The current focus on Afghanistan tends to distract attention from the need to combat terrorists wherever, and in whatever form, they manifest themselves. Terror is acute fear, and terrorists thrive on it only in conditions in which fear is endemic.
I begin by defining a "terrorist" as anyone who seeks to gain his own ends by making other people afraid. Fear is the great enemy of human progress because it inhibits individual action. First, it deters individuals from doing worthwhile things on their own account, whether because of some perceived personal risk or merely because of "what other people might think". Second, fear on the part of individuals or groups makes them try to restrict the pleasures or entrepreneurial activities of other, more courageous, individuals even when such activities involve no risk to anyone but the participants. Third, fear of pressure groups, however motivated, persuades legislators to coerce people into behaving in ways which can only be described as "unnatural" as when they seek to outlaw activities which do no demonstrable harm to third parties or to the common environment. When fear is used as a weapon, it makes no practical difference whether it is used by parents, school bullies, do-gooders, criminal gangs, marketing organisations, governments, regulators, enforcement agencies, or anarchists. The result is always to curtail personal liberty and thus to stunt individual spiritual growth. Let us never forget that courage is a spiritual, not a physical, quality.
Fear is endemic in all countries of the world in which there is any form of dictatorial coercion which relies on fear of arbitrary punishment for non-compliance with unnatural laws and regulations. As I can think of no country to which this does not apply (if only in the administration of compulsory taxation) it seems reasonable to assume that fear is pandemic and that no country in the world is altogether devoid of people who are ready, willing, and able to exploit fear as a means to selfish ends. Terrorists occur among all sorts and conditions of men. The school bully is, for his or her victims, just as much a terrorist as the member of a highly organised gang that kills people while robbing a bank or destroys a densely-populated high-rise building at the behest of a malevolent master-mind.
The logical conclusion from the foregoing is that terrorists can be eliminated from human society only by eliminating fear and distrust among all members of the human race. It's a big job which cannot be accomplished by mouthing political slogans or dropping indiscriminate bombs on arbitrarily delineated stretches of landscape. Fear will never cast out fear. It can be done only by persuading the responsible men and women in the world to consider how fear may best be eliminated from their own neighbourhoods and countries. This may require us to employ our God-given liberty to challenge the comfortable concepts by which we have tamely allowed ourselves to be governed and to think in terms that many people will find revolutionary.
We clearly must stop fighting fear with fear and adopt instead the positive strategy of practising the love that casts out fear. In all too many cases, it will be necessary to start by persuading our governments to enable us to do so. Let us always remember that every would-be dictator is only one individual who relies upon fear in some form to persuade many individuals to do what he wants. He cannot be in two places at once: it is rare to see a Prime Minister sweeping streets or investigating a burglary, and it is hard to imagine that his solitary presence at a football match would be sufficient to keep the crowd in order. He may be able to overcome isolated pockets of determined local resistance by concentrating his forces upon it if he thinks he can depend on their loyalty. But when local bodies of people at the grass roots unite in co-ordinated passive disobedience, the dictator is powerless to impose his will upon them because the agents he relies upon to enforce his dictates have their roots in the communities he seeks to oppress; when questions of loyalty arise, blood is thicker than money.
The first step must be to respect the human individual as a responsible agent of the One God of the Universe Who has retained the means to communicate directly with every individual human person who is prepared to pay attention. Politicians, religious leaders, and other fear-mongers who imagine they know better than God should be required to provide some irrefutable evidence of the superiority of their prescriptions before they seek to impose them upon God's individual earthly representatives.
Democracy means government by the people. This implies that political power must start with the individual person. By voluntarily grouping themselves for particular common purposes, individuals empower the leaders of such groups to act on their behalf within prescribed limits. Groups may themselves form larger groupings for purposes common to the constituent groups, and so build a hierarchy of groupings which ends with one final group or "national administration" which has only a very few purposes that all the people of the "nation" have in common and which have actually been delegated "upwards" through the hierarchy. It seems likely that for most nations thus constituted, the only function left to the national administration would be the co-ordination of national defence against invasion.
I have put "upwards" in inverted commas because I wish to emphasise that the single group which represents one end of the hierarchy is in no way superior in authority to the many groups making up the rest of the hierarchy; it is, rather, subordinate to them, because authority ultimately comes from the individuals in all groups who are the agents of the One God of the Universe. The group at the "top" only has greater responsibility for co-ordinating whatever administrative functions have been passed to it by the level immediately below. For this reason, a "higher", more remote, "authority" is never morally justified in abusing the power of sheer numbers to ride roughshod over the preferences of a "local" or "primary" group. It is anticipated that co-ordinating authority in matters concerning such personal interests as education, health, and the administration of justice for individuals would drop out of the delegated package by about the fifth step from the "many" end of the hierarchy.
