The Cycle of Terror

Posted on Apr 17, 2013
The Cycle of Terror

There is a Dutch translation of this essay.  You can also read this article auf Deutsch.


In the wake of terror attacks, politicians are fond of proclaiming, “We will not be intimidated.” By this they seem to mean that we won’t cower in fear, but will boldly root out the terrorists, visit upon them the hand of justice, and hold them to account. “Make no mistake,” about that, they say. We will be tough, and by tough they mean heightening security at home, intensifying counter-terrorism measures abroad, and punishing the perpetrators and all who give them aid and comfort.

Tough and strong though they seem, all of these responses are based on fear. They are the actions of people who are afraid of terrorism. Looking at them, one might say that the terrorists have succeeded after all. Even if their ostensible political cause is crushed, their terror has succeeded in increasing the level of fear in the world.

From fear comes hate, and from hate comes violence. Acting from that fear, we sow the seeds of future terrorism in the world, thereby confirming the image of our terror. It is as Martin Luther King said (quoted in a marvelously brave and insightful piece by Falguni Sheth in Salon, Where does the hate come from? ): “Men must see that force begets force, hate begets hate, toughness begets toughness. And it is all a descending spiral, ultimately ending in destruction for all and everybody.”

Is there an alternative? There is, but I am afraid it is so radical as to be beyond the reach of our political imagination, at least until the futility of force, hate, and control becomes so apparent we can no longer ignore it. Right now, we respond to each failure of control with more control, each failure of force with more force, each failure of security with more security. Where will it end? When every school, stadium, shopping mall, hospital, home, and public building is like a fortress?

Let us ask a simple question. Do we want to live in a future where to attend any public event or enter any public building means to pass through a security checkpoint? That would be a society that runs on fear, a society in which fear infiltrates every corner of public life. Since a fortress is the mirror opposite of a prison (the former keeps people out, the latter in), a fortress society is also a prison society, in which every trip, every entry in a building, every purchase is monitored and controlled, and every act policed.

Is anyone out there asking, “What would it take to have a society where we need less security every year, and not more?” Is any politician proclaiming this as a goal? Is anyone upholding this as a vision for the future? Are we capable of envisioning a society where we feel at home among each other, a society of growing trust, and not a society resembling a prison more and more with each passing year?

One might think that yes, this is a worthy goal, and that therefore we should study and address the causes of terrorism – but of course we must tighten security until such time as we do that. That would be fine except for one unfortunate possibility: what if the regime of security and control is itself integral to the conditions that breed terrorism?

It makes a certain amount of psychological sense that this is the case. What we suppress in our psyche often bursts out in some dissociated and extreme form. When we live in fear (as we do in a security state), we are certain to experience that fear in various externalized ways, such as terrorism. The suppressed shadow emerges. Are the horrific events of the last few months the random acts of bad guys? Or could it be that we are seeing a reflection of ourselves?

More mundanely, the security mindset applied to foreign policy by a militaristic state surely creates the image of its own fear and hatred. The more aggressively we seek to protect ourselves from the people we fear, the more those people will fear and hate us. The further we take security, for example to preemptive drone strikes, the more hatred we will generate. The more hatred we generate, the greater will be the need to extend the regime of security even further.

The same is true of the mindset of control at home, in the workplace, and at school, extending even to pharmaceutical control of the mind via anti-depressant drugs. A society that is increasingly regimented, surveilled, and controlled, in which “freedom” happens behind gates and walls, necessarily stokes an explosive desire to break free. I do not mean to trivialize the complicated psycho-social factors that turn a person into a mass murderer, but certainly a key factor must be an overwhelming feeling of alienation. What could be more alienating then a standardized, controlled, endemically suspicious society, where everywhere you go you are treated as a suspect or troublemaker?

To build a society of safety and trust rather than security and fear, we are going to have to act from the former rather than the latter. I therefore offer a few modest proposals for how to respond to the Boston bombing. First, let us reverse the cycle of terror by responding, not with heightened security, but with relaxed security, demonstrating that we will not be frightened into retreating behind cameras, fences, and metal detectors. We will bravely uphold an open society.

