Young people who are enraged tend to be drawn into delinquency, drug and alcohol use, and criminality, all as ways to manage and discharge their intolerable internal states. Imagine how awful it is to feel that everyone has disappointed and failed you; imagine the rage of children who feel betrayed and let down over and over again. Such young people are also drawn to ideologies which explicitly support their need to externalize:
I am enraged; it is intolerable to know that my rage stems from my own failures and the failures of those people who have formed the nidus of my internal object world [usually parents]; my failures must be caused by someone else and their behavior [Jews, Americans] justifies this rage I cannot get rid of; now I have a place to discharge and rid myself of this rage.
In reality, since the primary source of the rage is internal, such discharge only works temporarily, necessitating new situations in which to justify and discharge the renewed built-up rage.
Both Marxism and Islamism, with their emphasis on Utopian goals which promise to end disappointment and deprivation while directing condoned rage against the external world of oppressors, share this structure. They facilitate defensive externalization, allow for the free expression of primitive rage, and promise a Utopian consummation, either in an earthly paradise where all desires, material and sexual, can be achieved, or in the heavenly Paradise where the 72 virgins await. This is the attraction of Islam and Marxism to so many disaffected young people.
In college, I dabbled in radical politics. I went to many anti-war demonstrations as a teenager. I enjoyed the frisson of rebellion that the Psychedelic 60s was shrouded within, yet a single incident awoke me to the reality that I would never be a good Marxist. I had been intrigued by Trotsky, the idea of constant revolution was fascinating to someone who wished to resist falling into the predicted and predictable path I feared I was on. On campus was a well established group of young Trotskyites, the Young Socialist Alliance. They were involved in various protests, which were always enjoyable, not least for the presence of many nubile, young radical women who approved of radical young men. One fateful day I stopped by the YSA table to find out more about them. I made a joking reference to the previous weekend's demonstration and discovered that the leader of the group was a young man who was incredibly humorless. He proceeded to lecture me (hectored me, perhaps) with a diatribe on how much commitment was necessary for the revolution to succeed and how there was no room for humor in the revolution; this was deadly serious business fighting the oppressors and jokes had no place in it.
I thought he was a complete jerk; I also thought he was a very dangerous jerk. This was the kind of person who would have no trouble condemning someone for thought crimes. If that was the kind of person who was attracted to Marxism, perhaps I wasn't as much of a radical as I fancied.
Years later I can still recall him, with a Che Guevara beard, intense eyes, and a complete lack of humor or humanity. Any revolution that condemned humor was not a revolution for me.
Rage at a cruel and withholding universe (often a derivative of infantile frustration) is difficult to tolerate. Most of us, with good-enough parenting, come to temper our infantile frustrations (which have roots in our infantile grandiosity which is so painful to give up) by using our loving ties to our parents to metabolize the rage which would otherwise be so destructive. Those unfortunates who cannot do so via love are left enraged and searching for ways to offload the rage to an external victim. Ideologies that enable such offloading attract the angry and the failed and it is through this pathway that Marx (the angry, anti-Semitic hater of religion) and the Islamists (descended from Qutb, the angry, anti-Semitic hater of secularism) find their true identity.
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