Thursday, April 18, 2013

What is inside the terrorist’s mind?

The following article written in in the wake of Boston blasts, probing into what is there in the terrorist's mind makes a thought provoking reading. When I presented a research paper a few years ago on astrological factors for terror attack, I did analyse the horoscopes of some terrorists. Though I had to rely on internet sources for the date of birth of the terrorists with no reliable information on their time of birth, I did see a tendency for arrogance and hardened nature in those horoscopes. These tendencies are in-born which when find an opportunity for grooming, make them cold blooded terrorists. It is a fact that terrorists are groomed which works out when they have some in-thing in their mind to act in a cold blooded way. 

This reminds me of Krishna's words in Bhagawad Gita that a man has no control over the three Gunas (sattva / compassionate, Rajasic / arrogant and Tamasic / mean minded) and that these Gunas (characters and attitudes) control him. The quest of life is to make ourselves the lord of these Gunas and not to make these Gunas lord us. The food we take, contribute to the formation of these Gunas – one can understand what kind of food I mean for Rajasic and Tamasic nature. Added to this is the grooming or circumstances that makes one have no tinge of compassion for life or morose for what he does. 

In my opinion, all children are born with a natural sense of shock and horror on seeing someone made to suffer by someone else. I remember as fresh in my mind a little boy I saw in the snake park near Chennai. The attendant had just left the food in the cages of snakes. In one cage we saw live chicken and the snake gobbling it. This was seen by a little boy, may be two years plus age who was accompanied by his mother. The boy was shocked and he screamed to save the chicken. But the mother told him "Why do you fuzz about it? Don't you too eat chicken? The snake is doing the same." It was my turn to get shocked at that answer. A natural reaction of the child was snubbed so easily and I can imagine how that natural instinct gets vitiated by grooming. The same sense of shock and despair came to me when I saw the picture of slaughter inside a mosque which showed young children watching the slaughter.

If a picture can say it all, then here is one in the blog of Indian Realist:-

This also brings into my mind a story by Tolstoy which I read long ago and vaguely remember in which a character says " Don't you have anything of God in you?". The allusion was to a sense of compassion. Everyone must be having some amount of compassion as seen from the way children react. Once grown up, the amount and level of compassion fluctuates. Even the hardcore terrorist who did the horrible crime at Godhra was made to relent only by kindling the soft part of his heart by showing the photos of the child victims of that carnage and reminding him that he too has children. (  
In his narration on how he cracked the Godhra train carnage case, the investigating Officer, Noel Parmar described how the accused Jabir Binyamin Behra changed his mind on seeing the kind of suffering his act had given to the kids and other victims. Behra felt that his children should not experience such a suffering and relented. Perhaps ticking the compassionate cell of the terrorist is a better way to make him reformed. 


Inside Twisted Terrorist Minds — Where Is the Empathy?
Stephanie Pappas,
LiveScience Senior Writer
Date: 16 April 2013 Time: 03:13 PM ET

Two bombs exploded Monday (April 15) near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
CREDIT: Reuters/Newslook
A video of the scene from Monday's Boston Marathon bombing showed people running toward the wounded, trying to help. A flood of support and sympathy poured out all across the Internet. And Bostonians rushed to donate blood and offer spare bedrooms to those displaced by the blast.

Even though a human (or humans) caused the carnage at the finish line, such acts of kindness, as well as a sense of empathy, are actually hard to overcome — even for the terrorists, psychologists say.
"A whole industry of propaganda is aimed" at convincing potential terrorists that their intended victims are worthy of death, said Arie Kruglanski, a psychologist at the University of Maryland who has researched the roots of terrorism. [History of Human Aggression: 10 Ways Combat Has Evolved

"Part of the ideological persuasion to get them to do these things is to reduce the humanity of the victims," Kruglanski told LiveScience. "So the victims are perceived not as other human beings, but rather as vermin, as subhuman creatures." 

Quest for significance 

Two bombs — reportedly stuffed with ball bearings, BBs and headless nails as shrapnel — exploded Monday (April 15) just before 3 p.m. EDT near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. At least 176 people were wounded, and three killed, from the blast. Among the fatalities was 8-year-old Martin Richard, who was waiting for his father to finish the race. Richard's mother and sister were reported as seriously wounded. There are so far no suspects in the bombing.

Terrorists do not fit into a simple mold, said John Horgan, the director of the International Center for the Study of Terrorism at Pennsylvania State University.

"There's no profile, there's no personality, there's no checklist and there is no silver-bullet solution that helps explain why and how people become involved in terrorism," Horgan told LiveScience. 

However, there may be some common psychology necessary to carry out such an act, Kruglanski said.
"The underlying motivation is what we call a 'quest for personal significance,'" he said. "They try to do something important, either because they feel insignificant on their own … they were humiliated in some way, or their group was denigrated."

While some people respond to feelings of powerlessness and insignificance by turning to humanitarian aims — becoming a peace activist, for example — would-be terrorists draw on violent ideologies. Violence is a quick shortcut to feelings of significance, Kruglanski said. 

