Kemal Sayar

Daily Sabah - THE FANATIC MINDSET AND TERRORISM

Basında Biz

THE FANATIC MINDSET AND TERRORISM

THE FANATIC MINDSET AND TERRORISM

 

KEMAL SAYAR, MD

Professor of Psychiatry, Marmara University Medical School

 

The Fanatic Mindset

 

The mainstream standpoint in understanding terrorism is this: be it terrorism, or something else, all actions and attitudes are connected to social and political foundations. In a world where the grandiose phantasies of some world leaders has become 'politics', one should begin by addressing the hijacking of the word terrorism. It has been said that one person's freedom fighter is another's terrorist. Terrorism is the institutional violence of the fundamentalist. Locating this word to the non-Western world may indeed hide the state sponsored terrorism of the US or Israel. Bearing this in mind, in this paper I will mostly focus on the dynamics of ideological fanaticism and how this might be fuelling the rising violence in our geography.

 

 

The psycho-politics of violence

 

Eric Hoffer, in his book “The True Believer”, writes that individuals who have faced disappointment and lack fulfilment, find it easy to sacrifice their lives in order to give meaning and importance to a life they find meaningless. These individuals attempt to escape their own selves through fanatical views that allows their own identities to be swallowed by a group identity. The appeal of mass movements comes not from the doctrine or principles, but the fact that they promise an escape from the hidden anxiety, loneliness and meaninglessness within human existence.

 

In organizations which view destruction and terror as a legitimate tool, the hatred of the marginalised is used to create group loyalty. Hatred serves as glue which holds together gives the illusion of power to individuals who see themselves to be powerless, downtrodden and oppressed. With this feeling, the sense of oppression is converted into power and legitimacy. He is now a chosen being and whoever does not stand on his side is the ‘damned’.

 

We have expressed the fact that organisations that use hatred as a political tool benefit from denial and projection as defence mechanisms, projecting the things that they don’t like about themselves onto their ‘enemies’ in order to turn their enemies into objects of hatred. We define whose a stranger, a ‘barbarian’, an ‘infidel’. When hatred becomes violence, the mute gain a voice. Violence can be defined as a situation, duration or relationship in which an individual or group, infringes on the physical or societal integrity of another individual or group. A violence which has condemned the world into lethal inequalities exists right now under the name of ‘globalisation’. McWorld celebrates market ideology with its commitment to the privatization of all things public and the commercialization of all things private. A view which suggests that civilisation and high values are in the monopoly of white Westerners defines its own habits, life styles, values and skin colour as superior to others, whom they see as the exemplification of ugliness and evil. Those who oppose us are ‘axis of evil’ or the ‘enemies of our lifestyle’.  Wilfred Bion defines paranoid-schizoid and depressive positions as the two fundamental stances in the psychic lives of individuals. In the paranoid-schizoid position we indulge in extreme splits, e.g., between love and hate, good and evil, as and them, treat others not as full humans but as part objects and indulge in hostile accusation and attribute guilt in a brittle, punitive way. When people are frightened by the threat of terrorism as well as the government's exploitative use of it, the denial of vulnerability alternates with overwhelming feelings of impotence. Fantasies of being rescued by a strong leader/parent combine Life's with wishes of revenge.  The inability to tolerate ambiguity produces a bifurcated view of the world as good and bad, with the tendency to identify with an all-powerful  goodness while all that is bad is projected on to a demonized other who becomes the target for aggressive attacks. This split constitutes a manic defence that protects against the anxiety of helplessness.  The more frightened and angry we are, the more difficult it becomes to separate and individuate from the authority of the government and its discourse, especially when they promise  safety in a dangerous world. Life's experiences activate primitive reactions, leading us to rationalize and project our unconscious phantasies onto the world in the hope of assuaging them and getting control over the things that threaten us.

 

Fundamentalism revisited

 

Karen Armstrong has written about fundamentalism at depth. I quote her : 'Fundamentalists do not regard their battle as a conventional political struggle, but experience it as a cosmic war between the forces of good and evil. They fear annihilation, and they try to fortify their beleaguered identity by means of a selective retrieval of certain doctrines and practices of the past. To avoid contamination, they often withdraw from mainstream society to create a counter culture; yet fundamentalists are not impractical dreamers. They have absorbed the pragmatic rationalism of modernity, and, under the guidance of their charismatic leaders, they refine these 'fundamentals' so as to create an ideology that provides the faithful with a plan of action. Eventually they fight back and attempt to resacralize an increasingly sceptical world'.

 

We human beings tend to regress under stress. We can not bear uncertainty. We divide the world into safe and threat, good and evil, life and death. To be a fundamentalist is to see the world through these lenses, in shark dichotomies and to derive a sense of belonging and security from sacred texts of charismatic leaders.

