Radicalisation versus Demonisation?
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 9 Mar 2015
Enabling Radical Initiatives under Conditions of Strategic Stalemate
In a period in which radicalisation is upheld as a matter of ever increasing political concern, there is seemingly little understanding of the condition of being a radical — other than as perceived and labelled by others according to some convention of normality. With so-called radicals moving into the zones of conflict in the Middle East, understanding of why they are doing so — in their own terms — is not commonly discussed. There is understandable insistence that such movement is regrettable and should be stopped by some means, notably for fear that in returning from such zones an even greater degree of radicalisation may infect local populations.
There is however little appreciation of the attraction of the conflict for such radicals, namely the meaning of the cause and how this frames their willingness to die for it — a process framed as heroic and inspiring in other contexts. The conventional explanations are naturally in the language of those offering them, but with little acknowledgement that there may be fundamental issues in interpretation of the language of the radical experience. This suggests that any consideration of the reality of radicalisation is undermined by premature closure and oversimplification — as tends to characterize intercultural misunderstanding.
A radical worldview is of course readily associated with insanity as conventionally defined. Of some relevance are the forms of radicalisation associated with incarceration in the company of criminals, irrespective of any religious dimension. Also meriting consideration is any hypothetical engagement with extraterrestrials, as continues to be envisaged by science and science fiction (Ian Sample, Alien search won’t doom planet Earth, say scientists who want to contact ET, The Guardian, 12 February 2015; Joel Achenbach, Do we really want to know if we’re not alone in the universe? The Washington Post, 28 February 2015; Eric Hand, Researchers call for interstellar messages to alien civilizations, Science Insider, 12 February 2015; Steve Connor, Plan to broadcast messages to alien worlds leaves cosmologists worrying, The Independent, 13 February 2015).
Fears over a new SETI plan to broadcast greetings to habitable planets for hundreds of years are now dismissed as paranoia — despite the vivid imaginings of science fiction and movie dramatisations. However oversimplification allows little consideration to be given to the possibility that extraterrestrials might be “radical”, or committed to the “radicalisation” of others, in ways beyond those already considered a challenge by humanity. Alternatively, might a galactic context frame humanity as “incarcerated” on Planet Earth — with dangerous criminal elements by which they are being radicalised?
The need for further insight is argued by Kamaldeep Bhui (Our Unwillingness to Understand More About Radicalisation Risks Failing Our Youth. The Huffington Post, 31 October 2014):
These are dark times. Terrorist threat is growing, videos of beheadings frequent the news, and we are witnessing young people leave the sanctuary of their life in the UK to join war in the Middle East. Why? To understand how a person who is seemingly integrated and happy in British society becomes radicalised to the point of wanting to join a terrorist organisation in another country, we must first increase our understanding of how the process of radicalisation begins.
The following rough clustering of understandings of “radical” can be readily seen as overlapping or bleeding into each other, as well as being variously associated with extremes attracting condemnation as extremism. These considerations follow an earlier exploration of the implications of a strategic response to “radical”, variously understood as “eradication” (Eradication as the Strategic Final Solution of the 21st Century? Indicative checklist of possible domains of application, 2014).
In a period when appeals for “new thinking” are made, how might this be appropriately distinguished from “radical thinking” — if “radical” insights are indeed required in creative response to strategic chaos? Is there every possibility that any new thinking will be “demonised” — especially when articulated from a particular part of the political spectrum that is typically challenged in the political process from any other perspectives in that spectrum? There is some irony in evoking the demonic in this way, given that the policy sciences now frame the most intractable issues as “wicked problems“.
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 9 Mar 2015.
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