We’ve tried forms of threat and force in our efforts to sort out The War on Terrorism? What if we started by asking of a better question? What if caring about the “hopes and dreams” of vulnerable youth was the missing piece of the puzzle?
Since 9/11, I suspect we’ve tested various forms of threat and force enough to know how that’s going to continue to turn out.
But if our strategy was to focus on hopes and dreams, we’ve definitely got something we can work with!
While our subject matter today may seem a bit negative by EWC standards, the work of the person we are introducing you to is nothing short of extraordinary and if you go the distance with us today, you may have new “hopes and dreams” yourself.
Scott Atran is a global traveler and never-ending student of the human condition, and his experiences shed a whole new light on what we hear on the evening news.
I came across his interview with Krista Tippett on her podcast On Being and was rooted to my chair. This is a perspective that we are not hearing. This is a man who has lived within the transition zone between innocence and terrorist. We might do well to consider his observations.
Here’s what Krista Tippett says about Scott Atran:
For over a decade, the French-American anthropologist Scott Atran has been listening to the hopes and dreams of young people from Indonesia to Egypt. He explores the human dynamics of what we analyze as ‘breeding grounds for terrorism’ — why some young people become susceptible to them and others, in the same circumstances, do not. His work sheds helpful light on the question…” 1
See what you think…
Doesn’t that sound logical?
Perhaps all these boys and young men are perpetrating the worst atrocities imaginable because their hopes and dreams were never nurtured, and then a void in their sense of belonging was filled by the first opportunist to come along!
In his NYTimes best-selling book, Better Angels of Our Nature, Steven Pinker had an observation that seems spot on if you consider it in the light of the way many young people grow up with no nurturing adult and no hope.
“Probably the most effective call to martyrdom is the opportunity to join a happy band of brothers.”
That’s so profound, yet obvious after you’ve heard Steven Atran talk about his own experiences.
Of course, young people are going to gravitate toward a sense of brotherhood! Where ever it comes from.
We see that now with returning veterans from our 10 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of them love the safety and predictability of their homes, and yet still miss the brotherhood of serving and being strangers in a strange land.
But I think this quote I ran across says a lot about how we move forward, beyond our intractable conflicts…
What if we don’t think our impulsive first answer is the best answer?
Think of a fragile 16-year-old boy you may know who is struggling a bit. If his circumstances were even more devoid of caring guidance, where would his energy go?
I looked very hard for the author of this quote, without success. Let’s call it something most of us know in our core anyway…
“Hopes and dreams are like teardrops in the rain: they often get lost in reality.”
Maybe the need for supported hopes and dreams is not a third world problem as some would like to imagine. Maybe it’s a universal need that we “elders” should be actively addressing the world over!
After listening to that podcast, we saw ourselves in the darkest moments of our youth: the local kids who hang out in the park, children in crisis, and other troubled boys.
Maybe Mr. Atran’s wisdom of experience should bring everyone’s focus around to a new direction.
Hopes and Dreams… Yes, that’s definitely something we can work with!
We strongly suggest you head over to On Being’s website to check out some of their other incredible interviews. It’s an amazing radio broadcast where some of the most interesting people in the world are being interviewed weekly. I never miss an episode and listen to most a few times in order to absorb every nuance.
Maybe we can move things in a better direction if we first remember that it is still an amazing world out there, full of possibilities we’ve yet to discover.
Stay open, curious and hopeful!
~ Dr. Lynda
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