“You can’t have a war on terrorism because that’s not an actual enemy, it’s an abstract. It’s like having a war on dandruff. That war will be eternal and pointless. It’s idiotic. That’s not a war, it’s a slogan. It’s a lie. It’s advertising, which is the only art form we ever invented in America. And we use it to sell soap, wars and presidential candidates in the same fashion.” –Gore Vidal
“”Support our troops” and “What about Hitler” aren’t invitations to actually discuss either subject. They’re magic words intended to shut down further discussion, because the “Team Violence” part of our brain reacts to criticism in the exact same way that Muslim extremists react to cartoons mocking Mohammed.” –David Wong
Violence begets terrorism. Terrorism begets war. War begets more terrorism. It really is that simple. But we just can’t seem to help ourselves. We’re a young and fallible species in an otherwise ancient and fine-tuned universe. All too often our animal reflexes kick in and we just want to kick some ass. Our inner-monkey wants to start throwing shit just because it’s upset. Without thinking, we holler “Bomb em’ all!” from the comfort of our La-Z-Boys. It’s too hard to think, so we go with the primitive and outdated default: fight or flight. But this is the immature, lizard part of our brain doing the talking, not the mature seat of consciousness that is trying to make the world a better place.
Sadly, because of the typical lizard-brain reaction, the so-called “war on terror” has actually weakened national security and increased terrorism. Why is this? It’s because violence begets violence begets terrorism begets more terrorism, and round and round we go. Where it stops nobody knows. But if you fill a room with unthinking pissed off monkeys throwing shit, then everything is going to end up covered in shit, or worse. Best to avoid shit altogether. Best to think first and act conscientiously second. Here are four ways to trump our lizard brains and dig out of the hole of terrorism we all seem to have dug ourselves into.
1.) Simply Stop Participating in Terrorism
“Everyone’s worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there’s really an easy way: stop participating in it.” –Noam Chomsky
Easier said than done, I know. Especially when the majority of us live in hyper-violent nation states that xenophobically skirmish over illusory border lines. Ignorant of the disease, we dumbly focus on the symptoms. We thrash about in our nation-secured state-subscribed cribs. We lash out. We flail like whiney babies in a dark room. We cry “terrorism!” not realizing that most of the time we’re just crying wolf. More often than not we don’t even realize what we’re saying. We’re too busy being bombarded by cultural conditioning, political propaganda, and religious banter to even get a thought in edge-wise. Meanwhile, nothing ever gets done about the disease itself. Ignorance and apathy rule while awareness and empathy play second fiddle.
Here’s the thing: People are weak. The toughest among us have transformed their weakness into strength. They didn’t do it by ignoring it or placating it or pitying it, but by embracing it for what it is and building courage on top of it. When it comes down to it, we’re all soft animals in a hard desert. That “hard desert” is the Desert of the Real. Many of us simply can’t handle the down-to-brass-tacks of truth without a buffer. It’s just too damn scary, and we’re just too damn weak. So we need something to lean on: religion; political factions; fill-in-the-blank. We use them like crutches to get us through the hellfire of truth that rains down on us in a harsh and unforgiving universe.
But, and here’s the real kick-in-the-pants, the majority of us are also ignorant to the “hellfire of truth.” Like Noam Chomsky said, “The general population doesn’t even know what’s happening, and it doesn’t even know that it doesn’t know.” Which is even more of a reason for the general population to lean on a particular faith, faction, group, or whatever. And that’s just to get through the day without going crazy with fear and trepidation.
I understand that the meaning of Chomsky’s quote was political and not spiritual, but the point is that both ignorance and weakness must be addressed before we ever get to the point to where we can consciously choose to not participate in terrorism.
2.) Practice High Courage Not Submission to Fear
“There’s a difference between us. You think the people of this country exist to provide you with possession. I think your possession exists to provide those people with freedom. And I go to make sure that they have it.” –William Wallace, Braveheart
The enemy isn’t terrorism. The enemy is our need for revenge, our compulsion toward evening the score. We seem to believe that an eye for an eye is justice. But it’s not. As Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”
How does it make the whole world blind? Here’s an example: Let’s say you and I are from different tribes with opposing worldviews. One day we get into a heated debate and I get pissed off and poke out your eye. So you retaliate and poke out my eye. But then I retaliate and poke out your other eye. Now you’re blind and really pissed, but you just get your brother to poke out my other eye. But now I’m blind and really pissed, so I have my brother poke out your brother’s eye. So on and so forth, until both of our tribes are blind. Now apply this to two nations with opposing worldviews (cue Palestinian-Israel armchair quarterbacks), and change the “eye-pokes” to “bombs.” You can see how it won’t be long before the entire world is vengefully “blind.”
That is until somebody, an individual or group of individuals, has the wherewithal to tap into their higher frequency thought processes in order trump their lower frequency knee-jerk reactions. That is to say, until someone has the common decency to tell their lizard brain to shut the hell up. Telling your base, low-frequency, lizard-brained self to shut up and allow the mature, high frequency, evolved-minded self to do the thinking, is true courage. This is tapping into high courage. This is drawing a line in the sand and declaring to the powers that be, the universe, God, other tribes, or whoever else is listening, that you will no longer be a victim of fear, let alone terrorism. That from now on you choose a lifestyle based on high courage and high humor rather than one based on fear and paranoia.
