Potiphar12's Blog
An Octogenarian in the modern world

UNDERSTANDING OTHERS

It amazes me that we see so little in the media about the motivation of those we disagree with. Topical instances are Russian Aggression under Putin and young British Muslims going off to enlist as terrorists. One can argue that understanding them is irrelevant because we are going to oppose them anyway, but it may make a difference to the manner in which we oppose them and it may divert us from strategies that would make things even worse.

Consider the fact that many young men actually seek a physical challenge. There is something in them which demands the opportunity to prove their courage. Climbing mountains meets this need, and exploring any remaining unknown environments, or going down the deepest potholes. It is about exposing oneself to danger, and surviving. The ultimate test is war. Remember that fighting (both winning and dying) is celebrated in our literature and endowed with romance.

To a young Muslim seeking adventure Jihad offers almost everything. It offers escape from a society that is risk-averse and lacking in discipline: a society that seems to believe in nothing except materialism and ease. It offers an objective to fight for and a powerful enemy that can be represented as evil. It offers risk. It offers a simpler society in which the rules are clear and rigorously enforced.  It offers the possibility of a martyrs death and fast-track entry to paradise. If one asks why they do it, the answer is pretty obvious.

Western leaders bang on about opposing Russian aggression with economic sanctions. They seem to think that because the west is besotted by material well-being that it must therefore be of equal importance to Putin’s Russia. It may be that the power of their nation and the respect it can command is far more important than a fall in living standards. British citizens old enough to have lived through WW2 can remember the feeling of unity that prevailed despite hardship. It seems to me that economic sanctions against Russia are more likely to inspire contempt and resistance than capitulation. Russian citizens may well be feeling “What sort of people do they think we are?”

One benefit of understanding is that it can reveal that some strategies that are wrong, and are actually making things worse. And if these are abandoned then alternative strategies might be suggested. One alternative on the international scene might be more effective promotion of our values and the benefits we believe they bring. It is a bit daft for the west, which believes in self-determination, to oppose people whose idea of self-determination is union with Mother Russia. An attempt to modify their thinking might be better.

Responsible Muslim leaders in the UK are already trying to dissuade young men from rushing off to Syria or Pakistan to be trained as Jihadists. Such efforts are to be commended. But perhaps we should learn some lessons from the reasons that inspire them to go. Has our society become too materialist, too bedevilled by petty regulations,  too devoid of spiritual values and too lacking in challenge for young men? is it too bureaucratic – too complicated – too boring – too dedicated to the unattainable goal of ‘fairness’? Is it virile?

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