Secondly, let us reverse the cycle of hatred abroad by ceasing all preemptive and punitive drone strikes and other attacks. Those are the actions of a frightened people. It takes courage to trust that if one holds back from violence, whomever one has seen as an enemy will do the same. But in a situation of mutual distrust, someone has to take the first step. Otherwise, each act merely confirms the distrust of the other, and the violence never ends.

Thirdly, instead of vowing to take vengeance on the perpetrator of the Boston attack, let us proclaim that rather than punish him, he will have the opportunity to face the families of the people he killed and the people whose limbs he destroyed. He will hear their stories and share his own. Then together, the victims, perpetrators and communittee will agree on how best to heal the damage done and serve justice. While remorse and forgiveness may not result, it is more likely to than in punitive justice. (For more on this approach to justice, explore the Restorative Justice website or read this article.)

This response will reduce the amount of hate and fear in the world The perpetrator will not become a martyr in the eyes of his sympathizers. Any response that heightens the already-endemic fear in our society will be a victory for fear. To truly resist terrorism, we must not act from terror. Can we receive the hate of this act and transform it into love?

No doubt most people will say that these proposals are dangerously unrealistic and naïve, so let me anticipate some of the objections. The first proposal would seem to make us more vulnerable to terrorism, and to make it easier for terrorists to achieve their ends. Actually, heightened security only gives the illusion of safety; it does not provide actual safety. At best, it displaces possible terrorist activity from one venue to another. As each public place is secured, those with violent intent will simply enact their plans at some other place that is not secured. What is the difference if it is displaced from an airport to a stadium, from a stadium to a subway station, from a subway station to a shopping mall? The only solution, from the perspective of security and control, would be to secure every public event and building, so that the act of going out in public means undergoing a search and metal detector screening. And even then there would be gaps through which a determined or creative terrorist could strike. The Newtown massacre, which happened at a school with extensive security, demonstrated that such measures, as the Chinese say, “stop the gentleman but not the crook.”

Moreover, even if relaxed security did result in more attacks, that would not mean that the terrorists had achieved their ends. Their goal is not to kill people – that is a means, not an end. Their goal is to engender fear. If our response shows that we are not afraid, then we will be deterring terrorism, not encouraging it. I think this is what Jesus meant when he enjoined us to “turn the other cheek.” Doing so isn’t an invitation to strike again. It shows that the first strike did not work. (For a deeper explanation of this injunction, please read Walter Wink’s profound essay, “Jesus’ Third Way.”)

The second suggestion above invites the protest, “But if we don’t destroy our enemies or at least hold them in check, then they will be emboldened and eventually overrun us.” This protest imagines that enmity happens in a kind of vacuum, that hatred toward the United States exists outside a context of militarism and imperialism, a relationship of violence and counter-violence. It assumes, perhaps, that they “hate us for our freedoms.” In other words, it says that they are evil and we are good. I think anyone can recognize that this is a recipe for endless war when, as is usual, both sides believe that they are the good guys.

The second and third proposals also provoke the objection, “If we don’t punish acts of terror and other crimes, then there will be nothing to deter future criminals.” Leaving aside the weak and often contradictory evidence for the efficacy of deterrence in preventing crime (see for example here), the notion of punishment-based deterrence draws on a world-view that is fundamentally fear-based. It says there are implacably evil people out there who, if not deterred by personal harm, will do terrible things to us. In fact, the classical theory of deterrence, originating in the philosophy of Jeremy Bentham and Cesare Baccaria, essentially extends the category of “evil” people to everyone. Bentham in particular said that human beings naturally act to maximize their “utility” – avoidance of pain and experiencing of pleasure. Therefore, in order to prevent people from committing criminal acts, there must be negative consequences to counterbalance that universal desire to benefit oneself by harming others.

The theory of deterrence, in other words, presupposes a world of separate, competing, self-interested individuals. But is that really the world we live in? If so, then a better life will only come through greater and greater security, deterrence, surveillance, and control. In such a world, trust is foolish, as is any hope of forgiveness, redemption, love, or a change of heart. Certainly, our experiences often seem to confirm this. But could it be that what we are seeing is an artifact of our system, and the projection of our own beliefs? When we act from an ideology of force and the fundamental selfishness of human beings, we create the world in its image.