Primary groups as described above would require organisation and leadership. For any such group to be healthy, its leaders must be persons who may be trusted to act responsibly and to subordinate their personal interests to the welfare of the group as a whole. It will readily be appreciated that this is possible only when the primary group is small enough to enable every member to know every other. One leader of each primary group would also have the responsibility of representing the members of the group at one or more subsequent levels.
For the sake of illustration, if a primary group of ten "families" or "households" appointed a leader, that leader would represent the group on the level 2 group (consisting of, say, 10 primary groups) and also on the level 3 group (consisting of, say, 10 level 2 groups). The "governing body" of a level 3 group would then consist of 100 members, each representing a level 1 group. To prevent each "governing body" from getting too unwieldy, the governing bodies of all subsequent levels of grouping could be limited to 100 members appointed by the governing bodies of its constituent groups. Working on powers of ten, a level 5 group would represent up to 100,000 families, equivalent to a large town, and a level 8 group would represent up to 100 million families, equivalent to a very large nation. [See, e.g., A Democratic Recipe. Ed.]
Under a system such as the above, in which every representative has been "pushed up" from below as a person well fitted and trusted to represent the interests of one or more of the constituent groups, something approaching true democracy could be established. There would assuredly be less opportunity for self-seeking adventurers to make their murky way into public administration through the machinations of political parties.
Readers who agree that the foregoing paragraphs constitute a promising basis for further advance in democracy are requested to take the initiative in attempting to form primary groups in their own neighbourhoods and organise themselves to resist compulsion by fear whether it comes via burglars, terrorists, or some form of existing government.
The following paragraphs constitute an attempt to state a few cardinal points for general global guidance. They will need interpretation and refinement in the light of whatever circumstances prevail in whatever part of the world the responsible individual decides to take up the burden and play an active part in the administration of a relevant primary group.
Human beings are among the many creatures that live on land. We are essentially earthbound, because it is on the earth that we build our homes and from the earth that we draw our nourishment. It is therefore imperative that we keep the earth habitable for future generations of human beings. If there is anything that can be deemed a sacred trust, this must be it. And yet each generation ever-more-greedily consumes the earth's stores, turning our children's birthright into waste and pollution at a rate beyond the neutralising capacity of natural processes. That is the cancerous "growth" on which Western economies pride themselves and on whose increase governments rely for bribing people with their own money into ever-greater servitude. No wonder responsible people have acute pangs of conscience for their complicity in the rape of the earth. And no wonder some few feel these pangs so acutely that they resort to desperate, sometimes even terrorist, measures in an endeavour to make the rest see sense.
But it should be clear that the destructive methods of the terrorist merely accelerate the conversion of natural resources into waste, and that the indiscriminate application of technology increases the risk that all human life on the planet will be extinguished by accident.
It seems obvious that in evolutionary terms, the human race has been relatively too successful for too long, with the result that the natural dynamic balance of Nature is in danger of being catastrophically upset. There are too many human beings in the world in proportion to all the other creatures, and too many of the humans are irresponsible. This puts ever-increasing pressure on all the parts of the world which are normally considered "habitable". Yet, in "Western countries", all the natural means by which bulging populations might be reduced are strenuously and wastefully combated by every means available, apparently out of sentimental attachment to mere individual longevity and quantitative "standards of living" measured in terms of "consumption" without any reference to the purpose of Life itself. It is all-too-often forgotten that the Life of the species is incomparably more important than the life of the individual.
In what way can it be "loving" to keep people artificially alive when they are no longer naturally viable and have nothing to look forward to except increasing pain and disability? Are the spiritual interests of the individual and the financial interests of the tax-payer not being sacrificed to the selfish interests of the potentates of the political, religious, legal, pharmaceutical, and "caring" industries? Do we not conveniently forget that the poisons generated by our wasteful Western lifestyle are inevitably distributed by atmospheric, oceanic, and commercial pollution to the rest of the world and all of its inhabitants, including our fellow humans in less "advanced" countries? Is it "loving" to salve our consciences by "distributing aid" by way of surplus food or money to "poorer" countries, thus fostering a dependency culture that makes their last state worse than their first? Would it not be better for the world as a whole if we re-defined "advancement" in qualitative instead of quantitative terms, and put the emphasis on improving our spiritual development instead of increasing our wastelines (pun intended)?
