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What can a terrorist / gang organization offer me that I'm not getting from everyday life?

Terrorists and gangsters are people too. They are not necessarily stupid nor hotheaded. There must be something deeply attractive / satisfying about being involved in acts of extremism. The obvious are rewards in the hereafter. But, as, I'd argue, an instant gratification type, there must be something in the here and now that attracts these people. What is it? And is there a less terrifying alternative for them in mainstream society?

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    Jul 14 2011: IN a big world with many isolated people, gangs and extreme groups including cults can offer a sense of identity, belonging and purpose that is greater than the diminished self that the vulnerable feel.
    In order to defeat these groups, we need to begin to 'see' each other again, say hello, not ignore the needs of the marginalized. When a kid is on the street without guidance or love, when a young man has watched his immigrant parents being diminished in front of his eyes and feels no greater hope for his own life, when a woman is divorces and lonely and discarded, they are vulnerable and invisible and exploitable because there is no saner voice speaking with influence. We all need to belong and many people will buy into astounding illusions to feel that they not only matter but that life has meaning.
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      Jul 15 2011: Hi Debra, I've been on some threads on TED about suicide and it sounds familiar in a way. Perhaps these people, though, who feel invisible find out that invisible doesn't have to mean powerless---and they reclaim the true power of invisibility by becoming guerillas. Maybe the cause itself is not as important as the power to wreak havoc on the Other.

      You are definitely right: we need to see each other again.
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        Jul 16 2011: I think we can learn a lot about societal movements by understanding social and individual psychology. In most cases people act out or hurt others only to get their some unanswered or unmet need fulfilled. If we persist in raising children who get no justice in life and have no one care about them we will, as societies reap the lessons that they have learned.
        I do not condone it but I do recognize it as a 'what comes around goes around' consequence of our societal neglect. I have always believed in going to the root.
  • Sam B

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    Jul 18 2011: First you need to clarify what do you mean by "terrorist"? I'll give you what I think

    "Because I do it with one small ship I am called a terrorist. You do it with a whole fleet and are called an emperor."

    What is the difference between a rebel and a terrorist? one is serving your interest and the other is working against them!

    Those same people we nowadays call terrorist, were hero mujahedeens and rebels when they were fighting the USSR! unsurprisingly, the USSR used to call them terrorists!

    I do not in any way defend real terrorism - which is harming innocent civilians. which is actually done by the US and the west in a scale thousands of times bigger than what al qaeda did!

    Half a million Iraqi children died from starvation and lack of medicine because of the american embargo on Iraq in the 90s, ISN'T THAT TERRORISM?
    What about the drone strikes in afghanistan that killed thousands? what about occupying 2 Islamic countries and supporting countless dictators?

    So to answer your question, what does it give that you don't get in every day life?
    It doesn't need to give anything!All the motives are there, the west is killing them, occupying their countries, supporting their dictators, leeching their resources, starving their children and families, MOST are defending them self using the little resources they have left!
    And it gives a lot. it gives a sense of purpose in life, something worth dying for, a feeling that they're doing the right thing fighting the invaders, that is all they could ask for.

    If you mean real terrorists and extremists then I would say it is the same reason. only in their case, they have a different mind state and perspective that is taken to an extreme. their belief is that blowing them self and killing western civilians will eventually help defend their nation.

    I suggest you stop worrying about the over rated terrorism and focus on the real threats to the world.
    Watch a documentary called "zeitgeist", it's probably the most watched one
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      Jul 18 2011: It's best to mean a "terrorist" from whatever standpoint one might speak from. If you can speak from many, then it's befitting of a global thinker and someone who remembers history.

      Though you're right if you smelt the Mainstream vs. the Other in my question. The Other's assertion of him/herself is always a threat to the group. Even though the group is possibly more wicked in absolute terms.

      If I had started a conversation thread with your ideas, "terrorism" would have been true of the American Government and other war machines. But, it is not true of the vast majority of people of "the West". We know that the inadequate voting system hardly represents our condoning a war or drones on foreign civilian populations. And then it's our civilian population that receives the retaliation. So speaking from a civilian's point of view, people who attack subways and buildings are "terrorists" to us--but we have long learned better. As we awaken from the Bush-era propaganda, it's important to slowly remember the humanity in the Other.

