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Research Through Mar 2008

Roots of Terror Briefly and Some Avenues toward Peace Now Apparent

Reading recorded history is a heavy trip. Through all of it, terrorism, wars, and genocide recur again and again. Like rows of dominoes, each event seems to trigger further events.

An objective read of history often finds organized terrorism concentrated in Monotheistic cultures. Following the ancient scripts, individual and collective violence in the forms of terrorism, war and genocide march into the 21st Century. Grass-roots society changes are needed everywhere to counter Extremism in its many forms and in particular, an offshoot Fundamentalism, each of which nurtures conditions that radicalize the susceptible.

Our basic problem seems to be our inborn genetic potential for fierceness in gaining and defending territory and resources in competition with other species as well as our own. Offsetting this tendency to some extent, the herding instinct seems to survive and form the basis for family and tribal units that go on to organize fiefdoms and nation states as civilization matures and societies become distinct. There is evidence that in something like 65-80% of all of us, our genes for fierceness dominate our herding and protective instincts. Ironically, these instincts appear to reinforce each other, those who are best on each side are the ones that survive to reproduce their kind. This is our heritage, our nature.

Nurture also matters -- a lot. Within societies, Washington, Baltimore and Detroit nurture violence multiples more than do Honolulu and El Paso. You see the same effect among nations -- many are peaceful, many are not. In terms of violence within their societies and toward their neighbors, Norway and Portugal are role models compared with the United States.

In its current form, terror is largely monotheistic in character in that each side invokes "God" as being on its side. The basic issue, in modern terms, is that imperial societies humiliate others. Radicals on each side invoke religion, and the ages-old question of whose god is God comes to the fore, banners waving.

Bin laden is simply the latest to formally declare it is so, and innumerable Mullahs of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan and other countries endorse his fatwa. Not all do. Some have issued a fatwa against him. But a fatwa by nature can advocate violence, depending on the circumstances. The U S Government, pushing religion as it now does, plays into the polarizing hand that gives the Muslim side not only moral advantages, but economic ones as well.

Islam moral? Yes--in certain ways; where in the following is it not? Is it moral for a society to exploit the petroleum resources of another, even though despotic leaders exploit their own? Is it moral to dispossess indigent peoples of their homes and land? Is it moral to support the perpetrators to the disadvantage of those dispossessed? Is it moral to invade a country having no connection with bin Laden, that is no threat to world peace, and that disintegrates into internecine war and protest violence, where individual safety (women especially) is less-than-ever assured? Counter to these "moralities," Islam takes care of its poor.

In certain other ways, No, not at all. Hussein went after Kuwait's oil. Syria went into Lebanon and stayed a long while. The Taliban took over most of Afghanistan. Iran and Iraq fought a long bloody war. Assassinations abound. Women (and children) are exploited in many places as never before.

The typical Muslim longs for peace as much as the average Christian and Jew do. It is their extremist leaders (and followers) who thirst for conflict.

The most important root cause of violence is our jungle / savanna heritage as expressed in our in-born Authoritarian temperament (genetic) that enables radicalization. Certain societies: are authoritarian by nature, instill external loci of control while suppressing or leaving internal loci control to happenstance. Half of the world population is now monotheist, which history and current events both associate with violence. For more on the question of whose god is God (central to terror in our times) see: Religion and Terror.

Given the innate tendencies (see Milgram) many of us have to lean toward an Authoritarian "temperament" (nature plus nurture), it is no stretch to see why some of us are so susceptible to radicalization. This happens most often in unstable societies that have access to at least some wealth. The very poorest or richest of societies rarely produce terrorist movements, though the rich ones can effectively sponsor terror of the Zionist variety. Others spawn the likes of Ted Kaczyinski and Timothy Mc Veigh as well as "drive-by" and "school" shooters. Japan also spawned the Aum Shin Rikyo cult that sprayed nerve gas in a Tokyo subway.

