- / -
General relativity of terror -- a context for both demonisation and empathy?
Radical as a questionable focus of antipathy?
Radical as a questionable focus of empathy?
Radical quest: getting to the root of a problem?
Radical identification of the root cause of terrorism
Failure of radical analysis of root causes
Radicalism vs Superficialism: definitional game-playing
Radical exemplars disruptive of normality
Pathetic policy, psychology, philosophy and propaganda
Institution of a caliphate of normality by fiat
Radical disposal of the disagreeable, the undesirable and the unbelievers
Reframing the quest for root causes
Radical speculation anticipating radical extraterrestrials?
Produced on the occasion of centennial celebration of Einstein's radical theory of general relativity
This argument is inspired by the progressive conflation in mainstream discourse of radicalisation with Islamisation, extremism, fundamentalism, dissidence and terrorism. The concern here is whether it is possible to engage in thinking, framed as radical by some, without being branded a terrorist in consequence. The further concern is whether thinking upheld appreciatively as normal in mainstream discourse can be permitted to be critical, as in critical thinking, without being similarly conflated with radicalism and terrorism. This in turn raises the question as to whether creativity -- through questioning conventional modalities and "business-as-usual" -- is to be considered threatening to those conventions and therefore to be similarly branded.
Radicalisation (without qualification) is now the focus of extreme deprecation as indicative of susceptibility to terrorist sympathies -- even potential engagement in terrorism. This framing increasingly invites criminalisation and incarceration (possibly without charge). Whether understood as radical or fundamental, how then should those who have long engaged in critical thinking as part of the creative process declare themselves?
... a capacity of those capable of creative process, a capacity that negates intellectual pursuit of answers. It has recently been appropriated... to comment on human nature and to explain how human beings innovate and resist within confining social contexts, rigid social divisions and hierarchies, and to transcend and revise their contexts. The concept has also inspired psychoanalytic practices and twentieth-century art and literary criticism. The term has been used by poets and philosophers to describe the ability of the individual to perceive, think, and operate beyond any presupposition of a predetermined capacity of the human being
The reference to negativity is also understood as consistent with the argument of Barbara Ehrenreich (Smile Or Die: How Positive Thinking Fooled America and the World, Picador; 2010), separately explored (Being Positive Avoiding Negativity: management challenge of positive vs negative, 2005).
As argued here, the issue can be explored in terms of the increasingly "slippery" nature of conventional definitions and categories, despite the strongest of claims and assertions variously made -- if not as a consequence of them. In this context definitive description and explanation are called into question as indications of premature closure. Metaphorically this slipperiness can be experienced as "mercurial", offering a degree of mirroring recalling the distorting effects of a fairground hall of mirrors. Given the extent to which evidence is massaged, many "facts" are increasingly questionable as highlighted by Samuel Arbesman (The Half-Life of Facts: why everything we know has an expiration date, 2013).
As indicated by the "concrete proof" presented to the United Nations Security Council for the existence of WMD in Iraq, the situation is exacerbated by the extent to which leading politicians themselves admit the need to lie. This has been more recently clarified by Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission: I have to lie. I'm a Christian democrat and a Catholic, but when it becomes serious, you have to lie (Jean-Claude Juncker: a parody on Christian-Democratic Principles, 14 May 2014; Mike Shedlock, Jean-Claude Juncker, Luxembourg PM and Head Euro-Zone Finance Minister says "When it becomes serious, you have to lie", Global Economic Trend Analysis, 7 May 2011). This confirms the original recognition of doublespeak, as separately discussed (Enabling Suffering through Doublespeak and Doublethink, 2013).
There is an increasing sense in which assertions by authorities are claimed to be "evidence-based" but without any capacity to present such evidence -- righteously justified by "security" and related considerations. Following increasing dependence on fiat money (quantitative easing), there is now a sense in which people are expected to adapt to a "fiat reality".
The irony for a civilization in crisis is that any "extraordinary" insight is now readily framed and condemned as "radical" -- thereby inhibiting new thinking potentially vital to the survival of that civilization. Expressed otherwise, it is appropriate to ask in what contexts radical thinking is encouraged, rather then deprecated and censored as abnormal: the United Nations system, regional organizations (EU, OAS, ASEAN, etc), the military, religions (the Catholic Church, etc), academia? Curiously it would seem that only in the arts or technological innovation are "radical" approaches now valued -- exemplified by the conscription of hackers in anticipation of cybersecurity threats.
What is the requisite complexity, previously identified as characteristic of radical thinking, now appropriate in an increasingly complex society? As what level of complexity is current strategy being envisaged -- and where is this questioned? How do we ask questions of ourselves as queried by Charles Freer Andrews in support of the radical initiatives of Gandhi in South Africa? Most curious is how the ground on which the engagement with radical extremists takes place is chosen and defined by them, rather than being the focus of reimagination by those thereby challenged -- contrary to the most fundamental strategic principles.
As with the highly controversial status of gender identity, should radicals face up to the issue of whether they should "come out" and confess publicly to their unconventional cognitive orientation? Does the argument extend to those of contrarian disposition, or to the archetypal outsiders featured so extensively by the arts? Such questions are given particular poignancy by the case of the esteemed mathematician, Alan Turing, whose radical insights were so significant in the engagement with the Nazi regime. Later accused of a homosexual relationship, he was obliged to undergo chemical castration -- leading subsequently to his suicide. A royal pardon was only negotiated 60 years later.
The argument is presented in the light of the inspiration offered by Einstein's general theory of relativity just a century ago -- long recognized as a "radical" new insight into understanding of the physical universe, and widely framed as "revolutionary". Given the levels of violence over the past century, notably evident at this time, the question is whether radical thinking of equivalent subtlety is now urgently required -- and how that challenge might be framed with respect to the psychosocial universe. It is of course also the case that Einstein's field equations enabled the development and use of nuclear weapons with their unprecedented fatalities -- and their current worldwide distribution.
Succinctly and elegantly stated by John Archibald Wheeler, the original theory can be presented as: Mass-energy tells spacetime how to curve; the curvature of spacetime tells mass-energy how to move? As a metaphor what might this suggest of relevance to social dynamics? Even as the faintest of possibilities, the embedding of mass opinion within communication space can be readily recognized as causing a form of curvature (a "bending" from normal rectilinear truth) -- one which can be recognized as then framing a direction of collective movement, however irrational. Ironically, but significantly, a degree of resonance is recognizable in the tendency of a group to be entrained by any curving dance -- with the movement that then entails.
Insights from metaphor? Such an understanding acquires greater credibility given widespread use of "mass" and "energy" in relation to collective action and the capacity for "movement" in the psychosocial sphere. Whether as an intuitively meaningful metaphor or otherwise, this suggests an understanding which merits careful exploration in a period of global social crisis (Reframing Sustainable Sources of Energy for the Future: the vital role of psychosocial variants, 2006). Of curious relevance are the manner in which masses of people exert an attractive force and the manner in which energy is significantly engendered by difference, rather than similarity
Einstein himself made extensive use of metaphor to enable and explain his own radical insight, as extensively discussed by Douglas Hofstadter and Emmanuel Sander (Surfaces and Essences: analogy as the fuel and fire of thinking, 2012). As argued by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson: From our perspective, Einstein created a useful metaphorical theory (Philosophy in the Flesh: the embodied mind and its challenge to Western thought, 1999, p. 228). As noted by Michael P. Marks (Metaphors in International Relations Theory, 2011)
Lakoff and Johnson's view that metaphors represent human experiences was asserted by Giambattista Vico in the New Science (1725). Terence Hawkes (Metaphor, 1972) sums up Vico's thesis as follows: Metaphor, in short, is not famciful 'embroidery' of the facts. It is a way of experiencing the facts. It is as way of thinking and living: an imaginative projection of the truth (p. 202)
What then of the radical nature of quantum reality and its widely recognized weirdness -- as yet to be reconciled with that general theory, despite the intrinsic entanglement of human cognition with both? As highlighted by Michael Brooks: The idea that the brain is too messy for quantum effects is simple minded (Is quantum physics behind your brain's ability to think? New Scientist, 5 December 2015). Are humans inherently "radical" in a sense as yet to be understood?
Both general relativity and quantum mechanics are, on the one hand, highly abstract and difficult theories, both in the sense of technical computations and in the sense of interpretational problems relating the formalism to observations; and on the other hand, have been stringently tested to extraordinary precision by a wide variety of experimental probes. The inescapable lesson of these theories is that nature's inner workings depart in very significant ways from those of the subset of phenomena with which most of us are immediately familiar.
Whatever the nature of their extremism -- whether of the radically creative or of the religious fundamentalists -- a valid focus of inquiry could usefully be the source of the "energy" enabled by shared belief, however that might come to be understood. Conventional thinking focuses on physical resources (as with the oil controlled by ISIS), whereas the Taliban in their mountain strongholds demonstrated no such reliance.
If the articulation of general relativity resonates with psychosocial experience, is there more that could be derived from the insights offered by that theory? Clearly there is the mysterious attraction of many forms of belief -- as mysterious as that of gravitation (Mark Cooney and Nicole Bigman, Terrorism as Gravitational Attraction, Terrorism and Counterterrorism Today, 20, 2015, pp. 25-46). Equally significant is the energy associated with the antipathy they may engender -- leading to demonisation.
"Reality distortion"? Further insight may well be derived from arguments regarding a so-called reality distortion field by which managers and leaders try to convince their employees to become passionately committed to projects without regard to the overall product or to competitive forces in the market. It has been most notably applied to the ability of Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, to convince himself and others to believe almost anything with a mix of charm, charisma, bravado, hyperbole, marketing, appeasement and persistence. It was said to distort an audience's sense of proportion and scales of difficulties and made them believe that the task at hand was possible. The same phenomenon is nw associted with Elon Musk (Drake Baer, What It's Like Inside Elon Musk's 'Reality Distortion Field', Business Insider, 1 January 2015). For Jobs, it was a bubble he lived in that shielded him from the normal fears that held back so many others.
It is difficult to avoid use of the term "radical" with respect to the modalities and mind-set of extremely innovative leaders, such as Jobs and Musk. Especially relevant to the nature of radicalism is the critique of Michael Shermer (The Reality Distortion Field: Steve Jobs's modus operandi of ignoring reality is a double-edged sword, eSceptic, 10 July 2013). Shermer suggests that these might be more fruitfully understood through frameworks such as that provided by Robert Triversin (The Folly of Fools: the logic of deceit and self-deception in human life, 2011). Such a critique completely avoids the issue of widespread appreciation of the product of such thinking, most evident in the Apple products -- presumably also appreciated by sceptics -- and of whether there is proven capacity to engender products of such quality otherwise.
Clearly there is considerable relevance to the question of Markus Giesle (Is There a Science Behind Reality Distortion Fields? The Huffington Post, 16 September 2015). Curiously any reference to such a reality bubble is reminiscent of the filter bubble cultivated for each through personalization of search engine results (Eli Pariser, The Filter Bubble: what the internet is hiding from you, 2011). Definitive closure by some on the nature of "reality" might be better understood as premature -- even a reality distortion field in its own right (Einstein's Search and the Illusion of Reality, Knowledge of Reality Magazine, 2005, 11).
Current inadequacy of a Newtonian worldview: It is in this context that the recent announcement of the leader of the international community to that of ISIS needs to be seen as unfortunately constrained by a "normal" worldview -- dating from the Stone Age -- one which is no longer appropriate to the complexity of the challenge (Obama's Message to Islamic State Leaders: You're Next, Bloomberg, 14 December 2015). Missing from that mechanical ("Newtonian") worldview is even the historically demonstrated incapacity to appreciate the nature of the reaction to any such action -- otherwise understood as blowback.
There is also the strange post-Newtonian "radical" worldview within which such action is appreciated -- if not welcomed as enabling martyrdom, as argued by Jürgen Todenhöfer (I know Isis fighters: Western bombs falling on Raqqa will fill them with joy, The Guardian, 27 November 2014). This is echoed by a "post-modern" appreciation of the nature of terrorism (Boaz Ganor, Post-Modern Terrorism: trends, scenarios and future threats, 2006).
Failure to recognize such dynamics recalls the adage of both H. L. Mencken (For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong) and that of George Santayana (Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it). Although claiming inspiration from a Judeo-Christian deity, it is then indeed appropriate to question the strategy of the leadership of the international community in response to Islam (International Community as God or Sorcerer's Apprentice? 2015).
The point is made otherwise by Alexei Bayer (The End of the Age of Reason? The United States, Russia, the Islamic State and the new irrational world, The Globalist, 5 January 2016). After centuries of violence between the Abrahamic religions, and between their sectarian divisions, can it be said that they have developed any rational capacity to address their condition in a manner which transcends "we right", "them wrong"? By then readily framing the latter as "evil", evil has become the driving force in global conflict.
The situation is further exacerbated by the deliberate cultivation of ignorance or doubt, now explored through agnotology and associated with the disinformation techniques of FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) and appeals to fear (Robert N. Proctor, and Londa Schiebinger (Eds.), Agnotology: the making and unmaking of ignorance, 2008; David Michaels, Doubt is Their Product: how industry's assault on science threatens your health, 2008; Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, Merchants of Doubt: how a handful of scientists obscured the truth on issues from tobacco smoke to global warming, 2010).
Rather than the simplistic deprecation of "relativism" and "syncretism" by the "Newtonian theology" driving current conflicts, there is therefore a case for exploring the potential cognitive significance of such terms in the light of a "post-Newtonian" framework -- presumably to a higher degree consistent with the radical insights of the exemplars of holiness honoured by those religions.
