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The Stories Shaping Terrorism

  • Broadcast in Psychology
Stories We Live By

Stories We Live By


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Individuals and groups that morally justify the killing of innocent people live by stories that have certain commonalities. These story elements derive, in part, from our evolutionary heritage and include a strong belief in tribalism, the role of the male as warrior and protector of family and tribe, the role of females as the support of the warrior and the source of new life for the tribe. Another element in the story involves some type of holy person, shaman, witch doctor or cleric who makes clear the morality of the tribe and justifies its actions in the name of some sort of god(s) or other higher power. When the tribe is seen as always superior to all other tribes, when men must always be fearless warriors, when women must always be supportive and docile to the will of men and when various emotions are forbidden to be acted upon or are so repressed as to not even be spoken of to oneself the seeds of various individual and social pathologies are sown. We will discuss how the repression of fear in men, desires for independence in women and various aspects of sexual desire are elements involved in terrorism.