RE: Rogue Males by Lionel Tiger

From: Virginia Bowen (
Date: Sun Jan 20 2002 - 18:43:31 GMT

  • Next message: Virginia Bowen: "RE: Rogue Males by Lionel Tiger"

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    From: Virginia Bowen <>
    Subject: RE: Rogue Males by Lionel Tiger
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    Very interesting Joe. I can't recall exactly where I first read about the
    fact of monogamous marriage actually being a boon to males (The Red Queen
    maybe) because in polygamous societies a few males get all the "resources"
    (and the opportunity to spread THEIR genes - and memes). The 72 virgins
    awaiting them in heaven surely only adds enormous fuel to the fire - a
    rather concrete otherwordly reward for their accepting the lack they have in
    this one!

    Just curious - does anyone know how Bin-Laden justifies that he need not
    become a suicide attacker himself? Is it some kind of "prophet of Allah"

    > -----Original Message-----
    > From: []On Behalf
    > Of Joe Dees
    > Sent: Saturday, January 19, 2002 11:22 PM
    > To:
    > Subject: Rogue Males by Lionel Tiger
    > An outstanding characteristic of the miserable band of
    > worshippers responsible for the savage events of September 11 is
    > that they are all male. Virtually all the fist-shakers we see in
    > news clips of anti-American demonstrations in Pakistan and
    > elsewhere are men, too, usually relatively young ones. What does
    > this have to do with September 11, Osama Bin Laden, the Taliban,
    > and the future?
    > One of the most difficult tasks for any social system is figuring
    > out what to do with its young males. These are invariably the
    > most impressionable, energetic, socially exigent, and politically
    > inept members of any group. They cause trouble for their elders
    > and ruthlessly hassle each other. They pose chronic danger to
    > public order when they drive, drink and take drugs.
    > Various communities cause their young men to endure a startling
    > and often gory array of harassing rituals and trials in order to
    > become acceptable adults. In his autobiography, Nelson Mandela
    > says that only after his circumcision at the age of 15 did he
    > feel ready to assume the chieftaincy he inherited. I have been a
    > so-called expert witness in lawsuits on behalf of young men
    > physically abused by fraternity brothers during initiations: one
    > was turned into a quadriplegic. Often, only when they have made
    > their bones in some grim initiatory expedition are young men able
    > to contemplate the next steps of courtship and marriage.
    > The terrorism of Bin Laden harnesses the chaos of young men,
    > uniting the energies of political ardour and sex in a turbulent
    > fuel. The structure of al-Qaida - an all-male enterprise, of
    > course - appears to involve small groups of relatively young men
    > who maintain strong bonds with each other, bonds whose intensity
    > is dramatised and heightened by the secrecy demanded by their
    > missions and the danger of their projects. Like the highly
    > trained, elite forces of the army and navy, they are screened
    > before they are allowed to earn their stripes in a programme of
    > militaristic training in isolated and demanding environments.
    > Selection is prestigious. It confers unquestionable, if radical,
    > Islamic credentials and associates them with the tides of history
    > sketched for them in their training. For many, nothing in the
    > rest of their often sorry existences can compare with the
    > authoritative drama of what they hope to do and with the sense of
    > purpose flowing from their commitment to the leaders they accept.
    > Their comfort in an all-male world begins with the high sex
    > segregation of many of the Muslim communities from which the
    > terrorists draw. While there are great variations among Islamic
    > communities, the sharp tendency is toward sexually segregated
    > societies. Contact between the sexes is tightly restricted by
    > draconian moral codes. Not only are women's faces veiled, so is
    > their behaviour. This means that men and women have relatively
    > little to do with people of the opposite sex. Therefore, they
    > develop a great deal of reliance on those of their own.
    > Most men in most societies marry, or try to. This is more
    > difficult than usual in polygamous societies in which powerful
    > men may have as many as four wives, leaving three potential
    > husbands without a date for Saturday night - or any night. For
    > example, Osama Bin Laden is thought to have several cave-mates,
    > as many as four. There are also substantially more men than women
    > in Afghanistan, which augments the deprivations of polygamy. So
    > some of his troops have no choice but to accustom themselves to
    > relatively monastic lives.
    > The sexuality and reproductive potential of such young men is not
    > an unimportant matter politically. The United Arab Emirates, not
    > normally considered forerunners of the progressive movement, have
    > taken an inventive action that reflects how difficult it is for
    > men and women to mate in a traditional manner. To marry a local
    > woman, men of that nation must provide gifts, feasts, and ritual
    > performances that may cost as much as $40,000 (27,000) - an
    > impossible accumulation for all but a few. Many would choose a
    > foreign wife instead, which is unattractive to the government. So
    > now when a man marries a local woman, the government supplies a
    > grant sufficient for his ceremonial obligations. Bin Laden and
    > his ilk provide no such marriage benefit. (In a grim reversal,
    > they offer bonuses to the kin of those who commit suicide.) So,
    > his young men have to rely for emotional and social succour on
    > their fellow-marchers to the triumph of grandly effective death.
    > It is in the crucible of all-male intensity that the bonds of
    > terrorist commitment and self-denial are formed. As they move
    > from Hamburg to Cleveland to Lima to Havana to Jersey City, they
    > are enveloped in tacit camaraderie with their associates who have
    > endured the same training, the same deprivation, the same
    > expectation of enjoying death and heaven in the same shiver. They
    > share the sweet-sour prospect of striking a fiery suicidal blow
    > for the self-evident purity of a religion of love.
    > They are not lonely psychopaths but demented special forces
    > wearing anonymity like a uniform. They share and catalyse
    > swirling energies and religious absolutism, forces immensely
    > useful to those operators such as Bin Laden who are able to turn
    > young men's need for a cool place in the hot sun outwards to
    > other societies, to attack infidels at large.
    > It's all something grand to do. So much better than the few jobs
    > available, the threadbare economies, the ramshackle societies run
    > either by altogether corrupt cynics, autocratic monarchies
    > feeding princes foie gras, or theocracies that mistake reading
    > ancient books for action.
    > Will the situation change? There are countless young men in poor
    > "states of concern" whose only plausible luxury may lie in the
    > symbolic realm of moral and theological triumph. They are likely,
    > at best, to have to scrape out a minimally tolerable existence
    > that pales beside the images of sensual and material peril -
    > America! America! - their leaders seek to hide from them but
    > cannot. "The Great Satan" strictly translated is "the great
    > tempter". A select few, perhaps the most angry or lonely, perhaps
    > the most pious or theoretical, will decide not to try to become
    > part of America or its way of life but to destroy it.
    > To do this they can enrol in stirring academies such as Bin
    > Laden's. The danger of belonging to them enhances their
    > excitement and feeds their sense of worthwhile enterprise. Their
    > comrades provide them an emotional haven and a clear focus for
    > the turbulent energies at the intersection of youth and despair.
    > Their basic weapons are intensity and extreme commitment, not the
    > usual visible armament of warriors.
    > American and other forces will have to find, confront, and
    > destroy something new. They may well succeed in rooting out at
    > least the more overt groups. But the much larger and longer-term
    > problem for us and the world at large - that there are millions
    > upon millions of these young men, not just Bin Laden's thousands
    > - will finally have to be faced by the currently feckless leaders
    > of the grim societies that have produced and nurtured such wild
    > theological pathologies.
    > Lionel Tiger is Darwin professor of anthropology at Rutgers
    > University, New Jersey. Among his books are Men in Groups and The
    > Decline of Males. A version of this article first appeared on the
    > website
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    Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
    For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)

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