Many people think Islamic Jihadists hate freedom. They are painted as barbarians who despise Western culture, that want to watch it burn, and who want to kill indiscriminately. There is truth to their hatred; but it is not a totally random and arbitrary hatred. That is an oversimplification. Their hatred is partly a product of tribal engineering.
Tribal engineering is the idea that culture transmits values and memes to its young in order to inculcate them with the idea that dying for their culture is acceptable. The west is not immune to tribal engineering either. Western hate is similar to Muslim hate. Everywhere, people are trained by various culture doctors to loathe a politically manufactured boogeyman. The culture doctors include parents, educators, politicians, and religious leaders.
The aforementioned “Mind molding” is typical of tribal psychology. Once tribal leaders create enemies, they instill the tribe with a sense of fear and hatred toward those enemies. They spread this anger by means of education, religion, propaganda, sporting matches, desensitization to cultural mores, and magazines like ISIS’s Dabiq or media stations like America’s Fox News.
The Blood Sacrifice
Barbara Ehrenreich’s book, Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War elaborates on this topic. It delves into the ritualistic and psycho-historical aspect of warfare and terrorism by extension, but it disregards traditional ideas of genetic predispositions towards violence. Instead, for her, warfare is a continuation of ritualistic sacrifice conducted by prehistorical and savage humans.
These early humans imagined themselves as predatory animals and mimicked their gory feeding frenzies. These uncivilized humans eviscerated and decapitated their victims at the alter, as if they were prey.
“The body would be disposed of in various ways, such as feeding animals at the zoo or putting on display (the heads). There are some accounts of cannibalism, but it’s uncertain if this was practiced to any great extent.
There were other ways that humans would be sacrificed – shot with arrows, drowned, burned, or otherwise mutilated. Killing in a fight (like the Roman gladiators) also took place.”
According to Ehrenreich, these blood-debt sacrifices are the sociocultural roots of warfare. It is a form of collective tribalism which has an evolutionary basis relating to how humans were a prey species, and it has transformed into mass “sacrifices” called warfare or terrorism.
It is good to bear in mind that Ehrenreich primarily cited anecdotal and loose history as evidence. Nonetheless, the material offers an alternative way to view human warmongering and terrorism that all cultures tend to have in common.
Blowback and Revenge
The cultural programming done by radical Islam is compounded by another problem: western imperialism. The American government has caused the death of thousands of innocents. The CIA has a term for this “collateral damage”; it is called blowback. It occurs when the CIA sends covert operatives into a country with missions to destabilize governments.
These missions often cause civilian casualties and destruction to the nation’s infrastructure. Women and children die by the dozens. The consequences of blowback do not include the emotional carnage wreaked by American bombing campaigns, which are known for hitting weddings and peaceful villages. This causes more blowback.
Blowback involves retaliation against American acts of “terrorism.” Radicals become infuriated that their families were murdered. So their prior cultural indoctrination is intensified, and they become Jihadists who are further radicalized against western “crusaders.”
The terrorists who attacked the Bataclan in Paris, killing over 100 people, hinted at the reason why they committed the atrocity. Survivors overheard terrorists words while they reloaded their rifles. A Guardian article caught the details:
“The gunmen shouted that they were there because of Syria and Iraq and particularly François Hollande’s airstrikes on Syria. They said they would “make you understand” what women and children were suffering in those air raids.”
Terrorists fight in a guerrilla or urban tactical manner because they do not have a stable government army. But in a fascinating way, terror organizations echo governmental military forces in recruiting strategy. They only differ in combat style and target acquisition. Nonetheless, the reasons why recruits sign up has startling similarities across cultures.
Young men who join terrorist organizations or standing armies were tricked into it as a result of the cultural engineering. Recruiters also play on young men’s urge for wanderlust and excitement. They tell them about the awesome adventure the military provides. The whole enterprise is painted under an idyllic, Marco Polo type of quest. But there is an even stronger reason why many recruits join organizations: monetary gain.
“According to Abu Khaled, a large number of people are joining ISIS because they need money. After joining the militants, people are paid in US dollars instead of Syrian liras. Abu Khaled said that ISIS also runs its own currency exchanges”
Religious Context and Cultural Annihilation
Part of what motivates people to cheer for terrorism or “war” is their fear of cultural annihilation, or destruction of values that specific societies elevate to high status.
For instance, in the West, people see the term “freedom” as being embedded in their culture and they repeat it like a mantra, even though most people can’t define it. They imagine that “freedom” is at stake, so they take up arms in its defense. It is vague and ambiguous cultural memes like “freedom” that spur hate, warfare, strife, and terrorism. Many people in the west are willing to die and kill for freedom, regardless of what being free means to them. And arguably, they are not free to begin with.
An American Psychological Association article called Understanding Terrorism examined this issue in regards to globalism, from the Islamic perspective:
“In a more global sense, a fear of cultural annihilation may help fuel terrorist sentiments, says psychologist and terrorism expert Fathali Moghaddam, PhD, of Georgetown University’s department of psychology. In ‘How Globalization Spurs Terrorism: The Lopsided Benefits of One World and Why That Fuels Violence’ (Praeger, 2008), Moghaddam argues that rapid globalization has forced disparate cultures into contact with one another and is threatening the domination or disappearance of some groups—a cultural version of ‘survival of the fittest.'”
Besides globalization, religion in all societies has likewise been a common predictor of warfare and bloodletting. Everyone knows historically that religious crusades and battles for God and Country were terrifyingly commonplace. This religious warfare is still practiced today, but it is not only Islam that practices religio-warfare. America does the same thing except it is couched in the machismo of militarism and neo-conservatism rather than Jihadist sentiment.
Not to mention, Statism is a kind of religion. It becomes intimately intertwined with monotheistic paths like Christianity or Islam, and this exacerbates the war trance and makes people excited and hungry to commit murder. Religious warfare is also a global phenomenon. It is not something that is unique to Jihadists, but it is certainly a major reason why they fight.
Conclusion: Anti-Culture, Dis-Education
The psychological anatomy of terrorism and warfare is multifaceted and diverse. It is nearly impossible to understand when looking at it from a singular perspective. Almost all simplistic answers are false, but there are clear indicators that point toward terrorist or militaristic behavior. It has to do with culture, tribal engineering, individual motivations, and no culture is immune to them.
Matter of fact, people embedded in a certain culture can only see from their own perspective, from the information fed to them by their government, parents, and culture doctors. But if they purposely unplug and examine things objectively, they can see why young adults are spurred to kill others and sacrifice their lives. In the case of the Jihadists, a mixture of culture, the desire to meet basic needs, and genuine anger as a result of blowback motivates them.
The only way to end the insanity from all sides is to advocate for total cease fire, which can only occur if cultural myths are busted through a kind of anti-culture, dis-education. People have to be informed about their biases, and they also have to be desensitized to the operation and function of other cultures. In a way, the nation-state has to be replaced with a kind of worldly community that advocates respect for all humankind.
But the only way to do this is by spreading information and speaking with people. Pointing more guns, blowing children up, shooting up nightclubs, advocating government, and dehumanizing other cultures only invites more bloodshed and destruction. But with everyone’s vigilance things can be done to halt terrorism and warfare. I believe stepping up to the pulpit and delivering proclamations of peace can and will catalyze a paradigm shift.
The pen is mightier than the gun.
Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of Wars by Barbara Ehrenreich
Blowback by Chalmers Johnson