Thursday, 24 June 2010

The immense multitude takes off

It's probably not an original reference, but the last post brings to mind this passage from Conrad's 'The Secret Agent' about the terrorist known as The Professor:
Lost in the crowd, miserable and undersized, he meditated confidently on his power, keeping his hand in the left pocket of his trousers, grasping lightly the india-rubber ball [the trigger to his suicide bomb], the supreme guarantee of his sinister freedom; but after a while he became disagreeably affected by the sight of the roadway thronged with vehicles and of the pavement crowded with men and women. He was in a long, straight street, peopled by a mere fraction of an immense multitude; but all round him, on and on, even to the limits of the horizon hidden by the enormous piles of bricks, he felt the mass of mankind mighty in its numbers. They swarmed numerous like locusts, industrious like ants, thoughtless like a natural force, pushing on blind and orderly and absorbed, impervious to sentiment, to logic, to terror too perhaps.
That was the form of doubt he feared most. Impervious to fear! Often while walking abroad, when he happened also to come out of himself, he had such moments of dreadful and sane mistrust of mankind. What if nothing could move them?

The potential truth in observations such as Thomas PM Barnett's - that in twenty years Emirates Airline will be better known than al Qaeda - are what the Islamists fear the most, not any threat of civilisational war, which, on the contrary, magnifies their historic importance. Rather, they fear being ignored, being indifferently and obliviously trampled underfoot by the 'immense multitude' going about their lives, 'the mass of mankind mighty in its numbers'. No more than the object of a police action. They must rightly wonder: 'What if nothing could move them?' (Except for aeroplanes, of course.)

3 comments:

Sean said...

Well the Jews in Egypt did not fear being a minority, when you believe in eternal life the time scale is a bit more than the next presidential election.

In fact I would go further, backs against the wall is what they thrive on, the persecution, the injustice, the decadence ect. it justifies their existence.

Its all a bit Robin Hood, the common man keeping the flame alive, yes the populace are not with them (maybe except Pakistan) but they find it hard to be against them.

AQ are not a brand, they are like Imans, leaders in prayer, except they in Terror and if you hang around long enough your day will come and you will be followed.

And the slave Jews in Egypt, their day came, and without their fundamentalism there would be no Christianity or Islam.

And indeed no Welsh Bird taking over Oz.

Hey Skipper said...

[Islamists] must rightly wonder: 'What if nothing could move them?'

I'd be happy if Islamists started wondering "What if Allah isn't willing?"

Gaw said...

Sean: Your arguments fly off into the higher logic where I am unable to follow them.

Skip: There was a good piece by Hitchens in July's Vanity Fair (not online yet) about what he calls Islamist 'virgin suicides'. Interesting on the psychopathology of these nutters.