Stoicism and Anti-Terrorism

I did an anti-terrorism online course today and it was really quite enlightening. It spoke about terrorism attacks being the tip of the iceberg of manipulation. Of course, that’s new information but to see it visualised in such a way, opened my eyes to the power of the sense of belonging and not belonging. It’s funny because I’ve never felt that I have belonged anywhere. Imposter syndrome, they call it. It permeates all my personal relationships and professional relationships for as long as I can remember. Even within my own family, I feel like an outsider – the middle child despite being the only child.

Over time this has grown on me, this feeling of loss. It just is a thing and a seemingly unshakable void like a fixed point in time. Once it was all consuming, a ravenous black hole but now it’s trapped in a bottle, unable to grow or feed. Of course when I open a bottle or two it breaks free. I was isolated and full of weird ideas about the world as a child. I was the perfect target and yet I can remember distinctly a conversation I had where I sat on my high horse and judged Shamima Begum, the so-called ISIS Bride. The person defending her was saying things like “Have you ever made a mistake” and “have you never done something stupid”. It didn’t hit well at all. It bounced off me as the words didn’t feel right, because I was right, this wasn’t a mistake and it wasn’t a stupid one. A stupid mistake as I argued, was stubbing your toe or a locking yourself out of the house. She did not make a mistake she was manipulated and sold up the river, radicalised, made complicit and then demonized. The argue could be made that that’s the exact same situation that happened in WW2 with Nazi guards who committed atrocities in the name of someone else’s fucked up ideology.

So where do we go from here? Changing gears, a bit because there’s nothing I can say that can change the past and that argument about complicit Nazi soldiers has been waged for nearly a century – something I have no business wading into. The only thing I’ve got is that sense of not belonging. What can we take from Marcus Aurelius (yes, I’ve nearly finished the book so you can expect some variation of sources soon)? Forgiveness, learning, a belonging to the self and society, acceptance.

“If you have ever seen a severed hand or foot, or a head cut off and lying some way away from the rest of the body – analogues is what someone does to himself, as far as he can, when he will not accept his lot and severs himself from society or does some unsocial act. Suppose you have made yourself and outcast from the unity of nature – you were born a part of it, but now you have cut yourself off. Yet here lies the paradox – that it is open to you to re-join that unity. No other part has the privilege from god, to come together again once it has been separated and cut away. Just consider the grace of god’s favour to man. He has put it in man’s power not to be broken off from the Whole in the first place, and also, if he is broken off, to return and grow back again, resuming his role as a member.” – Meditations 8.34

You are not alone.

My favourite line from Doctor Who.

You may never feel like you belong but you do. Despite not feeling that I belong: I have a job; I have a supportive family; I have a core group of friends who have stuck by me. If that were to change, what is to stop me from re-joining society? If I were to be imprisoned, what is to stop me from being apart of that society, with service of others where I can. It is in our nature, our biological imperative to grow and regrow. Even in the most fundamental of ways: you are not alone in your own stardust, you are not alone floating in the endless ocean of universe like the rest of us. Let no one say who is and who isn’t belonging. It’s fabricated, it’s a fraud. By breathing, we belong. No clubhouse sticker or violent initiation act will make us belong anymore to the universe than we did before. It only makes us complicit.

Everything that happens, has happened and it will pass. No radical thought, no hatred, no rage to some loss of control because we never had it in the first place.

“He who sees the present has seen all things, both all that has come to pass from everlasting and all that will be for eternity: all things are related and the same.” – Meditations 6.37

You are not alone.

We’ve done this before. We can do it again.

That’s terror – it’s futility but also, it’s anti-terror in its certainty.



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