Carl Jung once warned during the Cold War that: “Everywhere in the West [World] there are subversive minorities who, sheltered by our humanitarianism and our sense of justice, hold the incendiary torches ready, with nothing to stop the spread of their ideas except the critical reason of a single, fairly intelligent, mentally stable stratum of the population. One should not, however, overestimate the thickness of this stratum.” (C.G. Jung, “The Undiscovered Self,” 4).
If Carl Jung were still living, we may find him to be rather (appropriately) proud of a modest, rational banker who resides in Nigeria. On December 25th, 2009, the Free World was given a great gift that mirrors the one Jung sought to impart more than 50 years ago. While the media will mark the day as another attempted 9/11, they miss the mark. The most profound and courageous feature of this attempted attack has nothing to do with the terrorist himself, but with his father. A father, who, upon sensing his son was falling into the orbit of radical ideologies, took it upon himself to use this information to protect our global commons by letting authorities know they should be watching his son. Certainly we can all understand what a grueling and emotionally fracturing experience it must have been for this brave man. We would all do well to spend a few moments this New Year viewing the world from this man’s shoes.
With loyalty and concern for his son on one hand, and a desire to protect an admittedly fragile global order on the other, he made the right choice. He decided protecting the “whole” was more important than violating whatever confidences his son may have entrusted in him.
This singular act of courage is the same act repeated by thousands of citizens around the globe of different races, cultures, religions and different countries every day. Oceans, languages and distinct cultural heritages, may separate us but when it comes to deciding between allowing the insane, futile and destructive acts of terrorism and protecting people who you may not have ever met, many, many people make the correct decision. This silent, rational majority is the world’s best weapon against violent jihadism and terrorism in all its many forms.
It is this group the U.S., our allies and partners should be rallying and connecting with. There will always be that small percentage of humans who (for reasons too complex to isolate) choose acts of death over acts of life. As nations face a weakened global economy we cannot afford another $4 trillion dollar “war on terrorism,” and perhaps that’s for the best. If you are a hardened terrorist of any stripe, you can rest assured your nations police, or United States Marines are probably watching you and will likely be knocking on your door any minute to have a different (and perhaps more interesting) conversation with you.
For the rest of us, we must consider new forms of social interconnectedness that can enable citizens to shoulder more responsibility for their own security. Our own national governments (to their dismay) are not up to the task of protecting each of us from the variety of terrorists that we face. President Obama and the Secretary of Defense, Mr. Robert Gates, have made the prevention of a catastrophic nuclear or cyber attack a top international priority. And yet, with some reflection on the variety of tools available to terrorists, most strategists will agree that nations alone lack the means and manpower to guarantee that such attacks won’t happen.
We are living in the virtual century. This is a century where the center of gravity (in terms of power and influence) is moving away from nations and towards collective groups. These groups (often using social networking sites online) materialize, expand, renew and transform in minutes and some disappear just as quickly. The only factor constant in both our organized national efforts, and the less organized “good citizen” groups is one element: people. It is individuals and their respective groups that will ultimately decide the fate of the 21st century and our world.
It is in these proactive, rational citizens that we will find meaningful, lasting and dynamic security networks that intercept the threats of today, tomorrow and the next century. The relationships we enjoy every day, whether in places of worship (churches, mosques, temples, synagogues, etc.) or places of work, study and recreation, these are the same places where global security is won and defended on a daily basis. An active, educated and dynamic vigilance is required by our world’s citizens to intercept the individuals and groups who (like pariahs) feed off hateful, bigoted and narrow ideologies to the detriment of everyone. Unfortunately, violent ideologies are not foreign to the U.S. and we have as much work to do here as citizens of other nations around the globe.
This Call to Arms is a call to citizens throughout the world to generate and maintain vigilance against hateful ideologies, their networks and the terrorist plots they plan. In the 21st century your rational integrity is the first (and perhaps) the only defense any of us have against violent extremism.
Carson Checketts earned his J.D. in 2007, has worked on national political campaigns, Capitol Hill and now works on strategic communication and cyber issues.
Guests posts are the opinions of the respective authors and published here to further the discourse on America’s global engagement and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of MountainRunner.