From the spiritual point of view, every responsible person is a voluntary individual agent of the One Spirit that animates every human being. Responsible people are to be found at all levels of society in every country in the world. It is now imperative that they release themselves from materialistic governmental and institutional bonds and enthusiastically perform their individual love-inspired work wherever they happen to be. The enthusiastic efforts of millions of such people, concerted by the Spirit, will be infinitely more effective in countering the malevolent acts of terrorists than the dictates of a few Presidents, Prime Ministers, and faceless bureaucrats, or the futile efforts of military personnel to fight an invisible enemy.
The following is an attempt to outline a few principles by which the responsible people in the world might be guided to set an example in self-control and co-operative self-government, and thus wage a spiritual war with non-destructive spiritual weapons.
To "belong" is to "be long", that is, to be "known" in one society, association or community for long enough to have built up a reputation with the other members and to be "accepted" by them as "one of their own". A newcomer to a group, however defined, starts off by being taken "on trust", and it can often take a long time to justify this provisional trust, i.e. to "earn" the trust of one's peers through gaining a reputation for being a good and reliable member by whatever standards, formal and informal, which prevail in the group.
Because nearly everybody likes to have a "home", those who share one's home neighbourhood constitute what is perhaps the most important community for most people. Long-time dwellers in rural areas will readily agree: they live their lives closer to Nature than city dwellers and are rightly suspicious of newcomers until they have demonstrated by their demeanour and conduct that they are ready, willing, and able to become "acclimatised" and to live by long-established local customs.
Although city people are accustomed to the anonymity of social and business intercourse in city centres, even they like to have friendly, dependable, local neighbours when they come home to rest and recuperate; and they feel uncomfortable, to put it mildly, when their neighbourhoods are occupied by people whose behaviour and dress do not conform to local norms and who may not even speak the local language. They rightly perceive that this dilutes what for them constitutes the quality of local life, and they naturally resent it when the proportion of immigrants in the community increases beyond ordinary levels of tolerance. Resentment is exacerbated by central governmental legislation designed to "shoe-horn" unwanted strangers into local communities. That is why large-scale migration of people is by far the most de-stabilising effect of globalisation, and why there will be no peace in any neighbourhood, let alone the world, unless and until the Principle of Belonging is accorded the importance it deserves.
Hence, for the purpose of public administration, it is obvious that geographical neighbourhood is the optimum basis for the formation of the primary groups described above.
Nobody permanently "owns" anything. Death will eventually part us from all our worldly goods, but these same goods can still remain serviceable in the custody of our heirs and successors. It may therefore be helpful to think in terms of custodianship rather than ownership, to reflect the fact that the world's resources are to be enjoyed by all generations of all living species. However, there can be 'proper ties' of custodianship between living individuals or organisations and the material items with which they have been entrusted. Similar considerations apply to the occupation of land or 'real' estate. Whether or not there is any etymological justification for the idea, I like to think that it is the existence of such 'proper ties' that gives rise to 'property'.
The fundamental ground for establishing a proper tie or 'title' is 'belonging', i.e. a long-standing, preferably undisputed, association between the custodian and the property in question. It may reasonably be assumed that the value of real estate is compounded from the intrinsic value of land by reason of its structure, content and location, and whatever a series of 'custodians' might have done to it by way of development, improvement, care, and maintenance. It would be helpful if the current custodian recognised that his or her tenure was only temporary and accepted responsibility for passing the property on to the next generation in good order. But it would be equally helpful if our notions of "good order" were based on well-proven traditional concepts rather than those canvassed by mercenary johnny-come-latelies.
Title may be passed on by inheritance when the property is passed from one generation to another, most commonly to a close blood relative of the previous custodian whose custodianship has been naturally terminated by physical death or incapacity. Long-standing possession by the members of a family is often indicated by the names given to topographical features. "Title" may also pass by purchase, when the current 'custodian' of a property sells the custodianship to another person or group.
A fourth ground is conquest, by which custodianship of a property is forcibly wrested from one person or group by another person or group. When this happens, it may take a very long time (possibly spanning several generations) before ensuing disputes about the legitimacy of the transfer have been forgotten. The psychological consequences are much the same whether the conquest comes about through act of war, colonial expansion, or "peaceful" infiltration by immigrants.
Having acquired some 'belongings', it is natural for the possessors to try to protect them against agencies which might damage them in some way or even deprive themselves, their heirs, and dependants of the enjoyment thereof. That is why the Englishman thinks of his home as his castle: it protects the members of his household and their creature comforts against marauders of all kinds. The instinct to protect women and children from harm is deeply imbedded in the human psyche, and is the ultimate sanction for defensive violence against the importunate intruder. Once this sanction ceases to be respected in law and by law-enforcement agents, the citizen and the law-maker are on course for not-very-civil war.
