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Updated 21 Mar 2007

Since terror is all about psychology; so also its countering must be. We are up to it. And it will take a long time, a generation--or three or four--all the more reason to get started. The Cold War was not won in a day. The roots of violence go a lot deeper than style of governance or economic system, though both of them have effects.

This page will be in flux for quite some time, maybe as long as terror exists. Immediate points for pursuit and / or discussion follow:

    Book Reviews for background:
      • Abraham: A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths by Bruce Feiler. To know Abraham, one must also know something of one's self as well as of his scribes. With stunning insights, Feiler leads us through the hundreds of descriptions of Abraham across three faiths.
      • Confessions of a Thug: Phillip Meadows Taylor speaks loud and clear for today--especially in how the young are seduced into crime. Ameer Ali wears his hang-ups on his sleeve. These nuggets of insight are worth wading through all the horror. Taylor was a genius at making his subject come alive. His empathy for his subject is a lesson in itself. The mind of Ali is entirely equivalent to that of the extremist minds of today. Dealing with them is police work aided by the local governments.
      • Conservatives Without Conscience: John Dean became confused by the amazing late-twentieth Century lurch made by the Republican Party, away from the party of Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt. In searching for the reason or reasons why, Dean discovered Authoritarianism in the works of Professor Altemeyer. From there, a light dawned that illuminated Bush and Cheney for the authoritarian extremists they are, confirming Altemeyer's fears for America's future.
      • Darwin On Trial: by For those who really want to understand the conflict between Darwinism and ntelligent Design, Phillip Johnson provides a sharp view of how fundamentalism permeates both sides of the argument over Evolution. Open and free education on both sides of this issue could do wonders over time. Just as the origins of species need to be questioned, so must the origins of religion.
      • Dialogue and the Art of Thinking Together: If there is one interpersonal skill effective against terror, violence and war, it is dialogue and William Isaacs is THE authority. This is a timely and provocative book. Dialogue opens channels of communication between people and cultures. With understanding, comes empathy for others. Empathy brings peace.
      • Ethnic Conflict and Civic Life: [Hindus and Muslims in India.] by Ashutosh Varshney: Varshney's book is positive, even marvelous, in its guidance for achieving peaceful co-existence. Ethnic integration at all levels and in all sectors of society is one effective means for discouraging violence.
      • Fear Less Gavin De Becker puts fear into perspective. Terror is way down the list of real dangers, but our psychological response puts it first. This is a main reason why terrorism is so effective and efficient. Managing our fears could do wonders in countering terror.
      • Fundamentals of Extremism: The Christian Right in America, edited by Kimberly Blaker, is a collaborative review that misses hardly a descriptive trick. It is an excellent review of events spawned by extremist behavior.
      • Iran-Contra to 9/11: Melissa Boyle Mahle provides an insider's view of the inner workings of what passes for leadership and governance -- bureaucracy.
      • Islam [A Brief History]: Karen Armstrong wrote a sensitive and respectful look at Islam.
      • The Authoritarian Specter: For this work alone, and as an authority on the human condition that breeds violence, Bob Altemeyer belongs up there along side Theodor Adorno, Stanley Milgram, Phillip Zimbardo, and Martha Stout. See also commentary on "Enemies of Freedom:" by Voice of a Global Citizen. For the reality inclined, this book rates five stars; it is a classical demonstration of the power that the scientific method can bring to bear in sorting out the terror equation.
      • The Battle For God: by Karen Armstrong sees religious fundamentalism as one of the more powerful forces shaping current events.
      • The Iron Wall: by Avi Shlaim brings substantial insight into the early Zionist movement.
      • The Trouble with Islam: Irshad Manji calls herself a Muslim Refusenik; then goes on to explain: "It simply means I refuse to join an army of automatons in the name of Allah."

In other words, Nature / Nurture violence arises from Genetics and environment. Most of us are genetically predisposed for fighting, while at the same time we harbor genes for herding or flocking together. Most of us share some measure of each trait. As civilized folks we can live harmoniously. We just don't always. For example, there are many peaceful nations and there are relatively peaceful cities in violent nations. Individually, we must, each of us must, develop an internal locus of control for ourselves as we develop empathy with our neighbors and the less fortunate. Not sympathy: feeling sorry, but empathy: feeling with.

