Monday, January 19, 2015

Fighting terrorism

How do we deal with terrorists? After the fact, we find them and disarm or, if necessary, eliminate them. Before the fact, we try to find them and then we do the same. That is, with real terrorists: people who kill, maim and rape unsuspecting, usually unarmed others.
Then we try to contain potential terrorists. We find them among the psychopaths: people without conscience, without remorse, without compassion, without empathy. Most psychopaths are made: by humiliation and torture, that is, by other people who are already psychopaths. And sometimes by extremists: people with lofty goals who consider everything acceptable that will lead to their goals. Extremism is fanaticism turned into action. More often than not, fanaticism is religious. What is wrong with religion?
There is not necessarily anything wrong with religion. We could state, more fundamentally, that out there is no such thing as religion, only religious people, people with certain convictions.
The most practical way is to look at religion as a booster. It makes broad-minded people more broad-minded, even incredibly so. And it makes narrow-minded people more narrow-minded, even incredibly so. It makes humane people more humane, and inhumane people more inhumane. It makes the wise wiser and the fools more foolish.
The problem of the superhuman is that it has so much to offer to the inhuman. The inhuman feels at home in the superhuman. And so the strongest light attracts also the strongest darkness. The most peaceful religions, like Buddhism, are more mental hygiene than religion. Confucianism is even more so. Though it can be stifling, it is rarely violent.
Religions that touch our soul the deepest, evoke the most enthusiasm, have the darkest fringes. Christianity and Islam come to mind. Fortunately, Christianity seems on the whole to have passed its psychopathic excrescences, Islam still has it. But when Christianity was as old as Islam is today, the religious wars were still in the future. An the first centuries of Christianity after it came into the open, where more violent and mad and cruel than Islam was in its first centuries. During the Crusades, the Europeans were much more primitive and cruel butchers and the Saracens were relatively enlightened, cultured and mild-mannered.
It is not religion that is decisive, but the mind-set of the believers.
Suppression of women in many non-Christian cultures is unbelievable to modern Europeans. When did we start to appreciate and value women? Around 1200 the Church began to teach that women should not be forced to be married against their will. That enlightened view started in the South of France and became part of chivalry, later of the cult of the gentilhomme, the gentleman. And where did the troubadours get it? From the highly cultured Moors in Spain. The people that were later, together withe Jews, wholesale murdered and subjugated by the barbaric Spanish Christians. The Spanish Inquisition and its auto-de-fés made even Rome look tame.

How many psychopaths are there? A reasonable estimate is around 2% of the population. Some may be born that way, others become psychopaths by growing up with psychopaths, or mixing with psychopaths in war, guerrilla, revolution or organized crime. The nazis emptied the prisons and offered the inmates work in the concentration camps. A few psychopaths in positions of power may unleash the others on the population at large.

Terrorists as we know them the last decades are small fry. The big thing is when regimes are run by psychopaths. Usually they remain at the intermediate level: warlords and crime bosses in failed states. Sometimes they come to the top and unleash a reign of terror. Not all dictators are psychopaths, but many fill the description, most, I suspect.

When, around 1980, I tried to identify the main international challenges, the first was cruelty, torture and terror, especially terrorist regimes. If you are interested in the history, the psychology and the sociology of terror, you may read the third chapter of  How People Make the World.* It includes what we should do about it.

The debate if Islam is a violent or a peaceful religion, is besides the point. It is both, of course. It is a source of inspiration for peaceful people. And also for violent people. For a full appreciation of women. And for a rampant suppression of women. As is true for all religions. Also the Bible is full of texts supporting one point of view as well as the other.

By the way, what is the easiest and the fastest way to grow and promote psychopaths? Consistent, mean, immense humiliation. We may have to confront terrorists and to isolate potential terrorists, but on the long run we have to eradicate humiliation - of any kind, in any shape.
To solve terrorism, fear doesn’t help, anger doesn’t help, prayer doesn’t help. A modicum of respect does. Also for the unwashed, the unkempt, the backward, the angry. If necessary, we should even kill respectfully.

Weird? Read Big Six Henderson by Jules Loh.* This feature ends: He was a legend in his time, all right, and not just because of his uncanny skill and his zealotry. He also had e reputation for fair play and decent treatment of the moonshiners he caught. ‘I never regarded them as doing something evil, just illegal,’ Big Six Henderson said, ‘and I never abused them.’ The big man thumbed through a sheaf of his faded daily reports, looking wistfully at the names. ‘Killed a few, but never abused them.’

*Hans TenDam - How People Make the World: The Ten Global Challenges, an Essay on Politics, Civilization and Humanity.
* Rene J. Cappon - The Associated Press Guide to News Writing

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