      Will check out the documentary!
      • Sam B

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        Jul 18 2011: My intention was to point at the hypocrisy of the term "terrorist".
        Check out the US definition of terrorism here:
        Ironically you'll find that the US perfectly and fully fits it's own definition.

        I have a mixed background and I lived over a decade in the middle east. I do not support harming innocent civilians in any way or shape. but I can understand the motivation behind it.
        It is important to know that 99.999% of the 1.3 Billion muslims are against terrorism and denounce it more than we do, because it is damaging the image of the majority.

        I prefer to classify them as the people in the middle east do. there is the resistance (rebels or freedom fighters) who defend their country on their soil against the invaders, and there are terrorists who bomb civilians, and who are despised by Muslims as much as by westerners.

        I answered your first question (What can a terrorist / gang organization offer) in my previous reply, I would add a feeling of brotherhood within the organization. Hope the answer was satisfactory.

        As for the second part regarding alternatives, I cannot think of any realistic ones because there will always be an error margin which will not affirm to the rule, but then, those suicide bombers are already the error margin. They're hundreds out of 1.3 billion people, I think that it's statistically difficult not to have that.

        By the way, It's always the normal innocent civilians who pay the price for the crimes of politicians, and always has been. exceptions are very very rare.
        • Aug 5 2011: I am unfamiliar with how exactly Americans can justly be accused of "premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents".

          Further, you would do yourself and your argument credit by acknowledging that not all Americans support their nation's international position. You do this for Muslims, but seem to tar all Americans with the same brush. This is exactly the flaw too many use - certainly too many Americans - when discussing groups they dislike. It's called prejudice. And having seen your prejudice, I am disinclined to accept your assertion about American terrorism. Certainly the embargo-as-terrorism analogy fails the terrorism test if only by its inherent passivity.

          The original question remains interesting. Several commentators have discussed inclusion as a positive factor. That might draw the youth, who are easily swayed and looking to affirm their identity and importance. Ego might be served by ongoing association. Eventually, it becomes a way of life for some.

          So why does an educated, well-adjusted adult join an extremist organization? I would guess at an abiding passion for a cause - a cause that suffers a perceived enduring abuse. Eventually, such a person must act because he or she believes it is the right thing to do. I can't think of another reason for such a person.
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    Jul 14 2011: Douglas Atkin's book The culting of brands makes a good case for why people with money and education join extremist sects and cults. Well worth the read
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    Jul 14 2011: I think Khary makes a strong case for the recruitment of the disaffected and abused, but if I understand correctly this is not quite what you are asking.

    There is something else I believe to be deeply attractive to those individuals who are often the most dangerous, who have money and education, connections and strong social skills, everything they would need to thrive in our society.

    It's the narrative. As Nawaz discussed in his talk, there is this narrative that sells these destructive ideologies. It can be very empowering to think of yourself as a revolutionary, a martyr and a force for good. By reconstructing their world in terms of the narrative it allows them to be the protagonist in a great global struggle against overwhelming odds. To be heroic, powerful and in control.
    • Jul 17 2011: I think this is exactly right, Michael. While the disaffected and abused are recruited as the foot soldiers, as Nawaz pointed out, the leaders of these extremist movements are generally very well educated and tend toward wealth. Indeed, it is their command of the narrative that brought them to lead these movements in the first place. So while I do buy into the idea that participation feeds the need for belonging, I think in terms of the leaders of these movements, it is much more about a need for self-actualization of the individual.
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    Jul 29 2011: It's about FAMILY/COMMUNITY!
    About belonging, and about feeling safe, knowing there's a whole safety net of people who would give their lives for you. Modern society is alianated, but since no man is an island, we need to belong to a group, to a "pack".
    It's about VALUES.
    I will not discuss wether the values of these groups are correct, but in the world where everything is permited, some search for guidance, for solid rules, for 10 commandmands, so their life choices would be easier.
    It's about IDENTITY.
    You live in Tokyo, and I live in Croatia, but we probably buy the same clothes and watch the same movies. BUT our surrounding builds a large peace of our identity. I think gangs are a good example of providing people with identity we all need so much.
    There is a great Mexican movie dealing with the same questions, it's called "Sin nombre". I reccomend :)
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    Jul 21 2011: If you could be specific I may be able to answer Genevieve as they all have different objectives. Japan has it's own, "Aum Shinrikyo" who wanted to take over Japan and then the world. You'll know more about this group than I do I bet.
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    Jul 21 2011: I believe they want a first class ticket to heaven, to glorify Allah and send infidels to hell for insulting Allah, his prophet and for oppressing fellow Muslims.

