Sowing chaos in the world
Sinai, Paris and Bamako are the latest terror fronts. Baghdad, Tripoli, Kabul, Damascus, the West Bank, Donetsk, Nigeria and Somalia, among many, are ongoing fronts. New York City was a landmark front. Hell broke loose, in a manner of speaking, after 9/11. The world has never been the same since.
Who are the protagonists? The victims are crystal-clear: the women and children, the aged and the sick, the poor caught in the crossfire, the peace-loving peoples of the world. The armed forces of nations are fighting adequately armed extremist groups. The beneficiaries are obvious: the military-industrial establishments in developed countries.
What are the extremist groups to gain? Nothing. It cannot be conquest that they seek. Theirs is a network of loosely established cells programmed to self-destruct, with suicide attacks as the platform. It would seem that their only goal is to sow chaos, to make governments helpless and the peoples of the world cower in fear and distrust of their governments. They know that the response of the countries in which the attacks are made will be more violence: bombings and raids, drone attacks, boots on the ground. The result is greater radicalization, sustaining the growth of the cells that will continue the terror attacks. The violence is now borderless, striking anytime, anywhere.
Who is the enemy? It’s all in the mind. On one side are the extremists who kill even themselves with nothing to gain but a presumption of gratification after their deaths and those of their victims. On the other side are the governments and their leaders who are convinced that killing those willing to die anyway can end the carnage. But in fact they manage to reinforce it, with great collateral damage: the same victims of terrorism—children, women, the poor.
Can the cycle of violence end? Just as lives are sacrificed on the altar of war and terror, so are lives offered on the altar of peace. Which is the better altar?
It must be clear by now that unless the pillars supporting the extremist psyche are dismantled, there is no way radicalization will end anytime soon. With the trend in Europe seemingly accelerating, the prospects in the United States cannot be far behind. The bombing of the Boston Marathon in April 2013 was but a preview of what could happen. With the liberal access to arms in America, the intelligence communities in all the armed agencies of the US government can have their hands full. Even lone wolves can sow fear and chaos, as shown by the intermittent mass killings in America.
The pillars that need to be dismantled are:
- The military-industrial establishments. War hawks, their primary advocates, will always justify counterviolence as the response to terrorism.
- The religious hierarchies. Their leaders have the responsibility to generate goodwill among their members, even those in the peripheries. The imperative is for the leaders themselves to be purged of the violence in their minds and hearts, where the war against terror begins. When a critical mass of individuals have conquered terror and violence in them, then authentic peace will truly have a chance. This requires no religion. This is a universal personal challenge.
- Passive elements in society who merely watch injustice being done on certain peoples. They may also be the victims, who simply allow themselves to be overrun by the surging firepower. They may be the United Nations, which has allowed the situation to reach the stage in which the world is now.
- Government leaders who have access to various options in responding to violence but choose to believe that destruction is the way.
- Certain institutions in the global media that, wittingly or unwittingly, present one-sided perspectives which serve to enhance inequities worldwide instead of promoting greater understanding and goodwill among peoples.
Dismantling these pillars can only happen under one universal truth: the absolute worth of each human person. Everyone, regardless of color, gender, age, creed, and status in society, is of the same absolute worth as the next one. There are no exceptions. The predisposition of each then becomes absolute respect for the other. Openness to dialogue becomes the norm.
The key to reaching this kind of disposition is knowing oneself, from where one proceeds. This is the challenge to self-enlightenment. Who am I? What is this life I live? Where is it destined, if it has destiny? The answer can be in my, in our, beginnings—as creations by One who is constantly with me, with us, and us with One. When we get to this belief, we need nothing more to prove who we are. We define ourselves as mirror reflections of the One. Everything becomes possible, including bringing peace to our messed-up world.
Amid the violence occurring in the world, “One God,” the song of unity popularized by Barbra Streisand and Johnny Mathis, is a beautiful piece for reflection: millions of stars put in the sky by one God; millions of us lifting up our eyes to one God; so many children calling to one God by a different name, one God loving each the same.
Peace is the only real option against the worst violence that humans can inflict against other humans. Let not the hawks overwhelm the doves.
Danilo S. Venida ([email protected]) holds undergraduate and postgraduate degrees from the University of the Philippines and the Center for Research and Communication/University of Asia and the Pacific. He is a former president of the Philippine Daily Inquirer and is now a business consultant.
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