This is a quote from „The West Wing“ (Episode „College Kids„). President Bartlet says these words after an attack against a college sports team. I
remember these words everytime something like the attacks in Paris happen. They point us, I believe, in the right direction in moments when all we want to do is either hide from this world, or smash something (or someone) to calm our anger
President Bartlet does not make excuses for the people who commit these crimes. You can not blame your behavior to a bad childhood, or explain it by pointing out flaws in the society you grew up in. Every individual is responsible for his or her acts, and they have to face justice, on this earth or in front of their god.
But this quote tells me something else: Barbaric acts, murder, terrorism, genocide are not exclusive to a particular culture, religion or belief. Nor are they based in a religion, stage of development or a region of the world.
They are the result of conscious acts by people. Somebody taught the people who carried out the Paris attacks how to hate, and why to hate, and who to hate. Somebody taught them that their god loves and rewards people who kill other people who are dancing, eating, drinking. And whoever taught them this, did so because he wants mayhem, terror and panic to rule, not calm, reason and love. Because people are easier to control when they are in panic and terror.
(As a side note: We need to be very careful to point to other cultures, religions and believes and blame them for these acts. If history tells us something, than the fact that all cultures, religions and believes are prone to be used to justify the most heinous acts one can imagine. The generation of my grandparents build factories with the only purpose to kill as many people as possible, as fast and as residue-free as possible. And German soldiers complained how hard it is for them to kill Jewish children – not because it is a horrible act to kill and because it is against everything Christianity stands for. They complained because the kids were whining and crying before being killed. And the noise simply annoyed them.
So, let’s be careful in taking a higher moral ground – western cultures, beliefs and religions are as capable to be used as justifications for these kind of attack as we have seen them in Paris.)
So, is there a silver bullet?
Yes, we even have two of them: Education and Openness.
Education is the only thing that will save us. The key lies in our classrooms, our universities, our kindergartens. They use bombs and guns, we use books and words. They will always be better in using guns than we are, because their “morals” allow them to do things we would never be able to do (or, if we did, we would become just like them and give up our Open Society altogether). So waging war against them is what they want – because they can win this war.
But if we launch books and words against them, they have no chance whatsoever. Because in a fight of arguments, we have the better weapons, the bigger guns. But we need to write more books, get more kids in schools, teach them with better tools, for longer periods. We need to invest way more in education than we invest in wars. We need to redirect wealth from the pockets of the few into the classrooms for the many.
And then there is Openness.
Our best hope is it to keep ourself open, as a society and as individuals. Openness in all forms and shapes (Data, Knowledge, Minds, Hearts) must be our answer. Right now, when the blood is still on the pavement, we want to react. We want something to happen, someone to do something.
But there is something every single one of us can do, right now, right here: Open your heart to see the troubled kid in your neighborhood and reach out to her. Open your mind to the views of people you never listened to before. Open your mouth to speak reason and love. Open your eyes to see injustice and oppression. And open your fist and reach out to the next person.
Education and Openness shall be our answer.