When we started this mini unit on terrorism, I was expecting to study organized crime, careful planning and precise motives. I was expecting to see groups made up of individuals with so much wisdom about the world that they decided violence was the only option left. As we started to learn about the student-run RAF, the disconnected factions of FARC and the poverty-stricken South African citizens rising up against colonial powers however, my perspective shifted. I began to see that a level of ignorance was not only a common trait in terrorist organizations but an active ingredient in their existence. I do not mean that the people who join terrorist organizations have low intelligence or are incapable, but rather that key information is either missing within the group or in the external world’s understanding of them. Through the examples of militant groups we explored this week, I have come to understand that ignorance is a key factor that allows terrorism to thrive.
Example: The Shining Path
As I have talked about them in previous posts, I will not go into detail about the history of the militant Shining Path organization. All that is important to understand about this Peruvian group is that their leader Abimael Guzmán appealed to poor citizens with a goal of overthrowing the government who neglected them. Many of these citizens lived with little education or connection to the outside world due to their economic shortcomings and thus did not understand the political and military obstacles the group would have to face to achieve its mission. Those perhaps educated in governmental affairs would understand that such a radical approach had a seldom chance of success, but as many of these individuals did not understand this they followed the ex-professor Guzmán’s claims that violence was the only way to prosperity.
Example: Youth Terrorism
In 2019, a citizen in the U.K. was convicted for plotting a terrorist attack. The disturbing part about this was that this citizen was 13, the youngest person in the country to be tried for such a crime. What makes this even more unsettling is that they represent a global trend with youth becoming increasingly militant due to media access. It is just as easy to look up a fascist forum on Google as it is look up a math question and youths are getting increasingly sucked in to the coercive arguments of older extremists. In the USA, The Department of Homeland Security acknowledged the importance of supporting this vulnerable population to prevent them falling into the trap of terror but have yet to take substantial action. This points to an ignorance of just how capable and dangerous youth can be when left unattended and their ability to navigate the online world to find dark corners. There is an underestimation in the power of the young and this can and has led to devastating terror consequences (e.g. school shootings).
Example: The Psychology of Suicide Bombers
Another cause of youth committing terrible actions such as school shootings is a ignorance of the terror psychology. This ignorance unfortunately stems far past just youth to the rest of the population. For example, our society believes that suicide bombers from terror organizations are mentally sound individuals who are merely so fanatical about their cause that they are willing to die for it. Research has shown however that many of these bombers suffer from a number of mental health conditions such as extreme anxiety and depression and use martyrdom as a method to relieve personal pain. In fact, the religion of Islam forbids suicide unless done as an act of martyrdom which leads some followers of this faith to turn to it as their only option. If we are to stop these terror events from impacting our society we must educate ourselves about this psychology so we can help individuals through their struggles instead of merely combatting the causes they fight for.
Whether it is in the members themselves or those looking into the terrorist organizations, ignorance plays a key role in the proliferation of terrorism. It can lead a person to join a terrorist organization, prevent the world from realizing the path they are on and limit the resources available to them to get help. Before we combat these situations any further, we must first combat this ignorance if we are to truly win the war of terrorism.
This will be my final post on terrorism as we are moving onto a unit about cults (stay tuned for some exciting content on that!) I have been throughly wowed, shocked and scared by what I have learned about these various groups over the past week and a half and am interested in continuing this learning into the future. As for my in-class learning, I will be attempting to take a different approach with my blogs moving forward after discussing my approach with my teachers. I believe it would be better for my reflection to focus on the learning process and use content to support this instead of making it the bulk of my post. I also (re)learned that MLA does not mean making a bibliography but rather creating a citations list that you cite in the text itself (quite good to know). I will keep what I learned in mind moving forward and am quite excited to tackle the world of cults.
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