 

Satan mirrors our own confrontations with otherness. By characterizing the so called enemies of US as 'satanic or evil', as Mr. Bush routinely did, we can justify hatred, even mass slaughter. The hegemonic leader gathers all the best human qualities in himself whilst crushing and oppressing others into a sub-human category. The inferiority and inhumanity of the other creates the identity of a new and superior humanity for itself. The narcissism and superiority of the aggressor forms one side of the act of violence, with the dehumanisation and stigmatisation of the victim forming the other. Every act of violence follows or is followed by a period of paranoia. The method of reflection, whereby the individual thinks “I’m not the one in the wrong, he is”, helps vindicate the act of violence and reduce the feeling of guilt. According to the oppressor, the victim is a threat to his existence. The act of destruction is rationalised because of the claim that it neutralises the threat, fixes its faults and therefore brings justice. In reality, the ‘enemy’ is often just a reflection of a part of the individual’s own identity, of which he is ashamed and in denial.

 

When we look at the violence that appears to be turning the Middle East into a blood bath, we can see Fanon’s vision that ‘violence will only yield when confronted with greater violence’. People whose lands have been occupied and whose voice has been silenced think that they can only escape the violence surrounding them by responding to it with even greater violence. It is a well-known psychological process for the oppressed to emulate the oppressor and for the defeated to emulate the victor. For as long as the psychology of persecution and oppression exists among masses, anger turns to hate, hate to violence, and violence to terror. Invaders who attempt to rule the world with terror are faced with followers who believe that in emulating them they can gain a voice. In the unchanging logic of the marginalised, ‘True believer’s think that they can bring justice to the world by destroying everything, everywhere and everyone that doesn’t belong with them. The last link in the chain is also the first: the fanatical beliefs that begin with the thought ‘either you’re with us, or against us’ trap individuals to the dark corridors of terrorism. The bloody violence on the streets, is the fruit of the seeds of hatred already planted in the world. We don’t know where these seeds may flower. The only response to the ‘true believer’ who appropriates the truth, and claims sole possession of it’ is to emphasise the sanctity and uniqueness of the human life. Terror affects us by spreading the fear that this world is not a safe place and it is impossible to trust people. If anyone wants to burn the world to end their suffering, we have to remind them that the flames can be extinguished and leave gardens in their place.

 

 

The mental foundations of terror

 

Ideology is a ‘straitjacket on perception’ according to one definition, and a complete belief system providing an explanation on the nature of existence, according to another. This belief system imposes a raison d’etre, an ideal to be reached, and means for achieving these ideals. For paranoid ideologies the world is divided into two strict categories: there are the good, those who follow the ideology, and the bad, those who oppose and threaten the ideology.

 

According to this view, if the enemies of the ideology are not eliminated, they can eliminate the ‘true believer’s at any moment. Paranoid ideologies invite their followers to sacrifice themselves. By being included in the circle, the individual must surrender his interests, rights, reason and conscience. Through unconditional resignation to the leader, the individual is absolved of the moral responsibility of his actions.

 

Terrorism is violence by individuals or groups, who have banded around a paranoid ideology with a feeling of loneliness, exclusivity and secrecy, towards other individuals or groups around them. Hatred and ruthlessness become legitimised and rationalised through paranoid ideology. The hatred brewing inside the group members, finds an escape through a determination to extinguish all groups, institutions and forces that they find perverse and faithless. For individuals who are withdrawn from their families and prone to allowing their own identities to be dissolved into a group identity, honest religious feelings can turn into concrete ideological judgements. This concreteness, this belief in the unquestionable, gives the group a feeling of exclusivity and might. There are signs in sacred texts that allude to them having been chosen, and only their leaders can truly understand and interpret these texts. If we speak in the language of psychoanalysis, to devote yourself entirely to a ‘chosen’ group symbolises the individual meeting and becoming one with an idealised parental figure. The individual thinks ‘I belong, therefore I am’. It is no coincidence that one in two people who take part in these activities have lost their parents at a young age. On the one hand there is a victim mentality, and on the other, a feeling of power from being a part of a chosen sect. On the one hand there is an ‘other’ who threatens his existence and is waiting to exterminate him, and on the other, a feeling of certainty in being able to teach anyone a lesson, or give them what they deserve. Research into the individual characteristics of terror participants has often, though not always, focused on a traumatic event, abandonment at a young age or an inferiority complex. When victimisation turns into aggression, the individual has to avenge his powerlessness and muteness. This is the only way he is able to realise himself and avenge the deprivation of his childhood. Ideology is only a tool. Since anger and revenge are difficult to confront, ideology package them, makes them rational.