In this "post-Newtonian" context, the very nature of "radical" in a psycho-social context merits new insight, as previously considered (Radicalisation versus Demonisation? Enabling radical initiatives under conditions of strategic stalemate, 2015; Radicalisation of Existence and Identity, 2015). The argument follows from earlier explorations of the response to extremism (Norms in the Global Struggle against Extremism: "rooting for" normalization vs. "rooting out" extremism? 2005; Eradication as the Strategic Final Solution of the 21st Century?, 2014).
|Mutual challenge for comprehension of complexity and simplicity
in their capacity to attract wider attention
The contrast between the complexity and the simplicity of the theory of general relativity is curiously echoed by that between the complexity of the discussions of radicalism and the simplicity by which it may be framed and condemned. Debate regarding radicals is now extensive, supported by disparate studies and commentaries. Any conclusion tends to take the most succinct form -- possibly as a satisfactory slogan -- a focus for attention requiring little further thought (as with any lynch mob or accusation of evil). This follows from the argument of Alvin Toffler:
So framed, the simplicity of succinct could well be understood as a "blip" -- as with the belief of those whose identity is affirmed by subscribing momentarily to it. Use of "evil" is increasingly significant is trumping all other explanations in public discourse, rendering them irrelevant.
Curious in both cases is the extent to which studies and commentary are the subject of copyright -- in contrast to the equation of the theory and the words of the slogan. It is the integrative nature of the succinct as an attractor which now merits particular attention in a psychosocial context.
Should the overriding preoccupation with intellectual property (and paywalls) in both cases be explored as fundamental to cognitive dynamics -- especially since few are inclined to explore the variety of texts in extenso or to endeavour to comprehend their implications? How is this to be related to the quest for persuasion, agreement, conviction and some form of buy-in -- challenged by resistance to premature closure? Every coherent resolution is then fundamentally meta-stable -- evoking mutation and emergence of alternatives.
Given the constraints of intellectual property, and the limited desire of the owners to resolve them with any radical new insight, the situation is remarkably similar to that relating to physical property. Understood as the rightful prossession of "the land", this is the fundamental preoccupation in conflict in the Middle East and especially regarding the status of Jerusalem as an integrative focal point for the Abrahamic religions. Does the possessiveness of bounded property serve as a remarkable metaphor for the in-the-box thinking which informs this preoccupation -- especially the failure to consider subtle forms of non-duality characteristic of a variety of non-Abrhamic religions?
There is therefore some considerable irony to the possibility that Einstein's insights into frames of observational reference may have been unconsciously influenced, to an unsuspected degree, by his formative experience in the patent office. This suggests unexplored implications for understanding posession of "property" otherwise, and especially from a religious perspective (Einstein's Implicit Theory of Relativity - of Cognitive Property? 2007). Have the major religious been highly irresponsible in their failure to explore the mathematical implications of their theology (Mathematical Theology: future science of confidence in belief, 2011)?
The capacity for comprehension, and the fundamental commitment to collective consensus, suggest that much remains to be explored with respect to collective attention in an information-overloaded knowledge-based society (Investing Attention Essential to Viable Growth: radical self-reflexive reappropriation of financial skills and insights, 2014; The Consensus Delusion: mysterious attractor undermining global civilization as currently imagined, 2011; Ungovernability of Sustainable Global Democracy ? Towards engaging appropriately with time, 2011).
As suggested by the weirdness of quantum reality, the conventional dissociation of subjectivity and objectivity, as challenged by much radical thinking, may be open to understanding otherwise (Psychosocial Implication of Without Within, 2013; A Subjective Objection: Objecting to Subjection, 2016). The fruitful reconciliation between fundamental physics and philosophy remains, as clarfied by Manoj Thulasidas (Perception, Physics and the Role of Light in Philosophy, The Philosopher, 96, 1).
Clearly antipathy is readily evoked by those who do not subscribe to behaviour and beliefs considered normal. There is a wide variety of beliefs and movements recognized as fundamental or radical in some way. These range from the religious (such as Islamic fundamentalism, Christian fundamentalism, Jewish fundamentalism), to the philosophical, to the dietary, or otherwise. They include those sciences radically opposed to religious beliefs as fundamentally misleading -- at a time when rational thought can be claimed to be the key to human survival. Especially controversial are beliefs relating to sexuality and sexual identity, as well as those relating to the right to life (pro-choice, anti-abortion) or the right to die (capital punishment, death by choice).
Antipathy may of course be evoked by any belief experienced as disagreeable with respect to what is preferred as desirable and held to be normal. This notably applies to views experienced as "negative" -- then held to be deviating from the "positive" views associated with normality. This tendency may be especially problematic in the case of creativity and the presentation of alternatives.
Perspectives deviating from the norm may well be tolerated, except when they result in behaviour held to be inhuman -- readily framed and publicized as otherness of an extreme form. Radicalisation is then used to describe the progressive acquisition of such beliefs and their associated behaviours. These may well be held to be symptomatic of "evil" thereby evoking processes of demonisation.
Nature of evil: In a post-Newtonian world, it is surprising the extent to which evil is readily recognized in the most simplistic terms -- justifying the most radical response. For Brad Evans (Another War, Another Evil: haven't we learned that the devil cannot be slain? Truthout, 26 September 2014):
Any moral concerns here can be easily overcome if the fight is presented in absolute terms. The war is necessary because it is against the forces of evil in the world. David Cameron reaffirmed this position in respect to the horrifying beheading of British Aid worker, David Haines, calling the filmed atrocity a "pure act of evil." Such reliance upon this all-too-theological expression has in fact become a hallmark of politics in the post-9/11 period. George Bush Jr. famously declared that he "wanted to rid the world of evil," whereas Barack Obama's Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech read more as a Treatise for War in the 21st Century, noting on the need for violence, "Make no mistake, evil does exist in this world."
Much is currently made of the publicized beheading of individuals by ISIS militants as being an act of "pure evil", as notably argued by the Prime Minister of Australia, Tony Abbott (The beheading of American photojournalist James Foley: a despicable act of pure evil, The Daily Telegraph, 16 February 2015; Isis beheading 'justifies' Australia's Iraq intervention, says Abbott, The Guardian, 3 September 2014).
With the regional destabilization currently resulting from the execution by Saudi Arabia of 47 individuals according to sharia law, it could be asked whether this is similarly understood as "pure evil" by the allies of that country, currently furnishing it with a vast array of weaponry (Adam Taylor, How Saudi Arabia and the Islamic State find common ground in beheadings, The Washington Post, 4 January 2016; Janine di Giovanni, When It Comes to Beheadings, ISIS Has Nothing Over Saudi Arabia, Newsweek, 14 October 2014). Should this be understood to mean that the western allies of Saudia Arabia (including Australia) are knowingly complicit in pure evil -- with all that that may imply? How is any such conclusion to be reconciled with appreciation of the capital punishment practiced by some of those allies?
The controversial question as to whether evil is to be recognized as a pathology has been reviewed by Laura Spinney (Is evil a disease? ISIS and the neuroscience of brutality, New Scientist, 11 November 2015):
In a world where ideological killings are rife, new insights into this problem are sorely needed. But reframing evil as a disease is controversial. Some believe it could provide justification for heinous acts or hand extreme organisations a recipe for radicalising more young people. Others argue that it denies the reality that we all have the potential for evil within us. Proponents, however, say that if evil really is a pathology, then society ought to try to diagnose susceptible individuals and reduce contagion. And if we can do that, perhaps we can put radicalisation into reverse, too.
Is it possible that, as with research on altruism, genius and obesity, that a physiological root cause of evil can be determined? Spinney notes that:
The idea that a civilised human being might be capable of barbaric acts is so alien that we often blame our animal instincts - the older, "primitive" areas of the brain taking over and subverting their more rational counterparts. But fresh thinking turns this long-standing explanation on its head. It suggests that people perform brutal acts because the "higher", more evolved, brain overreaches. The set of brain changes involved has been dubbed Syndrome E - with E standing for evil.... In 1996, The Lancet carried an editorial pointing out that no one was addressing evil from a biological point of view.
As a consequence neurosurgeon Itzhak Fried, argued that the transformation of non-violent individuals into repetitive killers is characterized by a set of symptoms that suggests a common condition (Syndrome E, The Lancet, 350, December 1997, pp. 1845-1847). There he suggested that this is the result of "cognitive fracture", which occurs when a higher brain region, the prefrontal cortex (PFC) -- involved in rational thought and decision-making -- stops paying attention to signals from more primitive brain regions and goes into overdrive. The symptoms of evil as a disease are then predicated on the observation that mass killers share some common traits:
Such an approach raises the question as to whether radicalism, fundamentalism and extremism should be similarly defined -- Syndrome R, Syndrome F, and Syndrome E+ (as a variant of that for evil)? Spinney however notes arguments against the pathological approach:
If one person's terrorist is another's freedom fighter, then who should define maladaptive behaviour? This point is reinforced by anthropologist Scott Atran... who earlier this year addressed the UN Security Council about his research on ideologically motivated violence. "Al-Qaida and ISIS argue that the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, without regard to civilian casualties, are evil," he says.
Atran opposes the idea of pathologising evil and others share his qualms. For social psychologist Stephen Reicher... the problem with Syndrome E is that it divides the world into them and us. It supposes that only people with flawed minds are capable of evil, when in fact everyone is, given the right (or wrong) context. If we want to make the world a less violent place, he says, we have to consider that context. And that requires us to step back from the individual and look at the group.
Documenting evil: In a knowledge-based society, given the fundamental explanatory significance associated with evil, it is extraordinary that so little effort is made to document its nature and incidence. One recent notable exception is the work of Steven J. Bartlett (The Pathology of Man: a study of human evil, 2005). This explores it as multi-causal phenomenon that has been treated almost exclusively in terms of religion, myth, symbolism, moral philosophy, and ethics:
Due to the recent terrorist attacks, academics, the lay public, the media, even the U.S. president, have revived the use of the word evil, which now appears with a noticeably increased frequency in much of the daily news and commentary. Professionals particularly in the fields of psychology, sociology, and philosophy are being asked for answers to the questions, Why is there human evil? What are its causes? How are we to understand individuals who wish to inflict human suffering and destruction on as wide a scale as possible? An intense interest in the phenomenon of human evil has developed. It is expressed in the widespread concern to understand human psychology and patterns of thought that underlie human evil in all of its forms-ranging from the aggression, brutality, and destructiveness of war, genocide, and terrorism, to individual expressions of human evil in prejudice, racism, and hate crimes.
Despite belief in its fundamental significance, there is no "Wikipedia of evil" -- a WikiEvil -- to aid comprehension of claims in that regard. Ironically, however, there is indeed an Evil Wiki focusing solely on evil in fiction. Compiled by Matthew White, The Great Big Book of Horrible Things: the definitive chronicle of history's 100 worst atrocities (2011) has been described as such by Randy Dotinga (Encyclopedia of Evil: a catalog of history's 100 worst atrocities, The Christian Science Monitor, 24 February 2012). This deals with the past however, and the need is presumably for a means of documenting the evil perceived today, especially if it claimed to be so omnipresent.
To what extent do the many "wicked problems" systematically included in the online Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential suggest that "world problems" in general should be recognized as instances of evil (Encycling Problematic Wickedness for Potential Humanity: imagining a future Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential, 2014)? Far more controversially, using that methodology, how should a WikiEvil hold instances claimed to be "evil" by some but denied as such by others, or readily forgotten as a "detail of history"?
Framing as "evil": More problematic, which world leaders, cultures, belief systems, and global initiatives have not been labelled as evil by some constituency? Which "problems" have not attracted the label? How could such a comprehensive documentation system interface fruitfully with the profiling of "radicals" and those suspected of terrorism? Especially intriguing are those framed as engendering terror because of the ill-considered risks they may take (Extreme Financial Risk-taking as Extremism: subject to anti-terrorism legislation? 2009).
In contrast with the "evil" perpetrated by "them" as a consequence of their radical views, there is remarkably little capacity to recognize that justified and perpetrated by "us" from a "normal" perspective. Despite religious dogma to the effect that "we are all sinners", any such behaviour is set aside and forgotten -- perhaps through the convenient distraction of recognizing it in others. As argued separately, there is little effort to document systematically and publicize the "evil" perpetrated by those gathered in any coalition to eliminate evil others (Beheading versus Befooting: in quest of the lesser evil for the greater good, 2014).
Any effort at systematic documentation is now complicated by the policy of a major search engine with the corporate motto "don't be evil" -- therefore presumably excluding coverage of what is claimed by some to be so characterized. That policy is further complicated by proposals to censor content in ways consistent with that principle (Google's Eric Schmidt calls for a "spell-check for hate" to battle ISIS, Alphr, 8 December 2015)..
Complicity in evil? There is however no lack of documentation on actions perpetrated in the past process of colonisation by those now gathered in reaction to ISIS -- actions which would now be labelled as "pure evil". In response to current references to "evil", some early examples in the period of the founding fathers of the USA are offered by Ira Chernus (Six Mistakes on the Road to Permanent War, Tomgram, 8 December 2015). These include torturing for "public amusement", decapitation (and use of the heads as footballs), scalping, removal of penises and breasts, skinning (and transformation into footwear). Common use of "redskin" notably originated from the skinning of Native Americans (Redskins and Hate Crimes, Native American Netroots, 26 October 2008).
