From Harvard academic, David Ropeik’s “Terrorism -- Why It Frightens, and Unites Us,” through French intellectual, Dominique Sopo’s “Faced With Hatred, We Must Respond With Unity,” and even to the Grand Mufti of Egypt, Shawki Ibrahim Abdel-Karim Allam, who wrote, “If We Want To Eradicate Terrorism, We Must Stand Together,” the horrific November 13 terror attack in Paris that left some 130 people dead and hundreds more wounded has prompted people of all faiths and views to urge unity as a cure for terrorism.
I wholeheartedly agree that—unity is a cure for terrorism. What I am less content with is that terrorism is the reason for unity. As long as fear is our motivation to unite, in the absence thereof we will also avoid unity. This is not a recipe for a healthy society. It is precisely the mindset that has led to the emergence of radicalism and fundamentalism around the world.
Disunity in our communities produces social and financial insecurity. Disunity in our families creates mistrust between parents and children, and forms barriers between spouses. Disunity at school causes fierce and often ruthless competition among peers. When disunity pervades and dominates every aspect of our lives, it causes social isolation and depression. These, in turn, may lead to seeking extreme solutions such as drug abuse, suicide, and political or religious radicalism. Unless we reverse the narcissistic vector destroying our society, we are bound to perpetuate and enhance the radicalization of our youths and the degeneration of our societies.
If we think that sending in more troops and drones to fight ISIS will stop, or even slow them down, we are misleading ourselves. If anything, it will earn them more support because they will be able to portray themselves not only as fearful and determined (a quality with great appeal in the morally bankrupt Western society), but also as the underdog winning with spirit rather than arms.
We should pay close attention to the words of Nicolas Hénin, who was held captive by ISIS for nearly a year. “I know them: bombing they expect. What they fear is unity.”
If we take a moment to step back from all this chaos and look at the bigger picture, we will see that through a process of ebb and flow, humanity is ceaselessly enhancing its connectedness. Today we have gone beyond the point of no return; separation is no longer an option. No nation can maintain a viable society or a sustainable economy if it is isolated (see what is happening in North Korea, which is not even completely isolated). Protectionism and isolation can only lead to war, most likely a world war. The problem is that so will continued intermingling of nations without proper handling of the process.
And while humanity is being pushed toward unity from every possible direction, we are doing everything we can to avoid it. When reality goes one way, and humanity goes the other, humanity is bound to lose. Unity is not an antidote to terrorism; it is the makeup of reality.
We typically define unity and harmony in our bodies by a single word: “health.” And while our global society is just as interdependent as the organs in our bodies, we refuse to act as healthy bodies should, and choose instead to grab as much as we can, wherever we can, and preferably at the expense of someone else. To put it differently, rather than acting like healthy cells, we act more like Cancer. Is it any wonder our human society is sick?
The sooner we begin to redirect our minds into seeing the world as complementing elements rather than as competing fragments, the sooner we will heal our world. Nature is showing us where we need to go; it is up to us to assume this direction, abandon the notion of survival of the fittest, and recognize that we are all in one boat, and either we all sail together and reach the shore safely, or we drill bullet holes in the hull and drown.
We are not at war yet, but we have suffered several painful wake-up calls recently. Let us realize that unity is in our favor. It allows us to thrive and prosper not at each other’s expense, but rather contribute our unique skills and talents to the betterment of our own lives and the lives of everyone around us.
Successful sports teams and successful companies always talk about the key role that unity and mutual support play in their achievements. We can also learn from history how disengagement among factions of nations has caused their demise. And we can all learn from nature how everything thrives only when it maintains a healthy give-and-take relationship with its environment. Whichever way we choose, we must indoctrinate ourselves with the notion that a united society is a thriving society. We have come to a point where this is the key to our survival.