 

Twilight zone of childhood

 

Our actions and approaches in later stages of life are shaped in the ‘twilight zone’ of childhood. A child seeks safety and security from the moment it comes into the world. He grows up yearning for a comforting mother. But in reality the world outside has set traps for him, and trips him up when the time comes. From the fact that a baby cries when it sees a strange face, to the warnings from parents regarding strangers when a child is growing up, a child is aware that he must be suspicious of those who are ‘different’. The desire to be close, to belong, to receive approval from those close to us causes a fear and anxiety of those who are different. Psychoanalysis symbolises the forced separation of a child from a parent as Adam’s fall from heaven in the mythology of Abrahamic religions. If the separation from parents is problematic and traumatic the child can be thrown to an extreme mental state. A traumatic separation leaves him with deep emotional scars that can only be healed by embracing a political body instead of a mother’s body. But what if the political body is itself scarred? What if it makes the child feel persecution and victimisation all over again? This is the turning point where the desire to kill and to die begins to surface.  As Robert Young indicates, 'The baby whose needs are not met blames the mother/carer who has not provided or who has removed what one needs and is experienced as abandoning or withholding. One feels attacked, as it were, by lack, hunger, and one wants to retaliate. It is so tempting to defend oneself from feeling so abject by becoming in phantasy the opposite and attain a position of complete self-sufficiency or certainty. 'I am nobody and am sure of nothing' becomes ' I am powerful and sure about everything: it is in the book'. If fundamentalists were really sure they would not have to be intolerant. ...They lose the ability to imagine the inner world and the humanity of the others. Sympathy, compassion and concern for the other object evaporate, and brittle feelings of blaming and destructiveness predominate'.

 

Murder and suicide are twins. Both are an attempt to have a control over death. The individual who kills himself to leave behind a bloodbath is turning life into the target of his anger and despair, avenging life for what it has denied him. On the other hand, the feeling of being chosen leads him to believe that there is a better life for him in the next world, that in becoming a ‘martyr’ his soul has been immortalised. When individuals become involved in violent groups it is not because they are following the footsteps of ideology. Often they are brought together through a shared journey. This friendship brings them together, and then ideology becomes the touchstone through which their loyalty can be tested. Ideology is where the group is tested on how dedicated they are to the mission for which they were ‘chosen’.  Through their malign narcissism they turn humanity’s salvation from sorrow, religion, into the ‘opium of the oppressed’. These paranoid, antisocial and narcissistic leaders choose their followers among the victimised, downtrodden individuals, who are capable of submitting to a group psychology. Violence only becomes destructive when it finds the right personalities and social foundations. The existence of a ‘mission’ gives the hopeless a chance to take control of his or her own fate and experience the feeling of victory. The ultimate sacrifice of life is an additional moral victory, which expresses the depth of devotion to the mission, and brings meaning through death to a life that has already become meaningless.

 

But how is it that these people who walk among us one day, turn into murderers overnight? Freud suggested a century ago that the impulse to kill exists in every person although to different degrees. We do not easily resort to our primal violent instincts, limiting their expression with social norms. But sometimes groups regress, and abandon maturity for primal instincts. The individual, who would not go near violence in his independent existence, may become aggressive as a result of group mentality. In particular, groups who are closed off to the outside world, who draw their strength from the loyalty and submission of their members, can easily regress to violence and aggression. Some societal traumas can also draw hopeless, poverty-stricken, lonely and desperate individuals to terror. The systematic state terror that exists in the Middle East with the help of the colonial powers provides opportunity for these sorts of groups to create an ideology of victimisation. In the picture that they paint, the ‘other’ plays the bad guy, who brings the world onto the brink of polarisation. As a result, the ‘historical trauma’ of Islamic civilisation’s defeat at the hands of the West is relived, and the old wounds are reopened. Colonial expansion that reopens these wounds then pushes those groups within the Islamic world who harbour elements of violence and who have become organised around a ideology of victimisation towards primal aggression. These ‘holy warriors’ are able to multiply out of the sense of injustice, national humiliation and a feeling of having been crushed by global powers.

 

Islam and Terror

 

We know that individuals who have experienced disappointment and who feel their lives have been wasted can easily sway to extremes. An individual who is happy with his life and feels that he has realised himself perceives the world to be basically good and wishes to preserve what he’s been given. An individual whose path has been intercepted with ordeals, seeks refuge in the hope of the changing the world in a radical manner. Many fundamentalist movements provide a portrait of the world that is broken and in ruins. While the present is diminished, the past is glorified and the image of a future that will reclaim past glory is created. The ‘true believer’ who attempts to change the world to cure the despair of being who he is, diminishes life in diminishing the present, so that there is nothing to lose in dying, and the hope of victory seems preferable to this worthless existence. Having lost the real identity of the society in which he lives, and become foreign to God, to nature, to society and to himself, he determines the present as an enemy, and wages war. His own existence will gain meaning and direction with the existence of this enemy. ‘They’ have to exist so that ‘we’ can.

