Recently, additional information has come to light regarding Loughner's parents with whom he was living. His father refurbishes cars, builds pool decks, and installs carpets. Jared's mother, Amy, is the Park Manager for Agua Caliente Park, Pima County. She earns $26.59 per hour. That comes to about $50k per year. In raw income terms, then, Jared is middle class in the narrower sense of the term, viz., the socioeconomic middle class.
It is reasonable to conclude that Jared is middle class in both senses. Which makes him materia prima for what follows ...
My prior post noted that Jared Loughner exhibits five major characteristics of a middle class rebel. To those I would now add:
A strange little dance has always existed between middle class rebellion and insanity. History shows time and again that the two are independent but not mutually exclusive.
Picture rebellion and insanity as two, separate, flat circles. Now, place them so that they slightly overlap. If initial information proves correct, the overlapping area is where Jared Loughner is located.
Med school student and vintage middle class rebel André Breton, who praised randomly firing a pistol at a crowd (see prior post) in his Surrealist Manifesto (1929), tipped his hat to madmen:
There remains madness, "the madness that one locks up," as it has been aptly described … their profound indifference to the way in which we judge them, and even to the various punishments meted out to them, allows us to suppose that they derive a great deal of comfort and consolation from their imagination, that they enjoy their madness sufficiently to endure the thought that its validity does not extend beyond themselves. And, indeed, hallucinations, illusions, etc., are a source of more than trifling pleasure ... I could spend my whole life prying loose the secrets of the insane. These people are honest to a fault, and their naiveté has no equal but my own.
Take a look at the mug shot of Loughner with his head shaved, smiling, enjoying the moment. Is it the face of indifference to all judgment and validity outside himself?
Loughner was obsessed with lucid dreaming, or controlling one's own dreams. Zane Gutierrez, a friend: "Jared felt nothing existed but his unconscious … The dream world was what mattered to Jared, not the day-to-day of our lives."
André Breton was as enthusiastic about dreams as he was about madness:
Why should I not grant to dreams what I sometimes refuse reality, that is, the value of certainty which … is not open to my repudiation? Why should I not expect from the sign of the dream more than I expect from a degree of consciousness that is more acute with each passing day? Cannot dreams be used in solving the fundamental questions of life?
An obsession with dreaming and randomly killing people are closer than they appear at first glance. Breton went on to assert:
The mind of the man who dreams is fully satisfied by what happens to him. The agonizing question of possibility is no longer pertinent. Kill, fly faster, love to your heart's content … You are nameless. The ease of everything is priceless.
On reading Breton's statement, Jared Loughner would likely nod, wink. For him pertinence itself is no longer pertinent. Soon, he will be nameless.
Conclusion: unless contrary evidence appears, Loughner fits the pattern of a middle class rebel. But is he a terrorist? Most terrorists are middle class rebels, but only a few middle class rebels become terrorists.
My definition of terrorist identified 12 components of a syndrome (see the post of January 8, "Julian Assange: Terrorist?"). As with any syndrome, not all components must be manifest in order for the syndrome to be present.
One of the components is that a middle class rebel undergoes an accumulation of intermediate/transitional/marginal conditions. Here, Jared Loughner stands out:
*"I remember his face clearly -- he just looked like he had nothing to live for," she told the Daily Mail. "Jared used to care about everything, his grades, school, his friends. That was when Jared was a normal person. It all stopped when we broke up."
*After unruly classroom performances and five encounters with the police, in September he was kicked out of college.
*He was fired from his job at a sandwich shop. There may have been other firings.
*In 2008, Loughner tried to enlist in the military; he was rejected.
*One more transition: according to a friend, Loughner gave up drugs. He went clean, lost weight, but "his theories got worse."
Another component of the terrorist syndrome: the terrorist uses uncertainty as a weapon. That uncertainty is absolute: anybody anywhere can be a victim of his violence. There are indications that Loughner went to the Safeway Tucson meeting with the intention of killing numerous people as well as committing suicide; he even posted a farewell message. If so, he meets the qualification of making the entire world -- including himself -- a potential target.
Many initial indicators suggest, then, that Loughner is a terrorist. However, our information is far from complete:
A terrorist undergoes various initiation rites. We don't know enough yet about Loughner to discuss this subject meaningfully. He did leave the standard testimonial at his house in the form of such notes as "I planned ahead." He may not have been physically a member of a cult; virtually, on the other hand, his numerous posts on the Internet suggest another type of cult participation. Then, too, there was a bizarre, cult-like shrine in Loughner's backyard.
Another component: the terrorist commits violence in the name of higher intentions/convictions. Loughner's posts that have been revealed to date are inconclusive in that regard. He definitely is a man with idées fixes or absolute truths; he apparently made Congresswoman Giffords into one -- evil and stupidity incarnate. He ranted long, hard, and frequently in favor of individual rights and literacy and in opposition to government oppression and illegitimacy. Again, we need more information, and until it is available it is impossible to determine if one more component of the terrorist syndrome is present: a lack of awareness of the ambiguity between his criminal act and his higher intentions/convictions.
Is Loughner a walking non sequitur -- insane and guilty? We will examine that question in the next post.