In that case, maybe it is time to act from a different paradigm of human nature: a belief in our fundamental goodness, our common humanity, our desire to connect, to love, to help, and to serve. Certainly the immediate responses to the tragedy in Boston offer ample evidence for such a belief: people generously coming to the aid of total strangers. It was as if the explosions tore apart the veil of mutual suspicion that keeps us separate and allowed a latent aspect of human nature its full expression. What if we take those acts of selflessness as the true lesson of Boston? Could we create a world in their image? If MLK was right, surely it is also true that peace begets peace, forgiveness begets forgiveness, and love begets love. No less a revolution will create a society where we feel safe and at home amongst each other.

Photo credit: thestatusjoe


  1. Oliver Stamp
    April 17, 2013

    Great article, some very valid points.

    ” Bentham in particular said that human beings naturally act to maximize their “utility” – avoidance of pain and experiencing of pleasure. Therefore, in order to prevent people from committing criminal acts, there must be negative consequences to counterbalance that universal desire to benefit oneself by harming others.”

    Was it not the historical Buddha Gotama that first put this philosophy forward…? Just saying 😉

    • rockhead
      May 10, 2013

      probly not

  2. Peter van Honk
    April 17, 2013

    Totally agree. Well put. After all, it is not about Good and Evil in this universe, on our planet. It is about Fear and Love. So yes; you can only overcome Fear with Love.

    • juice
      May 10, 2013

      “overcome fear with love.”
      sounds like fear to me

  3. JK
    April 17, 2013

    An eloquent, intelligent and heart-driven approach, as usual. Thank you.

  4. lizadiamond
    April 17, 2013

    1)It is really hard to read the comments in grey on black.
    2) I agree totally with your ideas BUT I advise refraining from calling the Boston bombings a terrorist act. As the word has been used since 9/11 there are racialized and nationalized meanings that are next-to-impossible to avoid. The war on terror is not fought against British Petroleum or Exxon or against the Ku Klux Klan or The Westboro church, or against loners who send mail bombs or go on killing sprees in elementary schools, even though technically they could and maybe should be. In the US we, via MSM and the State, subliminally, if not overtly, think of a terrorist as a Middle Eastern brown skinned man. We may not want to, or mean to, but the image has been implanted, and there it rests. So I’d advise, suggest, plead, that you call this incident a bombing, a mass murder, or something, anything, other than a terrorist attace.

    • Susan Livingston
      April 17, 2013

      Brava, Liza! One small tweak, though: Observationally speaking, it was a bombing. In order to introduce the horrific element of lack of (direct) provocation, call it a random, unexpected bombing. It was NOT a “mass” murder.

    • Tulkor
      April 17, 2013

      Indeed. Labels are extremely powerful…even for those aware of them. Just because the media as well as Obama declared the bombing a terrorist attack does not make it so in the technical sense of the word. Surely any attack is terrifying but that is not the definition. There are neither suspects or clear motives at this point, yet people are jumping to conclusions or just assuming that any attack is a terrorist attack. If that is the case, then Chicago is full of are other cities.

    • Cilla
      December 20, 2013

      but isn’t it up to us to give words their correct meaning instead of complying with doublespeak? To me a terrorist is not a middle-eastern brown skinned man.

  5. Scott Bell
    April 17, 2013

    A War on Terror is a bit like the Self trying to rid the Self of the Self……..Damn impressive for someone who is not the Self…..but, impossible nonetheless.

  6. Jonathan Zerbin
    April 17, 2013

    I had a similar line of thinking in regards to the Connecticut shooting albeit on a more personal level.

    These events are a natural result of the very beliefs people hold in regards to them. Watching how society reacts can teach us lots about their internal state and how effective it is at preventing these incidents in the future.

  7. Percy
    April 17, 2013

    It’s not about ridding ourselves of fear (that would be impossible)… the trick is to regard our fear as merely temporary confusion… and once that’s seen, the fear loses out and no longer holds us hostage. In this way, our fear becomes our best friend.

  8. Joseph Bernard
    April 17, 2013

    A very wise perspective beyond the dominance of the ego-mind which is the presiding paradigm. We are so much more than fear.

  9. oconnorar
    April 17, 2013

    This is great in theory. I truly believe his points are valid. So the problem is obvious. But in reality, how do you begin? Does the author propose to leave his door to his house unlocked every night? To live in a society with no security at all? Where is the line separating what we should freely trust and what we should forcefully secure, and how do you draw it?

