Warning: I wrote this very quickly very late at night, and
so I'm not sure that I'm saying a whole lot...I just heard
the news about France and wrote down my response.
Hopefully it makes sense. I'm not sure if France really
even fits into it -- looking over it now, I feel like I mainly
had the U.S. in mind.
The west has increasingly become a target for acts of mass violent in recent years — most recently (and the inspiration for this post), the bastille day truck attack in France. Immediately, the response is often that we should not “give in” to the attacks by showing fear or hate, and that the best way to combat the attacks is to love each other more, and teach others to love in the same way. The idea has some grounding, in that a fear-driven submission to the organizations responsible for the attack would be devastating, but more love doesn’t seem like a viable solution. For one, it seems wrong to think that any amount of communal love could stop certain people from committing mass murder; there will always be lunatics, fanatics, and sociopaths who are either untouched by the love or at least refuse to reciprocate it for one reason or another. Even if that’s wrong, though, and a state of complete communal love is possible and would, in fact, lead to world peace, the steps to reach this goal seem completely intangible. Do I just hug my friends more, call my mom and dad to check up on them more, and help walk elderly people across the street? Should I donate to charity? Which one? It doesn’t seem like any of this stuff would lead either to global communal love or the end of terrorism, and it’s hard to come up with some real steps that would.
Others counter this view by pointing out (as I did above), that you’ll never be able to get everyone on board your love train. But they continue to claim that "radical Muslims” are the main group that we will never be able to fight with love, and often suggest that we exterminate them instead. This idea seems even more ludicrous than the first! First, because “radical Muslim” is a vague term which does not divide the global population into any sort discrete grouping, making their extermination a difficult task. But that point doesn’t even really matter, because unless 100% of all terrorist attacks were committed by “radical Muslims,” their extermination wouldn’t solve the problem. Finally, and most importantly, it seems unjustifiable to claim that Islam, even in its most “radical” interpretation, specifically calls out for acts of mass murder against the west, and is the only doctrine that does so. Calling radical Islam the cause of West-directed terrorism is like calling pneumonia the cause of death for a man shot through the heart by a shotgun; perhaps the man had pneumonia when he died, and perhaps the terrorist is a Muslim, but they both seem like unlikely causes, and the real reason for the problem seems much more obvious and fundamental.
What, then, is the problem? If not an absence of love, or a radical interpretation of Islam, how can we explain this recent explosion of mass murder? Mental illness? Drugs? Bad parenting? All of these responses are unoriginal, unsupported, and boring. All of these responses, and the two main ones highlighted in the previous paragraphs, are given to distract from the real problem that is staring everyone right in the face. Just as a commuter never feels responsible for the traffic that they are helping to create by driving in rush hour, the West seems to completely lack a feeling of responsibility for the acts of mass violence that they are helping to create. People don’t hate the west because they feel like we don’t love enough, or because they read the Koran; people hate the West because of countless years of exploitation, domination, and violence. The West is not an innocent person minding their own business, who suddenly gets picked on by a bully for no reason. The West is the bully, and the people we have been picking on have finally found the means to retaliate. Many of the organizations and people that decide to commit mass violence against the west have backgrounds where the west hit them first; whether through corrupt politics, nonchalance about murdering citizens outside of our borders, or support of various (perceived or real) things that generally degrade society, the West has made a lot of people angry.
It should be obvious: people hate us because we’re screwing them. But still, the response is that we need to love more, give people more medication, and kill the muslims. And so we continue to exploit, dominate, and harm people both within our borders and abroad, while simultaneously searching in desperation for someone to tell us how to stop people from hating and harming us. This doesn’t mean we should become weak, and mold ourselves to fit the demands of our attackers, but rather that we should take a look in the mirror, admit some of our behavior seems to necessarily infuriate and alienate people to the point that they will sacrifice their lives to hurt us, and change that behavior. This doesn’t mean that we should take intangible steps to love the people who seek to harm us more, but rather that we should stop directly and indirectly contributing to violence through police, misguided military efforts, bribes, and embargoes, that we should stop supporting corruption even when doing so is economically viable or serves to strengthen our global power, the list goes on. We cannot turn a blind eye to the wrongs of the West in favor of the comfort it gives us. We need to demand this change, and it needs to happen now. If the demands are not met, we cannot roll over and remain complacent. The West needs to change its behavior, whether they (or we) like it or not; until then, many more innocent lives will be taken.