How can we explain the attacks on American Embassies in North Africa? How could this happen after the strong support the United States gave to these people to get rid of their dictators? To understand the problem, we have to resort to psychology.
A study by Martha Stout published in her book The Sociopath Next Door, claims that 4% of the population is sociopath, defined as one that knows what is right or wrong, but feels no remorse for his acts. He may kill his own mother without feeling regrets, if this act advances his plans. But the distribution of the 4% is not homogeneous in society. In politics, in big business and in prisons, the percentage of sociopaths is much higher.
This explains the psychology of the politicians of Al Qaeda and other similar organizations. They are sociopaths or psychologically unbalanced people, and explore persons who fall for their fundamentalist preaching.
Wikipedia defines Fundamentalism as the demand for a strict adherence to specific theological doctrines.
But how to explain the attitude of the ones that carry the bombs. Are all of them sociopaths? I don't think so. They got under the grip of a charismatic leader and they are prepared to deliver their lives to their causes.
This same phenomenon happened in the Western world before. Remember Reverend Jones and the mass suicide in 1978, or the 75 followers of David Koresh 1993, in Waco, Texas. They were in the grips of a charismatic sociopath leader.
Fundamentalism is thriving all over the world, and can be explained by a sense of despair, worthlessness, that dominate many young people. When you do not believe in the traditional churches, when the old gods abandon their temples, you may resort to cynicism or to fundamentalism. You may accept the new gods - money, fame, power - or you may turn to fundamentalism. Fortunately these are not the only options.
I have nothing against the ones that practice a fundamentalist cult, but cannot accept practices that go to the extreme of killing people. That is what Jihad preaches. I cannot believe that truly religious people would condone such policy and I consider the Jihad preachers to be sociopaths, not religious persons.
We are living in an era when some of the pillars that sustained our lives are crumbling. Modern man is desperately seeking a new footing, a new platform were to stand. Paraphrasing Jung, modern man is in search of a soul.
In 1925, Jung visited the Pueblo Indians, in Southwestern United States. This people defined themselves as Children of the Sun. Their myth holds that to keep the sun moving, they had to pray for the Father Sun. Otherwise, in ten years the sun would no longer illuminate the Earth. The Chief Mountain Lake said, with the conviction of one who is saving the world: "The Americans want to destroy our religion. Why don't they leave us quiet? What we do, we do not only for us, but for them too. We do this for everyone."
Do you believe that the sun would no longer rise if the Pueblos stopped praying for it? It matters little, for the survival of the Pueblos, if you believe it or not. What it does matter is that they do believe. Saving the world was the central motivation in their lives, their reason for living. And what a strong motivation this is!
Edward Edinger, a well-known Jungian psychologist and prolific writer, opens his book, "The Creation of Consciousness", saying: "History and anthropology teach us that human society cannot long survive unless its members are psychologically contained in a central living myth, Such myth provides the individual with a reason for being."
Unfortunately, while we search for a new myth to sustain our civilization, we should expect such weird episodes, like Jihad, to continue.