Sunday, December 27, 2009

I'd Like To Buy the World A Coke

No, this is not "a little surreal," its not kinda surprising, its not even a teeny bit new. JMM is shocked, shocked to discover that an affection for popular culture, and a modicum of money, don't protect people from feeling alienated, sad, lonely, scared, angry, and vengeful. Has he never heard the phrase "self medicating" used to describe every activity from exercise to drug abuse? Is he under the impression that money protects people from racism? That listening to western music translates to loving the western borg--so, what? if I love Judy Garland that's the same as living in Oz? This passage reminds me of nothing so much as those people who say, of Lesbians "if they'd only dated more men!" You actually have to live in the West as a foreigner, be a wealthy, educated man among people who won't let you fully play in their playground, to get enough anger and rage together to set yourself on fire. Of course that's not the province of goatherds and village rebels. It doesn't come about despite your contacts with the West but because of it. Not because the barriers to entry are so hard and rigid but because they are so porous and amorphous.

The Times has run-down of what is known so far about Umar Farouk Abdulmtallab. Most you likely already know. Son of a wealthy, Nigerian banker who'd studied engineering in London. His turn toward intense involvement with Islam, if not yet toward militant extremism, apparently began in High School Yet one close friend from those years says they used to listen to music together, watch videos and play basketball. Classmate Charles Anaman said Abdulmutallab was very into studying history and particularly into hip-hop music.

It's always a little surreal hearing how would-be suicide terrorists, seemingly so alien to our world, were in many ways very much a part of it. But it actually seems of a piece with many others in this group -- the commonality is just how cosmopolitan most of them seem to be. Often wealthy, sometimes extremely so, educated in the West and even imbued with iconically American popular culture.

It's seldom people from the remote reaches of Afghanistan or even the teeming metropoles of Pakistan. It's people living in the West or on the margins between West and the lands of Islam.

--Josh Marshall

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