People say gamblers gamble to lose. Whilst never quite getting hold of the fuller complexities behind this psychological deduction I can certainly understand, for example, the desire to channel a sufficient flow of money through ones pocket to not have money constantly on one's mind. A homeopathic sliver of obsession.
As a literary exercise, in the absense of my sense of humour, I'm sitting here trying to get inside the mind of a suicide bomber. We got money, we're airline pilots - they allegedly boasted over rum and Cokes in a bar the previous evening. We're worth something you know. I can see what they might see that next day, the rush of the North Tower approaching, the loom and ripple of the plane's reflection sparks an ultimate in sense-heightening, as the impossible adrenalin rush of the hijack - which has levelled off through cognitive necessity - blowtorches everything once more into a completed flashback. Atomised before the sound registers, the impact doesn't hurt at all. But what would flash back on that beautiful day descending across that exceptional cityscape? What leads men and women to leave many thousands dead, bereft, orphaned? And billions of witnesses.
A core of devotee, the martyr, the servant, the mere channel to something greater. Nothing natural like survival instincts, this is a cultural thing. Hearsay, tales. But to a greater or lesser degree brainwash is certain to happen anywhere we bind around a culture. The UK does, mercifully, have a humour and a streak of cynicism to make the British one of the less easily suckered and seduced of people. So there is a dogmatic centre to and martial reasons behind this ultimate test of soldiering. But, to be honest, what flashes back as the North Tower approaches feels more like unrequited love.
We are amalgams of all the things we've loved, not what've whipped us and shot the fear of God through us, and as I am atomised through the glass I feel, at last, a reclaimation of myself in the face of something warm and bounteous I wanted so much it hurt. A Muslim commentator on tv explains that this was an attempt to remove the 'aura' of America and this doesn't strike me as the language of state war. This is terrorism in all it's impotence and uselessness. Over Manhattan I am about to bring America the unloving odalisque down a peg or two.
The television distracts me. Palestinian women and children do a jig of delight as they witness, on their own sets, twenty thousand New Yorkers being ground to talc. America has made and continues to make orphans too, of course, and it takes a strong orphan to mediate and call the root of their circumstances a miscalculation in foreign policy. It is an affront at a deeply psychic level and the feelings produced will inevitably require a face, a name, co-ordinates. It's a war on hate - an Allied response is spun. But who or what do we rip to smithereens in this war on hate?
I walk over to the cornershop. The Muslim shopkeeper looks me over nervously and asks how close I live. I reply and he asks me where, exactly, my flat door is, to point it out. I wonder why he's asking these questions, as I'm sure he's seen me often enough and should have gathered that I'm a relatively friendly live and let live Guardian purchasing person. He's mapping. Mapping every door and every angle and every one. And mapping is what you do when things don't bode well and you are expecting awful things to happen.
War against hate. It's said we often demonise that which we are becoming. When the Christian church was losing national administrative powers, we invented and disposed of witches. When merchantile capitalism was becoming our way of life, we gassed Jews. As our society increasingly prizes youth, paedophilia sums up our worst fears. This new peak in extremist Islam's demonisation of the United States may be, then, it's own equal and opposite reaction to the liberalisation happening in many parts of the Muslim world.
Fundamentalists make the greatest sparks during any equal and opposite reaction. The self-appointed nuclei of any value system, they personalise, modernise and embellish many aspects of it's texts that are completely impossible to take out of historical context. But that history is here, with us now, is another fundamental. The suicide bomber needs the fundamental witness of history. And history, something we in the West felt we had left behind, is ironically a keen new player for us all to contend with, surprisingly early in the new millenium.
I close my eyes again and try to complete the flashback. I probably have, if the facts appearing in the news are accurate, a wife and children. Only something tangiable would convince me that atomising myself and so many others is in their ultimate best interests. It doesn't come cheap, this elaborate demonstration to America the people that America the power, and especially the backing, funding and training limbs ordinary folks never have a need to contemplate, should reconsider whether it is too big, boisterous and interventionist to play fairly on any one side in global disagreements. And the demonstration would have to happen in the only place many real Americans look at - America.
It feels like instant alchemistry, unrequited love transformed into reciprocated hatred, something better brought into the open air and dealt with, as the impact happens and the sound and the heat and weight and the pressure atomise me. The big stoopid blundering lunkhead gets a poke in the eye from the grimfaced straight man. But more apocalyptic than slapstick.
We all hope it's not. We hope we can still sit about with Muslim friends and have a rum and Coke and find humour in this imperfect world and merely begin to understand that religious law and the law of the state have proven to be best separated, and the former left aspirational.