I never really enjoyed Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, but Theodore Dalrymple quotes from The Secret Agent and I find Conrad's perception of terrorists to be quite apt.

Conrad experienced political persecution from the inside, having been exiled to Siberia during his childhood with his father by the tyrannical czarist regime. One might have expected him therefore to have sympathized with extremists of almost any stripe, but he understood only too well that those who opposed tyranny by terrorism objected not so much to tyranny as such but to the fact that it was not they who were exercising it. Indeed, the terrorist temperament was apt to see tyranny where there was none. As Conrad puts it: "The way of even the most justifiable revolutions is prepared by personal impulses disguised into creeds." ...

Conrad tells us that one of the sources of terrorism is laziness, or at least impatience, which is to say ambition unmatched by perseverance and tolerance of routine. Mr. Verloc, the secret agent, has a "dislike of all kinds of recognized labour," which, says Conrad, is "a temperamental defect which he shared with a large proportion of revolutionary reformers of a given social state. For"—Conrad continues—"obviously one does not revolt against the advantages and opportunities of that state, but against the price which must be paid in the same coin of accepted morality, self-restraint, and toil. The majority of revolutionists are the enemies of discipline and fatigue mostly."

Maybe I should reevaluate my dislike for Joseph Conrad.



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