Like everyone else, I'm concerned about violent extremism. I participated in the Department of Homeland Security's Targeted Violence Summit in Chicago on September 10 and 11. Some of the best and most powerful minds in the country from those in governmental agencies and academia to human rights organizations attended. I learned, a lot.
I've had the opportunity to engage human violence at local, national and international junctures. My experience and learning has led me to believe that the root of all human violence is the same. Violence is one of the human responses to deprivation. One of the greatest casualties of human deprivation is often unseen -- significance.
Guns, weapons, intercontinental ballistic missiles are all powerful phallic symbols, instruments used to create what is typically a male symphony of violence. I know from experience that it is hyper-difficult to get a young, male adolescent who has wielded the authority-trumping lethality of violence to leave 'the life' and work at a fast food restaurant. However the violence we are experiencing now goes beyond maleness. It is about those who feel subjugated and denied America's 'great promise.'
Global recruitment via social media removes America as the gatekeeper of said 'promise,' and in a world now globalized by the internet the ostracized and the outsiders are empowered by lethal digital promises. In this new world order, the free, the deprived and oppressed are promised that they'll be the 'determiners' of their own destiny without the permission of the establishment.
The counterterrorism experts I've listened to are adept at stopping the violent, but I don't know how effective their process is at preventing violence. In other words, we shine at trashing the fruit of violence once located but not in chopping down the cultural and ideological tree that produced it.
We cannot just counter violent extremism we must 'better' it. We must transition violent practitioners from the present contextual significance paid for by their violent choices. We must give their lives a new script, a new narrative to act out. Not a counter-narrative but what I like to call an alpha-narrative.
An alpha-narrative goes beyond arrest, detainment and incarceration. It focuses on creating the proper mindset and concrete context for the realization of human potential.
This alpha-narrative was seen in America's civil rights movement. Martin King's Dream of the American Negro being raised from second-class citizenship and legally protected from domestic terrorism was an alpha-narrative not a counter-narrative because it is never enough to just stop evil we must present the misguided,unfortunate and yes even the ideologically lethal a greater vision. Dr. King understood that America didn't need to become a colorblind society - color blindness is a disease. We must become a color appreciation society.
Truth in a world of lies is radical. Bureaucrats and politicians cannot win the battle against violent extremism because they have to play by the rules. ISIS et al don't play by the rules. Dr. King said that the "lovers of peace must learn to become as effective at organizing as the lovers of war." The lovers of peace must radicalize individuals and nations. Is a peaceful planet possible? It is if we understand that violence is not the opposite of peace but rather the lack of it. Peace is real and practicable. Choose love over hate. Forgiveness over bitterness. Economic empowerment for the masses over greed and corruption for the few.
The cataracts of greed and colonialism occlude this vision. It's time to remove the occlusions so that friend and foe can look each other in the eye and see that we're all great -- even if we haven't realized it yet.