Finding balance…

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

— Nelson Mandela

As I sit here, thinking about what to write for my Sunday post this week – on Saturday, for a change because I’m unable to give any thought at all to my fictional NaNo world right now, I, who usually have no problem with words at all, am very nearly stumped. It’s not that the words aren’t here, in my head, it’s just that they don’t seem to be finding their way onto paper in any form that makes sense.

So out of the word soup that is filling my head, I need to manage to write both this blog post, and this month’s #1000Speak post – which was meant to be on Gratitude, but perhaps not. I’m reasonably sure that without writing about the real world first, I’m not going to be able to get back to any of my fictional worlds. Or at least not any time soon.

“Between stimulus and response, there is a space.  In that space is our power to choose our response.  In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

— Victor Frankl

By its very nature, terrorism looks to force an extreme reaction. It ultimately thrives on extreme reactions. At the most fundamental level a terrorist uses violence to frighten people into compliance. Or tries to. On a micro level, within communities, this frequently does work. Attack a busload of female schoolchildren and people often decide to keep their daughters safe at home. Kill a few politicians and judges, and local crimes get overlooked. Bomb a women’s health clinic, and frighten some women out of medical care. But on a macro level, something else often happens. Governments step in and close borders, they launch military strikes, they round people up indiscriminately and keep them detained away from public view. They meet terrorism with terrorism. Of course, when governments do it, it isn’t terrorism – it’s a ‘police action’ or an actual act of war. The problem with this strategy, a reaction to the fear and anxiety that terrorism provokes in the general population, is that it generally doesn’t work. What is does is provide the group behind the terrorism with inspiration for new converts.

Historically, and by definition, terrorism is about political ideology, In the 60’s and 70’s, it was primarily over independence – for the Irish, Puerto Ricans, Basques – or for a governmental overhaul – the Red Brigade, Baader Meinhof. Anarchists always had an affinity for terror tactics. But the last few decades have seen the rise of fundamentalist religious terrorism. Everyone thinks immediately of Islam and the Middle East, and that has certainly been a loci, but I’m not sure what else you call ‘christians’ who bomb women’s healthcare facilities – or kill abortion providers. In the name of very old, much retouched by people with their own sensibilities, books, the fundamentalist extremists seem to think that the clocks should all be brought back to the times that those books were written. And that everyone needs to believe as they do. But the electronic, global, interconnected world we inhabit today is very much not the nomadic desert or river plain agrarian world that it was when those books were written. If you believe that those books are the word of God, then surely they are metaphor, and in parts, obsolete – for it takes a great deal of hubris to think that an all-powerful, all-knowing, God would have allowed humanity to progress this far if his intent was that it be otherwise. But in religion, as in politics, it is nearly impossible to change the mind of someone with extreme views. And logic doesn’t matter when discussing faith.

“I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.”

— Thomas Jefferson

Terrorism can really only be fought as a police and intelligence battle – military force only helps it grow. In the US, and Europe, ‘christian’ terrorists are handled internally as police matters. In the short-term, with the Jihadists, the governments of the Middle Eastern and Gulf sets have to join together – in the end, they have the most to lose if the region isn’t stabilized.

But I think that education, which fundamentalists of all stripes fight so vehemently against, is the key to eventually making the world a better place. It isn’t going to be easy, but for the long-term survival of our species, it’s critical. Nothing needed for the long-term is ever really easy, and it certainly isn’t quick – but the future belongs to the children. And our best legacy is to ensure that our children learn about the world and the people in it,  and begin to understand.

“If you want to end the war then Instead of sending guns, send books. Instead of sending tanks, send pens. Instead of sending soldiers, send teachers.”

— Malala Yousafzai

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19 thoughts on “Finding balance…”

  1. Lovely post. I agree with you about the value of education. Malala says it all so beautifully. Her story is one to be shared. All of the quotes you have chosen to accompany this post are excellent. The one by Thomas Jefferson is particularly apt. Thank you for sharing. 🙂

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  2. Definitely. At those times, we simply have to hang in there and make sure in between that we build ourselves up to get through the challenges. My kids do Scouts and more and more I’m appreciating the importance of being prepared.

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  3. Brilliant quotes Carol, and writing, reasoning too. Yes I too believe that education is the answer. Terrorism is a result of wrong thinking for sure, this can only be rectified with education and understanding. I like Victor Frankl, he was an amazing man. And of course Malala’s makes so much sense too.

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  4. Thanks, Rowena. Writing can be a great way to sort things out. You’re piece was a powerful reminder that we nearly always have something to be thankful for – but it can be so hard to see the proverbial forest through the trees.

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  5. Carol, this was so well written and thought out. I recently read a book by the Dalai Lama and he also sees education in the same light. Your quotes are also very well chosen.
    My contribution this month looking at gratitude at times of adversity and I guess finding good things there even though I couldn’t see them at the time. https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/11/22/the-wisdom-of-gratitude-1000speak/
    Writing this really helped me realise there always was light amidst the shadows. xx Rowena

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  6. thanks, Yvonne. It is unfortunate that, although the leadership of most terrorist organizations have slightly different goals – all war is ultimately about power – the recruits all tend to be swayed by the ideology. Once upon a time, the profile of terrorist included affluence – only the affluent tend to have the time & free thought to lean toward anarchy as a solution, but in recent years, the rise of fundamentalism has broadened that scope because all you need to do is convince someone that you have all of the answers – and that is actually easier to do with the poorly educated & less affluent. Ideologues of all stripes are always of concern, but moreso now, I think, that the shrinking of the world is leaving more people feeling that their way, the right way, is being being cast aside.
    There are no easy answers, but I really do feel that education is the best starting point.

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  7. Carol, I do really like your thinking here. I agree with the points you make about how terrorism is defined, though I hadn’t thought of including the “Christian” groups who attack abortion clinics in that – probably because it doesn’t happen in the UK so it’s not on my “radar.” Your point about them makes perfect sense though.
    I recently heard terrorism described (by Hale Dwoskin) as “clinging to one small idea and ignoring everything else.” This seemed to me a very apt description and as you point out education could go a long way towards countering this clinging to one idea and ignoring the rest.
    I think too, that we all need to face our own “inner terrorist” – the beliefs we are right and they are wrong/ we are good and they are bad, which are of course what drive the reactions of governments who as you put it: “meet terrorism with terrorism.”

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