The Ottumwa Courier

Opinion

October 10, 2012

What the Vikings can teach us about terrorism

(Continued)

MONTEREY, Calif. —

With regard to the belief that poverty and hopelessness spark terrorism, one can only say that many, many countries see endless years of travail of this sort without ever a terrorist group rising up. Why is it that the vast majority of those who suffer in such settings fail to take up arms and commit terrorist acts? The philosopher John Stuart Mill once articulated what he called a "method of difference" by which he held that factors — such as poverty and hopelessness — common to many areas, but leading to a particular outcome (in this case, terrorism) in only a few, should not be seen as the true causes of the phenomenon. Thus, persistent economic suffering should not be seen as a prime catalyst for terrorism.

But if the foregoing, widely accepted troika of causes of our current age of terror are all false, then what is this violent plague's true origin? In discussions over the past decade, my colleague Robert O'Connell and I have observed that the desire to prey upon the innocent is rooted deeply in human nature. From the earliest times, bush and mountain tribes, horse archers and sea peoples all perpetrated acts of symbolic violence against hapless victims in order to shock their families, and their protectors, into states of temporary inaction during plunder raids. This violence also served to intimidate the victims into paying tribute, in the hope of being left in peace later on. In one form or another over the centuries, from piracy on the high seas to steppe raiders, and on to the "business model" of numerous modern terrorist factions, the pattern persists: Symbolic violence or the threat of it, aimed at the innocent, has been used to pursue gains — material and otherwise.

To be sure, there have been terrorist organizations driven primarily by religious zeal, the Cult of the Assassins in the 13th century being the best example of the use of murder to further belief-based interests. But in the long history of violence against the innocent, the Assassins are far more the exception than the rule. No, it seems instead that terror has flourished when external conditions have allowed, not when ideas have inspired or suffering has impelled. Ideas without opportunity have always withered.

Text Only
Opinion
  • Make Ottumwa Shine offers opportunity We hear a lot of complaints about the condition of our town. Some are justified, others are the kind of carping that happens in any community. But this month shows the difference between those who just want to complain and people who are genuinely in

    May 2, 2014

  • Investing more money in tornado research would be a disaster

    This week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would require National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration funding to focus on improving forecasts of "high impact weather events" like tornadoes and hurricanes "for the protection of life and property and the enhancement of the national economy."

    April 4, 2014

  • 1120 OTT Opinion Reiter bw photo -L A running Start The Great American Smokeout is tomorrow. The American Cancer Society has chosen the third Thursday in November for this annual event to encourage smokers to quit. There are still an estimated 43.8 million cigarette smokers in the U.S. and several mil

    November 19, 2013 1 Photo

  • No Headline Provided

    October 25, 2013

  • Be aware of prostate cancer I am very pleased to see the coverage and interest in breast cancer with October designated as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. There are about 220,000 new cases of breast cancer reported every year, and it is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths

    October 4, 2013

  • Our View Election a chance to move Ottumwa forward Over the past several days, the Courier sat down with each of the candidates for City Council. Among the candidates are some of the best people we've seen step forward in a very long time. We'll endorse candidates for the general election. What we wa

    October 4, 2013

  • Broadband Internet just the beginning I had the opportunity to meet the broadband delegation from Ottumwa who recently toured Steuben County, Ind. As one of the iMAN Fiber Network team members, I can assure you this was an incredible experience for both of our groups. First, as I've lear

    September 14, 2013

  • Request free utility locates using Iowa One Call technology Iowa homeowners who need to dig on their property have free access to an updated technology tool, iTic Lite, available from Iowa One Call, the organization tasked with promoting the message "Call before you dig in Iowa." For their own safety and that

    September 10, 2013

  • Tell us your survivor story The world is filled with stories. Some make front-page news while others get hidden and are never told. Stories of people who overcome obstacles should have a place to make their voices heard. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and the Courier

    September 6, 2013

  • School board voting will be a little easier Tuesday The League of Women Voters would like to encourage a greater participation by voters in the upcoming election of school board members. It is encouraging to see a larger number of citizens campaigning to serve their community on the school board. I

    September 6, 2013

Obituaries
Record
Facebook
AP National