February 25, 2006 | 09:06 PM
Terrorism & masturbation
In today's UK 's paper Guardian, an essay by Ian Buruma equates masturbation, repressed sexuality and homosexuality with acts of Terrorists and Fascists.
This is typical of a society looking for simplistic and convenient answers to rather complex human behaviour. Driving a wedge between Them and Us.
The essay, for example, finds siginificance in the rumour that Mohmad Atta visited a strip joint just before he took a plane into the World Trade Centre. What the article does not take into account is that almost all religions have looked upon denial of sexual behaviour as an aspiration to God. The Christian Monks and Nuns should be rampant crazed terrorists if such simplistic theories were true.
We live in a soceity that refuses to look squarely at itself in mirror, rather believing that the mirror reflects only that which it chooses to see.
Gandhi, who publicly renounced sexuality and stated to have become celibate, should have visited the British Parliament with a Bomb strapped around his waist rather than with a walking stick and a dhoti.
Hinduism encourages the raising of your Chakras from the base ones that include sexual desire to higher ones that aspire to Spirituality. In fact in Hinduism the sublimation of sexual energy is equated with Spirituality. Buddhism equates the letting go of all desire including sexual desire to the discovery of the self.
Lets forget religion and spirituality. Even us ordinairy mortals are a heady mxture of all desire, love, it's fullfilment, and it's supression or non-fulfillment. And a drive by our ego's to find a sense of individuality, a place that effectively screams out 'I AM'. A desperate need to find reason to be. A plea to be heard in the noise of all existence.
What is Ambition if not this very heady mixture ?
So was Mohammad Atta driven to an extreme act of Terrorism by a complicated pattern of sexual repression, an acute conflict between the simplicity of equating sex with sin and a desperate inner need to express his sexuality ? I really doubt that. The fingerprint of the individual phsyche is far more complex than that.
So is there an Absolute we can use to mirror ourselves and our behaviour ? I think so. That Absloute is Death. For Life exists only in the context of Death. Ambition and Sexuality. Spirituality and the search for one's Soul. The search for ones individuality. All exist in the context of Death.
Can we look at Mohammad Atta's act in that context ? It's not easy is it ? For while it is easier to exclude fascists and terrorists from your tribe by isolating them in conext of a pattern of behaviour that you do not believe is your own(probably wrongly so), it is not possible to exclude yourself from a Tribe that's existence is defined by Death.
The full text of the story is included below.
Extremism: the loser's revenge
Can sexual inadequacy or deprivation turn angry young men into killers?
Saturday February 25 2006
Does masturbation lead to suicide bombing? One would think not. There is no more direct link to suicide bombing than there is to blindness or schizophrenia. But there may be a connection between sexual inadequacy or frustration and the pull towards violent extremism. This is the theme of an engaging novella, Seventeen, by the Japanese novelist Kenzaburo Oe, who won the Nobel prize for literature in 1994. The story is set in the 1960s, when it was written.
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. He is ashamed of his habit, just as he is ashamed of almost everything else. No good at games, a failure with girls and a bully at home, he can't really stand anyone - not his wishy-washy liberal father, or his mother and sister, or his teachers, and least of all himself. Conscious at all times of being an ugly failure, all he can do is masturbate, while living in terror that the whole world is aware of his practice just by looking at him.
But a kind of salvation is at hand. The boy is introduced by a friend to a band of extreme rightwing youths, dressed in uniforms, following a leader who rants about communists and socialist traitors, and the glories of the Japanese empire. Soon the great masturbator, too, is issued with a uniform and boots, and accepted as a warrior for the imperial cause against foreigners and leftwing traitors. He even gets into a few violent scrapes. And he has his first satisfying orgasm, in a massage parlour, in his new uniform, dreaming of total power, of killing his enemies, of raping their wives and daughters, and of dying for the glorious emperor.
