I found this discussion so fascinating and relevant, because, since 911, I have been so curious and confused about what would lead a person to become a "terrorist". I just always assumed that it had to do with poverty and the lack of opportunity for personal and community growth. This was the first discussion that I had listened to on the subject that involved someone doing research, and actually talking with these individuals, (other than Barbara Walters in her program about God a few years back).
Mr. Atran's discussion of the who the children admired really intrigued me. It reminded me of some of my observations of my daughter's attitude, especially during her teen years, (she is now 25 years old). It seemed to me, that she and her contemporaries had a sense of entitlement that I didn't remember in myself or my peers at that age. They seemed to have this feeling that they were horribly deprived if they didn't have a TV and computer in their own room and a cell phone in their pocket. And if it was suggested that they would have to wait until they could earn the money to purchase and support their own, that we, (parents) were the most terrible of torturous jailers. And even worse if we didn't supply them with a car when they became of age to drive. It was all about instant gratification, without doing the work required to earn that gratification. I wondered where this attitude came from, since my daughter had only ever seen me and our family working to earn a living, and living, what I thought to be an ethical lifestyle. (To her credit, in her adulthood, my daughter has since thanked me for my discipline in this and other matters, and felt a great sense of pride when she purchased her own car and supported it on her own!)
I wondered if this attitude was a product of exposure to the media, and pop icons, like Paris Hilton, whose claim to fame has nothing to do with her own accomplishments, but with the circimstances of her birth, (I don't mean any personal disrespect or judgment against Ms. Hilton), and depictions of these lifestyles in the media, TV and movies.
But, now I am wondering if it is really due a failure in our communities closer to home and the education system. It is understandable that public figures will inspire and motivate the young, this is nothing new, ie, Buzz Aldrin, John Kennedy, Gandhi, Bin Ladin, Obama, etc. But what about role models in the local community? Parents, teachers, clergy and others in a position to influence and offer inspiration to the children? I guess it is not very glamorous to ethically and lovingly provide for our families, (I think back on your episode with Mike Rose on intelligence last year), or to be a teacher that creates excitement in math or literature. And how about a local firefighter who has rescued a family from a fire? Is our disconnectedness of community to blame? Or the fact that we aren't communicating these ethics to our children? It seems to me that providing inspiration closer to home could offer a productive and fulfilling alternative to going out in a puff of smoke in search of brotherhood and fame, or at the very least, provide the sense of belonging that the youth crave, with rational, responsible adults.
I have no idea what the communities of the children in the photo that headlines this show's page are like. But if theirs are not so different from ours, could the disconnectedness from community and the lack of ability of community adults to inspire and support the children be at the root of the problem? Are there similarities to the massacre in Columbine, where it has been suggested that dearth of adult relationship with teens may have contributed to the problems? This has such great implications for all of our children and communities!
Thank you for providing this venue for discussion of such important and relevant topics, and for the intelligent and rational point of view. The ideas and conversation you provide are some of the most stimulating and forward thinking in the media today.
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