I think everyone gets bullied, in some way, as a child. You hope you grow smart enough to avoid it or strong enough resist or resilient enough to fight back, but you never forget it.
Terrorists are bullies on a global, deadly scale.
I do not use the word “hate” lightly…
I hate them.
I hate them for the fear and misery they spread.
I hate them for the way they seek to destroy our freedoms by attempting to force us to build barriers.
I hate them for wishing to force misogyny, ignorance, homophobia, a mono-deistic philosophy, and superstition on the rest of us just so they may recall an earlier way of life that, from a historical point of view, may have never existed.
I refuse to bend to the will and intent of bullies.
Although helpless in my younger years, I now never allow bullies to go unchallenged. I have grown wiser and stronger in my advancing years. (No comments, thank you.)
“So,” you might say to me, “that’s easy for you to say Ken, you don’t live here.”
You’d be right, I don’t.
But, as some of you may know, some of my previous work was spent planning on what to do when (not if) someone with a weapon or bomb came to my workplace. So, in comparison to others, I have spent an abnormal amount of time thinking about it. When suspicious visitors came to my building, it was my job to be the first or second person they spoke to.
As terrorism can brush up against your life in other ways…
- I was living in Barcelona when ETA was shooting third rate civil servants in parking garages because it was easy.
- I was living in the Netherlands when extremists assassinated Theo Van Gogh for expressing his views on their religion.
- A guy I sometimes ate lunch with died in Benghazi.
- One of the security people killed at Charlie Heebo was a friend of a friend.
- Another friend of a friend was one of the first responders into Bataclan yesterday, with live terrorists hidden in the building.
All these kinds of events brush up against all of us. Unlike an automobile accident, the mechanism is directed and intended to be deadly. Their intent is that we respond in one of two ways:
- We accept their insanely reasoned argument and agree that they are right.
- We fold in and cower with fear.
I hate bullies.
I refuse to allow them to dictate my actions.
Bullies have power when you give it to them. I won’t allow that.
How do you challenge bullies?
Call them out in front of others. If they think they can victimize someone quickly and quietly, they will try. It is the mode opératoire of murderers and rapists.
Challenge them as a group. Bullies are cowards. Sometimes they like an audience because it makes them feel powerful and important. If they can defeat a smaller, weaker opponent in front of a group it gives them a feeling of alpha dominance. I always stand up beside the victim. Give them the message that the audience is not on their side. I create a larger, inclusive group by saying “Why are you trying to scare people?”
When bully becomes “bullies”, you have to call the authorities. To let them operate in darkness and silence is to embolden them with their “successes”. Shine the light on them early and shine it bright.
Don’t play the bully’s game.
Don’t play their game by their rules. These thugs want us to believe they are supporting a religious cause. I say it is using religion as an excuse.
If we start the discussion with religion, we become mired in tangles of philosophy: What is religion? What is religious freedom? What are the boundaries of religious freedom? Does religious freedom include only the dominant local religion because everyone else is wrong? Years will pass before the politicians eventually come to the wrong conclusions.
I don’t accept their religious justifications, everything that has happened in Paris in the last 30 hours is plain and simple criminal activity. It is a police matter without the patina of a religious-based, pseudo morality that attempts to use its own logic to act immorally and to justify the atrocities.
When we engage to argue against their actions by arguing against their religion, it gives them implied permission to excuse the results of their actions with their fervour. You are, in other words, attempting to reason with them in a domain that is unbound by reason because it is faith… faith can be that vicious circle. The stronger faith becomes, the less reason is involved.
To an average person, how does this apply to terrorism? The application is at the social level and in how we respond as a society. We need to allow our law enforcement groups the latitude and resources to do their job, but safeguard our own civil liberties.
For example, here in the US we have politicians, such as Ted Cruz, who is far to the right as a Christian politician. You could probably describe him as a Christian taliban. He is convinced that his moral point of view and his special relationship with his maker is so correct… you should have it too, by force if necessary. I worry more about this type of knee jerk political response than the sum of any terrorist acts in the next ten years.
The real bad guys
The most insidious aspect is that actual perpetrators are not the people who pull triggers or detonate bombs.
If I had to guess based on organisational structure and dynamics of 80K people in ISIS (assume 20K fighters and another 60K in support roles), there is an experienced, core cadre of about 5000 former Al-Qaeda and Taliban veterans. These people form the criminal core that is earning millions of dollars each day.
Regardless of their supposed morality, ISIS includes the following as revenue streams: carjacking, extortion, bank robberies, kidnapping for ransom, and black market oil sales.
Oil sales alone in 2014 are estimated at $500 million…
Say what you will for or against a caliphate, when the area you fight to control includes a lot of oil fields, the phrase “higher moral ground” does not come into play. When you kill everyone who you think opposes you, the real goal is power.
$500 million a year (minimum), a slave labour force, enough free military hardware to equip 3 military divisions (raided from Iraqi military bases), international human trafficking of “recruits”, and an enemy (us) who is afraid to kill members of the slave labour force. It is a business model that has no risk for the 5000. Risk is for the new guys, the recruits who excel in suicide bombsmanship, the civilians they hide behind, and foreign franchises. They sit back and count the cash rolling in.
Ok, I know I went into too much detail, but the scope and actions of this criminal enterprise brings to life the fictional Bondian organisation SPECTRE.
As I am sometimes prone to do, I’ve gone too long to reach this important point…
These bullies can only win if we give them the power. Live well and love your friends and families in the face of their hatred and xenophobia. In their arrogance, they mistake our compassion for weakness and rational thought for an absence of morality.
The secret of bullies
You want to know the real secret of bullies? It is the source of their ruthlessness and also their weakness:
The reason behind every action they take and every justification is fear.
They are then angry for being afraid. Bullies find violence the easiest way to express power. They’ve lost touch with the basic human capacities of compassion and acceptance.
France, you are strong
So, Paris… France… Take time to mourn, take time to heal.
We are human. We need time to comfort ourselves. Take the time, the rest of us will still be here. And when you need us, we’ll be ready. We’ll all stand together because our bond is our strength and how we endure the pain.
But remember, Paris is the city of lights. A beacon of culture, of reason, of potential, of the best we can all become.
This shining legacy will endure beyond the memory of a petty group of dictators long after stains of their existence are washed away by the sands of the high desert.
I hate bullies.
About Ken Wrede