Authoritarianism often manifests itself as dogmatism and bigotry in typical cases. Rosa Parks provided the spark that turned around Southern-state bigotry. Today, integration has succeeded beyond the wildest dreams of those oppressed in Parks' day. Yet even today significant traces remain, recall the off-hand remarks of Trent Lott about his time and the actions of President Bush after hurricane Katrina. True equal opportunity is still only a dream for many in the so-called enlightened Northern Hemisphere. John Dean, applying the social science findings of Altemeyer, and Lederer (ahead of his day) expand on how this personality type can change the course of history. Indeed it has always been so.

There is more evidence, if more is needed. The Stanford Prison Experiment by Phillip Zimbardo foretold almost precisely the behaviors that later developed at Abu Ghraib. His cohort were stable Home-Town North American college males. He found that Bad Barrels, also known as the SYSTEM, as Milgram's studies would predict, is a too-often overlooked aspect of humanity that both drives and spoils attempts at empire. Ironically, these same feature drive terrorism and insurrection.

And it gets still worse, for sheep obey the shepherd. That is usually OK. But what if the shepherd is really a leopard? Martha Stout, Robert Hare and Justin Frank address just this point. It is the extreme fringe of the Authoritarian Personality that causes most of the violence on earth. Normally, such people end up in prison. But many don't. On occasions they take over countries--not at all a rare event. Depending on who you read, something like 1-4% of all of us are narcissistic, sociopathic, or psychopathic, in behavior. See Sociopath Catalog for more.

Ashutosh Varshney has shown deep insight into racism and conflict. He paired eight cities in India in four groups of two by size and ethnicity. In each case, the cities paired exhibited great differences in violence between them. After studying their make-up and functioning, he discovered that the major determinant for peacefulness was the degree of ethnic integration in all aspects of society, governance, industry, services or what have you. In thinking abut this one, integration itself could be an effect of a deeper feature (like fostering altruism or parenting across extended families) in the societies he studied. Testing that possibility remains. Nevertheless integration is one of the most important clues developed to date in the quest for peace. It "explains" why Honolulu and El Paso are relatively more peaceful than many cities in the eastern U.S.

Since some nations, cities and people manage to live peacefully in our times, there are historic reasons for Hope. In fact, Mother Nature herself provides Hope.

Build our Future | Hope | Locus of Control | Solutions | Tokyo

What We Must Do From Here

There are a number of things. Some follow:

International: Bring cultures in conflict into dialogue.
    • Prevent nuclear holocaust: Update and Implement Baruch Plan for controlling Nuclear activities.
    • Effectively cap terror: Make the UN an effective World Government working to stabilize and modernize rogue states while preserving the best of what each culture has to offer.
      • Remove important cause of terror: Eliminate Humiliation within and among Cultures.
      • Increase ability to integrate all societies: Update, Internationalize, and refocus the Peace Corps. Implement two-way student-exchange programs to increase people-to-people and society-to-society dialogue and mutual appreciation.
      • Encourage and facilitate the development of free enterprise in developing countries: Back away from significant backlash in nations so aided. Encourage trading relationships that are beneficial to both societies.
        • To implement and staff free enterprise, improve the quality of higher education in developing countries: Reduce dogma and rote learning; emphasize and broaden knowledge and skills in world political-history, natural history, mathematics, medicine, science, engineering, economics, philosophy, music, arts, psychology and sociology.
    • Excise Extremism: Societal Reformation must be a grass-roots effort, where societies consciously develop, balance, and implement both internal and external loci of individual control using dialogue as the primary means for avoiding conflict. Develop means to identify sociopathic (aka: psychopathic, or narcissistic) behavior during child development and find ways to protect both such people and society.
    • Limit energy use: Finite sources, are, well finite. Learn to live with what is available from the sun and the atom.
    • Limit Population Growth: There is NO CHOICE but to limit the birthrate of all humanity. If we do not, we shall all die as microbes in a fermenting wine bottle as sugar gives out and they drown in their own effluent. The "weapon of the womb" has a place in evolution and history. But humankind is now in control of its own destiny. There is only a limited time to accomplish this: Genocides are historically commonplace where populations exceed their local resources. The evolutionary solution of wiping entire societies off the face of the earth is well underway. On another level, thousands of species, alive in year 1 CE, no longer exist, thanks to the dominance of Homo. Most disappeared in the 20th Century.

