Much is being made of the fact that the terror cell behind the abortive car bomb attacks in London and Glasgow this past weekend were doctors - gainfully employed, educated men. As an analyst at a British think tank put it:
"It's wrong to suggestare ignorant hill men. They are often middle or upper class and well educated..."
I don't know why we should be surprised that there are well-adjusted and financially secure individuals who have been roped into these putative terror cells - financial success and a promising career have never been ironclad bulwarks against alienation and despair. Right off the top of my head, I can think of at least a half-dozen people I know who are otherwise well off but complete basket cases mentally and emotionally. (Me? I have a different excuse.)
It's all well and good to have a laugh over the incompetence of these Osamawannabes and the various other low-hanging fruit DHS has of late adroitly plucked, but I find the whole thing rather depressing - the thought of someone who has abandoned all hope in anything other than the percieved transformative power of violence. While it seems highly unlikely these latest London bombers would ever have been able to pull off a mass casualty event (thank God), it's less unlikely that somewhere down the line they would have managed to kill one or a handful of people with one of their squalid, half-assed stabs at jihad. What grinds someone down to that point, where the only thing that could possibly make life less bleak is to commit murder? Where the mind's ability to reason has been so severly short-circuited that one can't realize that killing someone won't ease the pain - it will just make you a murderer who happens to be in pain?
Of course, this phenomenon is not limited only to daydream jihadists - there's no shortage of folk here in the US who drift into militia groups and UFO cults. Thanks to some grim serendipity this morning, I happened to be reading Vonnegut's Mother Night when I heard the news about the car bombers' identities. Specifically, I was reading the chapter in which Bernard B. O' Hare confronts Howard W. Campbell, Jr., having decided the only way he can make sense of the mess he's made of his post-war life is to go to New York City and beat up an old man he hasn't seen in fifteen years. It's unavoidable. Written in the stars. Ordained by God - so much so that he shows up for his date with destiny, his confrontation with "pure evil," falling-down drunk and unarmed.
Yeah, that sounds a bit like what went down in the UK this weekend. God, how depressing.