    • Natural History: If there is a single page on this site that puts it all together, Natural History is it. We are the product of a creator powerful enough to ignite a Big Bang followed by fallout such that after the second or third generation of star formation there was enough coolness for planetary systems to come into being.

      A mere 20 amino acids and a punctuation mark are sufficient to completely describe a human being. Driven by their chemical potential, these molecular amino acids spontaneously came into being in outer space. Since atoms and molecules like each other, more complex forms also arose spontaneously. Molecules never get so complex that they get tired of combining into more complicated forms. These are the laws of nature or God if you will.

      With animation arising inexorably, survival of the fittest then took over with speed, strength, smarts. Fierceness and herding instincts eventually evolved to the point of winning over brute strength. In just this way, Homo sapiens could have banished the Neanderthal.

      Humanity is now at square one with itself. It used to be that only a bolide colliding with earth could cause a mass extinction. Now we can do it also, taking ourselves with it. The question of whose god is God, or who governs whom--and how--must be excised from the psyche of all of us, or another mass extinction just might happen. At the very deepest level, the issue is not that superficial. Knowing what needs to be done is not like doing it. For example, our inherited traits for fierceness and dominance need to be controlled by proper nurturing before we will see positive effects in other sectors of life such as politics, religion, and business.

    • Humiliation / Alienation -- Plutocracy / Neoimperialism The latter create the former and so we force terror to come into being. Being fat, dumb, and happy, it is hard for us to even imagine how the Palestinians feel--unless perhaps, someone lost his / her home to a bulldozer and was banished to a squalid "resettlement camp" for two generations. Peace will be very elusive unless we can find some empathy for all of our fellow world citizens.

    • Zionism -- A century of history has now watched the Zionists in action. Herzl's expectations never came to pass. Herzl's product, Israel, is building an iron wall to live behind; see Jabotinsky and Zion Militarism in Israel for reasons why. There must be a better way: hands reaching across a social interface in dialogue is a proven method. The Rabin government nearly accomplished that feat, before an Israeli bomber from an ultra-conservative sect of Judaism blew Rabin away in a murderous-suicidal explosion. Rabin's government was singular in Zion history in that it recognized the real issues and acted upon them. As it is, it is war of the worst kind, the kind that grinds on and on.

A Diplomatic solution is needed, and it is needed fast. Here we get down to the nitty-gritty. It is all about Extremism of one ilk or another.

Continued learning about counter terrorism:
    • Technology is moving so fast and changing the world so rapidly that one cannot just get some level of education, call it that, and expect to stay in tune with the times.
    • The art of asking questions and being receptive to hearing answers are keys to learning and staying in tune with the times. The art of Dialogue comes naturally to many, not so natural to the shy or for people with hang-ups that interfere with clean, respectful, and congenial two-way communications. Socrates was among the first in recorded history to use questions as a tool for education and his procedure has become know as the Socratic Method.
    • By alert thinking we can deepen insight. Deepened insight raises perfomance standards in the individual, family, tribe, nation, and world community.

Since the future of humanity will lie increasingly in the hands of the next generation, we need to take care in their education. Nuclear proliferation linked with gene splicing and what that might mean to humanity are increrasingly serious issues whose solution is still uncharted.

A fully-rounded citizen, however, will be alert to problems external and internal, and will need experience in recognizing and dealing with them.

Toward that goal, we propose a series of courses on citizenship. Our current thinking follows:

    • Let's be evenhanded in what we teach.
    • Let's teach citizenship at least through K12. Such a course could have six elements:
      • One that questions and researches logos (science and technology in their several dimensions as a whole);
      • one that questions and researches mythos (myths, philosophy, religion, and faith as a whole);
      • one that researches the psychological origins and historical effects of extremism (in all its many purviews);
      • one that enhances rational thinking (logos) and moral judgment (elements of mythos and logos) early on;
      • one that enhances individual identity by achieving a balance between Internal and External Locus of Control; and
      • one that rationalizes the ethical balance between the needs of world societies on the one hand and those of the individual on the other.

    The matter of style: How we teach is equally important. In order to internalize the above curricula, we would do well to make Dialogue our modus operandi. True dialogue is a two-way communication that is fully engaged both ways; each party hears the other, searches for their meaning, all the while voicing their own logic, questions, thoughts, opinions and beliefs in full with integrity and respect for what they are. Our sixth year is not too soon to start.

    For more on a curriculum for citizenship see: Education Core Issues.


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