Three “opposites” of terrorism

There are many ways to think about the opposites of terrorism, and what follows came from thinking about what lays at the heart of terrorism, and taking the opposite. 

The “heart” of terrorism

Here are three things we might find if we could look into the heart and mind of most terrorists. Everybody is unique, and there could be people that other people call terrorists who don’t share these factors,  but if we were to look into the souls of most terrorists we would probably see these three.

1. Using violence to solve problems

There are a lot of things wrong with the world, no matter how you look at it. Just watch the news, or scan the internet, or look outside your door (maybe even inside your own house) and you will see people suffering from all kinds of causes. And a natural reaction to seeing people suffering is to want to do something about it, is to want to solve the problem.  But how do you solve the problem?  That is the question.  For a terrorist, the answer has become simple.

2. Duality: Seeing the world as “good versus evil,” “us versus them.”

I don’t know which comes first, the violence or the duality, but they certainly walk hand in hand. In order to kill “innocent women and children” to solve whatever problem you are attempting to solve, you can’t see them as “innocent women and children.” You have to see them as the enemy, as less than human, as things.  One way to do that is to adopt a dualistic mindset, to adopt a view of the world that is most black and white, good and bad, us versus them.  This mindset isn’t just seen in so-called terrorists.  A recent American politician of some note said; “If you aren’t with us, you’r against us.”  That is the mindset of duality, one of the factors that leads to terrorism.

3. Seeing the world through a rigid, dogmatic framework

This is similar to duality, but slightly different, slightly more complex.  And it might only make sense if we look at it’s opposite.

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The Opposites

If those three are at the heart of terrorism, then what are the opposites of them.

1. Finding creative, live-affirming solutions to our problems

The first “opposite” is searching for creative and life-affirming ways to solve problems – rather than using violence to achieve one’s goals. People like Mother Theresa and groups like Doctors Without Borders and OXFAM solve challenging problems in creative and life-affirming ways that are the opposite of the tactics used by terrorists.

2. Seeing our similarities as more fundamental than our differences

s The second “opposite” is developing an appreciation for our common humanity – rather than starkly dividing the world into “us” versus “them.” Terrorists can carry out their heinous acts only because they see those they attack as totally other, as totally different from themselves, and as something less than human. People such as Gandhi and Martin Luther King, on the other hand, recognized and spoke to our underlying humanity, and in doing so embodied the opposite of terrorism.

3. See the world as it is, not as we think it is

The third “opposite” is recognizing the wide variety of valid ways to view the world – rather than believing that there is one and only one truth, and that the terrorist possesses it. All terrorists believe that their view is the single correct view, and thus they have no need to consider other, divergent viewpoints. Groups such as The Southern Poverty Law Center and The Interfaith Center of New York promote respect for individuals regardless of their faith, ethnic background or beliefs and therefore promote views directly opposite the views held by terrorists.

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