Shurooq Amin. The Dates Of Wrath. Mixed media on canvas mounted on wood. 2012. Ayyam Gallery, Dubai.

Extremism, Terrorism, Culture, And Physis
A Question Of Being

Disinclined as I am, and as I have been for many years, to comment on recent events, I have – after much reflexion – decided to respond to certain questions asked of me, given that several friends and diverse individuals (communicating through correspondence forwarded to me through intermediaries) have expressed an interest in my opinion about some recent events in France because of my forty years of (now regretted) practical experience of extremism [1] and extremists and which experience included not only being an advocate, as a Muslim, of what has become known as ‘Islamic extremism’, but also of being a neo-nazi activist and ideologue who preached and who advocated subversion, insurrection, hatred, and terrorism.

The recent events in France, where seventeen people were killed at four locations between the 7th and 9th of January 2015 – and similar events on other lands, from September 2001 (9/11) onwards – have led many people to speculate about the problem of, about causes of, and what may be required to prevent, such acts.

My admittedly fallible view, derived from my personal decades of experience, is that simple cause-and-effect answers are rather misguided, however naturally instinctive and/or politically expedient they might be – and/or however effective (or perhaps necessary) some of them might be in the short-term: of years, of a decade or more. For I incline toward the view that the long-term solution does not lie in more legislation, or in more security measures, or in idealizing one culture over and above another (as in the West verses Islam), or in invading other lands, or even in attempting to combat ‘extremism’ by means of advocation of a ‘moderate’ interpretation of some religion or some political ideology. Rather, the long-term solution lies in understanding our basal physis [2] as human beings and then considering how – or even if – that basal physis can be changed, evolved.

For the reality – the truth – of our being is that we humans can always find, and have always found – century after century, millennia after millennia – some cause or some ideology or some ideation or some interpretation of some religion or some dogma or some leader to allow us to express, to live, what is solely masculous [3]. For as I know from my own experience and involvements such an expression, such a living, vivifies, excites, and has so often provided us (or a significant portion of us) with a sense of purpose, an identity, and thus given our lives meaning.

Thus, for that significant portion of us, it is our basal nature – our basal character – as human beings which is at fault, the cause; not some current or past harsh interpretation of some religion or of some weltanschauung; not some ‘extremist’ ideology, per se; not some failure to tackle extremism; not some deficiency of law nor some failure (of intelligence, or otherwise) by the Police or by some State security service. That is, the harsh modern interpretation of a religion such as Islam (manifest for example in al-Qa’ida and in groups such as ad-Dawlah al-Islamiyah fil ‘Iraq wa ash-Sham), or the extremism manifest in nazism and fascism (past and present) are symptoms, not the cause.

For it is my considered opinion – fallible as it is and based as it is on what (admittedly limited) knowledge I have of the circumstances – that the perpetrators of recent events in France simply found, in a harsh interpretation of Islam, something which not only gave them a sense of purpose, a goal – which gave their lives meaning – but also provided them with an excuse to behave according to their physis or what they believed their physis should be: to be what they were or had become or should become. That is, lacking that empathy – such compassion and such honour, such muliebral virtues – as would have engendered within them a feeling for, an intuition of, and thus an appreciation of, innocency [4] and of individuals as individuals and not as abstracted ‘enemies’ or as somehow ‘inferior’ to them or as a means whereby what they believed in, or desired (such as some after-life), could be achieved.

In other words, a harsh modern interpretation of a particular religion hallowed what is masculous to the detriment of what is muliebral, making such a basal, such an unbalanced, masculous physis an ideal to be imitated and strived for, and which masculous ideal included the notion of a personal immolation, via kampf and a dishonourable disregard for the innocency of others, as a means to some posited goal. An unbalanced masculous physis also evident in – and idealized by – the ideologies of communism, nazism, and fascism, and in and by the ‘puritanical’ and inquisitorial interpretations of Christianity centuries before.

How then can that basal physis be changed or evolved? How can the masculous be balanced with the muliebral thus avoiding such unbalance, such bias toward the masculous, as has brought so much suffering recent and otherwise? All I have is a rather philosophical, quite long-term, and quite personal answer. Of, in terms of individuals, the development by individuals of empathy and the cultivation of the virtue of personal honour; and, in terms of society, Studia Humanitatis: that is, education to form, to shape, the manners and the character, of individuals by not only acquainting them with such topics as are, and were traditionally, included in that subject, but also of them being educated in such knowledge concerning our physis as our thousands of years old human culture of pathei-mathos has bequeathed to us [5].

David Myatt
January 2015

Notes

[1] As I have explained in many of my post 2009 writings, by extreme is meant to be harsh, so that I consider an extremist is a person who tends toward harshness, or who is harsh, or who supports/incites harshness, in pursuit of some objective, usually of a political or a religious nature. Here, harsh is: rough, severe, a tendency to be unfeeling, unempathic, uncompassionate.

Hence I consider extremism to be: (a) the result of such harshness, and (b) the principles, the causes, the characteristics, that promote, incite, or describe the harsh action of extremists. In addition, a fanatic is considered to be someone with a surfeit of zeal or whose enthusiasm for some objective, or for some cause, is intemperate.

[2] I use the term physis (φύσις) as a revealing, a manifestation, of not only the true nature of beings but also of the relationship between beings, and between beings and Being. Physis is often apprehended (and thus understood) by we humans as the nature, the character, of some-thing; as, for example, in our apprehension of the character of a person.

[3] By the term masculous is meant certain traits, abilities, and qualities that are conventionally and historically associated with men, such as competitiveness, aggression, a certain harshness, the desire to organize/control, and a desire for adventure and/or for conflict/war/violence/competition over and above personal love, compassion, and culture. In my view, extremist ideologies manifest an unbalanced, an excessive, masculous nature.

Masculous is from the Latin masculus and occurs, for example, in some seventeenth century works such as one by William Struther: “This is not only the language of Canaan, but also the masculous Schiboleth.” True Happines, or, King Davids Choice: Begunne In Sermons, And Now Digested Into A Treatise. Edinbvrgh, 1633

[4] I use the term ‘innocence’ to refer to a presumed attribute of those who, being personally unknown to us, are therefore unjudged by us and who thus, as honour requires, are given the benefit of the doubt. For this presumption of the innocency of others – until direct personal experience, and individual and empathic knowing of them, prove otherwise – is the fair, the reasoned, the honourable, the cultured, the virtuous, thing to do.

[5]  Refer to my May 2014 essay Education And The Culture Of Pathei-Mathos, and my more recent Some Conjectures Concerning Our Nexible Physis.


Image credit:
Shurooq Amin. The Dates Of Wrath. Mixed media on canvas mounted on wood. 2012.
Ayyam Gallery, Dubai


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