Canadian, British and other Western European nations have a problem. Muslims and others are joining the newest militant Muslim organization, ISIS (Islamic State) now taking over in the Middle East and threatening to bomb and otherwise attack the rest of the world. According to a London newspaper, a British ex-rapper is under investigation for performing the James Foley beheading.
Why are they doing this? You’d think that people who chose to leave that part of the world would have at least some appreciation for the relative freedom and prosperity offered by these Westernized cultures so despised by militant Islam.
Ghaffar Hussain, of Britain’s Quilliam Foundation, explains it this way: “It makes them feel like they are part of something that is important to the world,” he said. “If you feel like you don’t really fit in or if Muslims are being attacked and a narrative comes along that explains all that away in a simple way, that is attractive.”
Interesting. If you think about it, this explains zealous adherence to any such group.
Ask yourself what any group offers an escape from, and you’ll get to the truth of the matter, whether it’s militant ISIS or any other cult. The militant group mindset offers an escape from two things: Self, and rationality.
When you enjoy the perception, at least, of “group solidarity,” then it’s a twofer deal, right there. You don’t have to worry about taking care of yourself. And you don’t have to take responsibility for thinking for yourself. To many this is appealing. While most do not join murderous cults, many do sacrifice their own opinions for the sake of the majority, in exchange for a sense of belonging with (and approval by) others. Some take this all the way, and surrender any vestige of mind or self they once had.
The group tells you what to do. And it tells you what’s true. And all the group asks from you in return is — unwavering obedience, blind faith.
For people who never developed or had minds of their own, or the intellectual independence that only rationality and reason can provide an individual, this is not a transition at all. In fact, it’s a great relief. If you go through every day of your life without the feeling of security that comes from a critically thinking, objective and independent mind — the very definition of a self — then of course you’re looking for something to calm the horrendous anguish of drifting without a tool of mental and physical survival (i.e., reason). In the absence of rational independence, the world continually feels like a malevolent, desperate and lonely place.
This would explain why not only angry or dejected Muslims are turning to ISIS for blind obedience, but some natural-born Canadians, British, Europeans and even some Americans are as well.
While cultural and individual perspectives vary, one thing is universal to all human beings, by our nature: The requirement of rational, independent thought in order to cope, as well as survive.
The moment we abandon or lose touch with those two things — reason and independence — is the moment we’re adrift and subject to the demands or wails of any two-bit cult. The cult is the extreme (and consistent) case; group conformity, without the violence, is much more common.
Group identity makes members feel that they are part of something that is important to the world. In other words: My life matters.
Human beings need to feel that their lives matter. The question is only how they make life matter. Do they do so through creative, independent thinking and achievement — usually in collaboration with others, but still independent; or do they do so by melding their minds, bodies and values into a collective?
To those following ISIS and militant Islam, the answer is unequivocal — and brutal in its force and intensity. But the principles and psychology involved do not fundamentally differ from those of any other cult in history. These qualities no doubt played a role in Communism and the proliferation of Nazism in Hitler’s Germany. They likewise play a role in religious cults, drug addiction, and even pseudo-scientific endeavors which sacrifice facts for the sake of attempting to “prove” a fallacious or questionable theory (e.g., militant environmentalism).
We’re told, over and over, that the self and rationality — i.e., science, material prosperity, technological progress — are the root and essence of all evil. Yet precisely the opposite is true.
Wherever there is evil and destruction, you’ll likewise find self-sacrifice and unreason. You’ll find a dominant attitude and psychology of wishing to “lose myself to something bigger.” Anyone who sincerely feels such a desire has already lost the battle for his or her own self-esteem, because self-esteem consists of one’s ability to grasp the potential greatness of one’s own mind, via its capacity for independent and critical thinking.
If only more people comprehended that the “biggest” thing in their lives is their own mind, their own potential, and their own actual capacity to master and live in reality. Now that would surely make the world a better place, the supposed aim of most do-gooder cult members throughout history. And the world would obviously be a much safer place without the savage and primitive cult of politicized Islam.
Instead of a principled defense of reason and independence, what do we get? The hapless, helpless Obama in America and ISIS abroad, hell-bent on destroying America and all the reason, individualism and independence which our great nation once unequivocally upheld.
Be sure to “friend” Dr. Hurd on Facebook. Search under “Michael Hurd” (Rehoboth Beach DE). Get up-to-the-minute postings, recommended articles and links, and engage in back-and-forth discussion with Dr. Hurd on topics of interest. Also follow Dr. Hurd on Twitter at @MichaelJHurd1