Ever since President Bush, in the aftermath of 9/11 proclaimed a “war against terrorism” confusion has more often been the result rather than clarity. A “war against terrorism” is akin to a “war against crime.” Crime will always be with us just as terrorism will always be around the corner. Many years ago, Eric Hoffer wrote a great book entitled, “The True Believer” which explained the thinking process of those who joined the Communist or Fascist or Nazi parties or enlisted in the Catholic Church in search of “the truth.” A few quotes from Hoffer will illustrate his ideas:
“Absolute faith corrupts as absolutely as absolute power.”
“Nonconformists travel, as a rule, in bunches.”
“People who bite the hand that feeds them usually lick the boots of the boot that kicks them”
“Passionate hatred can give meaning and purpose to empty lives.”
A member of the Taliban or al-Qaeda or a member of the Tea Party believes he is in possession of “the truth.” Logic or rationale thinking have no place in the mind of such individuals. Some cleric or loud mouthed TV personality has convinced the true believer that what he/she think is the only way in which the world can proceed. The young man or female in Afghanistan or the slums of Pakistan or a small village in Iraq see no meaning in their lives. They inhabit a nation in which their leaders rob and steal and so the thought of entering into a group which seeks to wipe the slate clean and offer people a new opportunity at a good life– based on Muslim principles– is attractive. An empty life moves toward the warmth of a purposeful life;
What can be done about terrorism? First, nations such as Iraq or Pakistan or Afghanistan need governments which are honest, offer a new vision of life in which each person has opportunities to fulfill their human destiny with pride. Secondly, they need a government which prevents those with power and wealth to decide the future of those without. Young Muslims need a vision of a society in which their religion stands side-by-side a government which is concerned with social justice and social equity.
Terrorism will never vanish because there will always be individuals or groups which emerge offering a vision that fulfills the emptiness of those who have empty lives. It is only through offering a full life of work, love social relationships and religion that emptiness might disappear from the lives of many young people.
A gun can not resolve empty lives.