How many elmirs are there?

The tragedy in our country is that we won’t even know that they are rebelling

bikram

Bikram Vohra | November 17, 2014


A screen shot of the video released by the group’s media wing shows Abdullah Elmir (left) sitting with a fellow Islamic State fighter
A screen shot of the video released by the group’s media wing shows Abdullah Elmir (left) sitting with a fellow Islamic State fighter

What is about westerners who suddenly get up and become jihadists? Like the 17-year-old Aussie Abdullah Elmir who told his parents he was leaving on a fishing trip and instead went to Syria to join the ISIS. Not just that but he posted a video promising to place a black flag on both Buckingham Palace and White House.

This kid was just another Sydney-based teenager with the usual teenage angst and acne. And he is not the only one. Is it some sort of a romantic comic book desire to be a superhero to oneself or something more sinister?

His parents, who are shell-shocked, say he has been brainwashed. It is difficult to believe that even in this hi-tech age Sydney is awash with ISIS literature that can so convince a boy to lie to his family and go off to a strange land currently soaked in blood.

While one might accept that part of it is some sort of link to the old ‘I want to be a pirate’ adventurism there has to be more than just this. Ignorance is certainly a base and the thrill of shocking people back home combined with the desire to have 15 minutes of fame and be noticed must act as initial motivators. You actually believe you are embarking on an adventure.

At that age you are invincible and it is easy to believe that nothing will happen to you. Suddenly you are someone and raging against the system into which you were born becomes an extension of teenage rebellion. It comes with the territory. We have all been loaded with immature rage and fought the good fight in our teens, whatever the cause.

But this sort of affection for extremism from an alien to language and land is a cultural conundrum.

Indeed, we could say there is an overdeveloped sense of martyrdom and the shrill echo of his rhetoric makes him feel adult.

What if this was to happen in India? What if it is already happening? One disaffected teenager in Sydney could translate into 50,000 disaffected young men and women living off fractured promises. That the thousands of young people who are victims of half-baked educations and clutch in their sweaty little palms fragile hope and utterly pointless certificates that won’t open any doors for them. At some point they have to ask: what is there in the future, no more lies, please, are these documents really a key to success?

The tragedy in our country is that we won’t even know that they are rebelling and they don’t even have to leave our shores, there is ample opportunity for expressing rage at home.

Sometimes you feel that rising damp, a sense of futility as these degree-holding crowds come up against the barricades of prejudice, nepotism, unemployment, old boys’ clubs, caste, creed and they realise, it does not really matter, they do not belong to the exclusive club.

The point of concern is how many are they who are so disaffected by the ‘plenty’ they have that guilt for it makes them want to leave for troubled waters and deliberately swim in them. Clearly, it works two ways. Some give up their comfortable lives and go to distant corners of the world to provide help and support for the poor and downtrodden. The reverse of this is youngsters who pick up weapons and espouse violence.

It makes for a fascinating study of the human mind. While the lure of money, sheer adolescent boredom and an overblown sense of martyrdom in themselves may not be major factors, collectively they could have an impact especially if a blurred but weighty curiosity binds them together.

It is a very dangerous unformed age and you want to investigate what makes it tick. Does it last? No one can say but when the inevitable shower of homesickness catches up and the novelty is over and you want to go home, the question arises; can you?
And you end up with one lonely little boy miles away from home.

The story appeared in November 16-30, 2014 issue

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