Well-Adjusted Terrorists? — an (oxy)Moron

I don’t listen to NPR that often (sorry, friends) but I wanted to be in a different space, so I began listening to their news this afternoon and there was was a man interviewed for one of the sections talking about highly educated terrorists who engage in suicide bombing as part of a movement called “Jihadism”.

The man who was talking had apparently written a book on the subject.  He continued on about these people “made perfect sense” if you thought about it. He went on to say that they were intellectuals who wanted to see a change in the entire world order, as compared to the poor, uneducated Muslims who simply wanted food and fairness.

Now, here’s where it got weird.  The author said, “so here you have these well-educated, wealthy, well adjusted people being Jihadists…” While I might agree factually that they’re “well-educated” and “wealthy”, “well-adjusted” is never going to be right.

From a therapy perspective, “well-adjusted” means things like “being able to cope with life without resorting to violence in day to day exchanges”.  On the other hand, things like “anti-social personality disorder” include symptoms like “will disregard for others’ right and property”. As I have told my clients many times, “therapy works best with the living”. Death of self (suicide) as a coping mechanism is one of the poorest choices a person can make.  Death of others (homicide) may be the only thing worse.  Put the two together and you don’t get “well adjusted”.  We, as therapists, are asked to assess for risk of suicidality and homicidality. If these supposedly “well-adjusted” terrorists were my client, I’d have them put in a psych ward, and I be well within my rights to do so! In fact, I’d have a legal duty to warn the people they were going to kill and call the police before anything happened.

Does any of this sound “well-adjusted” to you? People who choose to kill people with no sense of remorse, no matter how they rationalize it, are –by definition — personality disordered, what we used to call “character disordered”.

Now, the report did say, at the end, that many Jihadists are becoming against suicide bombing because it takes innocent lives that they simply can’t justify. That at least shows learning/progress and possibly even empathy — measures of  psychological health.

Movements that want to continue to exist need to actually have members.  Movements without people in them cease to be movements. Movements that contain this kind of violence (suicide bombings) are bound to collapse of their own weight.  Even from a systems view point, this method of being doesn’t function. By that standard, the system is “dys-functional”, or messed up.  Dysfunctional systems are not made up of, nor do they create, “well-adjusted” people.

All right, so that’s it.  Next time you hear about “well-adjusted” terrorists, please know that there are no such things.

2 thoughts on “Well-Adjusted Terrorists? — an (oxy)Moron

  1. I do agree with you to a certain extent. However, the Bible says to take the plank out of your before trying to remove the speck from you brother’s eye (this is a paraphrase of course). When humans end another humans life, it is wrong for whatever reason; this includes suicide. Yet, we as Americans are so quick to justify our actions as necessary or justified. We have terrorized others. We killed others without regard for life. It is justified when it serves the purpose of the perpetrator. Personally, I agree with Ghandi, violence of any kind is never justified. This is the only way the pain will stop.

    • Deb: Wow. People — particularly liberals in the magazine “The Nation” — went through this very question after 9/11. Some people said, in short, “we had it coming”. Others were appalled and said that violence never solves anything. Working with victims all day, it’s my opinion that perpetrators don’t ever get to justify anything. They get to acknowledge and apologize. That includes us and them and everybody else on the planet. Victims can “understand” their perpetrator’s logic/actions, but they should never be asked to acceptit. The things we’ve done to them are inexcusable. They things they do to us are the same. I, too, am a Ghandian. I believe in redemptive suffering, in order to achieve grace between humans, even if God gives it easier than that (which I also believe).



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