3.) Reinforce Humanity Not Nationalism
“If you can find money to kill people you can find money to help people.” –Tony Benn
Contrary to state-driven propaganda, people with different worldviews can coexist. We’ve been doing it since the dawn of humankind. And we’ve actually gotten better at it. Sure, we’ve gone over some horrific speedbumps like the Dark Ages, the Crusades, and WWII, but we’ve actually gotten much better at coexisting. Subtracting the World Trade Center attack, the Paris attacks, and minus a bunch of cowardly douchebags flying drones and dropping bombs on hospitals from comfortable cubicles, the last twenty years haven’t been so bad. It just seems worse because of the internet and the spread of information.
The point is: we’re getting better at coexisting. The challenge is: we need to get even better at it. A lot better. The problem is: nationalism and patriotism have our brains scrambled up into exploitable mush. The other problem is: religion, politics, and racism are still creating divisiveness. The other-other problem is: there are still way too many people acting from lower frequency, lizard-brain, knee-jerk reactions to what they believe; and way too few people acting from higher frequency, evolved-mind, thoughtful interpretation of what they think they perceive. In short: there are way too many people believing, and way too few people thinking. Which comes down to this: there are way too many people who believe they have answers, and way too few people asking better questions. Which breaks down even further to this quote by Paulo Coelho, “A wise person is full of questions. A dull person is full of answers.”
By reinforcing humanity instead of nationalism, we turn the tables on both our lizard brains and the powers that be. By becoming worldly patriots instead of patriotic nationalists, we turn the tables on both xenophobia and apathy and we become more compassionate and empathetic toward others. When we celebrate diversity instead of trying to cram the square peg of cultural affiliation into the round hole of colonialism, we turn the tables on the monkey-mind’s one-dimensional moral tribalism and we usher in Joshua Greene’s multi-dimensional metamorality. Like he says in Moral Tribes, “We need a kind of thinking that enables groups with conflicting moralities to live together and prosper. In other words, we need a metamorality. We need a moral system that resolves disagreements among groups with different moral ideals, just as ordinary first-order morality resolves disagreements among individuals with different selfish interests.”
4.) Attack Ideas Not People
“Hate hatred but don’t hate the haters.” –Rob Brezsny
Hate terrorism but don’t hate the terrorists. This is a tough one. Or, at the very least, it’s a double-edged sword. On the one side we have anger and rage verging on wrath, in reaction to terrorists and their plots. On the other side we have love, compassion, and understanding for the hypocrisy of the human condition. Guess which side is functioning from the lower frequency of the lizard brain?
This is not to say that we shouldn’t get angry. We definitely should, and righteously so. And it’s not to say that we should just lower our defenses and offer the bomb-strapped terrorists a warm hug. We definitely should not do that. No. This is to say that we should reinforce love not violence, compassion not blind passion, forgiveness not vengeance. We should seek reform first and annihilation second, defense first and offense second, and we should focus on the disease instead of the symptoms. Because the symptoms will just keep popping up until the disease is cured.
So what exactly is the disease? Quite simply: bad ideas. Which is to say: immoral beliefs. And when it really comes down to it: belief. Full stop.
Like Robert Anton Wilson said, “I regard belief as a form of brain damage, the death of intelligence, the fracture of creativity, the atrophy of imagination.” He seems to be speaking directly to the reptilian mindset here. Do we remain in the lower frequencies, a mere puppet to the lizard brain, close-minded and closed off? Or do we rise up into the higher frequencies and place our lizard brain in check, open-minded and unblocked? Like Gerry Spence said, “I’d rather have a mind open by wonder than one closed by belief.”
Here’s the thing: belief is easy. It’s thinking that’s difficult. Belief is blinded by “answers.” Intelligence is opened by questions. Belief fractures creativity and attempts to keep everything in a single box. Imaginative thought publicizes creativity and thinks outside the box. Indeed. As Ursula K. Le Guin said, “Belief is a wound that knowledge heals.”
So how do we square this circle? Love, compassion, and understanding. And a shitload of education. But the first step is to attack ideas and ideologies, not people or groups of people. We shouldn’t fight dumb people, we should fight the ideas of dumb people. We shouldn’t fight terrorists, we should fight the ideologies of terrorists. Sure, if terrorists are terrorizing us, we should use every means necessary to dispose of their terrorism. But a war on terror is not the way. Defense against terrorism is the way. And the best defense is love, compassion, understanding, and a shitload of education.
Like Guy Harrison said, “Hate the belief, love the believer.” This means striving toward those higher frequencies with all we’ve got, because that’s where forgiveness is. That’s where unconditional love eternally burns its Agape furnaces. From this sacred state we can then do as James Levin advised, “Follow effective action with quiet reflection; from the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.” Educate; meditate; repeat. Eventually there will be more thinkers than believers. Then progressive evolution can really begin. And terrorism will just be a disappointing relic of a bygone, lizard-brain way.
Read more articles from Gary ‘Z’ McGee.
About the Author
Gary ‘Z’ McGee, a former Navy Intelligence Specialist turned philosopher, is the author of Birthday Suit of God and The Looking Glass Man. His works are inspired by the great philosophers of the ages and his wide awake view of the modern world.
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