The "land of one's birth" has long been the most natural and most widely accepted determinant of nationality, and I think it likely that most people have a strong emotional attachment to the country in which they were born and whose customs, traditions and language they have absorbed at their mothers' knees. That is what prepares them to become good citizens of their country, and militates to some extent against their becoming equally good citizens of any other country. There can be no objection to responsible citizens of one country "just visiting" another country for cultural, educational, vocational, recreational or business purposes: but it seems only equitable that whatever value the individual gains from such experiences should be employed primarily in the service of the country of origin rather than "sold" for purely selfish reasons to another country which has what is perceived to have a "higher standard of living". It is surely more noble to help raise standards back home than to abandon one's national responsibility merely for mercenary enjoyment of the benefits conferred upon some other country by many generations of its own native people.
It is usual to make a distinction between "economic migrants" and "genuine" refugees or asylum seekers. From the point of view of the "target" country, this is a distinction without a difference. People who "fall out" with their own local or national regimes to such an extent that their lives or property are threatened are hardly likely to be attractive to any other country. The citizens of any country who have reason to fear their own corrupt governments would surely do better to combat corruption at home by all available local means rather than abuse the hospitality of another country by continuing the quarrel from a place of comparative safety without regard for the possible adverse effects on their hosts.
The above paragraph will probably give offence to many well-meaning people who sympathise with the privations suffered by "refugees". But love sometimes has to be "tough" to be effective, and we should all do well to consider that if the hordes of Afghans currently trying to leave their country and settle elsewhere chose instead to unite in courageously endeavouring to sort out their own troubles, their country might become more humane and less attractive as a haven for international terrorists.
Hence there is good reason why every nation in the world should now review its criteria for granting citizenship to natives of other countries, and to abrogate any international treaties which seek to limit its power to do so. In a world which is already overcrowded, uncontrolled migration of people threatens civilisation everywhere.
There is also good reason to suppose that many small nations, each zealously guarding its own borders against infiltration, whether by terrorists or by exotic diseases, would serve the peace and health of the world better than a few totalitarian super-powers or federations within which border controls have been dismantled. Every nation fortunate enough to have borders determined by natural features such as seas, rivers and mountain ranges should use them to filter out harmful traffic in either direction. The optimum population of each such nation would be determined by its ability to feed and shelter its own people without importation of anything but luxuries. With the advent of global electronic communications, there is obviously less actual need for people to transport their material bodies long distances at high speeds merely to exchange thoughts and ideas, and many people would be happy to exchange their freedom to travel abroad for greater personal liberty at home.
Diminution in trade and tourism has its not inconsiderable compensations. The pollution associated with transportation is reduced. The trend to global monoculturalism is retarded and cultural diversity is preserved, refined, and increased. There is less occasion for commercial competition and so less reason for strife between nations.
If the Principle of Belonging is applied to material goods, it immediately becomes clear that it is in the long-term interests of the people of the world to maintain all material goods in serviceable condition for as long as possible. Shifting the materialist emphasis from the preservation of unserviceable human bodies to the maintenance of serviceable plant, furniture and utensils would do much to reduce the rate at which the earth's natural resources are being depleted and give Nature a better chance to filter poisonous wastes out of the global environment.
The principal implication of the above analysis is that practical love must focus upon the greater good of the greater number rather than on the ambitions or sufferings of any individual or group. But our natural human limitations imply that we should be humble enough to limit our personal ambitions to our understanding and that our efforts should stop a long way short of attempted totalitarianism. We responsible practitioners of love must be alert to the duplicity of the "spin doctors" who rely upon individual hard-luck stories, of which there are always a few, to support general materialistic arguments to the spiritual disadvantage of the many. We must always be ready to argue the case for individual liberty both to make mistakes and to suffer the unpleasant consequences of these mistakes. This is the only "human right" that can be discerned in Nature, and its general acceptance would put an end both to much enslaving legislation and to the burgeoning public appetite for seeking financial "compensation" for well-deserved injuries.
It will obviously be necessary to retain effective sanctions against people who behave irresponsibly in the local social context: but such sanctions should be designed as loving aids to correction rather than as mere vengeful punishment. For any society which aims to maximise personal liberty, imprisonment would be a desperate measure of last resort.
When enough responsible people in every country seriously practise love, there will no longer be any need for coercion by governments, nor even for compulsory taxation. The balance of real power will gradually shift towards individually responsible human beings and away from gang-leaders, professional politicians, and the executives of impersonal corporations. If we can ward off catastrophe for long enough, fear of each other will wither away, artificial barriers between people can be relaxed, and all the people of the world will increasingly experience the glorious liberty of the children of One God. This is the brilliant light that can be dimly discerned at the very end of the long tunnel of practical love.