As some European countries, the U.S. and others strategize for war precipitated by the Paris attacks, it is important to recognize that the recent history of terrorist attacks in Britain, Spain, France, Canada and the U.S. have predominantly been the actions people raised in those countries.
So-called home grown terrorists have been almost exclusively responsible for acts targeting unknown and random individuals and groups. That suggests a motivation not only to instill random fear and panic in a population, but also to do so with the near certainty of their own deaths or capture. An ideology or belief system that seeks to instill fear no matter what the public or personal costs suggests a way of thinking that not only devalues lives of others or themselves, but suggests an incredible alienation from their own day to day lives. Such alienation or dissatisfaction is subject to any leadership that can engage individuals and give them meaning no matter what the loss to their personal autonomy. Witness the Jonestown tragedy in Guyana, where 900 people died in the grip of an Indianapolis preacher’s cultic control.
How do we challenge that kind of ideological control and in the process teach and safeguard values and a way of life that we live out daily? As someone said, the answer is in the details which we need to sort out and not merely at a physical, instrumental or purely military level.
If our beliefs and lives are worth anything, we should spell this out in deeply and meaningful human terms, and stop the demonization of others that can only lead to further alienation that reinforces “us and them” relationships. Dealing with a history of deep or perceived grievance including historic colonialism involves a level of emotional discipline and maturity in conversation and in outreach on both sides that might stretch our resources for years to come.