Tag Archives: isis

Common enemies beg common allies

The pace of change and confrontation in politics is ramping up exponentially since I began this blog.

Women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, climate change and missing and murdered aboriginal women fueled a lot of my writing, with the occasional lighter social comment mixed in. I actually had a blog that was a bit lighter written and scheduled, but after what happened in Paris I pulled it back.

We can now add terrorism and the issue of refugees to the list of required radical cultural shifts polarizing our societies and communities. I know that’s probably been a front burner issue for Europeans for some time, but it has been back burner here in Canada. I was aware, but it hadn’t yet disrupted my life so I kept on with my own causes.

I am so very glad that I am on firm political footing where I live. Alberta did well in our last election and our government is full steam ahead addressing many of the issues I mentioned in my second paragraph. Canada also turned away from the dark side in our last federal election, and so far the brand new government seems to be heading in the right, and righteous, direction on most of those issues as well. It looks like Canada is doing the right thing.

new appWhich is why maybe I am so heartily dismayed at some of the reaction I see on social media after Paris. I have seen extended family posting bigoted memes. Sadly I’ve have also heard that my husband and two of my son’s have this sort of hateful, ignorant rhetoric in their circles. I don’t and neither does the oldest boy, but I suppose that only attests to how narrowly we have selected for our social groups. I could continue to live in my comfy bubble of people that are rational and compassionate, but then who will work to oppose the hatred?

I can only think of one way to stem the tide of racism and hateful rhetoric. It is to look around you and really think. We are surrounded by reasons not to be so hate-filled. Just read the story below…

My husband stopped for a badly needed trim at a barber shop in Stony Plain (pretty sure it was there).

As my husband sat in the chair, the barber talked of nothing but Paris and how ISIS isn’t really Muslim and how he disagrees with them and how wrong violence is. The barber was Muslim.

Think about it.

Imagine being that barber right now. His ability to continue living in peace and harmony with his neighbours is being eroded by terrorists. Is he afraid his wife or children will be attacked – verbally or physically? Is he afraid he will be attacked? Is he afraid his business will suffer and he will lose his ability to support his family? Is he afraid that nothing he has done to this point matters, and all that counts now is what people who claim to be like him have done?

Does he lay awake at night wondering how he can protect himself from an enemy who claims to be his ally against an ally who claims he is the enemy?

Think of that. Then realise what you and this barber have in common is that both of you are victims of the extremist terrorists who are using Islam as a false shield for their evil.

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Global game theory

It’s been an overwhelming few days. When I think I’ve finally got the pieces sorted out, I read the news and again find nothing makes sense. This has been hard to write. It has been hard to focus on one story line in light of the many irrational directions in which the game is playing out around me. Be sure, it is a game, and the way we play is being manipulated.

I don’t stand with Paris. I don’t stand with Beirut. I don’t stand with Bagdad. Asking me to state where I stand is a cruel game that I’ve no hope of winning. It’s a game that keeps us trapped in a cycle of destruction and keeps us prisioner to violent outcomes. How do I know? It’s the prisioner’s dilemma.

In 1950 Melvin Dresher and Merrill Flood conducted the famous Prisoner’s Dilemma experiment, a two person illustration of a game in which two seemingly rational people are unable/unwilling to cooperate for their own best interest – elaborated by A W Tucker. It is too complex to get into here, but an adequate summary is that player assumptions result in otherwise rational people not cooperating and losing the game for them both.

This game of choosing one side, taking a stand, leaves us prisoners to assumptions about the other player’s next move. Instead of acting we are always reacting, and never take advantage of the fullscope of possibilities.  We assume the other player will bargain in bad faith, so we bargain in bad faith. The other player assumes we will bargain in bad faith, so they bargain in bad faith. The first round of bad faith is not attributable to either player, it is attribuable to the universally adopted assumption of that our only option is to act to counter a move the other player has not yet made. Violence becomes the only game strategy we acknowledge. We don’t even consider acting for a result five moves from now, we are always trapped in our first move.

We will never win the game with violence. Think about it. We react to violence with violence because we assume the other player will react with violence. They react to our violence based on the assumption that we will act violently. It feeds on itself.

One of us has to change our actions before the assumptions we hold will be proven wrong.

We have to end the cycle unilaterally, and hold fast. We have to end the cycle unilaterally, and do what is right regardless of how we assume the other player will act. Then slowly, over time, the assumption will be that we are playing in good faith. Why do we want the other players to assume we will act towards them in good faith? Because terrorists recruit based on this cycle of violence. They recruit based on a safe assumption that since we will play in bad faith they can play in bad faith and call it justice. Which is exactly what we are doing. They count on that. They force our hand, and use it as a weapon against us.

We must play in good faith toward a strategic end game – peace.

We must not use one victim as an excuse to create victims on the other side. We must not stand with one victim against another victim. The only side that is in the right is the side that refuses to create more victims.

It is vital that Muslims align themselves as with peace, or violence will continue to hijack their religion. It is vital that the west align itself with peace, or violence will continue to hijack our international relationships.  All victims of violence must be stop being used as pawns to misguided ideologies.

