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Causes of Terrorism

Along with Humiliation, alienation promotes the state of mind many terrorists themselves report as being significant to their radicalization. Kerry Noble is an archetype as reported by Jessica Stern in her " Terror in the Name of God." Noble joined a cult full of hope for a better life for all humankind. He was gradually radicalized and became second in command. How that happened should be common knowledge, taught in all courses on terrorism and the history of same.

Much has happened since this page was first posted. The media rightly points out that suicidal terrorists are often middle class. That is true. The implication is wealth precludes alienation. Intuition is otherwise. Do we just accept that, or do we ask? "Is it not possible to have financial means and be alienated at the same time?" The answer is, of course: Individuals in a society that feel used, exploited or disregarded can feel alienated and/or humiliated regardless of their position in that society.

Which is more dangerous?
An alienated wealthy educated person
or an alienated poor illiterate person?

Exacerbating that reality is the fact that in sexually repressed societies, the allure of 70 virgins waiting in heaven stirs young men, regardless of their positions in society.

What follows is based on Stern's narrative. Our thoughts are intertwined.

    "Noble had a strong need to be accepted by others and joined a Christian cult called Covenant, the Sword, and the Arm of the Lord, CSA. The cult was led by James Ellison. When Noble joined the cult it was a religious fellowship that believed in clean living in language and deed. No smoking, no beer, no cussing. The CSA lived together as a group in a camp in rural Arkansas."

Ellison's methodology is the same one can see in many other sectors of society, yet it is not self-evident to many. Ellison's technique was to:

  • Develop stories of imminent danger to the group, the "enemy."
  • Foster group identity and cohesion.
  • Dehumanize the "enemy.
  • Develop "killer selves" by playing on the Authoritarian personalities; encouraging them to bring out their "native jungle selves" in other words.

If this sounds familiar, it is. Just look at the American national scene today.

  • "Al Qa'ida can strike again at any time."
  • "You are either with us or against us."
  • "Al Qa'ida is part of the 'Axis of Evil' -- they are criminals."
  • "Bring them on."

This is human nature, our jungle nature, talking. This whole business of terror is a jungle mentality that infects all sides. Unfortunately, it is also an artifact of monotheisms in competition. It is just not becoming of a stable civilization.

True Monotheism demands total subservience to God and his "self-anointed" prophets. The balance of their powers was human-made and arises from their very different motifs. Monotheism in practice has two important effects:

    It is first of all difficult for an individual to see the big picture when one feels his/her life is in danger. Our natural and aggressive responses were built in by our evolutionary heritage. That the concept of evolution itself is under attack in America only adds to the emotionality -- and difficulty -- in perceiving the big picture.

    Secondly, organized religion meets our individual needs to belong. Islam is most effective (or if you are a Christian, you might say extreme) in fostering togetherness by its numerous group rituals that most importantly include multiple daily group prayers.

Given these two powerful features, the lock of horns between bin Laden and Bush can be understood. But humankind is searching for something better than the law of the jungle, one basic reason for the very existence of religion. The Monotheist branch, however, is vulnerable to radicalization and consequent violence, even if unintentional by its founding prophets.

The CSA, under Ellison's leadership, followed the above prescriptions. From Stern:

    Developing the threat: "They believed that humanists, communists, socialists, and Zionists had taken over the US Government. They knew for a 'fact' that Jews, Satan's direct descendants, were working closely with the Antichrist..."

    Creating identity: Living in the Arkansas compound provided "..a secure, Christian atmosphere. We helped one another--taking care of each other's babies and children. Canning, gardening. It was a big communal thing. It was nice." [Kay Noble, Kerry's wife, speaking.] "Back to basics, living in the woods, it was heaven." added Kerry.

    Dehumanize the enemy: "Ellison told the cult that Christians had turned away from the Old Testament laws and were allowing the enemies of Christ to rule the land. ...The Jews have declared war on our race, promoting race-mixing and thereby polluting the pure seed of God. ...This ZOG, this Zionist Occupied Government, is killing our white babies through abortion! I tell you this--niggers may be descended from apes, but my ancestors never swung from trees by their tails. In order to preserve our Christian heritage and race, it is our right, our patriotic duty, to overthrow the Antichrist government.
    Desensitivity training requires learning to see the enemy as less than human.

    Develop the killer selves: Ellison exhorted: "Prepare War, O Israel! Wake up the mighty men! Let all the men of war come near. Beat your plowshares into spears and your pruning hooks into swords. Let the weak say, 'I am strong!'"

Radical Mullahs today follow this prescription as does bin Laden. Mr. Bush also buys in with guns and prayers of his own. This is what is so worrisome about the GOP trend toward theocracy. Theocracy is not only an historic failure, but it polarizes a world that needs to pull together to root out the roots of terrorism.

Our jungle instincts, reflected in our Authoritarian Personalities, are in ascendance in our times. Our war on terror is actually fostering terror by increasing the feeling of alienation and Humiliation in entire societies.

Where are the moderate monotheists who say: "Why in God's name are we reverting to jungle behavior?"

Terror has its roots in individual and group psychology as their attitudes (and actions) respond to alienating and humiliating (dehumanizing) treatment.

Terror will be eliminated when all peoples of the world feel they are a respected part of humanity. That requires being treated accordingly.

We hereby call upon George W. Bush to recognize these facts and roll back damages done insofar as possible. We ask that he properly prioritize the real danger of terrorism as being:
  • much less likely than being killed by a gun,
  • far less dangerous than riding in motor vehicle, and
  • many multiples less imminent than dying of natural causes (See Terror Perspective.)

Beating the fear drums for all to hear is the ethos of this administration. To give us more internal peace of mind, could we not then alternatively ask Mr. Bush, and any future president, to try:
  • Fostering democratic ideals by democratic means, not by restricting the freedoms of those who created for you the vast powers that you possess.
  • Avoiding preemptively settling old feuds; proceed instead with UN collaboration.
  • Creating a culture that prizes individual involvement and belonging (specifically counters alienation.)
  • Creating a culture where respect for the individual is paramount and insuring that it happens (specifically counters humiliation.)
  • Creating a culture that is inclusionary of all ethnic groups (encouraging living and working together peacefully, see: Ethnic Conflict and Varshney.)
  • Guarding our national resources instead of wasting them.
  • Above all, using your powers wisely for all civilization, not to just enrich the plutocrats.

The added benefit is that our natural allies would once again flock around giving support.

We ask you, Mr. Bush: In your very own "with-us-or-against-us" style, which philosophy is the long-run winner?

We fear your answer;

"The one you paint by your daily actions!"


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