There would be no terrorism if the promises of western civilisation were met. If (for example) a young Muslim boy could grow up in an outer suburb of Paris or Brussels, pass through an effective education system that enabled him to find and hold down a job – and feel good about himself while doing so – and then find a life partner, raise a family, grow old in security, die in peace – there would be no terrorism.
People choose to become terrorists. They don’t choose terrorism from a list of good alternatives; they choose it over despair, futility, poverty, hunger. I believe terrorism, like juvenile crime, is now entrenched in our culture. To defeat – or minimise – terrorism means giving young people a meaningful life.
To think of terrorism as an external threat emanating from the Middle East is to think in the terms of past wars. Terrorism is what happens when people lose hope. Yes, there are wars in the Middle East, and we started them, but if the promises were met, those wars would stay in the Middle East. A distant war doesn’t necessarily breed domestic terrorism.
I’ve left out anger – anger that the state is wrong, and/or anger that the state is betraying its promise. “The West” holds out a promise that is barely met at any level – the loudest promises of the food industry – the food industry! – emanate from the makers of the fastest, least healthy food. We don’t ban cigarettes; we tax them to fund healthcare. Paper currency – backed by gold, ha ha?
It’s tempting to quote Yeats – the centre cannot hold – except that the rough beast is already among us and might trigger a necessary catharsis. The centre is structurally unsound, at state as well as regional level.
I take a “physician, heal thyself” (as in: western civilisation, heal thyself) attitude to today’s terrorism. Yes, it’s difficult. Yes, a perfectly healed society is unattainable, but the more effective direction of travel would be towards social care and attention, healing, education, positive change – rather than yet another “war on terror”.
That’s why I find it so awful that their religious leaders are only ever countered by our secular leaders.