Would the WTC Attack Have Happened if Bin Laden Could Drink?

I will be honest and say that I don’t drink to get drunk because I find it “fun”, but because I’m bored and have little better to do. The entertainment value in alcohol is quite low. Happily I can add to that by saying that this happens far less frequently to me than it does to most of the population, so I’m not even close to having a “drink problem”. In the world of today there are plenty more things for me today in my spare time – Facebook and Twitter statuses to update, blog articles to write, books to read (and write), films to watch, tea and coffee to drink… The list goes on. But occasionally I do run out of inspiration, and the off license and the contacts list on my mobile phone aren’t very far away. And there are far worse things I could do – I could go out breaking my neighbours’ windows, rob their cars and burn them out at the end of some Godforsaken alleyway, or hijack a plane and fly  into into the World Trade Center (presumably parachuting out of it before it crashes – that whole martyrdom thing seems awfully overrated).

Obviously I have to acknowledge that drinking is far from ideal, and that there is a good reason why some religions – notably Islam have a problem with it: it rots the mind and the liver, it encourages idleness and indolence, and a sober person can further God’s work (and of course his own) much better than a drunk person can. Yet the glaring problem that I see is that religion tends to disagree over what God’s projects should be – and a lot of people in general seem to disagree about how best to occupy themselves. If there was a lot of genuinely fulfilling work for them to do out there, wouldn’t they be doing it instead of drinking in pubs, in one another’s homes, in public parks and at street corners?

And here it is: idleness is as much a cause of alcohol consumption as it is a symptom. Philosophers and theologians have for centuries condemned it as a dreadful scourge. The reason for this can be seen every hour of every day in the disadvantaged quarters of our towns and cities – pure unadulterated vandalism. Graffiti, burnt out cars, smashed windows, street fights… Bored people doing petty things to spite one another, purely because it gives direction to their minds. And what strikes me about these daily examples is that the perpetrators are all social outcasts, suffering from varying degrees of material deprivation, possess very few resources, and as a result usually only cause harm to other social outcasts or themselves. History tell us that periodically there are riots, rebellions directed by a charismatic religious or political figure, and it also tells us that they are usually crushed.

But what happens when idleness affects members of “established society” i.e. non outcasts? You would expect that the damage would be very severe. Of course it’s easier for a rich, smart resourceful person to take Voltaire’s advice and “cultivate our garden” – be it by playing golf, or reading, or doing like I’m doing now and writing an article for little or no reason, other than that it’s therapeutic. Yet imagine if you were the most powerful person (head of state, head of government etc) in an economically and militarily powerful country, and you were suffering from dreadful boredom, would you go out and play golf… or would you go and declare war on that guy in that poor and militarily weak country that recently annoyed you?

Or let’s just say you’re a young, smart, resourceful Saudi Arabian who doesn’t feel like working in construction, but where there isn’t much else going on. Wouldn’t terrorism seem like the definition of “cool”? I mean some people obviously would prefer to blow up real people, rather than the CGI reconstructions of the X-Box 3, and if they can convince themselves that God allows or even encourages it, then why hold off? And what is terrorism but vandalism on a massive scale? At the end of the day the visible distinction between terrorism and vandalism is that more people die or are injured. The motivation is political and religious, sure, but isn’t that only slightly more intellectually sophisticated than burning someone’s car because their ownership of that car somehow offended you and that you were bored?

All things considered, the world would have been a far happier, kinder and more secure place had Osama Bin Laden been introduced to the pleasures of alcohol at a young age. His liver mightn’t have liked it much, but just about everybody who’s had reason to travel by air in the last decade would.

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    • Kensington
    • December 17th, 2012

    The answer is probably. Boredom does not cause Sociopathy, and alcohol does not cure it. And unless Bin Laden was part of a religion that encouraged the consumption of intoxicants he probably wouldn’t have been much of a drinker. He was capable of using a peaceful religion to justify the slaughter of millions. I’m sure he could warp the Koran to allow drunkenness if he wanted to.

    Your article doesn’t mention the link psychological link between alcohol and violence. Boredom is one driver of violence, sure. So is alcohol abuse and alcoholism. The cure you advocate is in some cases as bad as the disease.

    • “Boredome doesn’t cause sociopathy”
      I think it’s safe to say that I’m not a sociopath, but I’ve also recognised situations in which I’ve displayed destructive behaviour – usually due to frustration caused by boredom. I’ve also seen the same thing happen in other people, whom I wouldn’t think of as sociopaths. You don’t have to have APD to behave in a sociopathic manner, just like you don’t need to have NPD to display narcissistic personality traits.

      “alcohol does not cure it.”
      I suppose that it treats the symptoms and not the cause of boredom and idleness, and in a less destructive way than other “hobbies” could.

      ” And unless Bin Laden was part of a religion that encouraged the consumption of intoxicants he probably wouldn’t have been much of a drinker. He was capable of using a peaceful religion to justify the slaughter of millions. I’m sure he could warp the Koran to allow drunkenness if he wanted to.”

      Most westerners drink alcohol, and a good number of them wouldn’t qualify as heavy or regular drinkers. So I’m not sure if you mean that he would abstain from drinking completely, or whether he would drink a glass of wine a week.

      Your assumption that he would drink irregularly and/or in small quantities based on his creative interpretation of the Qu’ran makes little logical sense. Firstly, because this might not have been a selective interpretation – he may have genuinely believed it. Secondly, because even were it to be a selective interpretation it would have to be a believable one for it to be taken seriously. Many members of Al Qaeda are well educated, which is why he made a good argument based upon existing loopholes. However the ban on drinking in the Qu’ran, while not a blanket ban (it’s more of a ban on intoxication), offers little or no leeway for argument.

      “Your article doesn’t mention the link psychological link between alcohol and violence. Boredom is one driver of violence, sure. So is alcohol abuse and alcoholism. The cure you advocate is in some cases as bad as the disease.”

      This is a good argument that I was waiting for someone to make it. The answer I’ll give you is that while I am aware of this link, it only affects a minority of regular drinkers. So while drinking isn’t ever ideal, and some people should never be allowed near alcohol (for this reason and for others), society as currently structured is better for its existence.

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