Exclusive Updates
No spam ever. Unsubscribe anytime.

Terrorists And Barbarians
How Calling People "Terrorists" Short-Circuits Rational Thought

The term "terrorist" in popular usage today is both dishonest and counterproductive. I compare it to the term "barbarian" as used by the Romans towards the end of their empire to marginalize and dehumanize their enemies. It works well, because while a rational person might ordinarily ask themselves, after a violent attack, "what could possibly possess a person to do such a terrible thing," the dehumanizing term offers them a thoughtless way out of the predicament by simply saying, "because they are terrorists." A nice, clean way to not think at all and turn off our conscience to the blood on our hands and the actual reason why people want to attack us.

So for the rest of this brief essay, they are not terrorists, they are people. People like you and I, with families and friends and hopes and dreams and beliefs and skills and struggles. Ordinary people who are subject to the same mental and emotional processes as you and I. However, they are different in a significant way. While you and I have most likely led a peaceful life of ease in a highly developed country, where our routine struggles are bad hair days and fitting laundry and workouts into our work schedule, these people probably grew up with a bit more hardship.

Life was not so pleasantly abstracted to them, and they faced the harsh realities of it. Political instability is likely, and they may have grown up between military occupations, civil wars, coups, and those cruel and oppressive puppet governments installed by foreign powers. Checkpoints, searches, raids, confiscations, rapes, murders, kidnappings, bombings, and the like may have been their experience. These, at the hands of foreigners whose religious beliefs or lack thereof were detestably incompatible with one's own, must be excessively degrading to a person.

We must understand that the motivations for different people to participate in the same thing are often different. The freedom fighter or suicide bomber might be motivated by religion, dignity, honor, or vengeance. The mercenary, money and adventure. But when a foreign power moves its armies, we do not concern ourselves with the motivations of pawns, but rather the strategic motivations of the controllers at the highest perceivable level. Russia does not invade Ukraine because the average Russian harbors racial prejudices against Ukrainians, although that could be one method of gaining popular support. They invade because their rulers want to expand their territory and increase their tax harvest. Perhaps valuable resources or strategic locations exist in the region. Maybe an enemy of Russia had infiltrated the Ukrainian government and the invasion is an attempt to preempt a developing threat.

With "terrorists" we use reverse logic. We ignore the broader, strategic perspective and instead focus on the minutia. "He said 'Allah akbar' so they must be doing this because of their religion." Yes, the bombers themselves, but who gave them the equipment and training, and who funded their trainers and equippers? Who gave the order to organize all of this? These are actions of war, and should be appraised as such. Why, in the recent incident, did they attack France and not Finland? Is it because the French are complicit in the occupation, and in killing tax livestock and inflicting property damage they mean to eventually cause a withdrawal of French troops? Or is it because they loathe French culture, French women, or the French brand of atheism?

As I recall, the "barbarians" were a popular subject of Roman games, as "terrorists" are today in Hollywood productions. And, didn't the "barbarians" eventually overrun the Roman empire? Was it something that could have been prevented, perhaps, had the Romans come to the realization that these "barbarians" were human beings acting in a predictable way given the occupation and terrorization of their lands by the Roman armies? Maybe if America and friends eased off being imperialistic these "terrorists" might return their interest to their own homes and families. As it is, they would apparently rather die in opposition than live in subjugation, and that is both dangerous and heartbreaking. Please consider rethinking the use of this term.