  10. pepstar
    April 17, 2013

    Fantastic commentary. I couldn’t agree more.

  11. bob tatnell
    April 17, 2013

    Charles, there are many justice systems and the system which results in redemption and compensation might be amongst the most worthwhile.
    I think the doable part is the meeting between the perpetrator and the families.

  12. Bean
    April 17, 2013

    Charles…thank you for this essay, but I couldn’t finish it. The black background and white letters is extremely straining on the eye. I hope you will consider another format!

    • oj
      May 10, 2013

      go to reality sandwich dot com

  13. Charles Frith
    April 18, 2013

    Charles Eisenstein rejects any narrative that isn’t mainstream media as a conspiracy theory. Boston has all the hallmarks of false flag terrorism and we can go all the way back to the Gulf of Tonkin, USS Liberty and 9/11 to see how public opinion is manipulated by string pullers of government.

    • CGF
      April 30, 2013

      Dear Charles (Eisenstein): –

      Mr. Frith is unfortunately on target with respect to the truth of this event, it is obvious beyond the pale, and this is ironically why so many refuse to believe….

      Charles (E): Your work is magnificent, you are an amazing soul, and absolutely one of the new pioneers of the more beautiful world our hearts tell us is possible. But Charles, please my friend, research the truth of what is happening in our world. So many (hundreds of millions) do not want to hear the truth of what is happening: Sandy Hook, Boston, Aurora, 9/11, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc – as Mr. Frith mentions. This is TRUTH. And just my 2 cents: We CANNOT get to that more beautiful world if we FIRST refuse to acknowledge the truth of our existing reality.

      Decades ago German citizens were ridiculed for even daring to believe in the atrocities that were occuring in their backyard, courtesy of their own government. They were the “conspiracy theorists” of their time – ostracized, persecuted and even killed. It seems, sadly nothing has changed. We in the once free country called America are so conditioned to believe what we hear on the “news”, and refuse to believe that we are being lied to by the millionaires, billionaires and trillionaires who run the show. And we have been conditioned to attack those that try to speak the truth, as acknowledgement of this same truth often leads to the ferociously painful destruction of beliefs and belief systems we have held as sacred truths our entire lives. Personally, I know it has for me….

      I suspect, as I write this, it might sting a bit, particularly in contrast to the “beautiful remarks” of the other commentors who speak to love, possibility, and this new world. Know that I am there too with all of you, but I simply REFUSE to entertain a notion of this more magnificent world without FIRST being willing to acknowledge the TRUTH of our existing reality.

      As Gandhi said, “When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it–always.” Note: he speaks to the power of not love alone, but TRUTH AND Love.

      There can be no truth without love, nor love without truth.

      – CGF

      • juice
        May 10, 2013

        i suggest reading his article on the “new world order”

        • CGF
          May 11, 2013

          Hey Juice, indeed I had read this article before way back when (I assume you mean the one titled, “Synchronicity, Myth, and the NWO” on Reality Sandwich). In a recent re-read of it, and referencing this most recent article by Charles (Cycle of Terror), I would say that I particularly resonate with the comments made by in response to Charles’ article. Check it out if you’re interested….

          On “conspiracy theories”, I’ve lost count of the number of times Charles uses the world Conspiracy as if it’s the plague. Millions in the hive also use it to stigmitize others, super unfortunate. I am proud to be a conspiracy theorist, or as I like to call it a “critical thinker”. Remember when people used to think critically? How the hell, I repeat, how the hell did we get to a point in this inside out, upside down world where ANY AND EVERY OFFICIAL STORY FROM OUR GOVERNMENT IS CONSIDERED THE ABSOLUTE TRUTH and anything else is considered a conspiracy theory? WTF??? How did we get here? Where does that inverted rationale come from? Is it a law of physics I am not aware of? Oh, and by the way, isn’t a conspiracy theory by definition that whereby two or more people conspire to do X, Y or Z? By that definition, the government’s story is a conspiracy theory itself: Osama Bin Laden conspired with Al-Quaida to carry out 9/11.Did I miss something?

