COMMENTARY: Hand-reared for disaster
By Tomi Ervamaa
Suicide terrorist bombers are forever in our midst and in the headlines. And so are the folk who seek to explain their actions: political researchers, psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists, socioanthropologists, bleeding-heart liberal pinko apologists, far-right rantmeisters, and my own brand of mischievous columnist rascals.
Let us listen for a change to the novelist-essayist Ian Buruma.
Buruma offered up a new explanation for terrorism in a column in the British broadsheet The Guardian at the end of last month. In the view of the writer, the killers are sexually frustrated losers. Basically, w*nkers with an orientation towards explosive devices.
Buruma takes an example from Seventeen, a short story by the Japanese novelist and Nobel Laureate Kenzaburo Oe. As he puts it, "The main character is a 17-year-old boy who can't stop jacking off - in the bathroom, in the bedroom, in the bushes, even in the schoolroom."
And where does our over-diligent Japanese manual operative find his spiritual home? But of course, from an extreme right-wing faction. There the frustrations find their release in violence. A nice uniform and boots of shiny, shiny leather only heighten the titillation.
But what does this have to do with terrorist suicide bombers or radical Islamic movements?
Well, more than one terrorism scholar has noted that the promises of dozens of blushing virgins awaiting the bombers in paradise are by no means simply a vulgar joke or anti-Islamic black propaganda by the West.
The suicide candidates have lived hitherto in a culture where sex on tap is not really an option, but often within societies where the subject in question is more than plentifully on display in the press, on television, on the Internet, and just about anywhere else you care to mention.
To take one example, according to Buruma, Mohammed Boyeri - the second-generation migrant from Morocco who murdered controversial Dutch film director Theo van Gogh - "got drunk, smoked dope, and tried to seduce Dutch girls" in his youth. The girls told him to go take a running jump at himself.
Buruma knows to tell that Mohammed Atta "visited a striptease bar before crashing a plane into the Twin Towers" back in September 2001. The phallic dimension is of course on a totally humungous scale when one considers a hurtling Boeing 767 and the WTC.
To be fair, sexual frustration is combined with a sense of political oppression. Nonetheless, it would be a useful way of removing the heroic mantle from these losers if one were to stop talking about them as desperate lapsed sinners or Holy Warriors, and refer to them instead as Moody Megamasturbators.
The German essayist Hans Magnus Enzensberger takes a somewhat similar line to that of Buruma, and the columnist cites a piece by Enzenberger that was originally published in Der Spiegel on November 7th last year. The difference is that Enzensberger talks about a broader paradigm than that of the Islamic onanist, namely the "radical loser".
These are flunked souls tucked away in our society, who channel their bitterness into practically anything and anyone that crosses their path. Almost as if achieving the mental equivalent of an erection, they resolve to hate "the usual suspects", who turn out to be "foreigners, secret services, Communists, Americans, big corporations, unbelievers. And, almost always, the Jews."
Anything can be expected from these poisonous little punks, and they can be set off at random. They might follow the example of Kenzaburo Oe's Samurai-style onanist and enlist in some extremist cadre, they might maintain a blog on the Net, fulminating about the return of ceded Finnish Karelia, or - in the worst-case scenario - they might end up in the Finnish Parliament.
The masturbation theories open up some quite breathtaking vistas.
Which of Finland's more astonishing and unpleasant phenomena could be explained away by sexual frustration?
Swaggering racist louts. The fraternity that get their jollies from slagging off the Russians or cultivating the N-word.
Those whiny sports personalities who are forever finding excuses for their pathetic showing on the track.
Egomaniacal youth pastors and gospel singers.
The authors of "relationship" novels.
And ministers? What conclusions should one draw about a grown-up person who in all seriousness fiddles around with matters like the labels on beer-bottles or worries that some individuals might smoke cigarettes on their balconies?
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 19.3.2006
The column by Tomi Ervamaa, a journalist on Helsingin Sanomat's foreign desk, appears fortnightly in the paper's Sunday section, and examines "astonishing and unpleasant matters at home and abroad".
Previously in HS International Edition:
Government aims to stop dumping of beer, but no changes to alcohol taxation (3.3.2006)
Ministry of Social Affairs and Health plans to curb smoking on balconies (13.1.2006)
The Guardian: Ian Buruma - Extremism, the loser´s revenge
Signandsight:Hans Magnus Enzensberger - The Radical Loser
TOMI ERVAMAA / Helsingin Sanomat