Lots of vomit has appeared on social media since it became the official platform to solve world crises but I have always managed to deal with it and in fact even be a part of it.
But these last couple of weeks marked the first time I felt sick to my stomach reading post after post of insignificant useless blabber that’s completely irrelevant to what’s happening in the world.
News of the Beirut attacks burned through my last straw of hope. The Paris attacks infuriated me too. So has so much else, for so long. No, I’m not about to dive into a debate of which countries Facebook neglected in its safety check feature – although allow me to be the first to say, since when is Facebook responsible for what YOU care about?
This post will be the opposite of everything I’ve seen on social media recently. Not because I think social media itself is pathetic. On the contrary, I’m a huge fan of online platforms and I don’t for a second feel that people should refrain from commenting on world affairs – even if that commentary has been crawling under my skin lately.
Rather, it’s because we all completely missed the goddamn point and in 10, 20, or 50 years when violent extremism is still very much a part of our lives, it won’t be because Obama didn’t decorate his avatar with the Lebanese flag.
It will be because we left so many important questions unanswered or because we didn’t ask them in the first place.
Why are so many young and vulnerable people feeling more empowered today to commit violent acts of hate?
What did their parents teach them at home?
What were their childhoods like? Their schools?
What did their textbooks teach?
What role did poverty play in their paths to extremism?
How about unemployment? Or underemployment?
In what context was religion taught to them?
What emotional conflicts have they faced?
How do they socialize?
What makes them feel safe? What angers them?
Why are many extremists from Middle Eastern and North African origins?
What impact did the Bush administration’s war in Iraq have on igniting extremism in the Middle East?
Why do Arabs have stronger bonds with people from their same religion than they do with people from their own countries?
Why are Arab governments more worried about protecting Islam’s image than they are about their citizens’ rights?
How can we in the same breath say we want equality for our people but demand that religion is embedded in every institution that governs us?
Why are many European extremists immigrants or children of immigrants?
Why are they more attached to their religions than their nationalities?
How were they brainwashed? Who’s brainwashing them?
How do we recognize someone sitting on the fence between conservatism and extremism? What eventually pushes them over that fence?
At what point do they decide they’re ready to die for what they believe is their cause?
What compels a teenager to leave all that is safe and familiar to live in a war zone? What’s the recruitment process like?
In what sort of deradicalization programs have Arab and Western countries invested?
Oh and here’s an obvious one: how do we stop extremists from becoming extremists in the first place?
The list goes on. And on.
Before you bring the “ISIS doesn’t represent Islam” parade to town, relax. I mention religion not because Islam promotes violence. But because it’s naive to ignore the fact that the way Islam is being exploited today is leading to hateful ideologies. Again, not because the religion itself is necessarily violent, but because the countries that happen to be home to huge Muslim populations are struggling. It could have just as easily been any other religion had the geopolitical stage been different.
So I’m not interested in whether any particular religion is violent. That’s irrelevant. I’m much more interested in the roots of extremism and its cancerous growth. I implore you to take up the same interest because all the other crap we’ve been squabbling about is at best a trending Trump topic (Trending Trumpic?).
Consider how much more successful we could be at eradicating extremism if we were having these conversations everyday instead of hunting for scraps of unconfirmed content that (poorly) support our preconceived biases that we choose to throw at each other without a goal in mind other than to be right.
I don’t know the answers to these questions. I have some idea, but little evidence at this point. I’m willing to find out though.