Dear beautiful human, thank you for reading and thinking along with me for a few minutes. I hope that while you experience this post you are in a place that feels safe and good. I hope your body is comfortable. I hope you can easily call to mind images and the warmth of being with those you love; or that they are near. It has been a week on planet earth with deep, sharp reminders about how abruptly and senselessly these basic, vital joys can be destroyed.
I want everyone to think about terrorism, because getting used to the way the world has changed takes practice. And getting ready to changes the world also takes practice.
- Terrorism is the potent world order. It is not new. There is nothing new about violence as a tool wielded on a scale large enough to change borders, regimes, societies, and history. But I imagine it is new for many of us to take a deep breath and acknowledge that actions of the kind we have seen this week are not going to stop. This is the way it is now. And there is not a leader, or an army, or a coalition, or a campaign that will definitively bring this era to an end. As with other periods of constant intertribal and intercultural violence it is going to take an enlightenment.
- “Why?” is the wrong question. “How?” is somewhat helpful. “Who?” is actually immaterial now. “Where?” and “When?” have been answered. “Every populated place,” and “Until further notice.” The right question for this time and these acts is “What?” What is this? What can be done? What do I do? What has to change? What does the end of terrorism look like?
“Why?” is not a good question because these acts are not reasonable. No matter our own longing for attribution, explanation, patterns or predictive signals, terrorism is more like the destructive forces of disease or wildfire. When the conditions are right there will be an outbreak. This applies to both the conditions that incubate terrorists, and actual acts of terrorism.
“How?” is both a reasonable question and a reasonable tactic. If the building blocks of the tools of terror are harder to get, the terror will have to change, which offers a chance to control it. It seems frivolous, but a moment of levity is probably in order: if terrorists could be limited to historical weapons and modes of transport even a madding horde would be laughable. You could hear them miles off. The meme would get to any village before they did, and it’s hard to get through a tank-guarded checkpoint on a horse or a camel. Point: Is true international arms and chemicals control possible? How?
So. What? What do you do? I don’t know. But I am going to make something up.
Practice. Acknowledge living in a world in which terrorism is the norm. Acknowledge how scary that is. Be proud of how brave it is to have and act with an open mind and heart in that reality. Be that brave. Acknowledge how tiring it is to live in this reality. Find community to share that truth, and give you energy.
Do not give in to “Why?” and “Who?” Why is a distraction, and who is a division. Both of these are subtle tools of terrorism. Looking for a clear, satisfying reason that never comes will amplify fear. Defining a ‘them’ to our ‘us’ is isolating and deteriorates community, part of the ‘right conditions’ for terrorists/terrorism.
This statement is attributed to Ghandi: “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him.” This may have become: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Either way, challenging times in our civilization call on the individual to reflect on how they are contributing to and supporting a terrorism-free society. Learn about yourself, live better, set an idealistic example.
And if this post wasn’t long enough and you want some more food for thought about the incredibly loud and extremely close now, the perspective of the MI5 Director General is here.
“We are building up a new world … Builders must be strong. Courage, sisters, don’t get weary. Courage, brothers, don’t get weary. Courage, people, don’t get weary, though the way be long.” – Dr. Vincent Harding