I rarely rant about current affairs. That is for people with more flexible schedules, and nimble minds. I take time to think my rants through and then to write them. I’m hoping the topics are not going to be moot a week from posting them.
But at the same time I feel that we are seeing something quite unprecedented here, so it would look odd in perspective, if somebody looked at these ten years down the line, and got the impression that I was ranting about pandas, heels and washing machines, as if there wasn’t a massive war going on, a war which scores of my countrymen (and some countrywomen) were joining.
In this day and age that post-dates Enlightenment by about 250 years, European kids are running off to fight the good fight, not for any noble humanitarian reasons, but in order to force a brutal religious dictatorship on people and off with their heads if they don’t conform.
There seems to be a certain amount of head scratching going on among people of just about every colour and creed in Europe. We don’t understand why this is happening. The parents and friends of these facebook-jihadists don’t understand why this is happening.
I actually find it quite easy to understand.
It is happening because these people are young and because they are confused. ISIS responds to their twin need of absolute certainty at a time when everything is uncertain and for adventure that just doesn’t get satisfied by playing video games.
Don’t you remember when you were young? There are all kinds of confusing ideas going on in your head. Your body is doing funny things. You are supposed to start behaving like a grown up, having a life plan, deciding what you want to do with your life. We all thought on some level that we were going to be special when we were kids. We were going to have a purpose and make a difference. We were going to change the world. Now it was dawning on us that we probably weren’t. Being a lawyer or a lab technician was not the master plan we had vaguely imagined as kids. The adult that we were becoming was bound to disappoint everyone, but most of all the kid we had so recently been.
Add to that the confusion of living at the intersection of two cultures, which are both pulling you in different directions. There is simply no way of satisfying everyone around you, the needs and wishes of your parents are diametrically opposed to those of (some of your) friends.
This is when someone comes and tells you that he has all the answers. No need to make difficult choices, no need to feel inadequate and confused. The answers are all there, in the holy book. You are special, you have a mission from god. You are god’s soldier. You just have to follow the rules and orders.
But there is more. You don’t just want certainty and a purpose. You want adventure. Boys will be boys, they say. Boys drive too fast and they commit petty crime. But that is all a bit lame, all a bit childish. You get told that you get to go and BLOW SHIT UP. And you can be absolutely certain that this is happening for a good cause. Not just a good cause, but the only cause there is. God’s cause.
Alas, a full circle. It all comes together beautifully. God is the answer to your need for certainty as well as to your need for adventure.
Now I don’t know how many of them are disappointed or scared or regretful when they arrive in Syria and reality kicks in. I understand that the westerners hang out among themselves, so that will probably make it easier. But I don’t know what happens to these people. Chopping off someone’s head or taking part in gang rape is presumably a bit more difficult to grow out of than shoplifting.
So I don’t know much. But I think I know why this is happening.
I also have an idea (not THE idea, just AN idea) how this could be tackled. I’ll get back to that in my next rant.