There are of course similar instances in response to many indigenous peoples, including those of Australia. Bounty-hunting (possibly with physical evidence in the form of scalps, heads or ears) has been widely practiced in colonial territories. The information is seldom readily available and its presentation for educational purposes is deprecated, if not prohibited. Beheading, through use of the guillotine was last practiced in France in 1977 on Hamida Djandoubi -- seemingly on a person of Islamic origins. Public beheading was a common practice over centuries in Europe, as with burning at the stake authorised by religious authorities. It could be argued that whilst Nazi Germany made use of the Weisse Engel in Auschwitz, the USA has had two such "angels" processing those in Guantanamo Bay under government contract, and with the complicity of the American Psychological Association (David H. Hoffman, Independent Review Relating to APA Ethics Guideleine, National Security Interrogations and Torture, 2015; David Luban, The APA Scandal, Just Security, 13 July 2015; James Risen, Outside Psychologists Shielded U.S. Torture Program, Report Finds, The New York Times, 10 July 2015).
With respect to any understanding of relativity, such examples raise the question of the contextual significance of time, place and perspective -- in relation to collective memory (Societal Learning and the Erosion of Collective Memory, 1980). Arguably public beheading and burning at the stake were "normal" in one period when practiced by some -- only to be reframed as "evil" in another when practiced by others. With respect to the behaviours deprecated by the USA, any question of moral equivalence has for example been denied by a US Ambassador to the UN, Jeane Kirkpatrick (The Myth of Moral Equivalence, Imprimis, 15, January 1986).
Such views were however effectively echoed by a subsequent US Ambassador to the United Nations, Madeleine Albright, the first woman to become US Secretary of State. When asked by an interviewer with regards to the effect of sanctions against Iraq: We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima...is the price worth it?. Albright replied: I think this is a very hard choice, but the price -- we think the price is worth it (We Think the Price is Worth It, Fair, 2001).
Presumably a similar calculation was made by Tony Blair and his associates in realtion to intervention in Iraq -- which engendered fatalities variously estimated as being of the order of 1,000,000 (Nicholas Watt, Tony Blair makes qualified apology for Iraq war ahead of Chilcot report, The Guardian, 25 October 2015). The future relevance of such considerations is further clarified from a legal perspective, in the light of the presidential campaign promises in the USA, by Rebecca Gordon (America Revisits the Dark Side: candidates compete to promise the most torture and slaughter, Information Clearing House, 7 January 2016). Gordon has also documented other dimensions of the matter (Mainstreaming Torture: ethical approaches to the post-9/11 United States, 2014; American Nuremberg: the officials who should stand trial for post 9/11 war crimes, 2016).
Understood in this way, it becomes difficult to comment meaningfully on the quantity and quality of evil.
What emotional or cognitive engagement is it appropriate to experience for those in situations which engender a terrorist response? For Brad Evans: If you continually bomb a people, invade a land, appropriate its resources, torture its children, imprison and humiliate its fathers, and tear apart the fabric of the social order, there is direct responsibility for the radicalization to follow (Another War, Another Evil, Truthout, 26 September 2014). The dilemmas are highlighted by the formula: One man's terrorist is the other man's freedom fighter, for which Uri Avnery claims paternity (The Reign of Absurdiocy, London Progressive Journal, 28 November 2015).
Whilst it is accepted as normal to experience empathy and compassion for those subject to the forms of violent repression which are upheld as justifying violent humanitarian intervention by outsiders (irrespective of the suffering caused), any initiative from amongst those experiencing that violence (from their own perspective) is framed as unjustified -- to the point of being "pure evil". Little effort is made to distinguish between the unpublicized multiple "beheadings" resulting from humanitarian intervention (as regrettable "collateral damage") and that publicized as the actions of evildoers reacting to violence and represssion (as they interpret it).
The possibility of empathy and compassion is further complicated by the manner in which its expression is immediately deprecated as indicative of sympathy for terrorist violence -- simplistic conflation which precludes more complex considerations. A prime example is the widespread condemnation of a single tweet by Joyce Carol Oates, as reviewed by Daniel Victornov (Joyce Carol Oates on Twitter: Is Nothing 'Joyous' in ISIS? The New York Times, 30 November 2015). Oates tweeted: All we hear of ISIS is puritanical and punitive; is there nothing celebratory and joyous? Or is query naive? 22 November 2015). As indicated by Victoronov: It appeared to many Twitter users as a callous question, apparently searching for the positive in a group known for brutal rape, beheadings, terrorist attacks and other atrocities. Presumably such comments attach no significance to actions by the international coalition -- as a "force of light" composed of "angels of mercy" (?) -- whose questionable outcomes are discounted (as noted above)
... many of the bizarre counterterrorist practices regularly observed in many Western countries, as well as costly and counterproductive counterterrorist practices such as preemptive war, targeted killings, mass surveillance, torture, control orders and de-radicalisation programmes, among others, are neither anomalous nor irrational in the context of the new paradigm. Rather, they flow logically and directly from the particular paranoid logic, which is constitutive of the epistemological crisis.
He concludes with a discussion about how and why critical scholars can and should attempt to resist and deconstruct it. Separately Jackson remarks controversially:
I confess that I am a terrorist sympathiser. Of course, it is a profanity,a kind of blasphemy, to admit to such a thing, perhaps the greatest blasphemy in our society at the present time. Some may also consider that this is not the right time to make this confession and all that it entails. It will be said that in the immediate aftermath of an attack, condemnation and standing united against the enemies of freedom is the only ethically-defensible stance. But, for reasons I hope will become clear, I believe that this is exactly the right time to claim the ignominious label of terrorist sympathiser, and that sympathy for the terrorist is what is most needed right now if we are to break the current international cycle of violence and find more ethical and peaceful ways of responding to the challenge of contemporary political violence. (Confessions of a Terrorist Sympathiser, Transcend Media Service, 7 December 2015)
Jackson then clarifies his position:
This is not an argument for a kind of deterministic structuralism; I am not denying the role of individual agency or responsibility. Nevertheless, in the absence of an honest examination of the conditions which construct human subjectivity at this moment in history, we can never hope to understand the roots of contemporary political violence or the possibilities for peaceful alternatives....
Interestingly, a number of scholars have noted how the trope of the "evil" terrorist, as well as some aspects of contemporary counterterrorism, shares features with the medieval witch craze and European conceptions of "the devil". Certainly, the similarities between the inquisition, the language of "evildoers", and the tortuous, confessional interrogational practices seen in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay are disturbingly obvious. In fact, the term "religious terrorism" and the attempt to lay the blame for terrorist violence at the feet of "violent extremism" or the mysterious process of "radicalisation" is part and parcel of this broader framework in which terrorism is expelled from the realm of the material-political world and instead relegated to the metaphysical, spiritual world.
We need to find the requisite empathy to understand why men dedicated to the betterment of their peoples and willing to sacrifice their lives, found it necessary to fly jet aircraft into buildings or to blow themselves up in the compounds of humanitarian organizations. After all, we do not find it so perplexing that we ourselves resorted to the obliteration and atomic bombing of civilian populations in the Second World War. If we can make this difficult leap of imagination into our enemy's minds, we will be able to fight them far more effectively. We might also learn an even more invaluable lesson: how to live in peace with people different from ourselves, people who may not choose to live as we do or to organize their societies along western lines, but who are nonetheless fully human and deserving of respect and dignity.
The views of Barkawi and Jackson have been variously and vigorously condemned by David Martin Jones and M. L. R. Smith (Carry On Empathizing: the ISIS crisis and Western political thought, War on the Rocks, 11 September 2014; The commentariat and discourse failure: language and atrocity in Cool Britannia', International Affairs, 82, 6, 2006, pp. 1077-1100) who argued subsequently that:
The problem, however, is that while much of the commentariat conceives the problem as tactical, the Islamist's conception, by contrast, is total. This wilful misreading of Islamism's ultimate purpose produces both discourse failure and a discourse of denial. Expert media entrepreneurs of Muslim disaffection like Ziauddin Sardar, Tariq Ali and Barkawi exploit this misdiagnosis. Barkawi maintains that Many in the West consider Al-Qaeda and its affiliates a fanatical strain of religious fundamentalism, rather than a hybrid form of colonial resistance. President George W. Bush refers simply to the 'terrorist threat to civilization', and Barkawi considers such language serves only to vilify the enemy and may mobilize support in the West, but it does not aid understanding.... Barkawi's call for empathy subsequently became the default position of Critical Studies on Terrorism. (Sacred Violence: Political Religion in a Secular Age, 2014, p. 72)
Those contrasting views are the subject of detailed commentary by those involved (Responses, International Affairs, 2007).
There is a great degree of irony to this academic "slanging match" to the extent that it effectively mirrors the problematic relations between contrasting views which give rise to conflicts similar to those they purport to analyze -- but without in anyway being able to transcend that pattern in a fruitful manner. The contrasts are further noted in a useful compilation by Ioannis Tellidis and Harmonie Toros (Researching Terrorism, Peace and Conflict Studies: interaction, synthesis and opposition, 2015). Might any such emergent transcendent perspective itself be termed "radical" -- and deprecated accordingly?
Other threads in the curiously unmapped debate include:
Missing consideration of subtle complexity? The quality of the insights of general relativity (to which reference was made above) could prove of relevance to clarifying the communication challenges of "discourse failure" whereby there is massive focus on simplicity. "We" as "normal" are necessarily "right"; "they" as "abnormal" are necessarily "wrong". This is confirmed unquestionably by reference to singular incidents of beheadings and rape which lend themselves to media coverage aided and abetted by interested parties -- but completely ignoring the historical context and the complicity of those passing judgment. Everyone who agrees with "us" is talking sense; those who disagree are talking nonsense -- possibly dangerous nonsense, most probably with evil intent.
At the time of writing the point is usefully emphasized by the manner in which allegations of sex abuse by UN peacekeepers have been characterized by a pattern of cover up (UN releases report on sex abuse by peacekeepers, Aljazeera, 16 June 2015). This echoes other patterns of cover-up, notably the sexual abuse by Catholic clergy.
The fact that "we" are, and continue to be, complicit in equally abhorrent actions is too complex for consideration and is readily set aside, as reviewed by Joe Clifford (If This is Not "Newsworthy", What Is? Information Clearing House, 9 December 2015):
You mean you never heard about any of these things from our great "news" stations? If an individual went into a hospital and murdered doctors, nurses, children patients, and staff workers, we would all cry terrorism, but when such an act is committed by our own government you are not even allowed to hear about it. Isn't killing doctors, nurses, child patients, in a hospital an act of very brutal "terrorism"? Isn't such an illegal and barbaric act worthy of "news" coverage..
It is therefore interesting that authorities -- especially those in ivory towers and information silos -- are so evidently playing "catch-up" in their effort to understand those who are willing to die in the promotion of their beliefs.
A striking example is provided by the tragedy of the Holocaust organized within a culture esteemed for its sophistication in Western terms. Continuing reference to it as being a "detail of history" is made, presumably readily to be forgotten by many, if not most -- as recalled by Martin Schulz: There are in this parliament people considering, Auschwitz, as an unimportant detail of history (Speech by the President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz, 23 January 2013). Although the attitude is severely deprecated, it raises questions as to which earlier "massacres" (as noted by Wikipedia) are now similarly considered as a "detail of history", especially within the societies responsible for them: Amritsar, Bloody Sunday, Zong, etc (List of events named massacres). Noteworthy in that respect is the frequent failure of those responsible to apologize for the action, even long after it occurred (Collective Mea Culpa? You Must be Joking ! Them is to blame, Not us ! 2015).
Also noteworthy is the lack of comparison between those massacres which have invited totally disproportionate consideration, especially in the light of the current political and media focus on the strategic implications of the recent Paris attacks (November 2015) with 130 fatalities, for example: My Lai 1968 (504), Paris massacre of independents 1961 (100 fatalities), Sharpeville massacre 1960 (72-90), Lydda massacre 1948 (250-426). Does the lack of comparable consideration suggests that there is some form of "half-life" of evil as collectively perceived? Have the many earlier massacres in France all become details of history, however numerous the fatalities? How, for example, to assess the current righteous abhorrence of "terrorism" within France, given the manner by which the French republic emerged from a process during which from 16,000 to 40,000 civilians were beheaded by revolutionary tribunals during the Reign of Terror?
The extreme example is of course offered by the Colosseum games so vital to the distraction of the citizens of Rome (Keith Hopkins, Murderous Games: gladiatorial contests in Ancient Rome, History Today 1983). Is it simply a case that it is unquestionably evil when done by "them" then, but appropriate (if a regrettable necessity) when undertaken by "us", whether now or then?
Otherness as "evil"? The fundamental issue would appear to be the profound intellectual (and emotional) difficulty in handling perspectives which are fundamentally different -- without reframing them in their simplest possible terms, irrespective of whether this may denature them completely. This oversimplification may indeed reduce them to the status of a negligible "detail". Politicians are necessarily a key to this process through the need to articulate their respective positions with the greatest simplicity -- preferably through sound bites -- such as to attract and mobilize followers.
There is then a striking contrast between the doublespeak of politicians desperately playing catch-up and the critical questions increasingly asked within the wider population weary of such game-playing. This is exemplified by the astoundingly disruptive popular appeal of the radical right -- Donald Trump and Mariane Le Pen -- and the reflective debate these factors are engendering outside the mainstream media.
Radically new environment? As a form of poorly articulated subtle complexity, these trends are accompanied by an emerging sense of a radically new environment in which people are now required to navigate for their survival -- one which is fearful in many respects unrelated to any obvious focus on terrorism (especially by those who comment on it).
The increasing sense of physical insecurity is evident in terms of vulnerability to street violence, mugging, break-ins, car-jacking, rape, and the like -- especially for the young and the elderly. A similar sense of insecurity is felt with respect to financial transactions -- especially via the internet. A variant is experienced with respect to products acquired which may eventually be proven to have characteristics deleterious to health. Those linked to the internet may well have features designed specifically for forms of exploitation with unknown implications -- in addition to those associated with invasion of privacy. As recently indicated by Edward Snowden: The world is a dangerous place not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing (11 October 2015)
Whether consciously experienced as increasingly threatening or not, the focus of the accessible media may be experienced as a form of continual "grooming" with unknown consequences -- dumbing down, manufacturing consent? The economic environment may well be such that livelihood is subject to insecurity, whether in the shorter or longer term. Such concerns are implicitly linked to uncertain provision of social security and for any future disability. Other challenges to identity arise from sexual preferences as may emerge in nuclear families with pretences to the traditional values of normality.
