Joseph Conrad's "The Secret Agent" (1907), with its dank crew of self-righteous sociopaths, is horribly prescient. Here we find (for example) the observation that merely to erect a building is to create a new vulnerability; here we find a revolutionist observing that the power of life is far, far weaker than the power of death. In his reading of the terrorist psyche, Conrad persistently stresses the qualities of vanity and sloth -- i.e., the desire for maximum distinction with minimum endeavor. In other words, the need to make an impression is overwhelming, and a negative impression is much more easily achieved than a positive. In our era, this translates into a thirst for fame. Probably no one under 30 can fully grasp it, but fame has become a kind of religion -- the opium, and now the angel dust, of the mass individual.
Read the rest of Martin Amis on terrorism.
[HT: Arts & Letters Daily ]