Why Terrorism?

World Trade Center's South tower explosion - 2001

Since the November 13, 2015 attack on Paris, France, there have been 11 terrorist attacks all over the world, not including the hundreds taking place in the Middle East, which are part of a ongoing struggle.

Some of these places such as Ankara (Turkey) and Istanbul (Turkey) have been attacked multiple times. What makes these terrorist groups commit such horrible crimes against other people? Why do terrorist groups simply attack others with these seemingly one-time events?

First off we need to define a few terms just so we are all on the same page with this. According to Dictionary.com, terrorism is defined as “the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes”.

Both terrorist groups and some gangs are seen to exhibit this type of behavior. For example, the April 2015 Baltimore riots that seemed to be instigated over the death of a gang member, who was in police custody.

Also keep in mind that every culture sees groups of fighters differently. For example, to people of Jewish decent, World War 2 Nazis could be considered terrorists. Another example would be those that we deem as heroes and fighters, who went to Afghanistan after the 2001 attack on the Twin Towers, could also be considered terrorists to many people in that region. There were many reports and people reportedly saying that American troops were seen as “invaders” and/or “occupiers”.

It should be noted that many of the 9/11 attackers were from Saudi Arabia and none from Afghanistan but also to be clear, this piece is not targeting any particular violent group.

But the question here remains, why do people join terrorists or any other violent group?

According to a study done at Pennsylvania State University, psychologist John Horgan reveals that people who are more open to being recruited by terrorist groups:

“Feel angry, alienated or disenfranchised. Believe that their current political involvement does not give them the power to effect real change. Identify with perceived victims of the social injustice they are fighting. Feel the need to take action rather than just talking about the problem. Believe that engaging in violence against the state is not immoral. Have friends or family sympathetic to the cause. [And] Believe that joining a movement offers social and psychological rewards such as adventure, camaraderie and a heightened sense of identity.”

But the big question is how? How are these fellow human beings able to resort to such violent methods to get a point across?

Dr. Bruce Perry who is an authority on brain development and studies on children in crisis, wrote an article reflecting on the Columbine shooting and explained why some violence happens.

He explains that people are more prone to violence when they have easier access to weapons, when they are desensitized to violence, when they believe that other groups of people are very different from them when really, they are not or when they are not unified by a certain belief, and the fact that we as a species have used our brains to become more proficient at killing.

Before the advent of deadly projectiles and their launchers such as guns, arrows, bombs, and catapults you might only be able to get away with killing a person or two with a knife or a rock (unless you set some kind of big trap which you probably didn’t do unless you caught a human by accident while waiting for a delicious herbivore).

Now that we have all of these killing tools it’s easier to eliminate more people with less effort.

So when you mix disenfranchisement, a feeling of political stagnation, and a sense of purpose, with easily accessible weapons, desensitization to violence, and mental and emotional boundaries between groups of people you get the ideal ingredients to create a violent group of people dedicated to a cause.

But why is violence so effective?

Violence can be effective because of the fear it instills in people, the fear of getting killed or someone they care about getting killed and far too often the only way to fight fire is with fire. Violence gets people’s attention. Once you have someone’s attention then you can explain your cause or use brute force to get them to obey you. The most powerful aspect to this kind of violence is that it is not random. The dedication and passion of the perpetrators is what makes this type of violence so effective.

I personally do not approve of violence as the first move to make on a crusade for a cause. As humans we all have the capacity to see logic and use it to solve problems and connect with people so that we can understand them and they can understand us.

As unfortunate as this is, not many other people see that and violence such as this actually prevents others from seeing the purpose behind all of the violence.

Using violence gets a group less sympathy for their cause which just means that more violence has to be used. Regardless of the reason why violence was chosen as the means to the end one thing is certain.

If someone has something to say, just shut up and listen so there is no need to resort to violence and this goes for everyone! I guess that’s just too hard for most of the folks in charge.




"Why Terrorism?" by Nia Hope is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at http://wp.me/p45QXk-QK. Creative Commons License, [Image by Robert via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0]

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