This sense of insecurity may well be further exacerbated by arrival of migrants and refugees in large numbers -- especially in smaller communities ill-equipped to absorb and assimilate those of other cultures. The condition of such people may indeed be such as to evoke empathy, but under conditions in which that response is readily and increasingly challenged. As exemplified by the increasing number of street beggars, psychic numbing becomes a factor -- presumably reminiscent of the response to public beheadings, flogging, and other authorised punishments, whether of the past or as favoured by some cultures variously allied in response to terrorism.
Understood as a radically new environment -- especially characterized by insecurity and a threat to the normality of the past -- the question is how individuals might be expected to adapt to it without becoming "radicalised" in some way -- possibly quite distinct from that currently deprecated as "radicalisation" by the media, politicians and academics. Should the new environment be understood as radicalising everyone to some degree?
Failure to become "radical", to be "a radical", or to "radicalise" may prove to be a mark of evolutionary ineptitude. "Radical creativity" is seemingly the requirement of a period characterized by the need for "radical change" -- as notably argued by Slavoj Zizek (Trouble in Paradise, 2015). Missing, however, would seem to be any new understanding of "radical" appropriate to the challenge of the times and to the extreme differences of opinion on any issue. A similar case is made with respect to science (Hank Campbell, Get Radical: And Maybe Be A Better Scientist, Science 2.0: joint the revolution, 25 April 2012)
Engaging with otherness: Curiously the primary preoccupation in the "normal" engagement with otherness is framed as reaching some form of consensus through resolution of potential conflicts. There is relatively little interest in the special challenge of engaging with difference without seeking to eliminate it -- and thereby potentially challenging the focus of identity of the other. The challenge to any worldview now has potentially ever more dangerous implications (Us and Them: Relating to Challenging Others, 2009; Guidelines for Critical Dialogue between Worldviews, 2006).
Engagement with otherness of any form is clearly a fundamental challenge in society -- with its extremes of violence and being in love. Whether understood in the form of dialogue or otherwise, that engagement can be explored metaphorically as "intercourse" ("Human Intercourse": "Intercourse with Nature" and "Intercourse with the Other", 2007).
The challenge is given a particular focus in the engagement with those on the autism continuum, including those with Asperger syndrome or savant syndrome (Steve Silberman. Neurotribes: the legacy of autism and the future of neurodiversity, 2015; Barry M. Prizant, Uniquely Human: a different way of seeing autism, 2015). It takes other forms in engagement between those of contrasting gender identity.
Hypothetically the issue can be framed in terms of the engagement with extraterrestrials (as discussed below), possibly requiring comprehension "otherwise" (Encountering Otherness as a Waveform, 2013). More obvious is the challenge of communicating with alienated youth -- exemplified by those at home whose identity may well be carried by music. Failure of such communication is typically justified by framing others as not amenable to rational discourse. The issue is of course evident in parliamentary debate.
In conventional debate the question can be framed otherwise with respect to "hot topics" -- of which any form of radicalism (including the political) offers examples. As a metaphor, the recently developed capacity to handle radioactive materials offers a range of insights (Overpopulation Debate as a Psychosocial Hazard: development of safety guidelines from handling other hazardous materials, 2009; Psychoactive hazards in recognizing and engaging with risk, 2011).
Arguably there is a case for elaborating structures based on failure of mutual comprehension, as discussed separately (Social organization determined by incommunicability of insights, 1995)
Religious framing: Given the role of religion in current crises, it is appropriate to note the following comment with regard to the root of any issue by J. Parker (The Root of the Matter: Job 19:28, Bible Hub):
What is the meaning of "the root of the matter"? Everything would seem to depend upon the root; if we go wrong there, we go wrong everywhere. Now what do we mean by the "root"? Sometimes we talk of a radical cure. It simply means a root cure; not a cure of symptoms, not an alleviation of pain for the moment, but going right down to the root. If the root is right, the tree is worth saving; if the root is right the man is saved. The root is the man. Not your coat, but your character is you.
The preoccupation with root cause is also central to the widely appreciated Encyclical on Climate Change (Laudato Si' on Care of Our Common Home, 18 June 2015)?, recently presented by the Pope in anticipation of the UN Conference on Climate Change. The Encyclical introduces its discussion of the "roots" of the present situation as follows:
15. It is my hope that this Encyclical Letter, which is now added to the body of the Church's social teaching, can help us to acknowledge the appeal, immensity and urgency of the challenge we face. I will begin by briefly reviewing several aspects of the present ecological crisis, with the aim of drawing on the results of the best scientific research available today, letting them touch us deeply and provide a concrete foundation for the ethical and spiritual itinerary that follows. I will then consider some principles drawn from the Judaeo-Christian tradition which can render our commitment to the environment more coherent. I will then attempt to get to the roots of the present situation, so as to consider not only its symptoms but also its deepest causes....
Radical identification of the root cause of problems generally: Root cause analysis (RCA) is a method of problem solving used for identifying the root causes of faults or problems (Paul F. Wilson, et al, Root Cause Analysis: a tool for total quality management, 1993). A factor is considered a root cause if removal thereof from the problem-fault-sequence prevents the final undesirable event from recurring; whereas a causal factor is one that affects an event's outcome, but is not a root cause. Though removing a causal factor can benefit an outcome, it does not prevent its recurrence within certainty.
As a 5-step process, it is described by Mind Tools (Root Cause Analysis Tracing a Problem to its Origins) in the following terms:
That description makes particular reference to the 5 Whys outlined in Wikipedia. This is an iterative interrogative technique used to explore the cause-and-effect relationships underlying a particular problem (Asian Development Bank, Five Whys Technique. adb.org, February 2009). It is the subject of various further clarifications, notably from a Six Sigma perspective:
A psychotherapeutic variant is considered by Mark Tyrrell (10 Therapy Questions to Get to the Root of the Problem: 10 therapy questions to get to the root of the problem).
Consideration of RCA is taken further in the articulation of a System Improvement Process methodology by Jack Harich (Solving Difficult Large-Scale Social System Problems with Root Cause Analysis, Spanda Journal, 6, 2015, 1; separately titled Root Cause Analysis and the Duelling Loops of the Political Powerplace):
Problems like sustainability, recurring wars, and excessive concentration of wealth have defied solution for generations. Problem solvers are unable to solve problems of this class because of lack of root cause analysis. This omission has led to solutions that intuitively look like they should work but in practice do not, because they fail to resolve a problem's root causes. This article presents a method for applying root cause analysis to problems of this class, followed by the results of applying the method to the sustainability problem. The method is the System Improvement Process. Process application led to construction of a relatively simple simulation model called The Dueling Loops of the Political Powerplace. The model explains why change resistance to solving problems of this class is insurmountably high and pinpoints the root cause of that high change resistance. The analysis thus offers some insights into how problem solvers might better go about designing solutions that in practice could work, because they are focused on resolving specific root causes.
Harich introduces his argument as follows:
There exists a class of problems that society has been unable to solve for generations or more. This class includes over population, environmental sustainability, recurring wars, avoidable large recessions like those of 1929 and 2008, endemic corruption, and excessive concentration of wealth. These problems are characterized as difficult, large-scale, and involving multiple intelligent social agents. They also involve systemic lock-in, as for example Garrett Harding explained in The Tragedy of the Commons for the environmental sustainability problem: Each man is locked into a system that compels him to increase his herd without limit -- in a world that is limited. Let's label this class Difficult Intelligent Social Multiple Agents Large-scale Lock-in (DISMALL) problems
In the remarkable analysis by Harich, these DISMALL problems bear a strong and fruitful relationship to the recognition and study of what are otherwise termed wicked problems.
Root Cause Analysis (RCA): Given the well-formed approach outlined above, the question is how RCA and the 5-Whys have been applied to terrorism. Surprisingly, given the magnitude of the problem, there is relatively little reference to this other than the following:
For Magnus Ranstorp (Ed.): Mapping Terrorism Research: State of the Art, Gaps and Future Direction (2006)
Root cause analysis, for example, provides a methodology to research and systematically map the spectrum of root causes underlying a rebellion's origins, girevances and demands. In ideal cases, it is hoped that such mapping of root causes will then produce the knowledge to formulate appropriate governmental responses. Understanding a conflict's underlying root causes can provide a government with the capability to effectively calibrate its response strategies and tactics to specific challenges and threats. (pp. 45)
Analysts often use the term root causes to contend that it is either the actions or inaction of Western democracies that contribute to such heinous acts. Some counter that engaging in such an exercise risks blaming the victims for the attack. Still several credible observers assume that the eradication of terrorism requires the identification and removal of its root causes. They contend that such knowledge is fundamental to comprehending the context within which terrorist attacks occur and thereby help determine what actions need to be taken to prevent their re-occurrence.
Former World Bank head James Wolfensohn has referred to the "root causes of terrorism as economic exclusion, poverty and under-development." NATO's top commander Gen. Philip Breedlove has declared that "until the [root] causes of instability and radicalism in places such as Iraq and Syria are addressed, the West can expect to be engaged in foreign conflicts for a long time... " According to Breedlove, the way to address these root causes is by focusing on bringing jobs, education, health and safety to vulnerable places, as well as figuring out how to make governments "responsive to their people."
Long after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, there was debate about its purported root causes. Simply attributing the attacks to hatred was described as an oversimplification.
Whilst other references (especially the more recent) indeed focus on recognition of the root cause of terrorism, the methodology of the analytical focus above is no longer evident -- especially with respect to any clarifying map:.
Michael Nagler: The New Abnormal: Reflections on Paris, Metta Center for Nonviolence, 14 November 2015
After expressing our condolences we should be saying, 'Let us now pledge ourselves to get to the root of this problem' - and have the courage to follow that inquiry wherever it leads
Martin Edmonds and Oldrich Cerny (Eds.): Future NATO Security: addressing the challenges of evolving sscurity and information sharing systems and architectures. IOS Press, 2004 [Proceedings of the NATO Advanced Research Workshop on Future NATO Security, 2003, Prague]
Barry Denofsky: It was intrusting to listen to... comments about the nature of the structure of al Qaeda, and their ability to meet anywhere, to do anything almost at s moment's notice, with very little structure in place,and to provie for the types of communications we are most comfortable with... I wonder, as we talk about these issues, how we should address them. How do we get our nations to sit down, as we are doing today, and talk about some of these issues in a way that can actually have a meaningful impact on the threat? The threat is changing so fast... But we do not seem to have the ability to get to the root of the problem and find ways to address these issues... how do we bring those issues... into reality when we have got a situation that is changing faster than we are able to respond?
Causal Layered Analysis (CLA): The use of Causal Layered Analysis in understanding terrorism is reviewed by Noni Kenny (Meta-level Terrorism Futures: constructing and deconstructing using Causal Layered Analysis, Queensland University of Technology, 2013):
Terrorism literature is replete with concerns for the future, endorsing terrorism as an unwavering problem of the past, present and well into the future. These concerns must be challenged by identifying and engaging with stakeholders and with alternate visions of terrorism futures, such as futures alignment and even competing utopian terrorism futures....Terrorism futures can be likened to a maze viewed from above; depicting prospects for opening new doors and pathways into, around or out of the maze, presenting an opportunity to build layered knowledge, understanding and even shared and preferred terrorism futures. Generating alternative images of terrorism futures, whether positive, negative, possible, probable or preferable, is essential for advancing terrorism knowledge and preparations for those futures.
Of relevance to this argument, particular points made by Kenny include:
Case of climate change: Despite its quest for the "deepest causes", the Encyclical Letter of Pope Francis (Laudato Si' on Care of Our Common Home, 18 June 2015) explicitly sets aside as irrelevant and misguided any concern with reduction of the birth rate:
50. Instead of resolving the problems of the poor and thinking of how the world can be different, some can only propose a reduction in the birth rate. At times, developing countries face forms of international pressure which make economic assistance contingent on certain policies of "reproductive health". Yet "while it is true that an unequal distribution of the population and of available resources creates obstacles to development and a sustainable use of the environment, it must nonetheless be recognized that demographic growth is fully compatible with an integral and shared development".... To blame population growth instead of extreme and selective consumerism on the part of some, is one way of refusing to face the issues. It is an attempt to legitimize the present model of distribution, where a minority believes that it has the right to consume in a way which can never be universalized, since the planet could not even contain the waste products of such consumption.
As discussed separately, there is no recognition that global and national governance is extremely problematic, notably with respect to inequalities, imbalances and distribution of resources to the most needy (Papal Concern for Climate Change and Refugee Care: a means of concealing criminal systemic negligence? 2015). Under such circumstances it might be assumed, as in the case of any family, that it would be prudent to avoid encouraging any increase in the number of mouths to be fed when the future source of that food is far from evident. Failure to do so is to increase the probability of suffering, starvation and premature mortality.
However, in failing to address the ever increasing pressures on global governance -- exacerbated in every sector by unrestrained population growth -- the following concluding article is correct in ways which are not the intention of the Encyclical:
109. ...We fail to see the deepest roots of our present failures, which have to do with the direction, goals, meaning and social implications of technological and economic growth.
There is every reason to suspect that support for the UN Climate Change agreement, through the Encyclical, was "negotiated" prior to the Paris summit in 2015 -- with the proviso that no mention whatsoever of "population" should be made in that agreement.
