The Scariest Thing About Terrorism - And It Isn't The Terrorists.
I wrote this post literally a day before a terrorist attack occurred in Pakistan on the 27th March claiming 70+ lives. It will put the facts within the post into even more context.
It was a day like any other in the life of an 11-year old in England. Get up at 7am begrudgingly to get ready for school. Make sure my backpack has everything I need for the day, grab my snack for break-time, and head out the door. It’s September so it’s still warm, but there’s a cool morning chill following me the familiar route I walk each day.
Tutor group merges into first break, then it’s maths. UH MATHS, followed by, English, much better! Finally some dreaded P.E, nobbly pale knee’s in over-sized football shorts. Not long and I am on my way back to the comfort of home.
I walk into the house and through to the dining room where the tiny fat-backed 90's TV is playing the news. I see two really tall slate grey buildings, with black smoke bellowing from them up to the blue cloudless skies over New York.
Okay... so a really big fire has started, but in both buildings, how is that possible? Then I begin to realize this wasn’t a fire started from some normal reason, as the grave newsreader confirms that two planes had flown into the buildings, on purpose.
But why on earth would that happen?
It was that day in 2001, that terrorism became a part of my vocabulary and that of my peers, and my parents, and everyone who before that day associated the term with a few random events of the past, some close to home like the IRA bombings. Suddenly a new kind of terrorism was in our homes, on our televisions, happening on a grand and devastating scale we had never witnessed.
But terror, the word without ism at the end, the word meaning horror and dread, was also about to become the experience of 11-year-olds elsewhere in the world. I was witnessing terrorism from the comfort of my middle-class English home, and whilst people suddenly felt a little less safe in their western world, many of us couldn’t have foreseen who the true victims would be over the next few years.
I was confused, and scared, but I wasn’t frightened of a hoard of angry people coming into my country and killing me, and that I might just be collateral damage. I felt like I would be protected by my country and that I was ultimately safe.
I wasn’t an 11-year-old in Afghanistan (or later, Iraq).
- Since the year 2000 terrorism has risen exponentially, with over 61,000 thousand terrorist attacks claiming the lives of 140,000 people. Source
- Between 2004 - 2013, 60% of terrorism fatalities occurred in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Source
- Something like 21,000 civilians have died in Afghanistan over the course of the 13 years that the western world sought revenge against Al Qaeda. Source
- Half a million civilians are thought to have died in Iraq. Source
- ISIS are not the most murderous of the terror groups Source - Nigeria based Boko Haram killed nearly 7000 people in 2014, 600 more people than ISIS did that year.
- “Over the past 15 years, only 4.4 per cent of attacks and 2.6 per cent of deaths were in Western countries. However, attacks in Western countries are among the deadliest. Four major terrorists attacks (the September 11 attacks in the US, the Madrid train bombings, the Norwegian massacre and the London bombings) account for 90 per cent of those deaths” - Source
- 70 per cent of registered refugees come from the 20 deadliest countries for terrorist attack's- Source
The cold hard facts are difficult to read. But what I notice is that out of those 61,000 terrorist attacks, I know without consulting the stat’s, the vast majority of those did not affect us in the West.
“Between 2004-2013, the UK suffered 400 terrorist attacks, mostly in Northern Ireland, and almost all of them were non-lethal. The US suffered 131 attacks, fewer than 20 of which were lethal. France suffered 47 attacks. But in Iraq, there were 12,000 attacks and 8,000 of them were lethal.”
THE MEDIA CARES MORE ABOUT WHITE DEATH'S
Across some media there is a focus on mourning the losses and trying to redirect energy to remembrance, not mentioning the perpetrators of these attacks. We see a sea of faces and names whose lives were cruelly cut short, at the hands of terrorism. But really, their murder was pre-ordained thanks to the actions of western governments. Our governments signed their death warrants when it too has brought terror to the doors of the Middle East in its quest for revenge. Simon Critchley puts it correctly: “When we act out of revenge, what we will receive in return is revenge”.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the westernised world have been guilty of blatant ignorance in regards to the plight of Muslim people in war-torn places in the middle-east, because the fear that terrorism has generated has stimulated a rise in racist ideologies among western society. Sympathy and empathy in the media are constantly directed at people and places closer to home.
But I do think some mainstream people and outlets are starting to comment more on this bias, publicly, and are having conversations about terrorism on a global scale, not merely a local one. But it might be too little too late.