 

In today’s disjointed world, Islam and terror are becoming uttered together more and more. Marginal groups who until the 1970s had no impact and were not taken seriously have suddenly become players with terror attacks. Is this a response to the homelessness and humiliation that modernity has brought? Or is this an attempt to cure the despair of being who you are by a desire to be like the ‘other’? Or is it in fact a process by which the victimised becomes one with his aggressor as defence against his aggression? What is it that causes a religion that most Muslims look onto as a source of peace and welfare suddenly becomes terror organ that preaches death and destruction in the minds of a group of zealots?

 

There are those who think that the ‘holy warrior’s real aim is to avenge the humiliation he has faced. Societal changes that took centuries in Western societies are occurring within the space of two generations in Muslim societies and this is leaving young people devoid of identity and security. The activist wishes to bring a world that has left it homeless, that is broken and wrong towards the right path. He has concrete truths that are indisputable. By using the group identity as a shield he shows mercy towards those that are with him, and hatred towards those against him. The group identity revives and strengthens his crushed identity for a divine purpose. With this feeling of belonging he is able to love and value himself. The proponents of this view, or ‘identity marketers’, explain the whole discourse through ‘alienation’. The reason for the pain is historical experience, and blame is elsewhere. ‘The bad people came and misled us’ say the holy victims, and the feeling of individual responsibility is replaced with a victim mentality. According to this view, individual and collective pain is a result of perverse dogmatic beliefs. And the only solution is for the individual’s emotional state to be brought back to its previous state of innocence. Of course there are many other factors which prepare group mentality for violence and terror, but narcissistic anger resulting from historical defeat and humiliation is an important factor in extreme groups that consider it their duty to improve the world. In other words, for a terrorist religion and ideology are convenient tools, his aim is not to glorify God’s words but to prove his own strength. He is a deviant who watches the destruction and death he causes with pleasure. Promising young people who have never experienced a ‘noble life’ are promised a ‘noble death’, and charmed by the prospect of heaven. The young man who blows up his body by believing this promise and thinking he has gained a passport to heaven thinks that he is avenging a life he hasn’t been able to live by choosing the aim and manner of his death.

 

An American academic who suggests that modernity necessarily increases the array of choice available to the individual is also able to say that terror that appears in the Islamic world is a reaction to modernity and the abundance of choice. According to him, no military action can be successful unless Islam makes peace with modernity. This view does not base the terror nested in political Islam on the past and on tradition, instead it is a modern movement. These types of views have been popularised not by the ulama ormullahs but by writers who do not come from religious circles. Today we see that the global terror movement is led by the diaspora and young people who have been brought up away from their countries or ethnic communities. This type of terror not only disconnects religion from the past, but makes it more personal, more worldly and more of a political tool. Therefore it is a modern movement in every sense of the world. Interestingly, we see that individuals used in these terrorist acts are often from countries with a colonial history. This is not a surprising result given that contemporary political Islam has also arisen as a reaction to colonialism.

 

Indeed colonising powers never tried to encourage or foster growth and development of political institutions in the colonised countries leaving them deficient in the political infrastructure which is the sine qua non of democratic societies. In the words of Dick Blackwell: 'Former colonisers lent their weight to those elements who would deal most favourably with them. That is to say, those who would maintain the flow of cheap raw materials, keep the country open to western investment, and its markets open to western products. They opposed rather vigorously any tendencies towards those countries trying to change or overthrow the established economic set up, such as nationalizing the Suez Canal'. So concludes the writer, ' what we have is not simply a gap between 'haves' and havenots', not simply a stand off between modernity and fundamentalism, and not a conflict between civilization and barbarism. The picture we have instead is of a system of political and economical relationships in which the wealth of those that 'have' is a product of the systematic exploitation of those that 'have not'. Modernity is built on the selective promotion of fundamentalism, and civilization is advanced and defended by deploying its split off barbarism against those excluded from its parameters.'

 

Although they point to Islam as their motivation, it is obvious that the terrorists’ greatest harm is to Islam and to Muslims. In actual fact, this doomsday ideology exactly replicates the hegemonic thought that it opposes. It doesn’t respect the past and tradition, it doesn’t benefit from civilised thought and wisdom. It recreates a paranoid fantasy based on the idea of ‘us against them’. The thought that ‘they are purely evil, we are purely good, and they’re attacking our lifestyle’ is a common slogan for fanatics on both sides of this asymmetrical war.