Case of terrorism: For Wolfgang Ischinger (The Globalization of Justice, The Washington Post, 24 September 2001):
Beyond the short-term measures now required, we need a comprehensive, long-term strategy if we want to get to the root of terrorism. Globalization is not, as some would have it, the cause of this new kind of terrorism. But this new kind of international terrorism demands a global response. In fact, the formation of a global coalition against terrorism means that we are now moving beyond the globalization of the economy to the globalization of politics.
For Paul Rogers (Peace in our time? BBC, Spring 2005):
There is clearly a threat of terrorism but the way in which the war on terrorism is being fought is, I think, very counterproductive in that it relies very heavily on military measures in which tens of thousands of people have already been killed, mostly civilians, and, if anything, there's still very little attempt to get to the root of the terrorist organisations, particularly where they are getting their support from and why; if anything, their support is growing.
In a commentary on The Fallacy of "Root Causes, the very quest for root causes through empathy is mocked by David Martin Jones and M. L. R. Smith: Carry On Empathizing: the ISIS crisis and Western political thought, War on the Rocks, 11 September 2014):
For our critics the solution lay not in ascertaining the appeal of a doctrine of radicalized Islamism, but in the identification of "root causes". Predictably, they claimed the possession of a higher knowledge that enabled them to divine what these "root causes" comprised. This capacity for Olympian insight was, of course, denied to other mortals. The key to obtain this higher knowledge was a position of fully-fledged empathy. According to one of our protagonists, Tarak Barkawi, writing in 2004 [as noted above]: Should it not just be accepted that suicide bombers are fighters in a cause, which can be recognized, with just a small dose of empathy, as a response to historic injustice? He went on: Only by granting one's enemies a full and unqualified humanity can one ever hope to understand them.
Through the policy of empathy, its adherents were granted the unique capacity to uncover the "root causes" of Islamist violence, which did not reside, they discerned, in the growth of an insidious death-worshipping fascist cult. Instead, they believed the problem could be found in the long-term grievances arising out of the suffering at the hands of decades of Western imperialism and prejudice. Unbearable Islamophobia endured by Muslim communities within the domestic realm created injustices that demanded redress. Armed with this special insight, Barkawi asserted that through empathy it was possible to learn to live in peace with people different from ourselves, people who may not choose to live as we do or to organize their societies along western lines.
A new level of bombing of Syria and Iraq has been instigated by a US-led coalition of NATO-associated forces, following the attack in Paris in November 2015. Those supporting this strategy justify it in terms of the need to act now -- a time for action, not a time for thinking. Curiously there is no question whatsoever of eliciting new thinking in parallel with the assumed need to focus on military action now. Seemingly multitasking is not esteemed or cultivated as a strategic requirement of governance -- despite the failure to elicit such arguments.
The articulation of the necessity to do so has been variously criticized. Those opposing it note the total absence of a well-articulated strategy, especially subsequent to the expected success of military action -- and despite the problematic assumption that military action enables the emergence of a political solution meaningful to those on the ground (Rafael Behr, Cameron's cluelessness on Syria hands no one the moral high ground, The Guardian, 3 November 2015). Critics note the challenge of "winning the peace", as highlighted by military action in other arenas. The argument for action now is consistent with the traditional slogan: Shoot first and ask questions after. In the German parliament, the emphasis was placed on the absence of any strong argument not to bomb now.
The debate in the UK Parliament confirming UK participation in the coalition is illustrative of the failure:
He knows that opposition to his ill-thought-out rush to war is growing. On planning, strategy, ground troops, diplomacy, the terrorist threat, refugees and civilian casualties, it's become increasingly clear the prime minister's proposal simply doesn't stack up. (Jeremy Corbyn: David Cameron has failed to show that bombing Syria would work, The Guardian, 2 December 2015)
For Rafael Behr (Syria airstrikes: Commons emerges with credit from day of bitter division The Guardian, 2 December 2015):
David Cameron came under sustained pressure to apologise for comments the previous evening that a vote against the government would be complicity with "terrorist sympathisers". The prime minister refused, conceding only that principled positions were found on all sides. But the recurrent fury of reasonable dissenters knocked him off his rhetorical stride. He repeated arguments made earlier in the week, but with decayed authority....
Whether the right choice was made or not, history will have to judge. But when that verdict is given, it should be recalled that, after a shaky start, parliament gave the matter due and dutiful consideration; that it fulfilled its constitutional function properly and, for the most part, with civil propriety. The outcome may be bitterly regretted by some, but the institution deserves more credit than contempt for the way the choice was made.
The strategic mindset had previously been framed in the following terms by David Cameron (Speech at Munich Security Conference, Munich 2011, BritishPoliticalSpeech):
We have got to get to the root of the problem, and we need to be absolutely clear on where the origins of where these terrorist attacks lie. That is the existence of an ideology, Islamist extremism. We should be equally clear what we mean by this term, and we must distinguish it from Islam. Islam is a religion observed peacefully and devoutly by over a billion people. Islamist extremism is a political ideology supported by a minority. At the furthest end are those who back terrorism to promote their ultimate goal: an entire Islamist realm, governed by an interpretation of Sharia. Move along the spectrum, and you find people who may reject violence, but who accept various parts of the extremist worldview, including real hostility towards Western democracy and liberal values. It is vital that we make this distinction between religion on the one hand, and political ideology on the other. Time and again, people equate the two. They think whether someone is an extremist is dependent on how much they observe their religion. So, they talk about moderate Muslims as if all devout Muslims must be extremist. This is profoundly wrong. Someone can be a devout Muslim and not be an extremist. We need to be clear: Islamist extremism and Islam are not the same thing.
This highlights, I think, a significant problem when discussing the terrorist threat that we face. There is so much muddled thinking about this whole issue. On the one hand, those on the hard right ignore this distinction between Islam and Islamist extremism, and just say that Islam and the West are irreconcilable - that there is a clash of civilizations. So, it follows: we should cut ourselves off from this religion, whether that is through forced repatriation, favoured by some fascists, or the banning of new mosques, as is suggested in some parts of Europe . These people fuel Islamophobia, and I completely reject their argument. If they want an example of how Western values and Islam can be entirely compatible, they should look at what's happened in the past few weeks on the streets of Tunis and Cairo : hundreds of thousands of people demanding the universal right to free elections and democracy. [also as Speech on radicalisation and Islamic extremism, New Statesman, 5 February 2011]
Unrecognized complexity: The European inability to consider the complexities of the strategic situation more adequately was a feature of commentary by Agnès Levallois and Michael Lüders (Entretien, Arte Thema, 1 December 2015), notably with respect to what was on offer to the younger generation of unemployed Europeans, so readily attracted to the arguments of ISIS (see also Agnès Levallois, L'évolution de la situation géopolitique post-attentat au Moyen-Orient, The Huffington Post, 30 November 2015)
With respect to the arguments of David Cameron, George Monbiot asks:
On what grounds does he believe that a military campaign in one part of the world will discourage terrorism in others? One of the astonishing features of counter-terrorism is the dearth of empirical assessment. Apaper in the journalPsicothemafound an almost complete absence of evaluation research on counter-terrorism strategies ...[we] conclude that counter-terrorism policy is not evidence-based. Of the 11 military adventures the researchers analysed, they found that five had no discernible impacts on subsequent terrorism. Six were followed by more terrorism than there had been before (On climate change this government is indifferent to life, in love with death, The Guardian, 2 December 2015).
As argued by Doug Bandow (Terrorism in Paris: Why Do Western Governments Believe They Can Wage War Without Cost? The Huffington Post, 2 December 2015):
By now every government should recognize what America learned on September 11, 2001. Wandering the globe bombing, invading, and occupying other states, intervening in other nations' political struggles, supporting repressive governments, and killing residents for good or ill inevitably create enemies and blowback. Explanation is not justification. But any government that attacks the Islamic State should realize retaliation is likely, probably against people innocently going about their lives, as in Paris -- and against Hezbollah in Beirut the day before and Russia in Sharm el Sheikh a bit earlier still.
This kind of terrorism simply is another weapon of war. Imagine if the Islamic State was a normal nation. No one would have been surprised had ISIL fighter planes shot down French aircraft engaged in France's nearly 300 bombing runs over the "caliphate." There might have been shocked disbelief at such a defeat of French arms, but no moral outrage. The same would be the case if ISIL planes had retaliated by striking Paris. Again, that would have been a routine act of war. After all, France had attacked Raqqa, the Islamic State's de facto capital, in October. The U.S. has bombed the capital of every major adversary since World War II: Rome, Berlin, Tokyo, Pyongyang, Hanoi, Belgrade, Baghdad, and Tripoli....
Western governments which loose the dogs of war should stop assuming that their own people will not be bitten. Being a liberal democracy does not turn bombing and killing into an act of immaculate conception. Instead of pretending that their nations enjoy immunity from the inevitable horrors of war, Western officials should make the case to their people that the likely costs are worth the benefits. In this case that includes the possibility, perhaps likelihood, of terrorist attacks at home. There are no certainties even for America, which has done surprisingly well since 9/11.
For Tony Cartalucci (Solving Syria (and more): the root of the problem. Syria 360: Reporting on events in Syria and the Middle East, 11 July 2012), solving problems means first understanding them:
As difficult as it might be for some to believe, Syria's problem is not violence, armed insurrection, or political upheaval. Neither is it economic or social. These are but symptoms, many purposefully induced from abroad, of Syria's real problem, and therefore any solution aimed at treating only these symptoms will provide only but the most superficial and temporary relief. Many geopolitical analysts know this, and yet champion for the immediate treatment of these symptoms, particularly the end of violence, which makes perfect sense in a sense of "triage," but will ultimately fail if the root of the problem is not also exposed and a solution for "digging it out" not formulated and appropriately promoted.
Derivative thinking: The failure of radical analysis can be explored in terms of "derivative thinking" (Vigorous Application of Derivative Thinking to Derivative Problems, 2013). The argument is usefully illustrated by the preference given to "mainstream thinking" as indicative of the desirable normality of average discourse. However this metaphor is called into question by increasing recognition that the focus of attention on downstream river management increases immensely the probability and cost of flooding.
As noted by George Monbiot:
Yet almost all the money devoted to freshwater flood relief is being spent at the bottom of river catchments. This means waiting until the wall of water arrives before seeking to contain it; a perfect formula for disappointment. A rational policy would aim to prevent the flood from gathering in the first place. It would address the problem, literally and metaphorically, upstream. (Do little, hide the evidence: the official neglect that caused these deadly floods, The Guardian, 7 December 2015)
As Monbiot remarks elsewhere (Dredging rivers won't stop floods; it will make them worse, The Guardian, 30 January 2014):
Flooding is exacerbated by canalising rivers and dredging in order to increase the rate of flow. However the river channel is not large enough to contain extreme floods, even after dredging. Dredging of river channels does not prevent flooding during extreme river flows... The concept of dredging to prevent extreme flooding is equivalent to trying to squeeze the volume of water held by a floodplain within the volume of water held in the river channel.... Removing river bank vegetation such as trees and shrubs decreases bank stability and increases erosion and siltation.... That means, broadly speaking, the following:
-- More trees and bogs in the uplands - reconnecting rivers with their floodplains in places where it is safe to flood (and paying farmers to store water on their fields while the danger passes);
-- Making those floodplains rougher by planting trees and other deep vegetation to help hold back the water - lowering the banks and de-canalising the upper reaches, allowing rivers once more to create meanders and braids and oxbow lakes. These trap the load they carry and sap much of their destructive energy
Monbiot makes similar points with respect to subsequent severe flooding in the UK (This flood was not only foretold - it was publicly subsidised, The Guardian, 30 December 2015).
The systemic equivalence to recognition of "upstream" knowledge processes -- "radical" root-cause thinking -- is then evident in contrast to focus on "mainstream" processes that derive from them. The arguments here regarding the failure of concern for diligent trace-back, and the characteristics of "downstream thinking" on derivative issues, could be understood as following from the modalities only too evident in the relationships between disciplines and between sciences.
Consensual definition of terrorism? Clearly, with regard to the nature of radicalism and terrorism, there is no lack of assertions and assumptions -- framing research and policies. Whether these constitute a coherent framework is itself a matter of opinion, irrespective of whether they are claimed to sustain "mainstream" strategies from a normal perspective.
There is seemingly no attempt at a comprehensive mapping of such insights -- analogous to that created for the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US of the counterinsurgency (COIN) initiative in Afghanistan as developed by the PA Consulting Group. This documented the pattern of relationships in Afghanistan between tribal leaders, soldiers, aid workers, drug dealers, militants, ethnic groups, government leaders, etc. -- so complex that it was caricatured as The Great Afghan Spaghetti Monster (Checkpoint Kabul, 20 December 2009; Graphic Shows Complexity of US Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan, The Huffington Post, 22 December 2009; see image). It is appropriate to ask whether those preoccupied with understanding of terrorism in general have endeavoured to create an equivalent map -- or whether it is considered that the conceptual situation is so straightforward from a mainstream perspective that it does not call for such systemic analysis.
If mainstream strategies aim to ensure the elimination of radical perspectives and those who embody them, will emergency preparedness be endangered by the lack of such perspectives -- following their successful eradication? (Eradication as the Strategic Final Solution of the 21st Century?, 2014). How are strategic measures, framed as "exceptional" or "extraordinary", to be distinguished from those which might otherwise be termed as necessarily "radical" responses to a crisis?
With respect to terrorism, as an evil act, Boaz Ganor, as author of The Counter-Terrorism Puzzle: a guide for decision makers (2005), recently argued that:
The paradox is that despite the scope of local and international terrorism, there is still no international consensus on one definition for the phenomenon of terrorism.
