Tuesday, November 27, 2007

To be powerless in a world full of riches

Isn’t the powerlessness we all feel to a certain degree the same as what the « martyrs » for Islam feel, only in their minds – as well as in reality – the odds are stacked higher against them than they are for us? As I see it, there are 3 possible ways to go: Fight, Flight or “Learned Helplessness” (see Seligman et al.) (the latter leading to and/or being a major cause for depression, or even the definition thereof, and really, isn’t depression the condition of staying put and fighting with yourself to the point of exhaustion?)

The article in the NYT magazine (Where Boys Grow Up to Be Jihadis, Nov 25/07) mentions that the men discussed in the article all had reasons to feel despondent prior to their engagement with Jihad. Then they joined movements – groups of like-minded peers – for whom they became willing to give up their lives. In other words, they externalized their conflict, and opted to join a group (strength in numbers is due, at least in part, to the sense of invincibility belonging to a group confers) thanks to which they finally felt empowered; they stopped being victims and became actors in their lives.

people prone to terrorism share a sequence of experiences, […]They feel a sense of moral outrage that is interpreted in a specific way (the war in Iraq, for example, is interpreted as a war on Islam); that outrage resonates with the person’s own experiences (Muslims in Germany or Britain who feel marginalized might identify with the suffering of Iraqis); and finally, that outrage is channelled into action.
This process, Sageman told me, is rarely a solitary one. He and a growing number of law-enforcement officials and analysts argue that group dynamics play a key role in radicalization. While ideology may inspire terrorists, they say, it takes intimate social forces to push people to action. Friends embolden one another to act in ways they might not on their own. This might be called the peer-pressure theory of terrorism. Experts in the field refer to it as the BOG, for bunch of guys (or GOG, for group of guys). “Terrorism is really a collective decision, not an individual one,” said Sageman, who coined the theory. “It’s about kinship and friendship.

The point I’m trying to make is that there would probably be a lot less of this if the Western world owned up to using the developing world (or just about any market that can be exploited) as a well of riches with which to fill their coffers. We use their resources to produce our wealth at a fraction of what it would cost if we produced everything at home - mostly by paying horrendously low wages - and we develop markets there for our products in order to accumulate more wealth. We use whatever they have for our benefit, and we use all available means to convince them to buy products they don’t need when our own markets become saturated.

How would we feel if we had to watch someone else get rich at our expense, while that same someone made it impossible for us to attempt to ameliorate our own circumstance by denying us access to the means to do so?

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