          I weep on a daily basis for those who continue to accept anything and everything that comes from our fearless “benevolent” leaders as the gospel truth, almost as if it was spoken by God himself. Again, WTF? Oh, and one last point on this: Does ANYONE see something a wee bit off, just a tad, with the fact that hundreds of our politicians, the, cough cough servants of the people (big grin), ya know, the ones that are the authors of the “official” stories”, i.e. truth, are now full-fledged multi-multi-multi-millionaires, literally getting wealthier by the minute, the CEOs that are destroying our lives and our planet are multi-billionaires, and the bankers that, may just, perhaps might just be up to no good and just might be (here it goes…) conspiring to …… are now multi-TRILLIONAIRES and most of the rest of us, the majority of the planet are working 2-3 minimum wage jobs JUST TO PAY THE BILLS. Anything just a wee wee wee bit off here? Isn’t there a Bilderberg meeting, which brings together all these millionaire politicians, billionaire CEOs and trillionaire bankers into one venue every year, and has since the 50’s? And isn’t it absolutely off limits (heavily armed security, etc.) to anyone else – including media or anyone, period no exceptions? Am I dreaming all of this? Does this yearly meeting take place in a parallel universe I’m not aware of? Sorry, there I go again – spewing out those conspiracy theories. Just all coincidences I’m sure and certainly nothing to worry about…..

          Now, if we want to step it up a notch and enter the quantum world (which I dig by the way), a nice comment was made by : in this same Reality Sandwich article, making an analogy to the twin towers getting hit by the planes and the double split experiment (quantum mechanics and infinite possibilities….). Yes, again I dig it (check it out if you wish), but here’s the gist: In our current interation of humanity wherein we are still pretty much operating out of a 5-sense reality, significantly cut off from who we truly are (spiritual beings having a human experience): -‘junk’ DNA, vacant pineal gland, yadayada….. Can we NOW -today – really live life like this? In other words, for example, I’m walking down the street and my girlfriend gets hit in the head by a guy with a bat, who then proceeds to steal her wallet. Do I turn to her and say, “Well dear, you may have gotten struck by a bat, you may have gotten your wallet stolen, but maybe these events did not in fact happen. Yes, I understand you are bleeding profusely from the ears, but let’s assume for a moment you aren’t – let’s just get up and keep walking, don’t mind that blood pouring from your ears, for it is just one possibility of an infinite number of possibilities”. Do you see what I mean here? At some point, prior to any possible ascension, major rise in consciousness, etc. we are still all here in our human experience, living out our lives. Can we really & realistically operate on a daily basis from this quantum level-theory perspective?

          Wow, another long response. Phew…..You’ll forgive me, I’m tired of fighting this battle. I (and perhaps many of you???) just want to live out our lives with a meager existence, loving others, helping others and I (we???) are simply tired beyond belief at having our lives destroyed by . . . something. Remember Occupy? Anyone wonder why there was such a brutal crackdown on a couple of hundred simple souls who were simply trying to break away from the system – and NOT trying to force this new possibility upon any others? You do, I hope, see what we’re up against. Again, something, call it what you will…..something is brutally preventing dairy farmers from selling raw milk, something is brutally preventing organic gardners from gardening, something is brutally preventing alternate currency proponents from moving forward with alternate currencies etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. Do I need to list them all?

          In summary, “something” is doing everything it can to brutally prevent us from realizing, in Charles’ words, that more beautiful world our hearts tell us is possible. How far back do we want to go on accepting the fact that this force has been in existence for eons. Well, let’s just go back a few decades – the 60’s generation, John Lennon, JFK, RFK, MLK, All the beautiful souls and movements who/that tried to change the world, all taken out. Isn’t anyone else tired of fighting? Isn’t anyone else tired of simply rinseing (sp) and repeating, trying to simply walk away from a world of separation, and trying to build this more beautiful world, but being BRUTALLY REFUSED the opportunity E-V-E-R-Y-T-I-M-E? Will it ever end? Will we EVER EVER EVER realize that more beautiful world, and if we do, does anyone really think it will come as a result of us refusing to confront our current reality with truth?

          Put another way, might anyone envision a future world we are all living in peace and harmony, finally after eons and eons of struggle, and we are reflecting back to the old world of separation – the one where way back in 2001 we’re telling the “story” to our grandchildren of how nineteen muslims hijackers had …..