It is not Oe's most subtle piece of fiction. The narrator often sounds too much like a literary tool for expressing the politics most abhorrent to his creator. But the sexual swamp in which extremism can grow is well described, and worth exploration. As a somewhat dogmatic leftist intellectual, Oe appears to think that violent extremism, arising from fantasies of omnipotence, is typically the domain of the far right. He has often expressed his admiration for Chairman Mao. But the combination of sexual frustration and violence was as typical of Mao's Red Guards as it was of Japan's Black Shirts.
In contrast to the insatiable chairman, who had a harem of dancing girls for his private use, Chinese men were forced to live like revolutionary monks and were discouraged from marrying young. The Great Helmsman, by the way, had his own peculiar brushes with inadequacy, as related by his personal physician. His sexual potency rose and fell, as it were, with his political fortunes. Any threat, imagined or real, to his sense of total control, and he wilted.
Sexual deprivation may be a factor in the current wave of suicidal violence, unleashed by the Palestinian cause as well as revolutionary Islamism. The tantalising prospect of having one's pick of the loveliest virgins in paradise is deliberately dangled in front of young men trained for violent death. And even those who are not trained to kill and die often live in authoritarian societies in which sex before marriage is strictly forbidden, in which women outside the family home are not only supposed to be untouchable, but invisible. Access to MTV, the internet, DVDs and global advertising reinforces the notion that westerners live in a degenerate garden of sinful delights. This makes the lot of millions of young Arab men even harder to bear, and can provoke a mixture of rage and envy.
Once in a while, this rage will explode in carefully orchestrated orgies of violence. It is said that Mohammed Atta visited a striptease bar before crashing a plane into the Twin Towers. Perhaps he craved one nibble at the forbidden fruit before his earthly extinction. The fact that it was forbidden - repulsive but also terribly seductive - marked his view of women in general. He made it clear in his will that he did not want any women to defile his grave with their presence.
Again, this is not to say that sexual frustration or bitter misogyny leads directly to mass murder. If it did, we would live in a very dangerous world indeed. But they cannot be dismissed as factors. It has long been assumed that young men are better fighters when they are deprived of sex, like slavering dogs fighting in a pit.
One of the many barbarities of war, in ancient times as well as in recent conflicts, is the promise to hungry, brutalised men that once a city is taken its women are part of the loot. The only difference between this and those fabled houris in paradise is that the objects of deferred lust are real and pay a horrible price for it.
The view that sex with women takes the fight out of men is common enough even in less bloody pursuits, such as football. Often, when a national team is about to do battle, the coach will announce that wives and girlfriends will be banished. The men have to be kept on the leash. Sex will be their reward once the enemy is defeated. Among the great myths of Dutch football is the story of the 1974 World Cup. Deprived of female company, some of the players allegedly took their pleasure with local floozies, and therefore lost the final against Germany.
All this applies to sex with women. Sex with men can be a very different proposition. As a rule, societies that prize machismo and male honour do not take a kindly view of homosexuality. It is tolerated, at best, but only the active, "male" partner, especially if he is older and married, can escape from homosexual encounters with honour. The passive one is like a woman - submissive, weak, despicable. So it is still said to be in many Arab countries, as it was in ancient Greece.
But there are notable exceptions to this rule. Some of the most macho societies in history have prized homosexual relations. The Spartan army encouraged loving relationships between soldiers, as it would foster loyalty and courage. Samurai in feudal Japan had a similar attitude. Sex with women was fine, as far as it went, which was to produce children. But honour and nobility were to be found only in relations between men. The premise behind this is not so different from the homophobia in other macho cultures. Women are soft, and their proximity softens men, just as the wiles of Cleopatra softened the Roman general Mark Antony. True manliness must never be tainted by the female sex, or the domesticity it represents.
In 2004, Johann Hari wrote about the "overlap" of homosexuality and fascism. "Gay men," he wrote, "have been at the heart of every major fascist movement that ever was ..." This was especially disturbing to Hari, who identifies himself as a "progressive gay" man. Examples supporting his thesis are readily at hand: Pim Fortuyn (though not really a "fascist", as Hari seems to think) was gay. Jörg Haider is said to be gay. And then there were the Nazi Stormtroopers, the brown-shirted SA led by a thug named Ernst Röhm. Röhm, and many of his comrades, were homosexual.
