of the New Year,
Natalia J. Garland
Tony Blair, former British Prime Minister, recently spoke on the
importance of common religious values for the maintenance of
civilization. Consequently, a new anti-terror lexicon seems
already to be developing. Blair uses terms such as multi-faith
societies, social capital, and spiritual capital.
But what are the precise definitions of these terms, and how can
the definitions be applied to anti-terror relationships and
In order for these
terms to be effective, we must approach definition and application
while using reasoned judgment and positive coping skills regarding
the nature and purpose of terrorism. In this struggle to confront
reality, to cope and to find solutions, we must avoid thinking and
behaving in ways that are naive, sentimental, or delusional.
Below, I have adapted definitions of these three words from the
Oxford American College Dictionary (2002 edition). Since
the word nostalgia is used in the definition of
sentimentality, I included it so that we can all work
within the same understanding.
- NAIVETE: A lack of experience, wisdom, or judgment.
- SENTIMENTALITY: Excessive feelings of tenderness, sadness, or
nostalgia which are given exaggerated and self-indulgent
- DELUSION: An idiosyncratic belief that is firmly maintained
despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as
reality, typically a symptom of mental illness.
- NOSTALIGIA: A sentimental longing for the past, typically for
a period or place of personal happiness.
Before 9/11, many
Americans were naive (perhaps ignorant or uninformed) regarding
the intent and extent of terrorist activity in the world. After
the attack on American soil on 9/11, it was still difficult for
some Americans to acknowledge the intense hatred of America held
by Islamic fanatics, or even to identify the attackers as
ideological extremists. Some Americans responded (and continue to
respond) with the self-defeating and overly tender attitude
(toward terrorists) that terrorism had sociopolitical causes and
that America was to be blamed for how terrorists reacted to
history's events and to current sociopolitical conditions.
The naive and
sentimental responses to terrorism reached delusional proportions
among some Americans. Despite evidence and intelligent argument,
some people strongly maintained that America was the aggressor and
was at fault: even to the point of believing that the U.S.
government (specifically the Bush administration) attacked the
World Trade Center on 9/11. Although the definition of
delusion states that delusions are "maintained despite
being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality,"
the delusional view on terrorist justification or innocence and on
American culpability has been "generally accepted as
reality" by a large and outspoken segment of Americans as
well as citizens of other countries.
After the attack on
Mumbai, India, which was amply televised, it seemed to me that
the attack (as I read various online articles and blogs) may have
penetrated some of the delusional thought of the blame-America
segment. Perhaps some Americans were able to feel sympathy for
the Indians in a way in which they could not feel for their own
nation and government. It meant that if terrorists attacked
Mumbai, thereby killing the dark-skinned people of a third-world
country, then terrorism was not only directed at the Western world
but at all democratic-friendly countries and, ultimately, at all
non-Islamic peoples. Even though India and other countries have
been attacked before, I do not recall any attack that was so
extensively televised while the attack was in process. It was,
indeed, a reality that pierced into America's living rooms.
were some Americans who seemed to fall deeper into their
delusional thoughts. Some seemed to react not only by blaming
America (or perhaps by detouring the tendency to blame America),
but also by proclaiming pacifism as the most effective response
and righteous lifestyle. If total non-violence is the solution to
terrorism, then the need to assess the reality of terrorism can be
evaded because Islamic jihad will be eliminated if only all people
(specifically all Americans?) will adopt a policy of absolute
non-violence. This response or solution does not require study of
the problematic dynamics, the ideology, or the people responsible
for terrorism: the solution only requires itself (i.e.,
maintenance of the delusion).
anti-American? There is probably a tangled web of intersections
between delusional and anti-American thoughts and behaviors.
Politically, some people are anti-American. This was also true
during the Vietnam War. Some anti-American people might develop
delusional thoughts to aid their political preferences (or
vice-versa?), some might be politically misguided or brainwashed,
and some are simply anti-American and hateful. However, there are
probably other delusionists whose maintenance of delusion is
strictly psychopathological. They cannot face reality, cope with
severe or extreme stressors, or engage in problem-solving. It is
possible that an individual could be delusional (and accordingly
unaware of his own delusional thought formation), and yet feel
that he is a patriotic American.
Now that we have
discussed the impact of naivete, sentimentality, and delusion on
our post-9/11 world, we are better equipped to begin a discussion
of Blair's concepts of multi-faith societies, social capital, and
spiritual capital for our post-Iraq world.
[NOTE: The ideas
expressed in this essay are based on personal opinion and are not
intended to carry official diagnostic value or to serve as a
statement on any person's or group's mental stability. The
author's remarks are not aimed at any particular person(s), but
are intended for discussion of types of persons and ways of
thinking and coping. This essay is a work in progress, not a
finished product, and is therefore subject to error.]
Until we meet