Alright I've been thinking about this and I've come to few tentative conclusions.
The English language is retarded; it's definitions incredibly imprecise. In light of this I'd like to further define a 'martyr' as someone whose death is used to further the cause of an ideology.
Martyrdom is neither positive or negative in and of itself. This why some martyrs can seem honorable and others evil. I guarantee you that whatever martyrs you hold positive or negative, there is someone else in this world who holds the opposite to be true. If morality is relative, then so is martyrdom.
Martyrdom is a tool. People will place value on such a death. The thought process goes like this: 'if someone is willing to die for something then that cause must have some sort of merit.' This is why martyrdom for your opposing ideology seems so disturbing, as it directly contradicts what you value.
Martyrdom can be compared with currency; it's value comes only from what other people place on it. However what product is this currency of life exchanged for; change perhaps? It introduces chaos into stable system that causes people to reevaluate their ideas, since an idea someone dies for must be important and therefor cannot be ignored. This property can be manipulated by activists or religions to further their causes.
Martyrdom is part of the chaos vs. order dichotomy. Too much and you have suicides bombers, creepy children and talented generals committing Sepukku when they'd be more valuable to their cause alive. On the flip side it can be argued, that 'if there is nothing you're willing to die for then why are you living?' A martyr with a good publicist can shock a stagnant system back into motion as well.
Digression: Why is it that nearly everything can be simplified into a dichotomy of forces that must be kept in balance? Is this some universal truth, or is it just a type of familiar pattern that humans have evolved to recognize and seek out?
There is appeal in becoming a martyr, especially for any kind of idealistic person. To throw your whole weight behind your cause and making the 'ultimate sacrifice;' it seems like you're truly living up to your ideals and making a difference then. This disturbs me, as the there is hardly a way of truly knowing whether or not your cause is misguided or whether or not your sacrifice is futile.
It also has a similar appeal to suicide, albeit more agreeable to the average person. You will be recognized, and remembered. People will wonder about you, and why you did what you did. You'll receive attention even though you dead, no it's because you are
Of course there is also the ideological appeal of the 72 virgins and the extra crowns in Heaven (though you lose those anyway
I cannot be sure, but based on my experience and analysis I suspect martyrdom appeals quite a bit more to men then it does to women. I cannot help, but wonder if this is another product of our biological imperatives. Where the men engage in far more risky behavior than the women, since in the evolutionary sense the men are more expendable.
Was my distaste for martyrdom simply a reflection of my biological makeup?
Genes: 1 Adaire: 0