All We Are Saying Is, Give Creative Tasks a ChanceWhy do terrorists blow stuff up, and what might we do to stop them? The answers to these tough questions have been discovered by an expert on terrorism at our very own alma mater, the University of Missouri at Columbia.
First, why do they blow stuff up:
“People struggle to defend their beliefs to protect themselves from anxiety over their own mortality,” Assistant Professor of Psychology Jamie Arndt said.People are afraid of dying, you see, and so naturally they lash out at other belief systems to stave off their anxiety about visits from the Grim Reaper. For example, the 9/11 hijackers were so scared of dying that they flew planes into buildings in order to stave off ... Oh wait--never mind.
“We may see this phenomenon, understood through Terror Management Theory (TMT), in a variety of beliefs, including religion, ethnicity, political preferences and even through sports team preferences. People can react to those ‘world view’ threats with prejudice, which can lead us to the world conflicts we find today.”Sports team preferences? When was the last time a Yankees fan flew an airplane into a building or blew something up because somebody else was a Mets fan? Note how trivial Arndt's point is: people often don't like challenges to their beliefs, and some of them resort to violence. The only interesting claim is that they do so as a way to cope with anxiety about death, but this seems to be false, if not absurd, on the face of it. Islamic terrorists don't fit the hypothesis. They are quite willing to martyr themselves in hopes of an afterlife of conjugal bliss with comely virgins. Anxiety about their mortality isn't much of a motivator for them; killing jews and Americans is what drives them.
Second, what do we do about terrorism?
According to Arndt, one key to effective terror management is self esteem, and those with a higher self worth, particularly people whose self esteem comes from within and is not based on accomplishing certain goals, are less likely to attack people who are different.I used to mock the self-esteem movement by joking that self-esteem advocates think that all Hitler needed was a hug. Little did I know that I wouldn't be far from the truth. Although to be fair, Arndt doesn't think that terrorists need hugs. Don't be silly. They need creative tasks:
“With higher self esteem, people have a stronger shield and are better able to repel the anxiety that comes with understanding their own mortality,” Arndt said. “We, and others, also have explored creative engagement and tolerance and found that giving people creative tasks may facilitate a more open-minded outlook.”A little macrame perhaps. Some basket-weaving. Learn how to make those seasonal marshmallow treats shaped like bunnies and baby chicks.
OSAMA: You know, Mohammed, now that I am making sugary marshmallow treats shaped like bunnies and baby chicks, I don't want to kill Americans and jews anymore.I can think of a few creative tasks for the terrorists of the world.
MOHAMMED: Neither do I! I want the infidels to taste the sugary goodness of my treats rather than the cold steel of Allah's blade.
OSAMA: And you know what else? I like me now, I really, really like me.
MOHAMMED: And I like me! And for no good reason, either!