Last week we all witnessed the widespread celebrations upon the news of the death of Osama Bin Laden. Although any person who is willing to kill innocent people in the name of politics or religion deserves humanity's contempt, I think we are missing a vital point in all this. Instead of celebrating, perhaps we should be taking this time for remembrance of the victims and, more importantly, a sober reflection on the present state of the world.
Ultimately Bin Laden was an expert manipulator of an existing and intolerable situation- the vast inequity of wealth and opportunity. Born into wealth and blessed with the advantages that kind of wealth can provide, Bin Laden was not exactly what anybody would consider a victim of an unfair society. He did, however, make use of the inherent injustice to further his own goals.
Wise men tell us that injustice is the source of radicalization. And despite all the jihadist rhetoric and all of the violence that he and his followers advocated, the problems of inequality and corruption remain. In fact, because of his miscalculation, there is now much more misery in the world, not less.
The events in Tunisia and Egypt and ongoing events in Libya, Yemen and Syria and Bahrain underline a truth that Bin Laden tended to ignore. That the problem isn't between Islam and the West. It is a problem between citizens and their governments and class against against class. Any Islamic regime, (or in Libya's case, revolutionary regime) that incorporates the same injustices, whether pro-Western or not, cannot be expected to be any less corrupt.
True, it is with Western support that keeps many- but not all- of these authoritarian governments in place. That must change. Additionally, until the powerful and the wealthy, wherever they are, realize their own responsibilities- to return back to the society the benefits that they have taken- then nothing will improve. And all of us, East and West, will suffer with instability and sudden irrational violence. All ideologies based on limited privileges for a special class will become corrupted and fall prey to terrorism.
My father grew up in quite desperate conditions during the Depression but he had one thing that so many children living in these countries never have. My father had a sense of hope and a strong faith that there was the possibility of changing one's status in life. And he was, in fact, able to rise from poverty into middle class. More importantly, he was able to provide a better life for his children. He knew that, whatever fallings the system might have, those shortcomings would, over time, be rectified. If not now then in the near future.
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Without that belief, it is only natural that people rebel. That's really not all that hard to understand. Freedom in abstract is merely the possibility for an improvement, and the right to reject the present unsatisfactory conditions.
Wouldn't you be angry if, by speaking out, you could only expect prison or worse?
How you you feel if every newspaper and every news show told you some depiction of life you knew by your own experience to be untrue? If, every time you voted, you'd know that nothing would change, that you would only be exchanging one pack of thieves for another more persuasive one. How long would remain tolerant of a system like that? How long would it take you to become radicalized?
At the end of the day, removing one terrorist from the world's stage, no matter how high profile or how cutthroat he might have been, will do very little to alleviate the underlying problem and until we all address the problem of injustice and inequality, we should expect the problem to continue.
I don't want anybody to misunderstand. I am not offering excuses. Terrorism is, of course, a failed philosophy, both morally and strategically. It pits one innocent victim against another innocent victim. It is just more of the same problem. People who have been treated like garbage, dehumanized and devalued are in turn, slaughtering and dehumanizing other victims .
Still worse, the dehumanizing acts of terrorism hardens the very hearts that might ally themselves towards finding a solution. People, especially children, must be worth something.
When you look at the faces of the children in the pictures below, would you really be all that astonished if I told you that you might well be looking into the eyes of the next generation's terrorist?
After all, is the kind of life that you'd wish for your own children?