Terrorism and Religious
A Mindful Approach
What are the psychological factors that
are responsible for terrorism? What social conditions cause them
to develop? And what can we, as individuals, do to influence them?
The World-Trade Center disaster has provoked an intense U.S. led
offensive against terrorism. Most
people seem to think that this kind of war is something
new. It's not.
Many other tragic conflicts in recent
times fit the same model:
Genocides that occurred in Kosovo and Bosnia
Attempted extermination of the Kulak peasant class in Russia
Actions of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia
Attempted extermination of the Intelligentsia in Communist
Hutus vs. the Tutsies in the Congo
Turks genocidal massacre of the Armenians
Holocaust of European Jews at the hands of the Nazi's
Similar conflicts within
our own democratic borders (as will later
While on the surface,
these may seem like completely unrelated events, they all
embody a similar core philosophy. These conflicts are each
characterized by having one group which sees itself as being tragically
oppressed, and seeks freedom or prosperity through the annihilation of
an 'evil' group of oppressors. Sound familiar? It should.
The comparison between the scenarios mentioned above and the situation
that prompted the September 11th attacks is obvious. America is
the perceived oppressor at which Bin Laden directs all of his rage.
Some people seem to think that we can
obliterate terrorism simply by wiping Al Qaeda and its 'evil leader' off
the face of the earth. Such a belief, however, is far from
true. Even if we kill every single
terrorist who lives on this earth today, the
future would still remain uncertain. We do need military action, but we
need to supplement it with psychological tactics. We must know why
these situations occur, and act accordingly.
The good news is that we
have a basic understanding of how
such conflicts emerge, and solid ideas as to how their development can
be interrupted. Central to the creation of people like Bin Laden
is a concept called totalism. For our purposes, totalism can be
thought of as an exaggerated form of something that exists within each
one of us: the tendency to see ourselves as wholly good and 'the enemy'
as wholly bad.
To contact Steven Barrie-Anthony,
e-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org