Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Anatomy of Terrorism

When somebody commits a rape, or a murder in cold blood, do we ponder about the reasons why he did that ? Do we worry about the socio-political reasons, or economic reasons behind the crime ? No.

Then, why is it that people break their heads over the reasons behind terrorist acts ? Several intelligent and well-meaning people are linking the Mumbai murders with the Kashmir issue, Muslim subjugation in India and so on.

This is all nonsense. The reason is simple and plain. A person who killed innocent civilians in cold blood did that because he found pleasure in doing that. There are some people like that twisted in the brain; we should accept this fact. There will always be paedophiles on this planet. Likewise, there will always be serial killers and rapists. And there will always be terrorists.

We can sure try to understand what motivated them for their crimes. At the core of their beliefs, all criminals feel they are victims. "Oh poor little me. The world is out against me.", is how any criminal thinks. This thinking is an elaborate ploy to erase their conscience - if it exists, before they proceed with the pleasure of murdering other people.

No, the question that we need to ask is not "What is the motivation behind a terrorist act ?", but "How come murderous people like these get the guns, money and political backing to carry their games ? ". Let me answer this question in this post.

When treated on an individual by individual basis, human society will never accept the pleasure of murdering, raping and pillaging other human beings as the right of a person. However, these acts get a social acceptance when it is thought that

  1. There is a group that is entirely pure, virtuous and shining.
  2. This group is being oppressed and violently being subjugated.
A chillingly vast majority of people actually subscribe to these simplistic black-and-white combo of (1) and (2). Not all of them will do murders, obviously. The actual acts will only be commited by a special few - who actually take pleasure in the murder of other human beings. But by believing in (1) and (2), an enormous section of people are willing to turn a blind eye on their consciences. This mixture of (1) and (2) is a poisonous addictive drug that consumes the soul of a human being.

I will give you a few examples to justify my theory.
  • In Nazi germany, it was thought that (1) the Nordic race is pure and shining (2) this race is being humiliated in the world in various forms. This heady mixture of ideas soon consumed an entire country, and precipitated the second world war, and the holocaust of Jews. Not every German person did murder obviously, these acts were only commited by a select few individuals - which are present in all human societies. But the rest of the population gave power, guns and political backing to them.
  • In the Bolshevik revolution (or during the French revolution), people are led to believe that (1) only the working class is pure and honest, the rest are a bunch of thieves and cronies (2) the working class is being oppressed. This led people to actually murder the royals and feudal lords, including women and children. Again, the actual murders were commited by a select few people. The rest gave them power and guns.
  • In most of the independence movements (or separatist movements, depending on how you think) around the world, violent agitators subscribe that (1) their country is pure and virtuous, and that the occupiers are filthy and (2) their country is being oppressed.
Neither (1) or (2) are sufficient by themselves to provide social justification for murder, but taken together they do a very good job. For example,
  • During the civil rights movement, the Black people acknowledged that (2) they were oppressed. But they did not necessarily think that (1) they are pure and virtuous, to the exclusion of other people. This is the reason the civil rights movement maintained a dignity and proceded by non-violent means.
  • A lot of people still harbour racist feelings thinking (1) that their community is the best and most influential. But they don't necessarily think that (2) that community is being oppressed.
  • A lot of scientists think that they are (1) an elite class, at a level above the others. But they don't think (2) they are being oppressed as a community.
  • Indian independence movement was a hugely non-violent effort because even though (2) people thought they were being oppressed by the British, they did not think that (1) Indian culture was the best and the purest in the world. In fact, most of the freedom fighters were very open and welcoming to western culture. (A few groups did hate western influences, and these groups used violent means).
  • The Tibetan movement (atleast the majority headed under Dalai Lama) thinks that (2) they are being oppressed by the Chinese but they do not think that (1) their religion is the only truth or that their people are superior to the Chinese people.
Now coming down to specifics, I am quite terrified of two ideas that are increasingly gaining mainstream acceptance in India.
  • There is a large section of Muslims who believe that (1) Islam is the only path to God, and that every other religion is a falsehood (2) Muslims are being oppressed in the world. I don't find fault with either (1) or (2) - though both of these appear quite simplistic and silly to any intelligent person. But put together, they are as lethal as RDX.
  • There is a growing section of Hindus who think that (1) Hindu land is the fountain of all culture and civilization in the world - atom bombs, space ships etc were all invented by ancient Indians (2) Hindus were slaughtered throughout history by Muslims and continue to be oppressed. Either (1) or (2) is an intellectually shallow argument. But put together, they can result in the rape of Christian nuns, or in the murder of Muslim shopkeepers.
Of course, these are not the only set of dangerous ideas in India. Often, there are racist idealogues who think the Thakur-race/Kashmiri-race/Naga-race is superior to the Harijan-race/Hindu-race/Indian-race.

