The news that the butchers of Dhaka, who slaughtered twenty innocent people in a restaurant in Bangladesh, came from privileged backgrounds triggered widespread surprise.
But Theodore Dalrymple explains that many of "history's monsters" are children of the elite:
No one should have been surprised by this, however. Viciousness knows no class barriers and education is often more an aid than a hindrance to extreme evil committed in the name of ideology. The Soviets recruited their useful idiots in the West not from the supposedly ignorant proletariat, but from the ranks of the educated and the intellectuals. Even such pitiless people as the Soviets, though, didn’t expect their recruits personally to hack people to death if they couldn’t recite the Communist Manifesto—and then go straight to heaven as a result.
Far from having been poor people who were driven to terrorism by the despair of poverty, the butchers of Dhaka were "privileged as only the rich in poor countries can be privileged."
The transformation of the killers from seemingly ordinary young men to monsters was rapid, and their parents were caught off guard. Quoting Solzhenitsyn, Dalrymple indicates that it was ideology that made these men such monsters:
Macbeth’s self-justifications were feeble—and his conscience devoured him. Yes, even Iago was a little lamb, too. The imagination and spiritual strength of Shakespeare’s evildoers stopped short at a dozen corpses. Because they had no ideology. Ideology—that is what gives evildoing its long-sought justification and gives the evildoer the necessary steadfastness and determination. That is the social theory which helps to make his acts seem good instead of bad in his own and others’ eyes. . . . That was how the agents of the Inquisition fortified their wills: by invoking Christianity; the conquerors of foreign lands, by extolling the grandeur of their Motherland; the colonizers, by civilization; the Nazis, by race; and the Jacobins (early and late), by equality, brotherhood, and the happiness of future generations.
Islamism has replaced communism as the attractive ideology, Dalrymple argues. It supplies certainty and answers all one's questions, though its appeal is limited to born Muslims and a handful of converts.
Many people prefer to play down ideology and insist that the way to combat Islamic terrorism is through anti-poverty programs. It might be better if we could face (and name) the allure of ideology.