 

Powerlessness corrupts, just like power. Although the extremists carry shame on their own faces, they also bring many ‘moderate’ Muslims who would never go to extremes to shame. A religion that preaches that the only good witness on the day of judgement will be a ‘good heart’ is now under the threat of those who willingly stamp on people’s hearts. Against the threat of new marginalism we have to call the heart for help, like rain in a dessert, only it can save us from this drought. Only those with hearts can see the miracles that take place inside them, only those with hearts can resist evil.THE FANATIC MINDSET AND TERRORISM

 

KEMAL SAYAR, MD

Professor of Psychiatry, Marmara University Medical School

 

The Fanatic Mindset

 

The mainstream standpoint in understanding terrorism is this: be it terrorism, or something else, all actions and attitudes are connected to social and political foundations. In a world where the grandiose phantasies of some world leaders has become 'politics', one should begin by addressing the hijacking of the word terrorism. It has been said that one person's freedom fighter is another's terrorist. Terrorism is the institutional violence of the fundamentalist. Locating this word to the non-Western world may indeed hide the state sponsored terrorism of the US or Israel. Bearing this in mind, in this paper I will mostly focus on the dynamics of ideological fanaticism and how this might be fuelling the rising violence in our geography.

 

 

The psycho-politics of violence

 

Eric Hoffer, in his book “The True Believer”, writes that individuals who have faced disappointment and lack fulfilment, find it easy to sacrifice their lives in order to give meaning and importance to a life they find meaningless. These individuals attempt to escape their own selves through fanatical views that allows their own identities to be swallowed by a group identity. The appeal of mass movements comes not from the doctrine or principles, but the fact that they promise an escape from the hidden anxiety, loneliness and meaninglessness within human existence.

 

In organizations which view destruction and terror as a legitimate tool, the hatred of the marginalised is used to create group loyalty. Hatred serves as glue which holds together gives the illusion of power to individuals who see themselves to be powerless, downtrodden and oppressed. With this feeling, the sense of oppression is converted into power and legitimacy. He is now a chosen being and whoever does not stand on his side is the ‘damned’.

 

We have expressed the fact that organisations that use hatred as a political tool benefit from denial and projection as defence mechanisms, projecting the things that they don’t like about themselves onto their ‘enemies’ in order to turn their enemies into objects of hatred. We define whose a stranger, a ‘barbarian’, an ‘infidel’. When hatred becomes violence, the mute gain a voice. Violence can be defined as a situation, duration or relationship in which an individual or group, infringes on the physical or societal integrity of another individual or group. A violence which has condemned the world into lethal inequalities exists right now under the name of ‘globalisation’. McWorld celebrates market ideology with its commitment to the privatization of all things public and the commercialization of all things private. A view which suggests that civilisation and high values are in the monopoly of white Westerners defines its own habits, life styles, values and skin colour as superior to others, whom they see as the exemplification of ugliness and evil. Those who oppose us are ‘axis of evil’ or the ‘enemies of our lifestyle’.  Wilfred Bion defines paranoid-schizoid and depressive positions as the two fundamental stances in the psychic lives of individuals. In the paranoid-schizoid position we indulge in extreme splits, e.g., between love and hate, good and evil, as and them, treat others not as full humans but as part objects and indulge in hostile accusation and attribute guilt in a brittle, punitive way. When people are frightened by the threat of terrorism as well as the government's exploitative use of it, the denial of vulnerability alternates with overwhelming feelings of impotence. Fantasies of being rescued by a strong leader/parent combine Life's with wishes of revenge.  The inability to tolerate ambiguity produces a bifurcated view of the world as good and bad, with the tendency to identify with an all-powerful  goodness while all that is bad is projected on to a demonized other who becomes the target for aggressive attacks. This split constitutes a manic defence that protects against the anxiety of helplessness.  The more frightened and angry we are, the more difficult it becomes to separate and individuate from the authority of the government and its discourse, especially when they promise  safety in a dangerous world. Life's experiences activate primitive reactions, leading us to rationalize and project our unconscious phantasies onto the world in the hope of assuaging them and getting control over the things that threaten us.

 

Fundamentalism revisited

 

Karen Armstrong has written about fundamentalism at depth. I quote her : 'Fundamentalists do not regard their battle as a conventional political struggle, but experience it as a cosmic war between the forces of good and evil. They fear annihilation, and they try to fortify their beleaguered identity by means of a selective retrieval of certain doctrines and practices of the past. To avoid contamination, they often withdraw from mainstream society to create a counter culture; yet fundamentalists are not impractical dreamers. They have absorbed the pragmatic rationalism of modernity, and, under the guidance of their charismatic leaders, they refine these 'fundamentals' so as to create an ideology that provides the faithful with a plan of action. Eventually they fight back and attempt to resacralize an increasingly sceptical world'.

 

We human beings tend to regress under stress. We can not bear uncertainty. We divide the world into safe and threat, good and evil, life and death. To be a fundamentalist is to see the world through these lenses, in shark dichotomies and to derive a sense of belonging and security from sacred texts of charismatic leaders.

