly because in Australia, they have actually researched ‘suicide bombers’ at Finders University – and discovered that 90% of all suicide bombings between 1981 and 2006 were carried out because of a cocktail of motivations including politics, humiliation, revenge, retaliation and altruism. Religious beliefs barely got a look in. Between those years, 1981 – 2006, 1200 people decided to become suicide bombers, and killed 14,599 innocent people at the same time.
The facts, as opposed to the myths, appear to support a view that what separates our young men who take their own life from those who the media depict as ‘mad, pitiless suicide bombers’ may be their sense of community. Religious teaching may form a part of that sense of community. They are able to see, or be made to see by those who groom them, the taking of other lives in addition to their own as an altruistic act that may benefit the community as a whole by forcing political decisions that will benefit the community whilst simultaneously escaping from the intolerable everyday degradations of life, boredom, humiliation, anxiety and defiance.
Perhaps rather than ranting against a religion that we claim is solely responsible for producing suicide bombers, we should be looking at another community world wide.
The community of young men who are prepared to take their own life. For it is amongst that community of the disaffected, the unemployed, the humiliated, the politically disenfranchised, that ISIS and Al Qaeda are finding their deadly weapon – the human body.
The technological age has devalued young men – there are no longer worthwhile avenues for their strength, which was their main value in manual employment. Their virility, their other main distinguishing factor, is under attack from feminists the world over.
Both those factors apply to our own home grown male suicides.
We accept, with relative equanimity, that when those factors take on the additional burden of unalterable characteristics such as the colour of your skin, and where some long forgotten colonialist chose to draw your nations borders, that you may chose to commit suicide in a foreign market place, or outside an embassy somewhere you can’t quite pronounce, that it is just another paragraph in your daily paper – but when the same event occurs in Paris or London, we are all quite sure that the one and only reason we are mourning the innocent victims is one particular religion.