The suggested definition is: "Terrorism is the deliberate use of violence by a non-state organization aimed at civilians or civilian targets with the purpose of achieving political goals."
This definition differentiates between the political goals that motivate terrorist campaigns and the method of implementation - deliberate attacks against civilians. Unlike the widespread cliché, One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter [mentioned above], the suggested definition determines that there is no political, ideological, religious, or other goal that can justify engaging in deliberate acts of terrorism against civilians. (Security and Defense: a League of Nations fighting terror, The Jerusalem Post, 5 December 2015)
Like many definitions which suit particular agendas, this definition fails completely to address the conditions under which people experience terror, however that intimidation may have been engendered. It uses a way of framing the challenge which can be described metaphorically as blinkered, or as a form of tunnel vision -- indicative of the reluctance to consider alternatives to a preferred line of thought (Ingrid Mathieu, When Vision Becomes Tunnel Vision, Psychology Today, 3 August 2011).
Effectivly it defines terrorism to exclude actions by individuals or state organizations, or against non-civilians. This could be interpreted as implying that no state can be understood as engendering terror, however any such action is to be understood as related to terrorism -- despite extensive commentary on state terrorism and on state-sponsored terrorism. This is somewhat extraordinary, if not radical, in that it excludes the actions of the German state with rspect to the Holocaust, any Israeli implication in the Nakba exodus of Palestinians, or any implication of the UssR in the Holdomor. Effectively the definitiion divorces terror from terrorism.
Combatting evil: Most curious is that despite the multiplicity of views, it is readily assumed that "evil" (as the fundamental enemy) is itself clearly defined -- despite views to the contrary and lack of institutional efforts to clarify a henomenon to which authorities so frequently allude in justifying radical measures.
Furthermore it could be argued, for example, that the goals of ISIS are "religious" (even "spiritual") rather than political, at least as jihadists claim to believe -- however "political" is defined by others. Jihad is a form of religious engagement reminiscent of the Christian Ecclesia Militans (Richard M Heilman, Church Militant Field Manual: Special Forces Training for the Life in Christ, 2012; Paul Scalia, The Church Militant or the Church Belligerent? Catholic Answers). However questionable, this was indicated by Pope Benedict XVI to be an appropriate description of Church members, since it is "necessary to enter into battle with evil" (Pope Calls 'Church Militant' an Apt Description for Faithful on Earth, Zenit, 22 May 2012).
The assumption Ganor makes that his definition would enable consensus is as inherently problematic as the quest for effective consensus on the less controversial question of climate change has recently demonstrated (The "Saving of Humanity" framed by "Sinking of the Titanic": rising sea of discontent engendered by warming climate of opinion, 2015). The argument fails to address issues underlying any quest for consensus in a global civilization which appears inherently ungovernable (The Consensus Delusion: mysterious attractor undermining global civilization as currently imagined, 2011; Ungovernability of Sustainable Global Democracy? 2011).
Given the world view of the Abrahamic religions, Ganor's specific proposal for a League of Nations Fighting Terrorism as a focus for consensus could itself be understood as a preparatory measure in relation to the end times scenarios in which those religions believe so strongly and particularly, as with Christian Zionists. Ganor's proposal effectively mirrors and serves the agenda of ISIS in configuring forces for an Apocalyptic confrontation -- with each side defining itself to be a force for good, and the other as a force for evil. If consensus is then to be understood as a matter of belief, curious questions arise in relation to the degree of terror also engendered by natural disasters (Is God a Terrorist? Definitional game-playing by the Coalition of the Willing, 2004).
It is evident that the complex environment of the times enables pursuit of a variety of agendas, whether or not these contribute to manifestations of radicalism considered problematic. It is especially evident that the arms industry has benefitted significantly from cultivation of a politics of fear and the security policies consequent on simplistic framing (Andrea Germanos, We're in the Business of Killing Terrorists and Business is Good, Common Dreams, 4 December 2015). According to Air Force SecretaryDeborah Lee James: We're in the business of killing terrorists and business is good (Air Force burning through bomb stockpiles striking ISIL, USA Today, 3 December 2015).
In endeavouring to clarify the dynamics of the challenge, indications such as the following can be highlighted as meriting exploration both in isolation and as they might be more insightfully related to one another. Many have been discussed separately, as noted, but numerous challenges to that clarification remain. In that sense the question meriting attention is how such dynamics are to be more fruitfully related to one another, rather than any focus on particular dynamics to be deprecated from a particular perspective.
As noted above, especially challenging is the increasingly "slippery" nature of conventional definitions and categories, despite the strongest of claims and assertions variously made. Examples are to be found with respect to population issues, as separately argued (Scientific Gerrymandering of Boundaries of Overpopulation Debate, 2012). Given the problematic negativity implied in opposition to government action, also of interest are the past issues with respect to "nongovernmental" organizations (Public Management, 1995). Is there a continuing implication for some that "nongovernmental" implies a form of radicalism contesting the authority of the state.
In this context description and explanation are called into question. Metaphorically this slipperiness can be experienced as "mercurial", offering a degree of mirroring recalling the distorting effects of a fairground hall of mirrors. Given the extent to which evidence is massaged, many facts are increasingly questionable -- leading to a new understanding of the half-life of knowledge. As indicated by the "concrete proof" of the existence of WMD in Iraq, the situation is exacerbated by the extent to which leading politicians themselves admit the need to lie and engage in doublespeak (as noted above).
The purpose here is not to develop arguments variously made in the past but rather to refer to such articulations and to cite sources exemplifying the challenge.
Distinction between normal, abnormal and extreme: In this respect valuable distinctions can be explored, possibly calling for qualification of use of such terms. Arguments have been presented within the following:
Trials under 'Protestantism'
Trials under French Revolution
Trials under Soviet Communism
Trials under Fascism
Trials under Chinese Communism
Trials under Khmer Rouge Communism
|Trials under Cuban Communism
Trials under South African apartheid
Trials under Taliban application of Islamic law (sharia)
Military tribunals and war crimes
Judicial investigation of statesmen
Famous 'political' trials
|Assessment and evaluation
Alternative frameworks and belief systems
Appeals to other forms of reason
|Issues relating to evidence and argument
Distinguishing terrorists from freedom fighters and change agents
Value attached to excellence and the exceptional, whether with respect to creativity, skill or courage: Much is made of excellence and the exceptional -- widely cited and rewarded. However, as noted above, the irony for a civilization in crisis is that any "extraordinary" insight could now be readily condemned as "radical" -- thereby inhibiting new thinking potentially vital to the survival of that civilization. Any vital creative effort at critical thinking could be deprecated for such reasons -- especially given the pressure to be positive (as noted above). Can the failure of any initiative no longer be recognized, to enable improvement, if it is a requirement that its outcome be framed as positive?
In relating the argument to religious censorship through reference to the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, it is especially relevant in the light of current moves towards forms of electronic censorship through presumptions of factual accuracy by Google's search engine based on its Knowledge Vault (Google wants to rank websites based on facts not links, New Scientist, 25 February 2015). This raises questions regarding its subsequent ability to deliver search results on unconfirmed hypotheses, perspectives beyond the mainstream, and contested political opinions, notably in the light of increasing recognition of the so-called half-life of knowledge (Samuel Arbesman, The Half-Life of Facts: why everything we know has an expiration date, 2013). Today's "facts" have a distinct probability of proving to be tomorrow's "lies". A subsequent proposal by Google has explicitly envisaged the possibility of eliminating negative elements.
Framed otherwise, it is appropriate to ask in what contexts radical thinking is encouraged, rather then deprecated and censored as abnormal: the United Nations system, regional organizations (EU, OAS, ASEAN, etc), the military, religions (the Catholic Church, etc), academia? Some institutions have promoted the formation of "networks of excellence" or "centres of excellence" (Networks of Excellence: key to the future of EU research, 2007; Expert Group on the Future of Networks of Excellence, 2000). The question of relevance is whether these admit of any thinking which could be recognized as "critical" or "radical".
Academic disciplines clarify the process -- through peer review -- by which radical approaches are excluded from consideration, with the implication that their pursuit may well endanger a career or institutional funding. Precaution dictates that researchers define their inquiry in a manner consistent with the mainstream and foundation policies. There is then the curious challenge of being "original", without being "radical" -- despite the "normal" being necessarily susceptible to deprecation as "average".
Increasingly confused collective understanding of "radical": Curiously it would seem that only in the arts (radical art, radical poetry, radical design, and the like) and in technological innovation are "radical" approaches now valued as meriting careful consideration -- exemplified by the conscription of hackers by "normal" institutions in anticipation of cyberthreats. Given the increasing interest in profiling for marketing and security purposes, of some relevance is how those engaged in radical pursuits are defined in terms of normal category sets.
Understood in this way it is appropriate to ask how radical reform and radical strategies are to be envisaged, and in what context. Or is it now the case that such initiatives must necessarily exclude any form of radical creativity -- with reform being understood simply as an adaptation of the normal? Is this only too evident in the case of the decades-long UN reform process?
Assertive conflation of understandings and implications of radicalisation: As noted above, this exercise has been inspired by the very particular meaning now given to radical and radicalisation in many contexts -- ranging from the political through the media to academic studies. The terms are now used without qualification thereby calling into question any meaning to be associated with creativity, new thinking, strategic initiatives or worldviews with which "radical" has been previously associated with the highest appreciation as a potential indicator of excellence. The same may be said of "extreme" and "extremism", despite their former appreciation with respect to sport, physical courage and engagement in high-risk enterprises.
The unquestioning association of "radicalism" and "extremism" with terrorist violence has resulted in evocation of traditional religious frameworks by which they can be framed in demonic terms, as separately noted (Radicalisation versus Demonisation?, 2015).
In a period in which many are obliged to reframe their worldviews in response to the "nothing" with which they are faced as a consequence of strategic initiatives and empty political promises, the process of "radicalisation" merits subtler exploration (Radicalisation of Existence and Identity: recognizing the global emergence and influence of daimonic dynamics, 2015). To the extent that the new thinking required in response to global crises may need to be radically creative, it is highly regrettable that such creativity should come to be deprecated through conflation with confused understanding of the varieties of terrorism.
Varieties of radical -- as a perspective or worldview
Varieties of radicalism -- being radical or so perceived
Varieties of radical action
Varieties of radicalisation -- becoming a radical and adopting radical modalities
With respect to any understanding of a process of radicalisation, the framing offered by Robert Kuttner (Thinking About President Trump, The Huffington Post, 13 December 2015) is of relevance:
America has been a sitting duck for a figure like Trump for a long time. More and more Americans are simply disconnected from government, politics and civic life. They are deeply cynical. Voting turnout keeps falling, especially among lower income people. The collapse of civic life means that too many Americans don't pay attention, don't have well informed views, think all politicians are crooks and phonies anyway, and are habituated to view everything as entertainment. The more of anti-politician a figure like Trump seems, no matter how boorish or mendacious, the better. What the hell, the regular crowd hasn't fixed the economy or saved us from terrorism. This guy at least talks tough and doesn't take any guff from either the PC people or wimps like Jeb Bush. When citizens do not pay attention, they do not bother to disentangle fact from fiction. If Trump's claims are outright lies, it doesn't matter as long as they are simple and reassuring.
Varieties of fear as variously instilled and cultivated: Anything radical can be perceived as threatening, if not terrifying. Of particular interest is how to distinguish forms of fear which are valued from those which are deprecated as undesirable. The distinction is problematic to the extent that anything new and unusual -- the abnormal and the anomalous -- can be perceived as threatening, at least by some. The challenge is especially evident in relation to the cultivation of "terrifying" experiences, whether at fairgrounds or in the form of extreme sports.
Undertaking any new initiative is commonly recognized as involving a degree of fear -- whether public speaking, competitive sport, any form of examination, sexual intercourse, etc. Some games may deliberately cultivate a degree of fear, if only in online war gaming. Instilling a degree of fear is a common feature of initiation into a collectivity, most notably the hazing process in universities, the military, and prisons. Such processes are defended as essential to group bonding. With respect to the fear engendered, they may be difficult to distinguish from that associated with bullying in those same contexts -- or in neighbourhoods.
A degree of fear may be experienced, and valued, as a stimulating feature of any form of risk-taking.
