April 17, 2013


To all those affected by the bombings in Boston, my sincerest sympathy, and hope for a better future. Once again, we have the spectre of a horrible act of hate. This time it is in Boston. We are seeing this tragedy playeda out the same as always: victims, rationalization, and retribution masquerading as justice. How can we end this travesty?

To all those affected by the bombings in Boston, my sincerest sympathy, and hope for a better future. During most of my lifetime, I have see the terrorist ballet play out scene by scene. Someone is driven to an act of unspeakable horror. They think they have their reasons. Most acts of terror are like wars, they are perpetrated for what the terrorists consider to be the best of reasons, by people who think that the world will be improved by their actions. This is a lie, of course, but it doesn't prevent people from believing in it. Some players may indeed be madmen, but these are usually victims chosen by cynical strategists to play the part of lunatics in their grand designs.

And when the act has not been prevented, we see the whole mechanism of government lurching in, after the fact, followed doggedly by the news media. The media sings the same song of outrage and exaggeration, for ratings. The government must act. They cannot be seen to be impotent. Even if there is absolutely nothing that they can do about the circumstances of the tragedy.

This is what has gotten us our current bloated TSA, which inconveniences millions of people every day and has destroyed the pleasure of air travel for everyone. Security analysts tell us several times a year that the measures that have been put in place "for our safety" are haphazard, ineffective and inefficient. Aside from a few common sense things like putting more secure, lockable doors on the cockpits of commercial airliners, 90% of the money spent by our government to "thwart terrorism" has been completely wasted.

And why is this so? Because we are not asking the right questions. If your house burned down one evening while you were having dinner in a nice restaurant, you would expect the fire department to do two things: 1) Try to put out the fire and minimize the damage, and 2) Figure out why the fire happened.

Why do people commit acts of terrorism? Contrary to popular mythology, people are not just hateful, bad and crazy because they are that way. They don't hate us for our freedom. They don't even hate us because of our religion. They can get that way in a number of ways, but they are made into terrorists because of real, factual events and circumstances. It doesn't matter if you are Arab, European, African, Asian or Australian (or any other group) we're all human beings and we start out essentially the same: at least we start out with the same potential for good and the same potential for bad.

It is important, at this point, to recall the immortal words of President John F Kennedy:

"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."

Pretty much without exception, terrorists arise in situations where change through normal political action is impossible. Go into a public place in Afghanistan or El Salvador or Indonesia or Palestine and suggest to the average person that they can better their lives by voting in their local elections, and volunteering for a political party. If they are polite, they will think you impossibly naive, or they will just laugh at you. The poor of many nations, including our own, know how very little political power they have, compared to the top 1% of the wealthy.

People can be driven beyond desperation to acts of depraved indifference fairly easily: it takes only sufficient suffering and continued abuse to make someone into a terrorist. Generally two things combine to make a wave of terrorism: 1) People who are preyed upon by a group they cannot influence, 2) Political or religious leaders who use those feelings for their own political or economic reasons. When faced with millions of adherents who live a marginal, hand-to-mouth existence, many religious leaders in the Middle-East can either accurately identify the mismanagement and graft of their own national governments, or they can invent foreign threats and bogeymen that the people can blame for their many afflictions. If they do the former, the local governments usually call them traitors and kill them. If they do the latter, they are patted on the back by their local despots and given privileges. Which do you think most of these professional god merchants choose to do?

And the charges against the foreign evil-doers do not need to be true, or fictitious. It helps if there is some truth to their criticism of global predators. The United States has hundreds of military bases all over the globe, put there for the purpose of supporting and defending US interests - that is US business interests, often at the expense of the local indigenous populations. When these impoverished people blame us for their poor living conditions, it is easy for them to lash out against us. The fact that we also do many good things does not matter. The fact that if we did not do these things, others might fill the void and do even worse, that doesn't matter either.

If you act like a military dictatorship (abroad) and favor and support authoritarian regimes all over the world, you will become a target for the dispossessed and desperate peoples of the world. We have all this wealth and we flaunt it. We have all this power and we use it. Of course we are going to be targets.

So, you want to minimize terrorism? Change things. Help people all over the world, including in the USA to have better lives - share the wealth of nations among the people of the world. Look after the disenfranchised and work for the brotherhood of mankind with something other than your mouth. Some people, who now have way more than anyone could ever need will have to be satisfied with less, but the rest of the world will have enough for a stable, consistent existence. If the top 0.05 % of households did with 10% less, we could eliminate all global poverty. It could really happen. True, you might still have the odd crazy nut who thinks he's Rambo, or the Terminator - some people may still be killed. That is unfortunate, but it isn't a rational response to institutionalized oppression and predation - it isn't terrorism, it is insanity.

And to those Ayn Rand disciples who think that they deserve their wealth and privilege because they earned them through successive generations of industrious enterprise... what if you'd been born to a Brazilian peasant? You have what you have because your ancestors were pirates, conquerors and thieves. There is no reasonable ethical framework that gives you a superior right to live than a farmer in North Korea or a refugee in Lebanon, just because of the accident of being born to your parents.

A world of wealth and want will be a world with terrorism. The modern world has too much global transportation and communication to avoid this. If we really want to end terrorism, then we need to concentrate on addressing the real causes of terrorism, rather than on addressing the symptoms of terrorism by punishing people. When you try to punish people for terrorism, you end up provoking more terrorism. It is a vicious circle. If you want proof, just look at England and Ireland: they have been enduring cycles of crisis, and blame, for 500 years. No amount of force will cure this, except for total genocide of one side by the other. Genocide is not an acceptable response to terrorism: it is the same as terrorism. We have to learn to share.

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