          As a spiritual being living out this human experience, I personally don’t want to live in a world of love founded on lies, I want a world of love anchored to truth. That being said, I suspect each and eveyone of us will have to define our own truth for ourselves and then be able to defend this same truth.

          • CGF
            May 11, 2013

            And finally, from the mouth of JFK himself (1961 speech):

            “The word secrecy is repugnant in a free and open society, and we are as a people, inherently and historically opposed to Secret societies, secret oaths and secret proceedings. For we are opposed around the world by a monolithic and ruthless CONSPIRACY, that relies primarily on covert means for expanding its sphere of influence. It depends on infiltration instead of invasion, on subversion instead of elections, on intimidation instead of free choice. It is a system which has conscripted vast human and material resources into the building of a tightly knit, highly efficient machine that combines military, diplomatic, intelligence, economic, scientific, and political operations. Its preparations are concealed, not published, its mistakes are buried, not headlined, and its dissenters are silenced, not praised, no expenditure is questioned, no secret revealed… I am asking your help in the tremendous task of informing and alerting the American people.”

            I guess he was a conspiracy theorist as well, or perhaps more aptly, was he just the last honest president who tried to warn us about it decades and decades ago, but of course no one listened… now we just ridicule and ostracize to death anyone that dares to speak “conspiracies”! Funny, compare JFK’s words to our last president, psychopath-in-chief George W. Bush, who regarding 9/11 said, “We should NOT tolerate outrageous conspiracy theories….”.

            So I ask you – compare JFK’s words with GWB’s words – who was speaking truth and who was speaking lies? Who tried to warn us with truth and who tried to coddle us with lies? Who’s the conspiracy theorist???

          • rdp
            August 29, 2013

            Yes. To everything you wrote.

  14. dave boyd
    April 18, 2013

    as much as you can try to help , i feel as though there is something amiss. your suggestions are good but are just like suggestions of the past . there is a missing piece to your ideas ; the omission of a substantial factor . what is proposed is an adjustment of what already is . maybe if you look deeper but not so deep as to miss the simplest facts , you can discover the keys to the problem . good luck charles and thank you for your efforts . sincerely , dave boyd

  15. Ben23
    April 18, 2013

    As usual, Charles, you can be relied upon to bring some much needed wisdom spoken from the heart into a difficult situation.

    There is a particular fear that you don’t mention that I think often drives the reaction to events such as these. It is the fear of those in government that, if the same sort of thing happens again, they will be blamed. Putting aside the conspiracy theories, most people would not regard it as a failing of the government the first time someone bombs a marathon, but the second time someone does it, everyone will be screeching “why was nothing done?”.

    This fear of being blamed if history repeats itself sets a certain minimum level of response which the government feels it must do (anything done above that level is a choice, and is often piggybacked onto it for other reasons, much as a great deal of the security infrastructure imposed after 9/11 seems to have been designed for purposes other than preventing terrorism…). It’s hard to see how even a totally benevolent government (if such a thing exists) could be persuaded to risk future blame by choosing not to tighten security.

  16. B
    April 18, 2013

    Thank you….Keep up the good work, and LOTS of Love!

  17. devin martin
    April 18, 2013

    I was simultaneously working as a security consultant to the Federal Reserve Bank and Fortune 100 companies and studying Integral Philosophy and Buddhism when the possibility of writing a paper on “Integral Security” arose. It became clear very quickly that Integral Security would not look like fortifying boundaries and tracking who crosses them, but instead engaging both sides of the divide to engender trust, respect and understanding.

    This hints at why I left the industry after 12 years to start a business called LifeStyle Integrity. Thanks for giving voice to this cycle of abuse. We seem so clear on why children and gangs shouldn’t arm themselves and fight violence with violence and yet fail completely as a country to see how we demand this at every level of government.


  18. Phi Levy
    April 19, 2013

    Reducing security, as you suggest, Charles, may be the right approach, but what happens when that doesn’t work in reducing terrorism? You say that terrorists want to terrorize us; you say that therefore, if we reduce security measures, the terrorists will be frustrated that they can’t scare us, and will eventually give up. But I don’t think the fact terrorists would quit. They despise us and want us to change or die. The killers in the Marathon bombing had lived in the US for 10 years supposedly. Are you saying that they found this country more repressing or depressing than where they came from? Furthermore, you suggest that these murderers would benefit by sitting down with victims to explain why they did it. They lived in the US for 10 years! They didn’t like it? Then why didn’t they move back to their home? Charles, the weakness of your argument is in implying that US “imperialism” (whatever that is) excuses the slaughter of innocents.

