We live in a terrorized world. There is a great deal of falsehood, an enormous amount of lying that comes from this fact. The main lie we spread around is that we are not scared. We try to put on that strong front and shrug the fear off. We pretend we are not afraid when everyone in power keeps telling us that we should be, when every news channel blankly or editorially relates yet another horror that his been inflicted upon the world.
So the real issue, of course, is how people respond to this buried fear. We can wonder why we are lying to ourselves, calling ourselves ‘brave’ or ‘patriotic,’ and claiming that we are righteous, and demand respect from the world for acknowledging we are something we are not. This is what leads to terrorism.
Take guns. I, personally, have a problem with guns. This is not to say that I believe they should be banned, nor that it isn’t wise for people to protect themselves in case of unforeseen emergencies. If someone is breaking into your house and coming at you with a knife, a gun is a pretty good option to protect yourself and your family. (And I am speaking with pure hypocrisy when I say that I ‘have a problem with guns.’)
But then we get into obsession, to what we will call for the sake of this argument ‘fanaticism.’ Have you ever seen or talked with a person who is simply too into guns? People that have a whole arsenal stockpiled in some locked room, and they talk lovingly as through explaining their fetish. It is all encoded in a numerical and brand-named language like a twelve year old girl boasting about her new wardrobe or a boy about his fancy new pair of Gucci sneakers (boys are the new girls when it comes to footwear).
Why does somebody need, say, 47 guns, of all different calibers, some semi-automatic, several of them bump-stocked into illegality? Why not just have three? Or four? Maybe as many as seven? You are not collecting in case of a zombie uprising (even if you were, eventually the zombies would win. Death claims everyone.)
Have you ever seen a gun-worshiping person’s internet web page, an erotic photo fronting it, with a series of sensuously lit sexual poses of guns guns guns guns guns? And the only commentary, other than stray political rants along the same theme, is not a defense of the second Amendment to the US Constitution, but is an outright attack on the illusory spirits they believe are somehow plotting in the dark to take their masturbatory toys away from them. It is a person with an arsenal shrieking about a world they see as not allowing them to believe what they believe.
If we go to the other side of the spectrum (and this is not to say that gun control is necessarily a right or left issue. Plenty of paranoid liberals have their own stockpiles out of fear that the right wing lunatics will try to take them away), but if we look for an equal and opposite rage, we can look to the radicals on the far left.
Like their counterparts on the right, these are people offended by everything and looking to blame anyone but themselves. They see their acts of disruption as somehow heroic, and use the same cold military term of ‘collateral damage’ that they condemn on the right to justify the violence and chaos they impose upon the world. They are anarchists, bringing to mind the dawn of the 20th century when you had bespectacled intellectuals in round bifocals and gray trench coats and hats, racing around Russia with sticks of dynamite and plans to blow up parliament. It hasn’t changed that much, has it? It comes from the same radical desire to change the world into how they want to see it, and does not consider killing other people a crime.
I understand why people on the right were hesitant to call the recent mail bomber one of their own, because history shows us that most of the right-wing terrorists shoot groups of people both targeted and randomly, not blow them up. Terrorism, for that matter, has traditionally been thought of as more a left-wing phenomenon than one on the reactionary right.
This is not true.
Terrorism is a further extension of both fanaticism and radicalism, forming a whole new view: fundamentalism. The term might be replaced with absolutism, meaning that there is only one acceptable view and that anyone in defiance needs to be eliminated. This happened during the Spanish Inquisition, throughout the many holocausts that have slaughtered entire cultures throughout the ages. This absolutism infects the far extremes of every belief system, and slowly consumes the moral outlook of the middle.
As an example of this point we inevitably must discuss Radical Islam, the most famous and destructive terrorists of today. Here we have an apocalyptic cult of death worshipers who see the future through the lens of the distant past. They are in favor of a reformation so severe that most people in the world are not welcome. Their laws are strict and the punishment is death. Their absolutist views are the most restrictive in the world, caging their women in costumes where only the eyes can be seen. And remember, this is dominantly in Middle and Southern Asia, or in Northern Africa. These are not cold climates. All women are made to suffer. These are the same cultures that will file a woman’s clitoris off because she is not allowed to experience pleasure, only the occasional joy of giving birth to a boy.
And yet in the West the right somehow considers these people liberals. The American right wing are liberals in this context. They may be every bit as restrictively religious, and might even dream of filing body parts off of men and women as well, but they are tempered by their conflicted beliefs between law and order and their very angry God.
Radicalism, Fundamentalism, Fanaticism and Terrorism are all intimately related. This is why we can evenly call a radical a fanatic or fundamentalist and see them sink into committing acts of terror. We exist in a terrorized world. And this can only make more fanatics and more radicals. The fringes are closing in on the terrified center. Who will be the next to fall?