Sunday, April 28, 2013

Despair as Catalyst

Trey Smith

In watching the massive media coverage and the reaction to the brutal bombing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, the wise poem “To A Louse…” composed in 1785 by the Scottish poet Robert Burns came to me:
“O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!”
English translation:
“And would some Power the small gift give us
To see ourselves as others see us!”
What must the “ithers” in the Middle East theatre of the American Empire think of a great city in total lockdown from an attack by primitive explosives when Iraqis, Afghans, Pakistanis and Yemenis experience far greater casualties and terror attacks several times a week? Including what they believe are terror attacks by U.S. drones, soldiers, aircraft and artillery that have directly killed many thousands of innocent children, women and men in their homes, during funeral processions and wedding parties, or while they’re working in their fields.

Here’s what they are thinking: that America is very vulnerable and ready to shake itself upside down to rid itself and protect itself from any terror attacks. The Bush regime, after 9/11, sacrificed U.S. soldiers and millions of innocents in the broader Middle East, drained our economy, so as to ignore the necessities of saving lives and health here at home, and metastasized al-Qaeda into numerous countries, spilling havoc into Iraq and now Syria. We have paid a tremendous price in blowback, because of Mr. Bush’s rush to war.

Why is the reaction to the events in Boston viewed by some as bizarre? Our president said “We will finish the race.” Do we really think that the attackers are doing this to disrupt our pleasure in foot racing?

The attackers, be they suicide bombers over there or domestic bombers here, are motivated by their hatred of our invasions, our daily bombings, our occupations, our immersion in tribal preferences leading to divide-and-rule sectarian wars. Studies, such as those by the University of Chicago Professor Robert Pape, and former adviser to Barack Obama and Ron Paul during the 2008 presidential campaign, conclude that entry into paradise is not the motivation for these suicide bombers. What drives them is their despair and their desire to expel the foreign invaders from their homeland.
~ from As Others See Us by Ralph Nader ~
When men flew airplanes into the towers and the Pentagon, we were told that one of their motivations was paradise and a trove of virgins. While this may have been part of the narrative, it was most likely nothing more than a footnote. The giant elephant in the room that most Americans refuse to entertain is the major role despair played.

Why would a person -- playing the role of a suicide bomber -- willingly sacrifice their own life in conjunction with the lives of countless innocents? While a certain type of altruism may come into play, the more obvious explanation is that such persons do not believe they have anything to live for. When despair becomes the overarching emotion of daily existence, you are far more likely to view life itself as a trivial matter.

When despair is a strictly internal phenomena, many end it by committing suicide. Their goal is to put an end to their own personal torment. When despair is the result of external forces beyond any one individual's personal control, not only does the person want to put an end to their own personal hell, but they often want to strike out against others -- often indiscriminately -- as part and parcel of the final act.

It doesn't take a genius to figure this out. We each see it in our own lives on a frequent basis. When a person is hurting because they feel they have been insulted, disrespected or hurt by someone else in some fashion, the most common reactions are a) some variety of self-medication and b) to strike out at others. In most instances, these are passing emotions. We get it out of our symptoms and continue on.

But what of those individuals who are surrounded by despair 24/7? For them, there is no escape. No amount of self-medication will dull the gnawing ache. No amount of being cross with friends and family will relieve the pressure. It simply builds day after day after day. They get to the point in which they don't know what to do with themselves.

Enter the charismatic "leader" who tells them there is a way to vanquish their own pain AND to transfer it to the ones who caused it in the first place. Kill two birds with one stone! The person who believes they have something to live for would scoff at such a vulgar suggestion. But, for the person who believes there is no longer anything worth living for, the notion is seductive. End your pain and inflict it on the abusers. For some, it becomes a viable choice.

There is one proven method for stopping the potentiality of almost every suicide bomber: stop the abuse. With no abuse, there is no external driver of despair. There is no one to get back at.

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