Sunday, July 17, 2016

A Competitive Lot

The fervor comes from their ideology. It has this terrifying hold on them because it is credibly drawn from their religious doctrine. If you don’t get that, if you think you can blithely dismiss jihadism as “cowardice” and thus avoid the unpleasant burden of understanding why it happens, you are never going to get what we’re up against. You are never going to summon the resolve it is going to take to overcome the enemy. Andrew McCarthy, National Review, "Terror in France and the Annals of Willful Blindness."

I read this book...
The lexicon of the twenty-first century has been made over with the digital revolution. It was recently said that it is easier to purchase a gun than a book. I can, in about ten seconds, shop for and choose the digital version of just about any reading material my aging heart desires. I need not buy the print version, either - I can have the thing read to me. It may seem lazy, but consider - back porch, adult beverage, eyes closed while the latest best seller drifts across the headphones.

Commuting, trips... I've "read" more books in the last year simply because I don't have to read them.

One such book, recommended by my iconoclastic primary care physician is The Righteous Mind, by Jonathan Haidt. I've listened to it several times, and keep going back to one section. In it, he describes the Darwinian concept of selection by groups.

Dr. Haidt writes (I am paraphrasing here) that not only do individuals compete for the right to advance their DNA into the future, but so do groups. Collections of individuals adhere because of similarities of all types, and jockey for primacy with others. The collective that wins out becomes dominant, it's belief system passed on while others become secondary, subservient...or die. He calls it the "Hive" side of human nature. Religion, for all of its mysticism, is an especially strong hive-maker because people find the social - the group aspects - not only so appealing, but so beneficial.
We are encountering one such competition. Savage individuals with firearms, explosives and vehicles are willing to kill, and die in the process, for their group. Those who are vested with the responsibility of responding, on behalf of our group, have identified commonalities among our adversaries, what it is that makes their hive worth fighting for. Those commonalities render them especially lethal, because their soldiers do not appear to fear death in the manner our group does. In fact, the soldiers who venture forth into our midst do not view "suicide mission" as an especially negative phrase.

In the wake of yet another attack on late-night revelers in Nice, it might be a wonderful idea to admit that we are losing this competition, even if we don't understand (or are unwilling to admit) how, or why. While the competing group attacks apparently at will, we modify our behavior, clamp down on civil rights, increase expenditures for security and burden ourselves with layers of (often ceremonial) personal affronts. Soon, there will be metal detectors and wanding guards at the entrance of any place individuals congregate. Even that will not be enough, as our enemies alter their tactics to adjust.

In his book Warrior Politics, Robert Kaplan asserts that, in order to enjoy liberal domestic governance, we must employ a robust Machiavellian foreign policy. Me - in the interest of our group and those who are still alive to enjoy the benefits of it, I think we should Machiavelli the shit out of the assholes who subscribe to a medieval interpretation of their religion, and who kill indiscriminately in its name.

Before they change us beyond recognition.

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