"Bin Laden will always invoke 'objective' reasons to gain popularity for his actions among the Muslim masses, but it is not those causes that radicalise the terrorists," writes Oliver Roy in Le Monde Diplomatique [via Arts & Letters Daily], putting the lie to the Bush Lied, People Died™ community's mantra that the Bush Administration's foreign policy -- aka "imperialism" or "the real terrorism"-- is the "root cause" of all Islamicist evil:
Iraq and Palestine have little to do with it. They are invoked by Bin Laden for purposes of propaganda, not for recruitment, which began before the military interventions and will continue even in the event of military withdrawal.
By invoking these conflicts, al-Qaida seeks to acquire legitimacy among Muslims [Not to mention fellow travelers amongst the angry left. --ed] and pose as its avant-garde, whereas it actually recruits on the margins of Muslim society (and on its most westernised fringes at that) . . . It is deliberately out to provoke a clash of cultures, perhaps because, at bottom, the real problem of the radicalised youth is their relation to culture of any kind.
Those dissaffected, albeit well-off London bombers come to mind. Dr. Sanity is on the scent in a long and fascinating post trying to locate roots of the Islamicist suicide response in the cultural relativism theorized by anthropologist Ruth Benedict in the 1940's as "shame cultures" vs. "guilt cultures." While "no culture exclusively uses one of these internalized feelings," and "anthropologists today reject this mode of classifying cultures" [according to Answers], the distinction may shed some light on what motivates today's suicide bombers and their charismatic puppetmasters. Dr. S. explains:
Guilt is about actions or behavior, while shame is about the self.
"Tom cats perceive inviolable barriers -- invisible to us -- surrounding each other's personal space" read the caption of this photo in the portfolio that helped gain us entry into the Harvard Design School back in the Nineties. That's Tiny's and Baby's Papa Sluggo in the foreground engaged in a Darwinian battle of "shedding shame and capturing honor" to lay claiim to the turf -- the little house -- where he would woo and win his beloved, Sweet Pea, The Mother of All Chelsea Grays.
"Both shame and guilt can be important reality checks to an individual -- or to a culture," notes Dr. Sanity, but
When a culture determines that the avoidance of shame is necessary no matter what the cost, the result is a culture of fanaticism, bizarre behavior in the name of "honor."
Often this excessive shame is dealt with by humiliating someone perceived as weaker or more worthless than the shamed person (e.g., the family pet, women, Gays, or outside groups serve this function for both individuals and cultures). It also inevitably results in the projection of one's own unacceptable behavior and shameful feelings onto another individual or an outside group.
David Gutman -- Emeritus Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences at Northwestern University Medical School -- cited by Dr. Sanity, offers historical insight into today's Islamicist terrorists' tactics:
This calculus of shame and sharraf [honor] is an important element in all Arab warfare, whether waged by Saddam Hussein, Yasir Arafat, or a Bedouin sheik. In particular, that same dynamic drives the Arab preference for irregular over conventional war.
Irregular tactics -- spiced with terror -- have on occasion defeated regular armies; but win, lose, or draw in the military sense, terror tactics can be a far more efficient means of meeting psychological goals -- i.e., shedding shame and capturing honor -- than all-out war.
It's that old saw "The importance of being noticed" that we're forever flogging here. Shame vs honor is only a matter of degree:
The importance of being noticed makes the world go 'round, from al-Queda types who intimidate through cold-blooded murder of innocents to impress their "brothers," to internet hackers who wreak havoc amongst online innocents to impress their own fellow travelers. On the good side, each one of us seeks, through our accomplishments, to earn a place of honor among our peers. The real issue is, whom do we select as our peers.
As that wily old dessert rat Yasser Arafat is said to have said, "Choose your friends carefully. Your enemies will choose you."