Varieties of terrorism as experienced, instigated and framed: When experienced as "terrifying", the distinction from "terrorism" of various forms of fear-inducement is as yet to be fully clarified. Examples meriting particular attention include:
Federal land is currently being occupied by protestors. Or, according to some, by domestic terrorists. But pigeonholing these guys with either label isn't quite as easy as it might first seem.... at least for those who care about the concepts of fairness and consistency.... things start to get muddled for those prone to knee-jerk assessments or condemnations. Because the arson part of this law has been most notably used not against "alleged Islamic terrorists," but against "eco-terrorists" in the late 1990s.... Those who now advocate what seem like commonsense courses of action for the government to take in Oregon might want to consider how they felt about Occupy Wall Street and all its emulators across America.... The hardest question to ask in this vein might be: What do you think the public would loudly be demanding right now if it were a group of armed Muslims?... But those who are quick to label the group domestic terrorists should remain consistent. Were the Occupy Wall Street folks also terrorists? ... Does occupation of property define the term, or is it threats of (or acts of) violence?... Where should the legal line be drawn? When does political protest devolve into terrorism?... It's a lot easier to fall back on ideological knee-jerk responses to such incidents than it is to have a real debate about the definition of what is acceptable political protest and what should be called terrorism (or even "a prosecutable offense," for that matter).(Occupation, Arson, and Terrorism, The Huffington Post, 6 June 2016)
Questionable reframing of category boundaries -- as "conceptual gerrymandering": The indications presented above help to clarify the problematic process through which distinctions are now made and consecrated. This has notably been evident in the careful crafting by the USA of the legality of "enhanced interrogation" (considered admissible) as distinct from "torture" (whose practice was denied). Long after dubious processes were formally authorised, these distinctions have however been called into question by the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture (2014)
The process whereby "terrorism" is now recognized was clearly highlighted in the case of the San Bernardino shootings in California in 2015. Initially defined as yet another mass shooting in the USA, it was only when it was determined that those responsible had had a degree of indirect contact with ISIS. The FBI's investigation revealed that the perpetrators were "homegrown violent extremists" inspired by foreign terrorist groups, but were not directed by such groups or part of a terrorist cell or network. Thereafter the mass shooting was reframed as an act of terrorism (FBI investigating San Bernardino shooting as an act of terrorism, The Guardian, 4 December 2015). This was related to radicalisation in the following terms:
President Barack Obama says the US "will not be terrorised" by Wednesday's mass shootings in San Bernardino, California. "We are strong. And we are resilient," he said in his weekly radio address, adding that it was "entirely possible" the two attackers had been radicalised. (San Bernardino attack: US 'will not be terrorised' - Obama, BBC News, 5 December 2015)
The facts of the matter are further confused by the strategic advantage to be derived by claims by either the USA or ISIS that the latter was indeed ultimately responsible -- whether or not any concrete proof of such claims can be presented without the suspicion of misrepresentation. It is especially curious that "terrorism" should be understood as primarily instigated from elsewhere for political advantage -- precluding recognition of "domestic" terrorism and that undertaken for other purposes. The matter is further confused by the complex instances of so-called state terrorism instigated "legitimately" in order to destabilize other countries and regimes in the advancement of national interest.
The earlier case of the Chattanooga shootings in Tennessee 2015 further "clarified" the definitional confusion. As noted by David Franci (Are the Shootings in Chattanooga Terrorism? Foreign Policy, 17 July 2015):
The fluidity with which categories of relevance to this discussion are reframed merits consideration in its own right. It can be usefully compared to the gerrymandering of political constituencies -- hence the reference to conceptual gerrymandering (Systematic Gerrymandering of Declared Threats and Legality of Response: opportunistic exceptionalism underlying promulgated rules of governance, 2013). The argument can be extended to include the extent to which the categories used can be employed differently in different contexts without explicit qualification. This is consistent with what is otherwise recognized as doublespeak. As noted above, through lying and other processes, those representative of normal mainstream perspectives may well indulge in doublespeak as a means of defining and advancing their agendas. Whether such gerrymandering is to be recognized as a feature of radical creative thinking -- notably through exploitation of metaphor -- merits exploration in its own right.
The FBI says it is investigating whether the brutal killings of four Marines at the hands of Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez in Tennessee Thursday constitute an act of terrorism. But despite the growing fears that the shooter may have been motivated by his Islamic faith, it's far from clear that Abdulazeez should actually be considered a terrorist.
That's according to Gary LaFree, director of the National Center for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism. His organization maintains the Global Terrorism Database, which tracks terrorist attacks around the world. For years, he has been trying to bring clarity to a murky and controversial issue: When is an attack terrorism, and when is it some other type of crime?
In the spirit of "going to the root of the matter", a more radically fruitful point of departure would be to recognize how fear and terror are induced in different contexts and circumstances before seeking to deprecate and criminalize particular forms as "terrorism". Expressed otherwise, given the level of terror to which many are exposed in their daily lives, it is regrettable that recognition of "terrorism" is restricted in such a narrow and arbitrary manner -- such as to trigger its consideration within quite different legislative provisions. Missing is a recognition of the full spectrum of intimidation in all its forms.
"Memetic encroachment" with regard to radical and radicalisation: Whereas encroachment is more commonly recognized in relation to biophysical space, there is a case for recognizing the degree to which distinct forms of encroachment may obscure subtle memetic forms of relevance to the distinction of radical thinking. In a separate document (Varieties of Encroachment, 2004) major categories of encroachment were distinguished with respect to a terrorism-related study (Errorism vs Terrorism? Encroachment, Complicity, Denial and Terraism, 2004). These included:
The following are cited as an indication of the dangerous oversimplification of framing radicals as "evil" and as requiring their eradication from normal society. It could even be asked what society would be without radicals of various persuasions -- and whether they are essential to much-sought change and development. Of further interest is which of these has been labelled a "terrorist", by whom, and for what period? Such explorations could be usefully framed by controversies regarding certain Nobel Peace Laureates (Henry Kissinger, Yasser Arafat, and the like).
This extraordinary period is witness to the strangest degree of disarray in global governance, as indicated by:
Curiously the UN Climate Change agreement has been hailed in this period as being evidence of the possibility of unprecedented global consensus. As introduced, the specific commentary on it by The Economist could be considered appropriate more generally to the governance of the times:
The test of a first rate intelligence... is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time. By this standard the 195 countries that gathered outside Paris... to negotiate a new agreement on climate change have to be counted very bright indeed. It is vital, they declared, that the world's temperature does not climb much more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels; and yet they simultaneously celebrated a new climate agreement that got nowhere close to preventing such a rise (Hopelessness and Determination, 19 December 2015).
Perhaps the most amazing irony is evident in the ever increasing economic success of the arms industry in facilitating conflict (and of the security services required to contain emerging threats), with little capacity to appreciate that bombing population centres can only engender more refugees and greater threats to security. The left hand of governance would seem to be effectively disconnected from the right, perhaps to be described in terms of hemispheric integration (Engendering Viable Global Futures through Hemispheric Integration: a radical challenge to individual imagination, 2014)
It is in this context that policy with regard to radical perspectives and initiatives could be said to be increasingly panic-driven. At the price of compromising the distinctive political principles valued by other constituencies, the mainstream reactions to the processes articulated by Marinne Le Pen and Donald Trump, namely in seeking to block their expression and representation by any means possible, call into question the nature of democracy itself.
The reaction in France to the tragic terrorist attack of 11/13 highlights the intellectual inadequacy in response to the unforeseen. For a culture renowned for its innovative cultivation of philosophy and psychology of the most radical kind, the bankruptcy of those with such skills has been only too evident. It could be seen as a form of intellectual abdication. The challenge could not be reframed creatively in any new way. Critical commentary has been automatically framed as evidence of terrorist sympathies. A traditionally reactive response, uninformed by any such subtlety, emerged as the required pattern which could in no way be questioned.
There were no alternative voices, nor was there any elaboration of a spectrum of possible responses. To the extent there were any new questions triggered by the attack, these related only to the manner in which future physical threats could be contained. An aircraft carrier was immediately dispatched to increase the level of bombing and a coalition of countries was elicited in support of that strategy. That this would increase the security threats arising from the influx of refugees could not be integrated into any coherent government policy.
The case of France can be seen as echoing the disarray in governance in other countries of the NATO coalition -- the UK, Germany and the USA -- as noted above. Ironically, in the light of the value otherwise associated with radical creativity, the quality of thinking by which the strategic challenges are now framed can be recognized in the traditional phrase of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Any pattern of thought which does not confirm to traditional norms is increasingly subject to censorship and conflation with the threat of terrorism. Little, if anything, has been learnt from the strategic disasters of intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan, as separately discussed (Transforming the Unsustainable Cost of General Education, 2009). The pattern might be said to conform to another satirical management adage: having lost sight of our objectives, we redoubled our efforts.
Seemingly missing is now any capacity for the self-reflexivity characteristic of collective learning. This capacity is recognized and valued by a variety of disciplines (Steven J. Bartlett, Reflexivity: A Source-Book in Self-Reference, 1992). Just as Margaret Thatcher is famed for her phrase with respect to conservative government policy -- that There Is No Alternative (TINA) -- this is now echoed by the mainstream academic thinking offered in support of governance in response to the crisis of the times. In that sloganeering mode, and as a strategic proxy for full-spectrum dominance, should NATO be recognized as an acronym for No Alternative To Omnipotence -- despite seeming incompetence of the highest degree?
Replicating a historical pattern? Richard Jackson (2015) suggests that the mysterious process of "radicalisation" is part and parcel of this broader framework in which terrorism is expelled from the realm of the material-political world and instead relegated to the metaphysical, spiritual world. He notes similarities with the witch hunts with which the Inquisition was preoccupied in the past, as with the preoccupation with heresy. Clearly, with blasphemy, these remain a continuing concern in the present from the perspective of some religions -- although, appropriately, Jackson extends its implications to non-religious belief systems.
More striking in recent memory has been the preoccupation with Communism and its sympathizers -- notably framed as fellow-travellers. The dimensions of this concern were especially evident in the USA with the problematic consequences of McCarthyism -- for which parallels are perceived at the present time (James Downie, Donald Trump and 21st-century McCarthyism, The Washington Post, 2 November 2015; Kathleen Parker, The New McCarthyism is dead on arrival, The Washington Post, 2 October 2015; Peter Beinart, The New McCarthyism of Donald Trump, The Atlantic Monthly, 21 July 2015). McCarthyism is the practice of making accusations of subversion or treason without proper regard for evidence. As noted by Media Lens (The New McCarthyiism: keep the war versus stop the war, 17 December 2015):
Media treatment of the term 'blowback', the concept that foreign policy has consequences that rebound on its perpetrators, illustrates a fundamental hypocrisy in 'the mainstream'. It is fine for approved journalists and commentators to use the word when discussing terrorist attacks, actual or feared, here in the West. But abuse and vitriol will be heaped upon the heads of peace activists who dare broach the subject. They are smeared as 'victim-blaming'.
Similar concerns have been evident with respect to fascism in the past -- now curiously renewed otherwise (Robert Kuttner, Quiet Desperation and American Fascism, The Huffington Post, 22 November 2015; John Tirman, Is It Fascism? Obloquy Run Amok, The Huffington Post, 9 December 2015). The fascism of Francoist Spain is of particular relevance given a degree of complicity of Catholic authorities and the manner in which many foreigners were attracted to either side in the associated civil war -- most notably the International Brigades. The governments of Germany, Italy -- and to a lesser extent Portugal -- contributed money, munitions, manpower and support to Nationalist forces led by Francisco Franco. Plus ca change?
How should the attraction of the (honourable) participation in the International Brigades and resistance movements be compared with that of ISIS today?
Framed and exacerbated by religion, the pattern is evident in the association of "evil" with issues relating to marriage, dress codes, adultery, contraception, abortion and sexual preferences -- possibly seen as a justification for extreme violence. Framed in terms of security, the pattern is evident with respect to perceptions of the treachery of whistleblowers (Bill Hoffmann, Ex-NSA Chief Hayden: Snowden Had 'Evil Intent', Newsmax, 26 March 2014; Elaine Byrne, Whistleblowing as a Necessary Evil? The Case of Lagow, Manning and Snowden, UNSW, 18 June 2013; Mohit Kumar, WikiLeaks Founder - Julian Assange: Evil Hacker or Visionary Hacker? The Hacker News, 11 December 2010 )
Blame-shifting and blame-gaming: There is extensive recognition of the manner in which authorities effectively decline responsibility for the consequences of actions they have in some way instigated. This is most evident in biased coverage by media, especially when effectively controlled by governments and corporations (Vital Collective Learning from Biased Media Coverage: acquiring vigilance to deceptive strategies used in mugging the world, 2014).
Such dishonourable irresponsibility is further demonstrated, possibly to an even higher degree, by failure to apologize for acts now considered abhorrent if not inherently evil (Collective Mea Culpa? You Must be Joking! Them is to blame, Not us! 2015). For former colonial powers whose economies have been built on slavery, the failure to apologize for it, and to envisage reparations, is a prime examples of this (Rowena Mason, Slavery reparations call overshadows Cameron's visit to Jamaica, The Guardian, 30 September 2015; Timothy Egan, Apologize for Slavery, The New York Times, 19 June, 2015; Theodore R. Johnson, How to Apologize for Slavery, The Atlantic, Aug 6, 2014 ). Similar failure is evident with respect to the extremely violent repressive measures during struggles for independence -- by those who were then characterized as "terrorists", prior to being honoured otherwise thereafter.
Media-orchestrated violence as a feature of news management: There is continuing debate about violence in the media. More subtle is the debate regarding the emergence of a culture of fear through deliberate political fear-mongering (Uli Linke and Danielle Smith, Cultures of Fear: a critical reader, 2009; Frances Moore Lappe and Jeffrey Perkins, You Have the Power: choosing courage in a culture of fear, 2005; Frank Furedi, Politics of Fear: beyond left and right, 2005; Wole Soyinka, The Climate of Fear, 2004; David L. Altheide, Creating Fear: news and the construction of a crisis, 2002).
The focus on terrorism can be explored in such terms, as discussed separately (Promoting a Singular Global Threat -- Terrorism: strategy of choice for world governance, 2002). It could even be said that the daily media coverage of the reality violence and disaster offers a perverse form of entertainment increasingly indistinguishable from that offered virtually in fictional form. Especially intriguing is the deliberate association with popular sports of the military charged with responding to terrorism (Pentagon paid sports teams millions for patriotic events, USA Today, 4 November 2015; Report highlights the obscene price of NFL's paid patriotism, The Guardian, 5 November 2015). Ironically this bears a remarkable resemblance to the role of Roman Emperors with respect to gladiatorial contests.
The naive assumption promoted is that normal "people like us" are best understood as aspiring to live lives "free of fear", or that any fear is somehow integrated as a welcome characteristic stimulus of daily existence. However the curious relation to "terror" (as framed through the media) can be recognized in the very common appreciation of experience as "terrific" -- including sexual intercourse, despite any commonly associated fears. It could even be said that failure to qualify an experience in such terms would be a significant indicator that its repetition would not be sought, with major commercial implications if it was provided as a service. How much "terror" do people tend to require in their daily lives -- and what is felt to be missing if it is removed?
