Last week I began this series by offering a few general suggestions about how lessons learned from meditation practice can help people cope with the recent escalations of terrorism, particularly by ISIS.
One of the key lessons of meditation is to learn how not to be swept away by the raw emotions of truly difficult situations such as the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and now in California. I do understand that many people have powerful reactions based in anger and fear and that those feelings are entirely justifiable. But I am equally sure it is important for both citizens and the leaders of nations to avoid bellicose, over-reactions that will only make matters much worse.
In writing this I am not saying there are any easy answers to prevent further terrorist attacks or wars in the Middle East. In particular I am not saying that some form of spiritualized, radical pacifism is the right answer either. After all, even Gandhi said his methods would not work against Hitler and the Nazis. It is reasonable to assume the same view applies to modern terrorists and aggressive developed nations.
What I am suggesting is that people step back and look at the history of conflicts in the Middle East as a way to gain fresh insight into what is needed to truly resolve the conflicts there. Here is a good basic question:
What are the causes of terrorism?
In my opinion, the primary cause of terrorism is that some men and women love greed and power and are willing to use violence, or other forms of manipulative coercion, to get control over a society. As such people gain control of the economy, military, and judicial system of a country they close off all legitimate avenues of dissent and movements for peaceful change.
A small fraction who are oppressed in such dictatorial societies feel they are pushed into more and more desperate actions to gain redress of their grievances. At it’s worst, this impotent rage turns into blind aggression and terrorist acts.
Here are two specific examples of this point in Iran in the 20th century.
Oil was discovered in Iran in 1908 by the Anglo-Iranian oil company which later became British Petroleum. The deal that was struck was so unfavorable to the Iranian people that the British government received more money from taxes on the profits the oil company earned than the Iranian government and people received in royalties.
In 1951 the Iranian government attempted to retake control of the Oil industry in Iran.
The western powers would not allow this to happen.
The US sponsored a coup in Iran in 1953 (Dwight Eisenhower President) and installed the Shah of Iran. The Shah of Iran was a ruthless dictator who used secret police and torture to repress the critics of his government from 1953 to 1978.
For rich companies and nations to get richer off the resources of a poor country is a recipe for disaster. The exploitation of the natural resources of Iran by western oil companies, while the average Iranian lived in poverty was bad enough. The US military backed installation and support of a ruthless dictator in Iran for 25 years made matters much worse. The torture and execution of thousands of dissidents by the secret police of Iran, the wealth of the Shah side by side with the poverty of the people, all of these factors made things that much worse. So too did the suppression of popular religion by a corrupt, secular regime.
With decades of gross injustice in Iran, when the Ayatollah Khomeini was able to lead a popular uprising and overthrow the regime of the Shah of Iran in 1978, the stage was set for extremely hostile relations between the US and Iran. The taking of US Hostages in 1978 froze relations between the two countries in a violently mistrustful stalemate which we are only beginning to emerge from.
Regrettably most Americans do not know of the history of the British and then the US involvement with exploitation and with supporting violent oppression of the people of Iran. They just assume the Iranians are crazy, violent, and evil. If we do not step back and see our history with Iran, the conflict will never be resolved.
In this way ignorance is one of the causes of terrorism.
What I am saying is that, painful as it is, US, France, and England need to take an honest look at how they have related to a wide range of problems in the Middle East. So too does Russia who has been involved with Middle Eastern countries such as Syria for generations.
If we in the advanced countries better understand the sins and crimes we have committed in the Middle East, such as what has happened in Iran, Iraq, and in the Israeli-Palestinian struggle, we will be closer to being able to see what needs to happen to reconcile old grievances and hatreds.
The same introspective process is just as needed by the leaders of the PLO, Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIS, Al Qaida, Israel and the leaders of Syria, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the other countries of the Middle East.
The clarity and emotional maturity that comes from meditation will allow people in all sides of a dispute to look more openly and more honestly at three simple questions.
What are the causes of terrorism?
What will lead to the diminishment of terrorism?
How can be build more stable, just, and peaceful societies?
Please let me know what you think. All comments will be responded to.
will @ meditation practice dot com 774-232-0884