And make no mistake, dangerous ideas exists within every ideology, dangerous people exist within every community. There is no validity to the claim that Islam is inherently violent. Our society’s ideology contains as much violence, and it is currently being twisted as much for violent ends. Playing in bad faith based on the claim that the other ideology leaves us no choice is simply fallacious. Our cultures have as much in common, and as many options avaiable to us that are constructive as there are destructive.

Most importantly, our common ground is that all of us suffer and none of us benefit from the violence that is hapening right now.

The only way to break out of this prisioner’s dilemma and reach the best outcome is to keep our  promises and commitments, and to (peacefully) hold other nations accountable for their commitments. If we do not condone violence we can not wage violence overtly, or passively, or by proxy. We need to non-violently remove all support for terroists. That means removing they support gain by using our actions as an excuse. That means removing the financial support they gain when we do business with those who do business with them. That means working to remove all camoflauge in our communities that shields their recruitment and misinformation from sight. We need to interupt their narrative.

This is all one game. We bargain in bad faith against ourselves. Revenge is never the answer, because it never leads to a cessation of the cycle of violence, which is the only answer. History, literature, and mythology are all full of tales that show us this.

No Muslim, no Christian, no athiest, no Jew, is responsible for the bad faith of yesterday, but we are all responsible for what we do today. Refusing help to refugees makes them twice victims, once victim of the terrorists, and second victim to us stupidly playing into the terrorist’s hands. We need to realise they suffer with us, and can be either brought in as allies or lost to the violence, potentially being recruited out of despair to act against us.

I understand the motivation to lower our flags, to light up the night sky with the French colours. But standing with France obscures the reality that there are victims everywhere we look, and we should stand with all of them. If we stand with all victims, the people who commit violence will be fractured and disenfranchised. If we all choose to bargain in good faith, bad faith will cease to be our primary motivation for continued violence.

This is what Gandhi and Martin Luther King got right.  We can never, never win by retaliation, we only become prisioners to our assumptions and a poorly played game. We don’t gain support that way. They understood the long game.

We won’t ever eliminate ISIS by bombing them, that will simply feed on that hatred and use it against us. But in ten years we could have starve ISIS by good diplomacy, and by cutting off the money and the narratives that sustains them.

We need to change the game.

Violence is infection

I intended to publish a lighter blog this week as a break from my planned four-part series on women against feminism. (Some pedanthood trivia -> I learned this from Shakespeare; break up the serious scenes with a little comedic relief.)

However, in light of current events, I have shelved the lighter piece for future.

A Canadian soldier was murdered as he stood guarding the tomb of the unknown soldier, and his murderer then made his way through the halls of parliament in Ottawa.

I am not going to address how it happened, logistically.

However, as I am a pedant and therefore prone to fixation on details and rules, I am fixated on how this can happen on a human level. I can’t stop thinking about why and what and how.

I can, on some level, understand how a person who lives in a culture of violence can be habituated to acting violently. As humans, we conform to the norms of our society. When violence is the norm, then you conform to it unconsciously.

I also understand mental illness. I understand that some of us do not have the capacity to separate fact from fiction, and right action from wrong action, or to comprehend the full consequences of our behavior.

I find it personally challenging to understand how someone who comes from a place where violence is not the norm is recruited to violence. When you come from a peaceful nation where the norm is tolerance and agreeing to disagree how do you come to the point that you can actually see violence as a path?

Violence is a disease and doesn’t affect a healthy mind in a healthy environment. Violence is antithetical to the optimal conditions for cultural and individual existence. Acting out in violence is contrary to our natural impulses for self-preservation and cultural perpetuation.

One of my favourite Ted Talks is by Dr. Larry Slutkin, in which he talks about how he found success treating violence like a disease. He talks about interrupting transmission and shifting norms. Watch it here.

What are the rules and parameters of transmission of violence? How do we identify, inoculate and immunize against the transmission of violent behavior and indoctrination into violent ideologies? How do we identify those living in a healthy society who are individually less healthy and unable to fight indoctrination? How do we identify unhealthy cultures and build them up so that a healthy norm becomes strong enough to fend off the infection with violence?

Right now Canada is poised to join an armed fight against ISIS. Many people I know are completely opposed. I agree that violence begets violence, but I am also at a loss because I think it is obvious something needs to be done.

There’s this fellow named Marshall Rosenberg, I don’t know much about him or his Centre for Non-Violent Communication, but one thing he says resonates with me. He draws a line for responding to violence. His assertion is that we can respond with force OR with violence. We can use force to end a conflict and restrain the participants without becoming violent ourselves. He talks about it here.

I feel completely capable of this as an individual but I have no idea how we would accomplish this on a large scale. We do need to change the way we act and react to global issues. We need to treat the illness and stop the violence from spreading, and we need to act in a way that doesn’t mean we become violent ourselves in response.

We need to build a better world, not just burn and hope that the fire kills the virus.

Big task. I like to believe we’re up to it.