Hearing the news of the past week, I was deeply disturbed by the horrific, deadly attacks in Paris. Even more disturbing have been the political reactions to that news with one exception.
The exception was a report I heard on National Public Radio. I can’t remember the name of the person. He is someone who has studied close at hand for the last 15 years, terrorism and its successful efforts to recruit young people as soldiers and suicide bombers.
In the interview with him, he expressed his great disappointment. He went on to explain that it is not “rocket science” how these movements recruit young men and women into their ranks and how utterly lacking the leadership has been to do something about it.
It was a relief in a way to hear one voice of sanity in the midst of all the chaos of political insanity. This man pointed out that the reason these movements can recruit young people is that these young people have no better options: options like education; jobs; financial viability, and social inclusion.
These young people are looking for purpose and these movements give them a purpose, however insane, a purpose that addresses their deep disappointments in their life. It is still something they can dedicate themselves to, something they can be included in, not isolated from, which speaks to how much they are looking for a purpose and something to be part of.
If we as Western cultures provided them with a meaningful purpose that was supported by opportunities in education and social, spiritual and emotional empowerment with a meaningful community, we could end terrorism.
However, that is not what the political hierarchies are pointing towards or asking for. They are just intent on more division, fear, and deadly attacks, providing more examples of how meaningless and purposeless our culture has become.
After hearing this one voice of sanity it occurred to me, on one hand how insane are the governors and candidates who are calling for isolationism, ‘keep the Syrians out of our country because buried in them there might be one terrorist.’
Well, what is clear is that the internet can reach all, everywhere. Through the world wide web, people are being radicalized whatever their nationality, wherever they are. Radicalization is not hindered by strong national borders. Even without Islamic radicalism, in our country, there are more and more mass shootings by young men who suffer the same alienation as those radicalized to Islam but without that religious connotation.
People like the young man who shot the nine black people in the prayer meeting in Charlestown earlier this year. His ‘religion’ was white supremacy. But the cause was the same and the fundamental needs behind terrorism. That cause that no one in leadership is addressing is the lack of high quality education, opportunites for meaninful, purposeful social connection and the opportunity to be productive, creative and financially effective.
Unfortunately we fail to make our own children a priority with our inability to give parental leave after childbirth. So right from birth, babies are not a priority. It continues from there. Children are not a priority. Young people are not a priority.
Our educational system is in ruin for lack of funding. When public education was set up in this country, it was funded by property tax because the greatest wealth of our country at that time was in agriculture and property was the capital of agriculture. Now property tax is simply another tax on families and homes, for the most part, just burdening families and children further.
The real wealth of this country now is in corporations. What would make sense and would be aligned with the original thinking about education is a great tax on corporations that funded education directly. So It wouldn’t be dependent on bake sales to try to meet its needs.
Then perhaps we could attract brilliant teachers with the salaries they deserve. Then perhaps our educational system would serve every one of our children with the best possible resources and would continue through college as needed in these times.
If we made that commitment as a country, to make children and young people and their needs a priority, we could stop radical terrorism and mass shootings in all forms in their tracks. Unfortunately, we are far from such a commitment. So I expect that mass killings and terrorism are with us for the foreseeable future.
So another approach is needed that is dependent on each of us, who can find it in ourselves to take responsibility for the epidemic craziness of the culture in which we live.
For on the deeper reality, the violence we are witnessing is the outward projection of the violence we tolerate within ourselves in the form of our egos and false identities. In each moment we make a choice to love that person in front of us or not. We choose to either judge that person in front of us and simultaneously ourselves, as unworthy, or to forgive and honor both ourselves and them, at that moment or not.
This moment to moment choice contributes to the dynamic reality of the Oneness within which we are all embedded. Our moment to moment energetic contribution to that Oneness is our responsibility. We can wake up to it and our essential purpose in life or not. The choice is ours, and each of us makes that choice in every moment.
This is what has come home to me this week in a way that is deeper and more profound, less intellectual and more heartfelt than ever before.
The real power of each of our souls is Love. It begins with honoring ourselves deeply enough to Realize, Live and Act from That Love. It is easy to be mesmerized into believing falsely that such interior actions are powerless to affect something so seemingly powerful as terrorism. Challenging this lie within ourselves may be the most important action of our lifetime.The roots of terrorism and mass shootings is our collective abandonment of children and young people. Providing them with education, purpose and a means of being positive, productive and creative is the solution. It starts with each of us and the Power of our Love.