More generally, given the existential fears with which daily life is associated (food, health, unemployment, social security, etc), normal people may have increasing resource to psychoactive substances to mitigate any such sense of fear. Ironically the addiction to "terrific" experience is then complemented by addiction to substances which suppress or regulate that experience -- or offer terrific experiences in another mode.
There is seemingly little ability to reconcile the severe deprecation of violence by terrorists with the nightly indulgence in both media reporting of extreme violence and in recreational violence as exemplifed by the following:
How is the attraction of such violence then to be reconciled with that of terrorist groups (Arthur Dobrin, The Attraction of Terrorism: why good people join violent groups, Psychology Today, 1 March 2015; Simon Cottee and Keith Hayward Terrorist (E)motives: the existential attractions of terrorism Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, 34, 2011, 12)?
Indicators to clarify degrees of asystemic governance? The primary national economic statistics over past decades have been related to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The rapid rise in military response to terrorism through use of bombs and missiles has resulted in massive destruction of infrastructure and a massive influx of refugees and economic migrants to those countries manufacturing the weapons and delivering the bombs (directly or by proxy). As a characteristic of media management, the systemic relationship between the two is seldom highlighted.
Given the impact of both increased manufacture of weaponry and the unprecedented influx of refugees, this suggests the value of envisaging a complementary indicator in the form of Refugees Per Kiloton (RPK), with the latter factor perhaps determined as a function of TNT equivalent. This would provide a clear focus for discussion of the subsequent consequence of bombing in those countries manufacturing weapons. The focus on refugees avoids any awkward reference to the actual number of fatalities resulting from such bombing -- and the problematic distinction of collateral damage.
Such a statistic might provide a fruitful framework for discussion of the funding increasingly required to meet infrastructure need of refugees in the countries to which they migrate. There is, for example, some logic for a higher proportion of those costs to be borne by those bodies benefitting financially from the sale of such arms. The approach could be considered consistent with the recognized need to factor decommissioning costs into nuclear power construction projects.
More generally the argument suggests the need to review the meaning of "product" in GDP, given that refugees are clearly a product that merits recognition as a cost of bombing. Similarly carbon emissions are clearly a product resulting from many forms of economic activity. The logic could well be extended to the production of more people in a population, and the increased costs thereby incurred.
Caliphate of normality? There is widespread preoccupation with the implications of the declaration of an Islamic caliphate in 2014 in relation to ISIS. Of interest is whether, in functional and organizational terms, a "caliphate of normality" merits recognition. The question is whether significant parallels are evident or implied, most notably by recent reframing of the US-led international community (International Community as God or Sorcerer's Apprentice? 2015). Additional indications are implied by the secretive negotiations to establish a comprehensive pattern of secret(ive) agreements, most notably those relating to trade. This is currently most evident in the case of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), concluded 5 October 2015, as a regional regulatory and investment treaty, and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) as discussed separately (Imposing TTIP-TPP-TISA as the caliphate of normality? 2015).
Tentative parallels between the two forms of caliphate are suggested by the following table.
|Variants of prevalent normative rules|
|(From Evil Rules: Guidelines for Engaging in Armageddon Now, 2015)||Rules of the game?|
|My country, my religion, my party, and my people cannot in any way be considered evil, any more than myself.||Heavy mainstream investment in normative, unimaginative, uncreative, low risk, conservatism|
|Other countries, religions, parties and people have an evident tendency to be evil, as with people other than myself.||Increasingly restricted collective learning capacity as indicated by the "mainstream" metaphor floods getting to the root / vigorous application|
|Those who disagree with my country, my religion, my people, and myself, may well be unfortunately misguided by the forces of evil, if not specifically evil-intentioned.||Increasing reliance on framing and definition of reality by "mainstream" fiat|
|Any action by my country, my religion, my party, or myself, which specifically enables others to commit evil, cannot in consequence be considered evil, irrespective of the level of suffering engendered||Active conceptual gerry-mandering and development of definitional game-playing distinguishing extremism, radicalism and terrorism, shell game|
|It is fundamentally misleading to see any equivalence between evil actions by others today and actions undertaken in the past by my country, my religion, my party, and my people. or by myself. When deliberate, this misinterpretation may well be evil in its own right.||Demonisation of radicals and radicalisation wingless/clipped right/left|
|In combatting evil, my country, my religion, my people, and myself, may be obliged to use methods which we profoundly regret, but there is no justification whatsoever for considering these to be evil, since they are necessarily used with good intention||Complete absence of ability to handle the challenge of questions implied by otherness, disagreement, dissent by other than violent means|
|The leading authorities of my country, my religion, and my people are unquestionably qualified to distinguish the perpetration of evil by others, as am I||
Righteous justification of necessity of violent eradication of otherness
|Those persisting in evil actions, despite warnings in that regard, merit any response by we who oppose them to ensure that such actions cease||Careful isolation of permissible alternative perspectives women cover-up|
|Those seeking to qualify or excuse the abhorrent actions of others as less than evil are fundamentally misguided, to the point that they may themselves be considered evil, despite any superficial merit claimed for their arguments by the ill-informed||Obligatory participation in commemorative rituals of consensus and coherence|
|Any doubts regarding the fundamental validity of these rules should be considered as inspired by evil and worthy of absolute condemnation||Unrecognized progressive mirroring of radical fundamentalism
enantiodromia sharia heresy apostasy women
Increasing dependence on fiat: The much-remarked secretive (and fundamentally undemocratic) nature of the pattern of TTIP-TPP-TISA agreements are especially suggestive of use of fiat -- beyond that associated with the fiat money created by quantitative easing.
A key question is the extent to which, through propaganda and manipulative constraints on the media, realities are created -- unrelated to factual evidence and the concrete proof required in very particular circumstances (10 Demands for Concrete Proof by We the Peoples of the World, 2012). Through unquestionable declarations of what is factual, and denial of any evidence to the contrary, there is a sense in which "fiat realities" are created and sustained. Given the requirement to believe in them, as in the Stalinist era of Communism, they could be usefully explored as "fiat beliefs". Rationality has to a large extent been abandoned in favour of the simplified thinking enabled by such fiat beliefs.
Clearly this process of engendering reality bears a strong resemblance to the realities and beliefs promoted in relation to consumer products and the exaggerated claims made for them through puffery.
Replicating sharia through enantiodromia? There is much conventional deprecation of Islamic law (sharia) and the respect for it required of believers. The question is whether increasing pressure to conform to normality in western societies is to be recognized as effectively engendering an equivalent to a form of sharia -- mutatis mutandis. Western norms as law-like constraints -- as in traditional societies governed by taboos?
The irony of the situation derives from the very process of deprecation and rejection of the implications and consequences of sharia to which western societies are exposed. This is seemingly engendering a form of mirroring of the functional principles and values associated with it -- usefully named in terms of enantiodromia. This is understood as the process whereby the superabundance of any force or principle inevitably produces its opposite. In this case it is intimately related to the (desperate) reconfiguration of conventional western thinking in response to deprecated Islamic pressures.
Consistent with this argument, but curious nevertheless, this reconfiguration involves the western abandonment of an array of democratic principles -- unquestionably justified in terms of security. New repressive measures and restrictions are now a regular feature of western societies (Tyler Durden, France Changes Constitution To Protect "Emergency" Police Powers From Court Challenges, Zero Hedge, 25 December 2015; Willa Frej, Hollande: Fight Against ISIS Demands Constitutional Changes, The Huffington Post, 16 November 2015) As framed by Hollande: We are at war, this new kind of war demands a constitution that can manage a state in crisis.
It is however useful to ask whether all creativity will be effectively designed out of western societies through the eradication of radicals of any kind -- much as Islamic cultures now regret their era of high creativity centuries ago.
The argument above stressed the immense difficulty, whether individually or collectively, of handling whatever is recognized as different -- despite the curious fascination with other cultures and the seemingly desperate quest by science for life in other parts of the universe. In the latter respect it is amazing to note how little attention is given to the possible challenge of communicating with "aliens", despite that of communicating with the Taliban, Al-Qaida or ISIS -- or the aliens within developed societies, including alienated youth, the homeless, beggars, etc (Communicating with Aliens: the psychological dimension of dialogue, 2000). The preoccupation, which appears increasingly as indicative of a high order of naivety, is with achieving universal agreement -- however that is to be understood, despite the constraints of relativity.
The experience of "disagreement" is of course readily transformed into one of "disagreeable", as it most evident in democratic discourse and the negative campaigning it evokes.
Radicalism of any kind, whether religious, scientific, philosophical, artistic, political, or otherwise, raises the question as to how any mainstream can best arrange for the "disposal" of what is experienced as disagreeable. As noted above, the maneuvers by other parties in response to Marine Le Pen and Donald Trump offer a striking illustration of efforts in that regard.
Most striking in that case of the political radicals responsible for a particular form of terrorism is the increasing interest in their "eradication" (Eradication as the Strategic Final Solution of the 21st Century?, 2014). This of course follows in the remarkable tradition of the efforts by the Nazi regime to eradicate the Jews. It might be asked what those in favour of the application of this policy to ISIS learned from the Nazi initiative.
Other approaches, presumably to be understood as less radical, include:
The mindset through which such initiatives are envisaged and implemented recalls that with which wild animals have been hunted -- even to the point of extinction -- as an emotionally justified threat to human lives and livelihoods. Examples include: crocodiles, snakes, tigers, and sharks. Any issues real ting to terrorizing of animals are considered ridiculous and irrelevant, except where it affects the quality of slaughtered animals as foodstuffs.
More generally the mindset may be understood as an extension of policies of waste disposal, despite extensive evidence regarding the degradation of the environment, as in the case of the Great Pacific garbage patch. It can be explored in terms of remaindering as a metaphor (Reintegration of a Remaindered World: cognitive recycling of objects of systemic neglect, 2011).
Given both the simplicity with which "radical" may be too readily framed in relation to "normal", and the variety of approaches to identifying root causes, the challenge of interrelating these is considered separately in an Annex (Reframing the quest for root causes as a focus for radical identificaion, 2015). This consists of the following sections:
Aspects of this focus are also explored speculatively in a complementary document (Radical Localization in a Global Systemic Context: distinguishing normality using playing card suits as a pattern language, 2015). The visual rendering of the movement in the concluding animation therein is reminiscent of what is learnt from the aerodynamics of the flight of birds, as explored separately in relation to extremes (Counteracting Extremes Enabling Normal Flying: insights for global governance from birds on the wing and the dodo, 2015). The spectrum through the normal, as echoed by the political right and left, is curiously reminiscent of the current strategic quest for full-spectrum dominance, as separately argued (Embodying Global Hegemony through a Sustaining Pattern of Discourse: cognitive challenge of dominion over all one surveys, 2015).
The latter help to reframe the radical cognitive challenge of "coming out" versus "coming in". This process is usefully understood with greater subtlety in the light of the consideration of the container metaphor explored from the perspective of cognitive psychology (George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Metaphors We Live By, 1980; Nadzieja Monachowicz, The Functioning of the Container Conceptual Metaphor in Doris Lessing's "Children of Violence", Crossroads, 19 March 2014). It also lends itself to more radical exploration (World Introversion through Paracycling: global potential for living sustainably "outside-inside", 2013)
In contrast to the mainstream insider, of further significance to understanding the "outsideness" of radical thinking, is the appreciation associated with the archetypal outsider in the arts and philosophy -- of being at odds with normal society -- as reviewed by Colin Wilson (The Outsider, 1956). The theme is central to various novels and films and is a feature of outsider art and outsider music. Both are typically condemned by dictatorial regimes.
Any hypothesis regarding extraterrestrials is readily framed as radical. The very nature of extraterrestrials, as frequently explored in blockbuster movies, may well be terrifying -- if not the "worst dream" of humanity. Clearly they would then lend themselves to conventional definitions of being "terrorists". Their aspirations to establish some analogue to a caliphate is consistent with the logic of a strategy they might be expected to adopt -- as understood from a human perspective. It could of course take subtler form -- perhaps a trade caliphate, somehow equivalent to a free trade zone, or the frameworks offered by TTIP-TPP-TISA. The heroic response of humanity has been frequently explored in fiction -- readily to be seen as analogous to eradication.
Matching fictional aspiration and speculation is the active -- if not frenetic -- quest for "life" on other planets and in other parts of the galaxy. The possibility that such life may take forms which could easily be perceived as "radical" is seldom considered -- especially in terms of the fundamental danger they might constitute for humanity. This quest for extreme difference by science is in curious contrast to the political commitment to the eradication of those embodying such difference.
The situation has been paralleled in recent centuries by the engagement of colonizing humanity with the wildlife it has encountered. Readily framed as a danger to human life and livelihood, systematic efforts have been successfully made to eliminate it -- as with tigers, snakes, crocodiles and wolves. These are commonly represented as terrifying -- and appreciated for that reason in zoos, circuses and other forms of entertainment. Only tardily, and to a limited degree, has it become possible to recognize the vital role that such species may perform in an ecosystem.
There is of course the strange possibility that humanity may be framed radically in such terms by extraterrestrials, as separately argued (Self-reflective Embodiment of Transdisciplinary Integration (SETI): the universal criteria of species maturity? 2008).
There is further irony to the possibility that such extraterrestrials, in the light of their own values, might seek to engage with humanity on the terms which it has itself defined, if inadvertently (Writing Guidelines for Future Occupation of Earth by Extraterrestrials: Be done by as you did? 2010)
Saul D. Alinsky:
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