Friday, February 25, 2005

Smiting the other cheek of fundamentalism

Hugh Caldwell writes today in the forum on Terrorism:

Perhaps you should consider the notion of religion as the fancy dress which people put on their motivations and not the motivation itself. Otherwise, the co-operation between Islam and Christianity would be perfect. One lot would be turning its cheek and the other lot would be smiting it and both would feel highly religious.

And I, in another part, put this forward:

Fundamentalism is one of the drivers of terrorism. In a world dominated by change, uncertainty and superficiality, some individuals find certainty in total absorption in an ideology, religion, or nationalism. Their certainty affirms their being-in-the-world. The exist versus their enemies, find their identity in their struggle with their opponents, as paranoid schizophrenics finds identity versus their persecutors; paranoid schizophrenics do not undergo the ego-fragmentation that characterises other forms of schizophrenia. If Roger Scruton is more comfortable in describing this state of mind as resentment at others' success, I can live with that, although I find it a little constrained, and light on the oppression that provokes the resentment.

The terrorists find intense fellowship and comradeship with others in their group - although they are also liable to disagreements and schism. This kind of fundamentalism, when armed, is dangerous. One good thing about it is that the very intensity cannot be sustained for long, and tends to burn out, especially if they are sidelined, and denied the oxygen of publicity and the hydrogen of unjust treatment.

This is a pattern that is not restricted to al-Qaeda, but can be found throughout human society, through the RAF (Red Army Faction) and Baader Meinhof, the IRA etc, right up to the neo-cons in the Bush White House.

And yes, OK, I admit that there is a tendency in some parts of the Green movement to a kind of fundamentalism, but it is well offset by true ecologists in the movement. And I totally reject the slanders of eco-terrorism and eco-fascism that are carelessly tossed at us by extremists on the Right and the Left.

But as ever, the real question is - what is to be done about this fundamentalism? It cannot be reasoned with. (Or can it?).

Here is my personal summary, after five weeks of obsessive activity on this forum:

Moderates within the same community can distance themselves from extremist actions more clearly, and work with moderates in other communities to address with non-violent methods the grievances that drive the fundamentalists.

We must defend ourselves from the violent acts of the fundamentalists, using intelligence, the police and law, but not violent military repression (the "War on Terror") as this only exacerbates the problem.

We need action everywhere, especially in the Middle East to reduce repression and increase democracy, (democracy in its widest sense understood as feedback loops in the body politic enabling the ruled to influence the rulers). This must be enabled especially in Israel, Algeria, Syria, Iran, Egypt, and Libya - but the USA and the UK also need to look at serious deficits in their democratic processes.

Action to address economic and ecological problems in the region - primarily water resources, solar power re-afforestation, and other first rank stuff like housing and employment, will divert attention and energy from destruction to construction.

This is how I see the solution. It is necessarily incomplete and flawed, because I am not a fundamentalist. What else do we need to cure the problem?

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