 

Satan mirrors our own confrontations with otherness. By characterizing the so called enemies of US as 'satanic or evil', as Mr. Bush routinely did, we can justify hatred, even mass slaughter. The hegemonic leader gathers all the best human qualities in himself whilst crushing and oppressing others into a sub-human category. The inferiority and inhumanity of the other creates the identity of a new and superior humanity for itself. The narcissism and superiority of the aggressor forms one side of the act of violence, with the dehumanisation and stigmatisation of the victim forming the other. Every act of violence follows or is followed by a period of paranoia. The method of reflection, whereby the individual thinks “I’m not the one in the wrong, he is”, helps vindicate the act of violence and reduce the feeling of guilt. According to the oppressor, the victim is a threat to his existence. The act of destruction is rationalised because of the claim that it neutralises the threat, fixes its faults and therefore brings justice. In reality, the ‘enemy’ is often just a reflection of a part of the individual’s own identity, of which he is ashamed and in denial.

 

When we look at the violence that appears to be turning the Middle East into a blood bath, we can see Fanon’s vision that ‘violence will only yield when confronted with greater violence’. People whose lands have been occupied and whose voice has been silenced think that they can only escape the violence surrounding them by responding to it with even greater violence. It is a well-known psychological process for the oppressed to emulate the oppressor and for the defeated to emulate the victor. For as long as the psychology of persecution and oppression exists among masses, anger turns to hate, hate to violence, and violence to terror. Invaders who attempt to rule the world with terror are faced with followers who believe that in emulating them they can gain a voice. In the unchanging logic of the marginalised, ‘True believer’s think that they can bring justice to the world by destroying everything, everywhere and everyone that doesn’t belong with them. The last link in the chain is also the first: the fanatical beliefs that begin with the thought ‘either you’re with us, or against us’ trap individuals to the dark corridors of terrorism. The bloody violence on the streets, is the fruit of the seeds of hatred already planted in the world. We don’t know where these seeds may flower. The only response to the ‘true believer’ who appropriates the truth, and claims sole possession of it’ is to emphasise the sanctity and uniqueness of the human life. Terror affects us by spreading the fear that this world is not a safe place and it is impossible to trust people. If anyone wants to burn the world to end their suffering, we have to remind them that the flames can be extinguished and leave gardens in their place.

 

 

The mental foundations of terror

 

Ideology is a ‘straitjacket on perception’ according to one definition, and a complete belief system providing an explanation on the nature of existence, according to another. This belief system imposes a raison d’etre, an ideal to be reached, and means for achieving these ideals. For paranoid ideologies the world is divided into two strict categories: there are the good, those who follow the ideology, and the bad, those who oppose and threaten the ideology.

 

According to this view, if the enemies of the ideology are not eliminated, they can eliminate the ‘true believer’s at any moment. Paranoid ideologies invite their followers to sacrifice themselves. By being included in the circle, the individual must surrender his interests, rights, reason and conscience. Through unconditional resignation to the leader, the individual is absolved of the moral responsibility of his actions.

 

Terrorism is violence by individuals or groups, who have banded around a paranoid ideology with a feeling of loneliness, exclusivity and secrecy, towards other individuals or groups around them. Hatred and ruthlessness become legitimised and rationalised through paranoid ideology. The hatred brewing inside the group members, finds an escape through a determination to extinguish all groups, institutions and forces that they find perverse and faithless. For individuals who are withdrawn from their families and prone to allowing their own identities to be dissolved into a group identity, honest religious feelings can turn into concrete ideological judgements. This concreteness, this belief in the unquestionable, gives the group a feeling of exclusivity and might. There are signs in sacred texts that allude to them having been chosen, and only their leaders can truly understand and interpret these texts. If we speak in the language of psychoanalysis, to devote yourself entirely to a ‘chosen’ group symbolises the individual meeting and becoming one with an idealised parental figure. The individual thinks ‘I belong, therefore I am’. It is no coincidence that one in two people who take part in these activities have lost their parents at a young age. On the one hand there is a victim mentality, and on the other, a feeling of power from being a part of a chosen sect. On the one hand there is an ‘other’ who threatens his existence and is waiting to exterminate him, and on the other, a feeling of certainty in being able to teach anyone a lesson, or give them what they deserve. Research into the individual characteristics of terror participants has often, though not always, focused on a traumatic event, abandonment at a young age or an inferiority complex. When victimisation turns into aggression, the individual has to avenge his powerlessness and muteness. This is the only way he is able to realise himself and avenge the deprivation of his childhood. Ideology is only a tool. Since anger and revenge are difficult to confront, ideology package them, makes them rational.

