Today I’d like to talk about an increasingly worrying issue: radicalisation. Part problem is that I don’t feel as though the issue is ever fairly or accurately reported on. For example, you’ll hear about a terrorist act done in the name of Islam, which will prompt people to say that there is a problem with that belief system.
The thing is though, any belief system can have radicalised members. You could have radicalised Christians doing the same thing. You have radicalised “Alt Right” people doing the same – or, to name two groups whose ideologies I agree with, you could have radicalised LGBT activists or radicalised feminists. If somebody believes in an ideal, you can conceivably persuade them to kill or harm others in the name of that ideal. In fact, if you look to history, you’ll find that people have killed in the name of pretty much everything. Following the argument that if members of a belief set can be radicalised, that belief set is harmful ultimately stops you from believing in anything… except maybe pacifism. I’m pretty sure nobody has ever killed someone in the name of pacifism, but you never know.
So, what actually does cause it? Honestly, it’s a very complex thing and will never be as simple as “certain belief systems are just evil” though I will admit, that some will be easier radicalised than others. If your belief system tells you that certain groups or certain people are lesser, or deserve lesser rights for whatever reason, then it’s probably going to be easier to convince you that actually, it’s also okay to harm those people.
I think that the biggest causes could be ignorance and lack of communication. Say Group A and Group B believe different things, but very rarely interact. They struggle to understand each other’s beliefs (even though neither is necessarily harmful) and so criticise the other group among members of their own group. Eventually, something happens which puts Group A at an advantage over Group B (perhaps they even acted inconsiderately) – now the B people who have never really known A people will get even angrier. Maybe then an A person (again, who has never known a B person that well) notices that B people are a bit more hostile or uneasy around A people – perhaps they’re in a position of power and make things harder for B people. The B people then conclude that A people do not value the wellbeing of B people. Listening to nobody but members of their own group, the B people then attack the A people in the name of redressing the balance. The A people hurt have nothing to do with the A people who made the selfish decisions, but they now have very negative attitudes about B people – maybe retaliation is planned. Ultimately, lives on both sides are taken and those hurt are always the innocent ones who had nothing to do with the bad decisions.
I don’t want to say “they’re all as bad as each other” because I don’t think that’s fair and it oversimplifies far too much. Radicalisation comes from people forgetting the humanity of those they agree with. Even somebody who agrees in peace and love for all, could end up turning violent if they have been convinced that somebody embodies war and hatred for all. Everyone is the main character of their own stories and believes that their perspective is what’s best and most fair. Everyone thinks they’re fighting for what’s right and when they look to media and literature, the fight for what’s right normally involves violence.
I’ve probably guilty as just as much over simplification as anybody else, but I just wanted to demonstrate that demonising a specific group is both counter-productive and not true to reality.