The Logic Of Suicide Bombers: Motivation & Ideals

Whenever a superior civilization has encountered a weaker one, the superior civilizations culture, technology, ideals informing relations between women and men, money and a host of other tangibles from within the superior civilization cultural reserve will emanate outward threatening the weaker, less civilized.  The habits and internal frames of reference (theological, linguistic) of the assaulted party will heat up in managing the threat. With enough time, the weaker civilization will display a schism that cannot be remedied.  This schism is an acknowledged breach of moral status as a mortal threat.  A disintegrating society  will publicly display lines of action as encounter, behavior demonstrating paralyzed initiative.  The choice to respond effectively, to manage the threat is not possible for the threatened party’s civilizational reserve cannot sustain any self examination from the encounter.

The process of disintegration works itself out along alternative choices of action revealing ever greater rigidity.  The greater the limitation, the extremity in  public display of divergence, the more momentous in their consequence.  This is a spiritual movement that is extraordinarily dynamic.

Throughout all civilizations, there are two forms of personal behavior that are alternative substitutes for creative faculty.  Both are attempts at self expression in facing and mastering alternative response to threats.

The passive attempt consists in abandon.  Here the soul believes that it can live in accord with nature by giving free rein to its own spontaneous appetites and aversions.  The active alternative is the cultivation of self control, to gain self mastery.

When neither passive alternative is taken as possible reconnaissance toward managing a mortal threat, then truancy and martyrdom remain.

Truancy is demonstrated when an individual, usually a native born in a host civilization but not assimilated into the cultural reserve that gives form to freedom, no longer believes in the drills that form freedom or identity.  The passive attempt to break this social deadlock is public truancy.  Witness urban youths happily demonstrate prison haute coutre (dress)!

Both truancy and martyrdom are byproducts of the vice of cowardice and the virtue of courage.  Both vice and virtue are grounded in man’s natural constitution, even though cultivation or culture may impede either from expression. It is important that we discern the theologically, morally informing overtones that shape the truancy of cowardice and the martyrdom of pure courage, for neither are self referential.  They require a wider quarry to discern their antecedents.

The truant soul is inspired by a genuine, yet misplaced feeling that the cause which it serves is not really worth the service demanded.

The martyr is far more wily in discerning its religious antecedents.  It is a desire to satisfy a craving of the soul in delivering itself from an unintelligible world.

With martyrdom, in essence, the defeated soul can no longer live acknowledging an unmanageable moral breach.  The rigidity of composure may be fortified theologically in a belief that displayed omnipotence in the face of a greater adversary warrants grace.  Simply put, the martyr courts death for the vindication of an ideal.

About William Holland

Systematic Theologian/International Relations
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