 

Twilight zone of childhood

 

Our actions and approaches in later stages of life are shaped in the ‘twilight zone’ of childhood. A child seeks safety and security from the moment it comes into the world. He grows up yearning for a comforting mother. But in reality the world outside has set traps for him, and trips him up when the time comes. From the fact that a baby cries when it sees a strange face, to the warnings from parents regarding strangers when a child is growing up, a child is aware that he must be suspicious of those who are ‘different’. The desire to be close, to belong, to receive approval from those close to us causes a fear and anxiety of those who are different. Psychoanalysis symbolises the forced separation of a child from a parent as Adam’s fall from heaven in the mythology of Abrahamic religions. If the separation from parents is problematic and traumatic the child can be thrown to an extreme mental state. A traumatic separation leaves him with deep emotional scars that can only be healed by embracing a political body instead of a mother’s body. But what if the political body is itself scarred? What if it makes the child feel persecution and victimisation all over again? This is the turning point where the desire to kill and to die begins to surface.  As Robert Young indicates, 'The baby whose needs are not met blames the mother/carer who has not provided or who has removed what one needs and is experienced as abandoning or withholding. One feels attacked, as it were, by lack, hunger, and one wants to retaliate. It is so tempting to defend oneself from feeling so abject by becoming in phantasy the opposite and attain a position of complete self-sufficiency or certainty. 'I am nobody and am sure of nothing' becomes ' I am powerful and sure about everything: it is in the book'. If fundamentalists were really sure they would not have to be intolerant. ...They lose the ability to imagine the inner world and the humanity of the others. Sympathy, compassion and concern for the other object evaporate, and brittle feelings of blaming and destructiveness predominate'.

 

Murder and suicide are twins. Both are an attempt to have a control over death. The individual who kills himself to leave behind a bloodbath is turning life into the target of his anger and despair, avenging life for what it has denied him. On the other hand, the feeling of being chosen leads him to believe that there is a better life for him in the next world, that in becoming a ‘martyr’ his soul has been immortalised. When individuals become involved in violent groups it is not because they are following the footsteps of ideology. Often they are brought together through a shared journey. This friendship brings them together, and then ideology becomes the touchstone through which their loyalty can be tested. Ideology is where the group is tested on how dedicated they are to the mission for which they were ‘chosen’.  Through their malign narcissism they turn humanity’s salvation from sorrow, religion, into the ‘opium of the oppressed’. These paranoid, antisocial and narcissistic leaders choose their followers among the victimised, downtrodden individuals, who are capable of submitting to a group psychology. Violence only becomes destructive when it finds the right personalities and social foundations. The existence of a ‘mission’ gives the hopeless a chance to take control of his or her own fate and experience the feeling of victory. The ultimate sacrifice of life is an additional moral victory, which expresses the depth of devotion to the mission, and brings meaning through death to a life that has already become meaningless.

 

But how is it that these people who walk among us one day, turn into murderers overnight? Freud suggested a century ago that the impulse to kill exists in every person although to different degrees. We do not easily resort to our primal violent instincts, limiting their expression with social norms. But sometimes groups regress, and abandon maturity for primal instincts. The individual, who would not go near violence in his independent existence, may become aggressive as a result of group mentality. In particular, groups who are closed off to the outside world, who draw their strength from the loyalty and submission of their members, can easily regress to violence and aggression. Some societal traumas can also draw hopeless, poverty-stricken, lonely and desperate individuals to terror. The systematic state terror that exists in the Middle East with the help of the colonial powers provides opportunity for these sorts of groups to create an ideology of victimisation. In the picture that they paint, the ‘other’ plays the bad guy, who brings the world onto the brink of polarisation. As a result, the ‘historical trauma’ of Islamic civilisation’s defeat at the hands of the West is relived, and the old wounds are reopened. Colonial expansion that reopens these wounds then pushes those groups within the Islamic world who harbour elements of violence and who have become organised around a ideology of victimisation towards primal aggression. These ‘holy warriors’ are able to multiply out of the sense of injustice, national humiliation and a feeling of having been crushed by global powers.

 

Islam and Terror

 

We know that individuals who have experienced disappointment and who feel their lives have been wasted can easily sway to extremes. An individual who is happy with his life and feels that he has realised himself perceives the world to be basically good and wishes to preserve what he’s been given. An individual whose path has been intercepted with ordeals, seeks refuge in the hope of the changing the world in a radical manner. Many fundamentalist movements provide a portrait of the world that is broken and in ruins. While the present is diminished, the past is glorified and the image of a future that will reclaim past glory is created. The ‘true believer’ who attempts to change the world to cure the despair of being who he is, diminishes life in diminishing the present, so that there is nothing to lose in dying, and the hope of victory seems preferable to this worthless existence. Having lost the real identity of the society in which he lives, and become foreign to God, to nature, to society and to himself, he determines the present as an enemy, and wages war. His own existence will gain meaning and direction with the existence of this enemy. ‘They’ have to exist so that ‘we’ can.

