There is something wonderful about the human condition that drives people to excel in ways their forefathers never imagined possible. Societies & organizations may achieve greatness, but it is from the acts of individuals.
There is also something terrible about the human condition that drives other people to commit terrible acts, acts of harm and hate. Societies only suffer from such acts, and the individual is lessened by them.
A humanist might say, “hate the action, not the actor,” but that is difficult when you are personally affected by the action. Further, because we are only human, often the reaction is as bad or worse than the act, creating perpetuating cycles of hate. Sometimes these have their genesis in trivial acts, like the War of Jenkins’ Ear.
Often enough, though, out of great evil comes great good. The horror of the evil, though, further illustrates the darkness within.
Reports by terrorists portending gruesome acts gives one pause. What causes such anger against other men? What can assuage such anger? This is not an example of righteous anger.
In Buddhism, anger is perceived, like any other human force, as a cause for great good or evil. The Lotus Sutra urges us to better our community and land through awakening compassion for others in our lives. Compassion leads to anger at evil. Put another way, if we cannot get angry at evil, our compassion is weak. It is as if we do not care that people are being deceived. A philosopher once stated something to the effect that “once we have become humanistic, what we need to do is develop anger toward that which is evil.”
Thus, righteous anger can lead to happiness and personal fulfilment. This however, will not be enough, unless we strive for the happiness and fulfilment of others. It might seem a pipe dream, but Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and countless others have employed righteous anger itself as a cause for great good.
Occasionally, such as right now in the world, there is a swell of deluded people expressing their anger and frustrations through violent means. This has happened before in history, but never before has the individual had such convenient ways of causing terror. In a situation like this, it is righteous to seek out and defeat people who would cause fear and anger through their acts. Unfortunately, as in most human affairs, good and righteous intentions are clouded over by self interest and personal gain.
Image from and @ Dr. Gayle Olson-Raymer
A brief history of the concept of terrorism is here:
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The history of terrorism dates back at least 1500 years when Jewish resistance groups (66 – 72 A.D.) known as Zealots killed Roman soldiers and destroyed Roman property. The term assassin comes from a Shi’ite Muslim sect (Nizari Isma’ilis – also known as hashashins “hashish-eaters”) fighting Sunni Muslims (1090 – 1275) and during Medieval Christendom resisting occupation during the Crusades (1095-1291). The hashashins were known to spread terror in the form of murder, including women and children. The brotherhood of Assassins committed terror to gain paradise and seventy-two virgins if killed and to receive unlimited hashish while on earth. The modern development of terrorism began during the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror (1793 – 1794). During this period the term “terrorism” was first coined. Through the past two hundred years, terrorism has been used to achieve political ends and has developed as a tool for liberation, oppression, and international global politics. This essay is designed to provide an overview of the development of terrorism over the past 200 years.