  19. Josh Kline
    April 21, 2013

    is some truth in this essay. We do need to react less to fear,
    understand that safety is always an illusion and put things in context.
    However some fear is good and rational. We should fear terrorism just
    like we fear fire or other dangerous things. The idea that terrorists
    will leave us alone if we leave them alone is wrong and dangerous. We do
    need to fight force with force and where possible seek justice. Our
    foreign policy and engagement hasn’t been perfect but much of it has
    been necessary and preventative. There are people in this world that
    kill and maim and do not feel bad about it. These people many times feel
    morally justified for doing so.

    also misses a huge point. Our security has been remarkably effective,
    we have stopped almost all the potential attacks. The fact that we can’t
    stop 100% isn’t an argument that we shouldn’t try to stop most.
    Eisenstein argues like he usually does, by distorting the reality-
    basically faking the premise. We do not need to live in a police state
    and part of freedom means vulnerability- it is a small price to pay for a
    free and open society. But it is naive and silly to think that we can
    stop attacks with passivity. Leaders throughout history have make this
    mistake and millions have died because of it.

    • juice
      May 10, 2013


  20. Dagobert Renouf
    April 24, 2013

    Beautifully laid out and inspiring as always…
    I’d like to propose to put more emphasis on the fact that we DO need to keep some military control in place as we try to grow into a less fear-based society. Excluding that part and just trying to listen to what “the other” has to say – at the expense of actually standing and protecting our ground – would just lead us to getting rolled over by armies of freedom fighters…

  21. AJ
    April 29, 2013

    I think the major flaw in this argument can best be spotted in the sentence “Their goal is not to kill people – that is a means, not an end.” This supposition is essentially the foundation for the rest of the argument: if our actions are motivated by love and understanding rather than fear, the terrorist will never achieve his goal. But that supposition also makes the assumption that all terrorists simply want to inspire fear. What if someone simply wants to kill people for the sake of killing people? What if a psychopath’s goal is simply to murder and maim as many as possible? That isn’t ‘terrorism’ in the way the author chooses to use the term, but it is certainly violence and something that should be prevented. The suggestions that the author makes to reverse our slide into fearfulness would also make it easier for such a psychopath to perpetrate violence.

    • juice
      May 10, 2013

      this isn’t just about terrorism

  22. Marc Derosa
    May 3, 2013

    You are impeccable at helping us pick apart parts of our core beliefs that are obsolete. Thank you Charles!

  23. arie
    December 29, 2013


    great article. as you may probably be aware, Charles, Israel is exactly such a place. every public place you go to; mall, market, train station, bus station, even some restaurants, have a security guard, and you are required to show the contents of your bag nad go thru a metal detector. that this guard could actually detect something…well, in very remote cases. Israel is a prime example of a country living on (or in) fear…its everywhere you go, and for obvious reasons. just wanted to share that..

  24. Ruth Allen
    March 8, 2014

    You make excellent points, although I disagree on one aspect. We should act out of fear- fear is a healthy emotion whose purpose is to drive us to make ourselves safe. To me, the problem is that we dislike experiencing the emotion so much that we ‘react’ without taking the time to listen to it and fully understand the problem causing the emotion. If we took the time to sit with the fear and properly understand this would lead everyone to take the same road you went on to in the essay- to consider the perspective of those causing the fear, recognise that as humans there is some validity in how they feel (without this justifying their actions) and how best to respond to make everyone safe.

  25. Alexandra Bader
    June 17, 2014

    Dear Charles,

    I will quote you in an article I’m about to write on the necessity of a new peace movement. You are quite right that the US is acting on behalf of fear (see NSA surveillance, see NATO enlargement in contrast to promises given to Russia when Germany was reunified). And therefore they create fear and hatred – f.e. in European governments who are under US pressure (with the help of surveillance, media campains, threats….).

    On the situation in English on my website:
    USA and EU – relations
    NSA surveillance and military control

    blessings from Vienna!