A small sect of extremist Muslim people have shown unimaginable disregard for life and launched these grand spectacles of horror. Horror that some just can’t wrap our heads around without reverting to hateful prejudice. Muslim people have had no choice but to wrap their heads around violence and senseless death; they are the victims of a small contingent of their own people, who take their religion and bastardize it in the name of murder and revenge. Recent extremist terrorist organizations don’t just target the west, they target those on their own doorstep:
There is a wider issue of course, of how in amongst society we react to terrorism when its close to home differently to when it’s far away. Yasin Aktay writes:
“Apparently, the refugees that are deemed fitting for Istanbul and Ankara are deemed unworthy of Europe.... It is a pity that terrorism is not universally opposed simply because it is terror and because it is a crime against humanity... Some terrorist acts cause no great consternation because they are viewed as functional by some.”
We have not merely a geographical distance but a real shortfall in empathy and care for these far away victims. We either see terrorism as a common part of their daily lives (which is desperately sad) and thus react less, or we just fail to identify with an innocent sect of people because they display the religious markers of the very same people killing white westerners.
And therefore, the scariest thing about terrorism, is that it works, long after the initial impact of an attack. It permeates across society and creates tension, prejudice and violence. It can unite victims not in peace, but in a desire for revenge.
A successful terrorist attack is one that inspires an undercurrent of fear that eventually leads to all out race and religious war. Which is what the intention of terrorism truly is. And when that happens, that is when terrorism truly does reach every doorstep in the western world. The undercurrent of fear doesn’t just affect those predisposed to xenophobia, it flows consistently enough that it penetrates the minds of whole cities, then whole countries.
GOVERNMENTS BENEFITING FROM TERRORISM
The powerful in the world are playing on the fears of its people to benefit their own agendas. Don’t even get me started on Hitler Part Two, Donald Trump. That’s a whole blog post in itself. But I can’t be bothered to give oxygen to his plight, when the plight of the true victims of terrorism is more important. Trump and his policies are to Muslim people what Hitler was to the Jewish.
You cannot eradicate a threat forever by using catastrophic and indiscriminate force, one that ultimately will have as much success at claiming many innocent victims as it will in claiming terrorist lives. And those innocent victims won’t all be wiped out, they will leave behind families, maybe children, who will grow up feeling like bug’s that were lucky they didn’t get squashed by the ruthless strength of the west.
And what kind of mindset does being born into a world of conflict create? You got it, a terrorist mindset. Because before a terrorist becomes a murderer, he or she was a victim, be of manipulation, brainwashing, or circumstance.
The only way, and I believe the best way, to try and overcome the terrorism of recent and past groups, is to band together and show some bloody compassion, and really look at our ignorance and short-falls in knowledge. Too long have we been blind and blinded to the plight of the real victims of terrorism, thanks to media bias and its focus on terrorist attacks close to home. It acts as a diversion away from us questioning the role our governments play in creating the perfect political situation where terrorism can thrive.
In the very least, I urge people to seek the facts, and understand terrorism from the ground up.
Whilst you can’t fully ever understand or explain the motives of a murderer, a person whom chooses to attach a bomb to themselves, end their life in a gruesome manner, and kill other innocents in the process; you need to try. We all need to recognize what it is that makes people join terrorist organizations, and appreciate the role our governments play in that. And for god-sake, don’t let the fear turn to hate.
Remember the mindset of that 11 year old you once were, when the world was revealing itself to you, and you were being indoctrinated with prejudice and judgement. Remember what it felt like to not understand hate, and to have an inquisitive mind, one that could of have been shaped to seek knowledge, empathy and the facts about the way this world works, and the way it is slowly destroying itself. Read this is you want to see one view on governments creating terrorism:
SOMETHING TO TAKE AWAY FROM THIS
I am not 11 any more, I am in a better position to comprehend the world and the corruptness of our governments, but none the wiser on how to fix it. I am not big on global policy or how far we are away from enforcing things which exact positive change. I am aware though of how the likes of Donald Trump, and racist hate groups, are like gasoline on this raging fire:
So I choose to look to those who preach something real and true, something that me at 11, and me at 25, can believe in. Whilst I might be an atheist, with some strong views on religion, I can definitely get behind those of religious influence who spread a message preaching sense and compassion.
“People want to lead a peaceful lives. The terrorists are short-sighted, and this is one of the causes of rampant suicide bombings. We cannot solve this problem only through prayers. I am a Buddhist and I believe in praying. But humans have created this problem, and now we are asking God to solve it. It is illogical. God would say, solve it yourself because you created it in the first place. We need a systematic approach to foster humanistic values, of oneness and harmony. If we start doing it now, there is hope that this century will be different from the previous one. It is in everybody’s interest. So let us work for peace within our families and society, and not expect help from God, Buddha or the governments.” - The Dalai Lama
Thanks for reading!
Hannah and Taran here. We hail from Southern England, where we met online and are now realizing our mutual passion for travel here at NomaderHowFar. We discuss Nomadic Living, Simplifying your Life and Long-term Travel, to empower, motivate and inspire our readers. Get to know us here!
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