Friday, 21 November 2014

A Few Facts

1. I do not, never have, and never shall support terrorism.

2. My definition of terrorism may well be different to yours.

3. I do not believe that Muslim and Islamist have the same definition, and if you care to look it up you'll find that I'm far from alone in this view.

4. If I were a poor, young man living in the Middle East, I might just join ISIS.

I hope that last one shocks you, because it should. I hope you have enough imagination to ask yourself if you would too, but I think it's very hard for people to put their virtual feet in those shoes.

Perhaps I ask too much. We spend so much time being sure of who we are and what we do that we don't spend any time imagining what it's like to be somebody else.

We live in a very different society. When things aren't going well in our society, first we moan about it, and then (sometimes) we vote. Despite our certainty that our votes make no difference, politicians spend a fortune trying to get them. And in the end, despite the corruption, ineptitude, and inertia of our politicians, our countries rumble on. Most of us are doing OK.

The middle east is not like that. If you study its history you will find it's very different to ours. Borders were drawn up in an arbitrary manner by colonialists with not-so-secret agendas about exploiting the wealth of the area, and nationalism was foisted on people who historically had only tribal identities, if they had any at all. And after colonialism there was still poverty, and plenty of it. Poverty that we can't even imagine. Poverty that we never even noticed.

Flash forward to a world where that poverty is still endemic, affecting infrastructure at its most basic level (if the 40 year old jeep can't navigate the rocks on the mountain pass, nobody is going anywhere) and yet a new understanding of how it is elsewhere has reached these people, and a grudge develops.

Who do they blame? Well, that depends. Just like westerners, they often look backwards to a fantasy time where everything was working better. Just like westerners this fantasy time often involves very conservative ideals and the role of religion. It is normal, throughout human history for marginalized people to seek stability anywhere they can find it. Their options are often limited, when they discover that the elite don't give a crap about them. This is why local paramilitaty organizations seem appealing. Just like kids in the west with no stability at home join gangs. People naturally seek some sort of authority that promises to provide a future for them.

Before you look at politics, you have to look at human needs. What does politics mean anyway? It means governing. What does governing mean? It is both crowd control and feeding the masses. When the national government don't or can't provide, somebody else will. Anywhere. At any time. Your choices are generally the church, or some sort of rebel organization.

If those COMBINE, it's irresistible to maginalized people. It looks safe. Well, what else is there anyway?

Who else is attracted to this? Bad people. I mean actual psychopaths. Always. They seek positions of power within such organizations. They're not usually going to get power any other way, and they need it, they crave it, and they're good at it. They are born leaders but also born unethical, damaged to the core. A bad combination, but one type of human being. Catch them if you can.

Who else? Idealistic young people from "outside" who need a way to express their dissatisfaction with the status quo. Something of the organization appeals to them, and like any individual who "joins" anything, even if he only supports a small aspect of it initially, once inside he is required to take on the whole thing. He must prove himself. He must toe the line. No matter what his doubts and fears are at 2am, now he's expected to perform acts that he would never have done as a private individual. And he does it. He has no choice.

Who else? Those with a debt to repay. They say Guantanamo is full of terrorists, but it's no secret that many of them were created in there. If you were falsely imprisoned you'd come out resentful too. And if your family, or maybe your whole village was killed, you may have an axe to grind.

And who else? The desperate. You can always find recruits among the desperate. The most dangerous man is one with nothing left to lose.

Again, I say, unless you've walked in any of their shoes, you have no idea how you would respond to it. That doesn't make it right. None of this is ever right. Generational vendettas aren't right either, but they can always be explained. You want a man who is 3rd generation "victim" to ignore all of that and be a nice guy? So do I, but good luck with that. You go tell him to just get over it. I dare you.

1 comment:

  1. You over estimate your ability to shock. I got to point 4, shrugged and thought "yes of course. What else do they have?" Will read the rest later. Actually what truly baffles me is young women from Europe going over there. But then, the young are desperate for meaning. They can get suckered into Big Ideals easily and if it appals the old so much the better.