National: Recognize History.
    • Reduce ethnic conflict: Remove radicalizing elements
    • Ethnic Integration in all aspects of society: The option is war and more war.
    • Create Universal Religious Tolerance: The option is war and more war.
    • Ensure Equal Educational Opportunity: The option is war and more war.
    • Work toward Equal Economic Opportunity within and among nations: The option is war and more war.
    • Maintain Effective Separation of Church and State: The option is poor governance and endless conflict over whose god is God.
    • Maintain Strong Economy: The alternative is to continue enriching the already-rich while spending money borrowed from other nations and ultimately fail at what we are best at--economic growth for individual well-being.
    • Appreciate Science and Technology: They have alleviated pestilence, advanced the standard of living, enabled advanced education.
    • Appreciate the Limitations of Politics: Politics has not advanced apace with science. It is high time that politics became a science! Is that a job for politicians or scientists? Who has the better record?
    • Understand that one Single Nation Can No Longer Police the World: The preferred alternative is to enlist all willing nations and alliances to help in a multi-polar world.

Individual: Prepare ourselves for bigger and better things.
    • Reach Out In Dialogue: Provides effective communication; reduces potential for conflict.
    • Educate Ourselves: Study the five great disciplines. Learn what forces drive and work against science, history and progress.
      • Natural History and Science: Physics begets chemistry begets biology and life. Learn how to separate fact from fiction, how to determine cause and effect.
      • Human History: Connectedness with all biota / evolution of Homo sapiens and society.
      • Philosophy: What might be beyond the frontiers of science and what we know.
      • Religion: What to make of the need humanity has for religion and the marked association of monotheism with violence.
      • Social Sciences: Anthropology / Psychology, especially of child development, loci of control, and extreme personalities / Sociology / Economics
    • Develop Individuality:Balance internal and external loci of control.
    • Understand and Live with Nature: Mathematics / Statistical Inferences / Scientific methods / Evolution
    • Control Our Destiny by continuing to advance: Chemistry / Physics / Biology / Genetics for the benefit of all humankind as equally as possible.

Find The Road Ahead From Here

Since there are still many unknowns in the rocky roads ahead, there are a number of things we can do to explore with the same confidence and hopes that guided Vasco Da Gama, Magellan, the Wright brothers, Watson and Krick. All questions can be answered one way or another by the scientific method.

Apply Firm Answer Or Expand Upon Some Outstanding Questions
    • Why is Tokyo the most-peaceful, large metro-area on earth?
    • Why are Honolulu and El Paso tens of times more peaceful than Washington DC, Baltimore, or Detroit?
    • Why is America more violent than Norway or Portugal?
    • Why does China have the oldest, least expansionistic, society on earth?
    • What are the effects of population pressures on violence?
    • Where on the human genome are the genes for authoritarianism?
    • How can we implement findings from new research?
    • How can societies best implement external and internal loci of control?
    • Why do Nordic countries have high suicide rates?
    • Why do sparsely populated areas in the US have high suicide rates?
    • Why exactly does monotheism correlate so strongly with war, terror, and violence?
    • How does education correlate with violence?
    • Is there a genetic (evolutionary) foundation underlying humanity's need to develop myths to explain what is otherwise not explainable.
    • Are there specific genes for psychopathology?
    • Where is Evolution, as expressed by human societies, headed?

Follow Up
    • Implementing answers from the above effectively will surely lead humankind toward cohesion instead of explosive divisiveness. Following up new leads should neither displace nor await implementation of things known to work. Terror is ubiquitous, and so our response should be.
    • Dialogues among cultures now in conflict at the grass-roots level offer an immediate means to getting to know our neighbors who share this fragile biosphere with us.

This project is beginning to illuminate the very human ills that we and our children face.

If it looks like it will take generations to banish terror, that is all the more reason why we must get on with it.