Monday, February 14, 2005

Terrorism Scrutonised and the Trouble with Cats II

Wahey! Roger Scruton, the philosopher is engaging in dialogue in the openDemocracy Madrid Summit forum here. (See terrorism Scrutonised and the trouble with cats, here, earlier.)

So I reply as follows, slipping into an elaborately flowerey language that I will surely regret when I come to read it tomorrow.:

I am a little taken aback at the thought of debating a contemporary politican problem on the basis of literature that is nearly a century old. My recall of Dostoyevsky is of his ability to create an almost hallucinatory reconstruction of the life and consciousness of individuals in the fantasy of the reader: but I would flinch from using it as the raw material to make the kind of real time life and death political judgments that we are considering here. I hope that this does not make me sound like a Philistine, any more than my view that the Israelis are acting wrongly may make me sound like a Palestinian.

OK, Roger, I can agree your average terrorist is a seething mass of irrational hatred. Hatred is extreme anger, and anger is the emotion that flows from frustation. We agree that oppression is a factor in the generation of the frustration - you allow it a small role, I a much larger role.

Elsewhere I have mentioned the Chinese view of causality, of things arising mutually. You may think of Hegel here, of thesis and antithesis. Hegel's dialectic may provide a reckety basis to build an ontology, but in my work as a psychiatrist, I find all the time that the mind, particularly the disturbed mind, moves from extreme to extreme - the anorectic swings to bulimia, depression and mania are two poles of a continuum. Politically, Left and Right flow from one to the other, as we see with fascism and communism. Oppression and terrorism are a couple, action and reaction.

This is more than just a pretty conceit, because it gives us a pointer to action: if we can aim for justice and equity, we can expect terrorism, eventually, to die down. It could be advanced as a scientific hypothesis if you like: a testable prediction. Let us go for justice, and see if we get peace.

Of course we need to defend ourselves against terrorism as best we can, with a multimodal multilayered defence. I hope you agree that the military response that we see in Iraq,is ill-conceived, is only making matters worse and can only make matters worse.

So this approach aims not to explain the present in terms of the past, but to heal the present in terms of the future, that is, in terms of future action to bring about justice and equity.

If you disagree, may I ask you this: If you are right, and the only way to explain terrorism is as a a horrible hatred, some kind of autocthonous envy or resentment that arises perhaps from a diseased soul, then what solution do you offer?

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