Saturday, October 27, 2007

Martha Stout is Absolutely Brilliant-From the Paranoia Switch

...."In the same interview, Peters succinctly summarized his and our belief that envy is the prime motivating factor in terrorism: "You've heard it before, and its all too true. They hate us for our success."

This is an appealing hypothesis. Somehow, it simultaneously addresses our vanity concerning our relative wealth and progress, and the uneasy guilt we sometimes feel over the same blessings when we reflect on the plight of many of our fellow human beings. In addition, the notion that terrorists "hate us for our success" allows us to view the enemy as completely irrational, and conforms to experiences some of us have had with envious acquaintances who became hostile and unreasonable when we acquired or achieved something positive in our personal lives.

But this viewpoint is oversimplified and misleading. it soothes us somewhat, with an extra boost to our well-known sentiments of being biggest and best, but it also abandons us in a dangerous position of ignorance regarding the actual roots and possible futures of terrorism. Seen through lenses that color terrorists uniformly green, all terrorist events are utterly straightforward, and their goal is acheived immediately and almost by definition. Terrorists hate and envy us, and therefore they desire to hurt us and to destroy our accomplishments. Thus motivated, they carry out terrorist acts, which are, by their nature, extremely destructive and hurtful.

And there you have it:the terrorists' vengeful objective is achieved instantly, every time. Terrorism always works, and, after the fact, there is nothing we can do about it.

The playing field is not the one we think it is. Terrorism's most important aim is not to damage bodies or our material accomplishments or our governments, although these are certainly its most conspicuous effects. Rather, its most cherished ambition is to affect us psychologically, to instill a sense of helplessness....

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