Another book review from Theodore Dalrymple appears in the February edition of First Things. The book reviewed is one written by a misguided young French Marxist who went off to fight with the communist Kurdish outfit, the PKK, against the Islamic State in Syria.
But the need for a transcendent purpose, for an ideology that gives meaning to life, remained. If anything, the numbers of people needing it increased. But because of the demise of the Soviet Union, ideology became fragmented—Balkanized and privatized, as it were. Most people in need of ideology made their identity—sexual, national, religious, racial—the premise of an ideology. Restitution for present or past injustices suffered by their group became all-important, and by bearing in mind Gibbon’s famous dictum that human history is nothing but the record of the crimes and follies of mankind, they readily defined themselves by past injustices suffered by people like them, even if they had suffered nothing themselves. There is nothing like rage to disguise from oneself an existential void.