 

In today’s disjointed world, Islam and terror are becoming uttered together more and more. Marginal groups who until the 1970s had no impact and were not taken seriously have suddenly become players with terror attacks. Is this a response to the homelessness and humiliation that modernity has brought? Or is this an attempt to cure the despair of being who you are by a desire to be like the ‘other’? Or is it in fact a process by which the victimised becomes one with his aggressor as defence against his aggression? What is it that causes a religion that most Muslims look onto as a source of peace and welfare suddenly becomes terror organ that preaches death and destruction in the minds of a group of zealots?

 

There are those who think that the ‘holy warrior’s real aim is to avenge the humiliation he has faced. Societal changes that took centuries in Western societies are occurring within the space of two generations in Muslim societies and this is leaving young people devoid of identity and security. The activist wishes to bring a world that has left it homeless, that is broken and wrong towards the right path. He has concrete truths that are indisputable. By using the group identity as a shield he shows mercy towards those that are with him, and hatred towards those against him. The group identity revives and strengthens his crushed identity for a divine purpose. With this feeling of belonging he is able to love and value himself. The proponents of this view, or ‘identity marketers’, explain the whole discourse through ‘alienation’. The reason for the pain is historical experience, and blame is elsewhere. ‘The bad people came and misled us’ say the holy victims, and the feeling of individual responsibility is replaced with a victim mentality. According to this view, individual and collective pain is a result of perverse dogmatic beliefs. And the only solution is for the individual’s emotional state to be brought back to its previous state of innocence. Of course there are many other factors which prepare group mentality for violence and terror, but narcissistic anger resulting from historical defeat and humiliation is an important factor in extreme groups that consider it their duty to improve the world. In other words, for a terrorist religion and ideology are convenient tools, his aim is not to glorify God’s words but to prove his own strength. He is a deviant who watches the destruction and death he causes with pleasure. Promising young people who have never experienced a ‘noble life’ are promised a ‘noble death’, and charmed by the prospect of heaven. The young man who blows up his body by believing this promise and thinking he has gained a passport to heaven thinks that he is avenging a life he hasn’t been able to live by choosing the aim and manner of his death.

 

An American academic who suggests that modernity necessarily increases the array of choice available to the individual is also able to say that terror that appears in the Islamic world is a reaction to modernity and the abundance of choice. According to him, no military action can be successful unless Islam makes peace with modernity. This view does not base the terror nested in political Islam on the past and on tradition, instead it is a modern movement. These types of views have been popularised not by the ulama ormullahs but by writers who do not come from religious circles. Today we see that the global terror movement is led by the diaspora and young people who have been brought up away from their countries or ethnic communities. This type of terror not only disconnects religion from the past, but makes it more personal, more worldly and more of a political tool. Therefore it is a modern movement in every sense of the world. Interestingly, we see that individuals used in these terrorist acts are often from countries with a colonial history. This is not a surprising result given that contemporary political Islam has also arisen as a reaction to colonialism.

 

Indeed colonising powers never tried to encourage or foster growth and development of political institutions in the colonised countries leaving them deficient in the political infrastructure which is the sine qua non of democratic societies. In the words of Dick Blackwell: 'Former colonisers lent their weight to those elements who would deal most favourably with them. That is to say, those who would maintain the flow of cheap raw materials, keep the country open to western investment, and its markets open to western products. They opposed rather vigorously any tendencies towards those countries trying to change or overthrow the established economic set up, such as nationalizing the Suez Canal'. So concludes the writer, ' what we have is not simply a gap between 'haves' and havenots', not simply a stand off between modernity and fundamentalism, and not a conflict between civilization and barbarism. The picture we have instead is of a system of political and economical relationships in which the wealth of those that 'have' is a product of the systematic exploitation of those that 'have not'. Modernity is built on the selective promotion of fundamentalism, and civilization is advanced and defended by deploying its split off barbarism against those excluded from its parameters.'

 

Although they point to Islam as their motivation, it is obvious that the terrorists’ greatest harm is to Islam and to Muslims. In actual fact, this doomsday ideology exactly replicates the hegemonic thought that it opposes. It doesn’t respect the past and tradition, it doesn’t benefit from civilised thought and wisdom. It recreates a paranoid fantasy based on the idea of ‘us against them’. The thought that ‘they are purely evil, we are purely good, and they’re attacking our lifestyle’ is a common slogan for fanatics on both sides of this asymmetrical war.

 

Powerlessness corrupts, just like power. Although the extremists carry shame on their own faces, they also bring many ‘moderate’ Muslims who would never go to extremes to shame. A religion that preaches that the only good witness on the day of judgement will be a ‘good heart’ is now under the threat of those who willingly stamp on people’s hearts. Against the threat of new marginalism we have to call the heart for help, like rain in a dessert, only it can save us from this drought. Only those with hearts can see the miracles that take place inside them, only those with hearts can resist evil.

Görüntüleme Sayısı : 315
Kemal Sayar Kemal Sayar Valid CSS!
Copyright © 2013-2017 Kemal Sayar Tüm hakları saklıdır. © Web Tasarım