Röhm was a keen promoter of the Spartan ideal of fit fighting men pairing off. Like many German soldiers in the wake of the first world war, he felt like a loser, embittered by military defeat, and marginalised by peace. For him, the SA was a way to regain his self-esteem. He thought of it as an elite of superior men, chosen to control first Germany and then the world. Röhm was rather like the 17-year-old in Oe's novella: the uniforms, the boots, the brutality made him feel omnipotent. Sex was an expression of power, and power was eroticised. "Since I am an immature and wicked man," he once said, "war and unrest appeal to me more than the good bourgeois order."
Hari implied that there was something in the nature of homosexuality that made it particularly suited to fascism. Quoting a "gay pornographer", Bruce LaBruce, he cited "body worship, the lauding of the strong, a fetish for authority figures and cruelty". But this is to assume that homosexual desires can be reduced to a Tom of Finland cartoon in which the characters are manhandled by brutal leather-clad policemen. Such fantasies exist, to be sure, and fascism exploited them to the full. You only have to see the outsized sculptures of naked athletes in the former Foro Mussolini sports complex in Rome to get the idea. One should never forget that despite the antics of Röhm and his friends, homosexuals were persecuted in Nazi Germany.
There is a more plausible explanation for the attraction felt by a certain kind of homosexual for violent elitism and extreme political causes, and that is the loathing of bourgeois life. Röhm divided men into soldiers and civilians, and the latter, to him, were "swine". Everything associated with the word "prudence" was hateful to him. To a man such as Röhm, domesticated bourgeois society was, by definition, cowardly, materialistic, henpecked and dull. What he craved, above all, was constant violent action to disrupt the kind of life from which he felt excluded. This may be the key to gay fascism, more than the nature of homosexual desire. Extremism is the loser's revenge on society. Who the losers happen to be depends on the nature of the society. It can be homosexuals who feel shut out, or young Muslim immigrants.
The German writer Hans Magnus Enzensberger recently wrote a brilliant essay about "the radical loser", the kind of person, usually a young man, who feels victimised by the entire world, and hates himself as much as the forces that oppress him. These men are walking time bombs. Anything can set them off, a social snub, the loss of a job. And the explosion will usually kill the bomber as well as his enemies. Circumstances dictate to some extent who the enemies are, but the categories tend to be limited. As Enzensberger says, the "usual suspects are foreigners, secret services, communists, Americans, big corporations, politicians, unbelievers. And, almost always, the Jews."
The only thing missing in Enzensberger's analysis is the sexual factor, the psychology of the great masturbator, the murderous gay thug, the drooping despot. Perhaps this element is best explained by recalling a very recent story: the murder in Amsterdam of the Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh. His killer, Mohammed Bouyeri, was born in Holland, though his parents were from Morocco. As a teenager he tried to conform to the culture of his native city. He got drunk, smoked dope, and tried to seduce Dutch girls. After all, everything in the culture, from pop music to TV commercials, promises sex. This is a world away from home, where the saintly mother and virginal sisters must be protected from lustful eyes.
But things began to go wrong for Mohammed. The Dutch girls were not as easy as he thought. He lost interest in his studies. Subsidies for this and that failed to materialise. There were nasty brushes with the police. And his sister got a boyfriend. This enraged Mohammed. He felt dishonoured, useless, excluded. He was, in short, a radical loser, and Islamism promised righteous murder, martyrdom, and the feeling, however fleeting, of total power.
The reason Van Gogh became Mohammed's target was a short film he made with the Somali-born politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who wrote the script. The film, Submission, showed Koranic texts projected on to the half-naked bodies of veiled women who had been abused by men. Hirsi Ali blames Islam for the sexual subjugation of women and the misguided and frustrated machismo of men. Her take on secular European society is the exact opposite of Mohammed's. Where she sees liberation - above all, sexual liberation - he sees dishonour, decadence, filth and confusion. The freedom of living in Holland allowed her to flourish, while it made him feel small and hateful. And that is why he wanted to destroy her, and with her the civilisation that made him feel like a radical loser.
Copyright Guardian Newspapers Limited