#Terrorism: Religion and Nationalism Aren’t Fixing It

Nothing like a crisis to clarify values. If the terrorist attacks in Paris have clarified the dominant values of Western civilization, those appear to be such things as self-absorption, border restrictions, and violence.

These are the values of nationalism, not Humanism.

Sure, it’s true that Paris is the world’s number one tourist destination, so lots of people all over the world have some sort of French connection. It that way, it feels personal to lots of people. Still, the disproportionate media coverage of a European massacre to the exclusion African massacres does appear to put more value on some lives than on others. This is not a Humanist value either.

After all, the facts say that of the roughly 10,000 murders committed by the so-called Islamic State in 2014, few were of Westerners, and therefore few Westerners grasp the scope of the violence.

Not only is this racist and Euro-centric, it also creates a false impression of the importance of and threat to Western civilization. Guess what: the Islamic State kills mostly Muslims. The US and its citizens are not the stars of this particular horror show.

Nationality, ethnicity, or religion are completely immaterial to the problem, which is that taking the lives of innocent civilians has become the objective in a struggle that makes not even the remotest bow to international law.  Violence to answer violence is clearly not working. Perhaps the only effective weapon in this case is non-violence?

As a Humanist, outside looking in at the various world religions, I can’t imagine why one religion would be more violent than another. That’s fear talking, not reason.

This new way of killing is a sleight of hand that Westerners—especially of the North American variety—appear all too willing to fall for—they (read many US politicians and much of the electorate) feel personally vulnerable. Afraid.

And fear sells. Therefore, fear is the go-to for not only the terrorists but also Western media and Western governments and many others who happen to be in the market to sell something.

Perhaps if we might remember that Humanist value, reason, which tells us that terror attacks are big news but small as threats go. On a list of the top fifteen killers of US citizens, terrorism doesn’t make the list.

Fear. We forget: the only thing we have to fear . . . is fear itself. Reason is the antidote. For example, a US citizen is 55 times more likely to be killed by a police officer than a terrorist. On that front, anyway, law and order is considerably more deadly than chaos.

Yet, we know very well that in the short term many US tax dollars will go toward the prevention of terrorism.  Police killings . . . not so much. We have fallen for the slight of hand.

Sure. It’s a scary world. And scared is scared—you can’t help it. None of us can. The choice we have is whether we will face fear with rationality or with terror.

That’s one choice. Another choice we have is whether or not we will be decent human beings and seek ways to stop the bloodshed. Ways that work, unlike the usual, violent, ways.

Another choice is about saving as many human beings as possible from suffering. As a Humanist, I don’t put much stock in national sovereignty when national sovereignty threatens the well-being of human beings. The flourishing of humanity, not national sovereignty, is paramount. One of the central documents of Humanism, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, puts it this way:

Article 13.

(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.

(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

 Article 14.

(1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.

(2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Article 15.

(1) Everyone has the right to a nationality.

(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.

The right way is fairly clear.

Adversity clarifies values. An effective war on terror begins in your head with the decision not to fall for the sleight of hand.



The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, http://www.un.org/Overview/rights.html




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