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Friday, 20 June 2014

A STORY OF TERRORISM, 'FUTEBOL' AND THE INVISIBLE GORILLA


Terrorism has existed for many centuries and while it has morphed over time it fundamentally strives to achieve the same purpose; to instill fear and terror.


Flavius Josephus the 1st Century Romano-Jewish historian and scholar wrote about the Sicarii, an extremist splinter group of the Jewish Zealots who were agitating to expel the occupying Romans from Judea. Their weapon of choice was a small dagger, which was concealed in cloaks, and used effectively in public gatherings against Romans and their sympathizers. The perpetrator would then filter away in the crown to avoid detection.

The execution of Marie Antoinette. Artist unknown.
The French revolution is remembered for the democratic and liberal stance it introduced to the world. But during its prime, the “reign of terror” was extreme. A brand of justice that involved summary execution by guillotine was meted out indiscriminately and openly by the Jacobin Club; a political party that supported having a constitution.
The insensitivity of the ruling class to the social inequality and extreme poverty experienced by the French population are some of the reasons given by scholars to why the public embraced the radical tone that the revolution took.

The history of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Somalia are similar in that each of these countries has a rich history that goes back to antiquity. What further solidifies their similarity is the manner in which wars have been fought over centuries to assume control of the territories that they now occupy. Over time the injustice perpetrated against their populace, by there own people and external parties has found an outlet through the AlShabaab, Al-Qaeda and Taliban militant groups, who sell a brand of terror to the rest of the world.
Afghans playing Buzkashi on horseback

Why is it when we talk of terrorism the first image that springs to mind is of an Islamist extremist?  Is it a case of a region that has seen extreme affliction by the super powers of this world in the search for natural resources? Are they really the face of worldwide terrorism or are they the most publicized and most well exported terrorists?

According to the Global Terrorism Index, which ranks 158 countries according to the impact of terrorism, at the very top you will find Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Somalia, which have been ravished by suicide bombing and extrajudicial killings.

In an era where innocent people have died in the tens of thousands in Congo, Somalia, South Sudan and Mexico, the collective global mind has become lazy to the atrocities that have been perpetrated over years, and have focused on the recent media frenzy in Iraq, Crimea and Syria. Our collective intuition has effectively become blind to atrocities that are not well documented in the world media.

The Invisible Gorilla, was based on an experiment done by Harvard Professors, Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simon, to reveal the numerous times our intuitions can deceive us. A video was shown of a group of six people, who passed basketballs around, the viewer was asked to silently count the number of times the ball was passed.  At a certain point a Gorilla strolls into the middle of the action, faces the camera and thumps its chest, and then leaves, spending nine seconds on screen. Only half of those who watched the video saw the Gorilla, the other half completely missed it. What else do we miss out?
The Invisible Gorilla

The “general law of least effort” applies to cognitive as well as physical exertion. The law asserts that if there are several ways of achieving the same goal, people will eventually gravitate to the least demanding action.

The reason why more than 100 million people watch every match of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil is because we are collectively looking for the least demanding action to occupy our minds away from the drudgery of our lives and the situations that afflict us on a daily basis. And also because we have given the TV station free reign to get into a season where nothing else makes sensible news like the happenings of Brazil. Be it the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which is overrunning Iraq or the war in Ukraine, we have simply chosen to allow a few to define our collective futures.

In conclusion, with the recent Mpeketoni attack where more than 60 innocent people lost their lives to terrorists, I pray that the Kenyan collective mind will be seared long enough for tangible and resolute action to be taken by the government. For I know when we stop asking questions things go back to the way they used to be. And the invisible Gorilla thumps its chest in front of our very eyes once again.
 

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