September 11, 2013

The Phenomenon of Terrorism

By His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

The following article was published on August 26, 2001 for the newspaper Eleftherotypia, in other words, 16 days before the tragic events that took place in Manhattan, New York in America.

Of course, when this article was written, the dreadful terrorist activities of that day had not taken place, which moved the entire world and which we unambiguously condemn, yet it does not cease to move us to a unique expanded perspective of the situation.

I express my sorrow for the innocent victims suffering in America and around the world from terrorist actions, and I hope that the leadership of America, assisted by the leaders of other advanced countries will help to deal with maturity and justice problems plaguing our planet. Because it is true that the pain experienced in the limits of personal life matures most people and is an existential element of man, since according to Dostoevsky: "I hurt, therefore I am".

And on this occasion I express my deep sympathy to the American people about what happened, a people who have sufficient evidence, because of the failure of other religious ideologies, to experience Romanity. In the many Conferences I have participated in America and in my lectures at universities and elsewhere, I saw the anguish of many Americans to existential issues and the search for the Orthodox life, so I have many good friends in America, especially in Seattle, Tacoma, Boston and Atlanta. I believe that the future of Orthodoxy is in America. Also, in America there live and work with remarkable zeal many with origins from Nafpaktos, many with whom I have good relations. Therefore, what is republished below does not refer to the people, but to the leaders, since the people are the victims of the misguided actions of a "specialized class" or "class of experts" with an odd puritanical and fundamentalist ideology.

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The etymology of the word "terrorism" indicates dominance and enforcement through terror and refers to those cases with various unacceptable actions which are related to murder, a terrorism practiced in societies. But the word "terrorism" can also be employed for the purposes of terror caused by the State or organized societies. The latter interpretation is likely to be considered arbitrary, but it also shows the other side of the coin, even if considered a very bitter truth.

With what I write then it does not mean that I accept, adopt and approve various terrorist acts which cost the lives of people. On the contrary, I condemn them because they do not solve any problems, but rather they further complicate problems because they allow other "legal" terrorists to intervene drastically and remove the inalienable democratic rights of the people. But I cannot grant amnesty to the terrorism practiced by scientific bodies of any power or even disregard the terrorism being attempted by those nations which consider themselves as "policemen" of humanity.

First, it should be observed that in human societies there is exerted a terrible pressure and there is observed many and varied contrasts. There is nothing that is unmovable, but everything is moving, changing.

It is known that in pre-Socratic philosophy there were two main trends, such as the Eleatic School, which posed as a basis the unmoved being, and the School of Heraclitus, who believed that "everything comes into being", since in Heraclitus the world comes from fire, which evolves into water, then into earth and from the earth returns back to fire. Within this perspective Heraclitus proposed: "War is father of all and king of all: some he shows as gods, others as men; some he makes slaves, others free." Within this framework we should be put forward the Heraclian saying: "Everything is in flux".

According to one interpretation, even peace, the absence of war, is a form of warfare, because it exerts various pressures, so in human societies we observe a constant struggle, a clash of individual rights, an effort to sneak in one culture over another. In fallen human societies, conflicts are inevitable and somehow natural to their unnaturalness.

Nobel laureate Konrad Lorenz, while investigating and observing the natural world, speaks of the so-called "entropy of feeling" and claims that in the animal kingdom there is a balance because of the operation of two antagonistic types of stimuli: one called "positive reinforcement" and is related to the feeling of pleasure, and the other is called "negative reinforcement" which is related to the feeling of dissatisfaction and are a "counterweight to the excitations of pleasure".

By combining these "two kinds of feelings" there exists a balance in nature among animals. This same should be true within human societies. But because man has the privilege of freedom that is completely absent from the animals, this led to the imbalance between these two balanced states, thus exerting various pressures from one side over the other, when the mechanism of "pleasure - loathing" is disrupted. The effort to acquire success without effort and various inhibitory actions inevitably lead to "a dangerous situation, even in the complete destruction of a civilization" as well as leading to "perversion".

Therefore, within human societies there is practiced a terror of a class of people to other classes, an unbearable oppression because they seek the law of their class. And the most terrible of all is the exertion of "terrorism" through those lands in which there ought to prevail justice. There are cases where courts are wrong and make decisions which offend justice itself, and causes a variety of reactions. Besides, the answer of the Scythian philosopher Anacharsis to Solon the Athenian is known: "Written laws are like spiders' webs, and will like them only entangle and hold the poor and weak, while the rich and powerful easily break through them." Of course, we recognize and praise the honest judges.

But the worst of all is when various sovereign states that have influence on the world stage baptized terrorism on some other countries, while they may be the victims of terrorism exerted by the first.

Noam Chomsky makes a broader analysis of two points of interest to our topic. One is how to accomplish control of the media with the spirit of "spectator democracy" and so-called "public relations". He writes that "public relations is a huge industry... Their main task was to control the thinking of the public. " The other is how some nations are baptized "criminal nations". Among other examples he mentions Saddam Hussein, who when he had trade relations with the United States and was a "favored friend and trading partner" he was good, while the situation changed "a few months later when he interpreted the willingness of the U.S. to allow to modify the border with Kuwait by force as an approval for the takeover of the country", and so followed the Persian Gulf War.

Speaking of social conflict, we should note that according to Orthodox theology the whole world after the fall is a world full of contradictions and contrasts. The same goes for man who has the freedom which can be expressed in a positive form (love) and the negative form (nothing), because freedom is a privilege for humans but also a problem, it is a risk with many developments. Of course I prefer freedom over dictatorship. For this reason, power is perceived as a necessary evil, such as death. The fallen situation is exceeded only by transcending death, and not achieved by secular philosophy, ideology and moralism.

We also believe that according to our Orthodox tradition human justice is imperfect, unending, and cannot solve any problem, which is why we aim to experiencing the divine justice.

But a person who is not inspired by the Orthodox tradition, with the experience of the person and what it entails, and has no ways to resist and to surpass all sorts of pressures, becomes a victim of terrorism and in a natural way becomes also a victimizer.

Writing all this I am not trying to justify terrorism related to murders, but I try to interpret the responses and analyze how it is possible that the putative perpetrator is actually a victim and how the so-called victims of terrorism can be bullies or reflect the attitudes of the perpetrators.

When in a society there does not exist and there does not operate "mechanisms of suspension and co-dependence" then it inevitably leads to terrorist activities, which means the creation of a "Passaris" phenomenon or it is exploited for the establishment of another high pressure.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Το φαινόμενο της τρομοκρατίας", October 2001. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.