"Violence enjoys this very clear advantage, that by striking, by shooting, by exploding a device, a very simple action immediately makes you out to be a significant, heroic kind of person," Kruglanski said.

View of victims

In this worldview, the innocent victims of a bomb are subhuman, at worst, and incidental, at best. Timothy McVeigh, whose 1995 bombing of a government building in Oklahoma City killed 168, famously described the 19 children who died in the blast as "collateral damage."

"For a person who engages in this kind of activity, the immediate victims are meaningless. They're simply a means to an end," Horgan said. [Science of Terrorism: 10 Effects of 9/11 Attacks]
It's hard work maintaining that belief. Horgan, who has interviewed nearly 200 terrorists around the world, said some eventually come to feel remorse for the innocent lives they took. But especially in the moment, many "work very hard to convince themselves that what they've done is righteous."
Though stories of violence may dominate the news, there's good scientific evidence to suggest that humans are wired to care for others. By toddlerhood, children take it upon themselves to be helpful, for example. Even 6-month- and 10-month-olds prefer helpful characters over mean ones, studies suggest. As adults, we quite literally feel others' pain. A study published in January in the journal Molecular Psychology found that when doctors see their patients in pain, the pain-processing regions in their own brains activate.

It's easiest for terrorists to reduce their guilt when they choose a method like a bombing, so they don't have to be nearby to see the damage they've done, Horgan said.

Preventing terrorism

Although it is a major goal of both the United States and the United Nations, terrorism is hard to pre-empt, because terrorists don't fit into one demographic profile, Kruglanski said. Radicals tend to speak their minds, making them easy enough to identify in the community, Kruglanski said, though not all of those radicals would ever turn to terrorism in any case. Detention centers and prisons also run de-radicalization programs for suspected and convicted terrorists.

Typically, these programs run along two lines: direct and indirect, Kruglanski said. A direct approach would be to confront the terrorist's belief system. In the case of an Islamic terrorist, for example, clerics might come in to explain how fundamentalist interpretations of the Koran are flawed.

This "dialogue" approach can work, Kruglanski said, but not for terrorists, who are very firm in their beliefs, or for leaders who don't appreciate criticism of their interpretations. In these cases, an indirect approach can sometimes help. The goal of these programs is to give a radicalized individual something else to live for, whether a vocation, art or even spiritual practices, such as yoga, Kruglanski said. 

"It directs their attention from these collectivistic goals and on to their individualistic lives," he said.
Measuring whether you've prevented someone from participating in terrorism in the future is a difficult task, Horgan said, but it's important to remember that even among radicals, most people won't resort to violence — though terrorists rely on the randomness of their acts to make civilians feel like they or their loved ones could be next.  

"The way in which we're talking about the nature of the threat, the way in which we talk about this as some sort of existential problem, I think we need to be very, very careful to avoid that," Horgan said.
"The fact of the matter is, this is a very low-probability event," he said. "We should never, ever lose sight of that."

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1 comment:

jayasree said...

From: mkrishnaswamy
Date: Fri, Apr 19, 2013 at 8:13 AM
Subject: Non-random-Thoughts:What is inside the terrorist’s mind?
To: Jayasree Saranathan

An additional factor is "brain washing" by a motivated Group led by a charismatic individuals - like a forest fire caused by a spark in summer when the leaves are dry.

I am disturbed by the fact that like the spark causing a blaze that destroys a large forest, humanity at large has no defence against the minority of crazy insensitive individuals. In this context, pl read the
article by Stephen Jay Gould at: ;


This crushing and tragic asymmetry of kindness and violence is infinitely magnified when we consider the causes of history in the large. One book burning in the library of Alexandria can wipe out the accumulated wisdom of antiquity. One supposed insult, one crazed act of assassination, can undo decades of patient diplomacy, cultural exchanges, peace corps, pen pals -- small acts of kindness involving millions of citizens -- and bring two nations to a war that no one wants, but that kills millions and irrevocably changes the paths of history.

Obviously, both kindness and violence lie within the bounds of our nature because we perpetuate both, in spades. I only advance a structural claim that social stability rules nearly all the time and must be based on an overwhelmingly predominant (but tragically ignored) frequency of genial acts, and that geniality is therefore our usual and preferred response nearly all the time.

This is not an essay about optimism; it is an essay about tragedy. If I felt that humans were nasty by nature, I would just say, the hell with it. We get what we deserve, or what evolution left us as a legacy.

But the center of human nature is rooted in ten thousand ordinary acts of kindness that define our days. Nothing can be more tragic than that this Everest of geniality stands upside down on its pointed summit and can be toppled so easily by rare events contrary to our everyday nature -- and that these rare events make our history. In some sense, we do not get what we deserve.

The solution to our woes lies not in overcoming our `nature' but in fracturing the `great asymmetry', and allowing our ordinary propensities to direct our lives.

But how can we put the commonplace into the driver's seat of history?

(Stephen Jay Gould who wrote this article teaches biology, geology, and the history of science at Harvard University.)