Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Roots of Terrorism

The tragedy in Boston this past week played out as expected.  The conspiracy theorists will wonder if the FBI didn't get tired of being accused of simply duping people then arresting them to make their stats look good and decided to go one step further and let them carry out the bombing too.  Those who have manufactured the Muslims into the current enemy have more ammunition and those who have fallen into the trap of Muslim-hating will have a heyday.

The real tragedy is that every day men, women and children are killed and maimed in "terrorist" attacks, state inflicted or otherwise.  In Iraq, in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Xinjiang, Dagestan, Mali, Nigeria... And no one hears about it until it is in Boston.

I jotted down some thoughts into a non-essay:

It is only class warfare if we fight back; it is only terrorism if they fight back.

What motivates an individual to commit acts of terrorism is highly personal; what motivates an entire societal group is almost universally a combination of bad governance and poverty.

Individuals are written off as mentally deranged and seeking attention, or ideological fanatics belonging to an inherently violent religion; whatever suits the politics of the situation and prevents examination (and acceptance) of any underlying causes.

Non-state terrorism is usually preceded by state terrorism of one kind or another.

State terrorism is about retaining power

Non-state terrorism – group or individual, state sanctioned/supported or private initiative.

Ideologically driven terrorism can be state or non-state but most ideologically driven non-state terrorism is linked in the end to bad government, poverty and an overwhelming sense of frustration and desperation.  No one is listening, no one is taking action to improve the situation.  If Islam did not exist, the same actors would still be on stage for the same reasons.

Normal people do not choose easily to kill themselves or others. 

Terrorists are like the Indians in the Westerns; they are just conveniently there; conveniently stirred to violence by bloodlust or medicine men.  No one asks why any deeper than this superficial rationalisation.

Terrorism as a form of guerilla warfare is usually engaged in by a much weaker power.

“The rebellion of the Huang Chao (875-884) had its roots in the extreme social instability and heavy financial burdens placed on the peasants however the recording of the event in official histories moralized the events as the conjuncture of corrupt or inept officials and persuasive but evil-minded bandits” (1).

The Boxer Uprising in China in 1900 (2).  The uprising backed by Imperial troops was ultimately against foreign occupation and influence.  History, written by the winners named it the  Boxer Rebellion as though they, the foreign powers owned the place.  A great deal of “terrorism” throughout history is from people who merely wanted their country back.

“We will not negotiate with terrorists”.  How stupid.  If they had been negotiated with prior to, they would never have become terrorists.

The entire Caucasus has been fighting the Russians for centuries (3), initially to retain their independence from the Empire; most recently while nominally about independence it has been about bad governance and poverty (4).

To revolt is a natural tendency of life. Even a worm turns against the foot that crushes it. In general, the vitality and relative dignity of an animal can be measured by the intensity of its instinct to revolt. Mikhail Bakunin
The most radical revolutionary will become a conservative the day after the revolution.-Hannah Arendt

A populace never rebels from passion for attack, but from impatience of suffering.-Edmund Burke

A great revolution is never the fault of the people, but of the government.-Johann von Goethe

Most commonly revolt is born of material circumstances; but insurrection is always a moral phenomenon. Revolt is Masaniello, who led the Neapolitan insurgents in 1647; but insurrection is Spartacus. Insurrection is a thing of the spirit, revolt is a thing of the stomach.-Victor Hugo

(1) Ending an Era: the Huang Chao Rebellion of the Late Tang Adam Fong
(2) Besieged in Peking: the Story of the 1900 Boxer Rising Diana Preston
(3) Caucasus: Mountain Men and Holy Wars Nicholas Griffin 
(4) A Dirty WarPutin's Russia and A Russian Diary Anna Politkovskaya


  1. I agree with much of what you say, but it's also true that Islamic terrorism is religion-based, and that they don't just attack imperialistic powers but one another in the name of building a theocracy.

    1. Poverty and hopelessness attracts people to ideology which gives them both simplistic answers and a target for their hatred and fear.
      "you see increases in violence when there is no economic opportunity, and more importantly, no economic hope, no hope of having a better tomorrow. It’s not an argument about poverty, but an argument for the need to create sustainable, beneficial, productive jobs for all people, “giving people a chance to dream that there will be a great big beautiful tomorrow also for them.”

  2. Royal courtier: Your Majesty, the American Colonists are revolting!
    King George III: They certainly are.

    There isn't a lot that changes.

    Blessings and Bear hugs!
    Bears Noting

    1. You have my full agreement on that, King George III.

  3. Well said. Any deranged person looking to go out with a bang could only be encouraged by the hyperbolic media and patriot frenzy of the over-reaction in Boston. Contrast the official and public responses there with the humane and balanced public reaction in Norway after their 2011 massacre that resulted in 77 deaths: thousands of people out in the streets and squares with candles praying and calling for peace, not vengeance. Really, I can't understand how Americans have come to believe that American lives and American tragedies, however regrettable, are so much more epic than events in other parts of the world. That widespread lack of empathy for non-American lives and tragedies is at the root of so much evil-doing in the name of so-called liberty.

    1. It is called American Exceptionalism. Liberty and democracy in the American context remind me of 1984. They mean the exact opposite. Like the "White Man's Burden", they are simply covers for imperialism.


Comments are encouraged. But if you include a commercial link, it will be deleted. If you comment anonymously, please use a name or something to identify yourself. Trolls will be deleted