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      Jul 21 2011: But what about the non-religious, Western terrorists / gangsters?
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    Jul 21 2011: Glory...
  • Jul 20 2011: What can a terrorist / gang organization offer me that I'm not getting from everyday life?

    I think it depends very much on what "everyday life" looks like.

    It may be as simple as something to do, a feeling of purpose, something to belong to and for that matter a way to make a little money or get fed or belong to an organization that protects its own. There are some places almost totally lacking in most of these things, like for instance post-invasion Iraq. We (the U.S.) came in and created a vacuum of economic life and meaning by disbanding the army and all for ideological reasons let all economic structures fall apart because they had been mostly state owned. People had too much time on their hands and most of what had made their lives make sense (other than religion, tribalism, and nationalism) had been jerked out from under them. This provided a perfect recruiting environment for "holy warriors", and at least a smattering of plain gangsters (those who kidnapped people for money).
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    Jul 15 2011: I think we all have a need to belong to a group, to be accepted. But it works on different levels: many people have a big need to be accepted, and sometimes they start paying attention to people and groups that express things they have not been able to do so in their lives, such as frustration or disappointment , and they take that to extremes. Then, instead of growing in an atmosphere of empathy and understanding towards other people, they keep fostering a sense of separateness, which is always very harmful.
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      Jul 15 2011: I think globalization and modern industry have gutted and ghettoized many developing countries and have taken a lot to feed the few on top. It angers more and more people every year.
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      Jul 15 2011: the internet and cell phones help too
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    Jul 14 2011: I believe the fundamental issue that you are encountering is that you assume that all people have their basic sociological, physical, mental, and spiritual needs met, which sadly is just not the case in the majority of the world. If you couple the state of scarcity that people are perpetually in due to the fact that those needs are so seldom met, with a desensitization to violence, greed, exploitation, and suffering and you have the platform for someone to be susceptible to the recruitment of a gang. To exacerbate the issue this phenomenon tends to happen in areas where people receive inadequate education as to what their options are to change their environment, so in this lack of knowledge they do what they believe will best advocate their personal survival.
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      Jul 14 2011: Yes, but how many Western educated Terrorists have we heard about? And Osama bin Laden was NOT hurtin for cash. I'm curious about those people.
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        Jul 16 2011: There are emotional states in these people which make them ripe for the picking. Just because you have money and are educated does not mean you are happy or that you feel you matter................
    • Jul 18 2011: "desensitization to violence" Sorry this is a pet peeve of mine, but this idea that violent imagery somehow desensitizes children to real violence is to the best of my knowledge an urban legend. Consider the rate of Post Traumatic Stress in soldiers in the generation that grew up with violent video games. The diagnosis rate is significantly higher than in the previous generation (likely due to under diagnosis) and is at least just as common. Governments have been trying to desensitize solders for centuries but even meticulous efforts have failed to produce "desensitization to violence"

      So please remember every generation believes that youth are dangerous and crazy. This is merely the Baby Boomer and X generations getting old slogan of "back in my day..."
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        Jul 18 2011: I agree with your last comment that each generation perceives the subsequent generation to be "dangerous" due to social and ideological progression for the better or worse. I am not a psychologist as well so my understanding of the topic is rudimentary in reference to the desensitization issue. From what I understand from the topic is that desensitization exists in the human psyche in 2 forms, one in which the persons assumptions are affirmed and one in which the persons assumptions are not affirmed. the prior occurs with little psychological recourse and the later happens with serious psychological ramifications. Studies have shown that most soldier who suffer ptsd are in the latter group, and that the degree of exposure, acceptance, and outlook to war prior to deployment (in terms of how exposed they were to the actual horrors of war being a gauge of "desensitization") not only had a direct correlation to the onset of ptsd, but also to their sensitivity to violence in general over time.

        Also, in my post I was referencing actual experienced or physically witnessed violence, such as domestic abuse, gang activity, and incorrectly directed problem solving issues (spontaneous peer violence). There is a rather large disparity between desensitization from vicarious experience and actual personal experience.