Saturday, August 26, 2006

Light at the End of the Tunnel

Many thanks to my brother, for linking me to this information.

From Scott Altran's research on "Understanding Suicide Terrorism:"

"Contemporary suicide terrorists from the Middle East are publicly deemed crazed cowards bent on senseless destruction who thrive in poverty and ignorance. Recent research indicates they have no appreciable psychopathology and are as educated and economically well-off as surrounding populations. A first line of defense is to get the communities from which suicide attackers stem to stop the attacks by learning how to minimize the receptivity of mostly ordinary people to recruiting organizations...

...Social psychologists have investigated the “fundamental attribution error,” a tendency for people to explain behavior in terms of individual personality traits, even when significant situational factors in the larger society are at work. U.S. government and media characterizations of Middle East suicide bombers as craven homicidal lunatics may suffer from a fundamental attribution error: No instances of religious or political suicide terrorism stem from lone actions of cowering or unstable bombers. Psychologist Stanley Milgram found that ordinary Americans also readily obey destructive orders under the right circumstances."

I think Altran's research lends support to the idea that many problems of violence throughout the world could be transformed if only persuasive leaders offered people hungry for meaning a non-violent and yet courageous identity and vital larger-than-self work to do.

I recently saw this phenomenon in action on a very small scale, when a large group of poor, African-American kids who live around my urban church got involved in preparations for a spaghetti dinner we were hosting for the community.

The Parish Hall was bustling with the activity of about a dozen kids ranging in age from six to 17 or 18, boys and girls: cooking spaghetti and corn, washing lettuce for salads, laying out cookies, setting up tables and chairs, laying out plates, knives and forks, decorating the tables with candles, arranging the buffet and then lining up eagerly to eat. Afterward, many of them stayed to tidy up and do dishes, and then they went out to the parking lot in the dusk and started horsing around with each other.

My epiphany was the thought that much so-called delinquency is just boredom exacerbated by being generally regarded as unimportant and unnecessary.

I want to find an ongoing way to engage the kids in the huge amounts of work that really do need to be done: renovating and building affordable housing; providing low cost, nutritious meals and health care; teaching and minding the children of working parents; maintaining neighborhood parks - the list goes on and on...


  • Thank you for visiting my site. Perhaps our common background in Philosophy gives us a shared perspective in these awful times. I started out doing Law and was seduced by that Queen of subjects.
    When I figure out how I will post a link to your site.
    Kind regards,

    By Blogger Brewerstroupe, At 10:12 PM  

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