Whatever be the idealogy, there are huge media networks which publicize this type of information. Often, they put graphic images and videos to show how brutal the oppression is. They evoke images of young innocent girls getting raped, or pregnant mothers getting their bellies torn open. At the same vein, these people propagandize about how glorious and pure their religion/race is.

These media networks are not illegal. In fact, they are free to publicise in mosques, temples and even schools. In today's internet era, there are a huge number of blogs / youtube channels which do this propaganda. None of the people who do this propaganda are poor or uneducated. They are all talented and successful people, who are just addicted to a drug of black-and-white.

This type of propaganda is nothing short of an indictment to murder. So the next time I hear the dual propaganda of Muslims as a community being oppressed and Muslims being the purest religion, I will face the propagandist with my complaint. I will act similarly if I hear the same from a Hindutva propagandist.

Though rare, some of these rich and educated people who do propaganda might even be itching for some real blood. A high ranking professional working for Yahoo in Bangalore became a key planner for the Indian Mujahideen terrorist group. Ayman al Jawahari was working as a qualified doctor in Egypt, before he became an Al Qaeda chief. Any successful terrorist operation (the recent Mumbai carnage included) has several extremely intelligent , rich and qualified individuals behind the operations table.

However, the actual foot soldiers who murder people (and usually get killed by police) do not come from rich families. A rich person would never waste his precious life away for a minor thing - killing a dozen people that he hates. The actual terrorists come from poor families, with limited education opportunities. They usually have personal problems - like a failed love affair.

But most importantly, both rich and poor, these guys take pleasure in murder. Their brains are twisted.

Under normal circumstances, such a twisted brain is not dangerous. But under these special circumstances of propaganda drugs, such a person has no barriers of conscience to overcome. Such a person readily finds guns, money, political backing and social acceptance to carry out his secret games of pleasure.

And these games of pleasure will shatter families, will break the hearts of several loved ones, and will make us lose several caring, pious or creative human beings.

What can we do ?
  1. We can never eradicate such people. So it is always good to be prepared.
  2. We can reduce the pool of suicidal recruits, by removing poverty and illiteracy (though this is a huge task)
  3. We can actively look for hate speech of the (1)+(2) mixture that I talked about. We can try making this type of propaganda illegal. Or if we do not want to sacrifice free speech, make this hate speech conditional to continuous police surveillance of the person who makes this speech.
  4. We can try to have democratic governments - which act as a nice filter to eliminate these kind of twisted people from capturing political power.
  5. We make the army and police swear total alleigance to the people of the nation, and never should they think they are superior to the civilian citizens. We monitor for people of the "twisted brain" syndrome before we present them with any weapons.
Irrespective of our individual differences or ideologies (whether one is a fundamentalist Hindu or a fundamentalist Muslim, whether one is a patriotic Indian or a patriotic Pakistani, whether one is a Communist or a Libertarian), we should make a commitment to all these 5 steps. Otherwise there is no future for any ideology, because the future of our very humanity is at stake.


Inure said...

Never ever I had read so in depth to the point study on terrorism....Really - Hats off to you.

Keep writing...

Anonymous said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



Ray Lightning said...

Hi Inure

Thanks very much for your kind comments :)

I write very occasionally on my blog, but I was really motivated to write on terrorism after this sad incidant in Mumbai.

Inure said...

Just to add one more case in point.

Recently, we have hate speech campaign by Mr. Raj Thackery - which again is based on the mentioned premise:

1.) Maratha group that is entirely pure, virtuous and shining.
2.) This group is being oppressed due to infiltration by North Indians (Note: Its not money loaded Gujjus or Southies - Its only money stripped weaker working class from North India, who is anti Marathi).

This again is just as dangerous as (perhaps more than) the terrorist who attacked on 26/11.

Atanu said...

I have hardly seen such an indepth knowledge, analysis & insight. Specially that whirlpool 1-2 is real eye-opener. That even happens in our daily life, with shop-keeper, with bus conductors, with the security guards in office.

Atanu Chatterjee