A Journal for Western Man




Poverty of Thought

Steven Martinovich

Issue VI- September 29, 2002


This essay originally appeared in the Jerusalem Post on September 18, 2002.

If anyone thought that Prime Minister Jean Chrétien would be chastened by the uproar caused by his recent comments linking the September 11 terrorist attacks to U.S. foreign policy and envy of the Western world, those fears were put to rest on September 16. Speaking to the United Nations General Assembly, Chrétien did himself one better by declaring that poverty was a root cause of terrorism.

Chrétien isn't alone in linking the mass murder of civilians to poverty. Back in April, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore condemned "another axis of evil in the world: poverty and ignorance; disease and environmental disorder; corruption and political oppression," all of which lead to terrorism. Although Chrétien may believe himself in good company by subscribing to a belief shared by people like Gore, Susan Sontag, Norman Mailer, Ted Rall and Noam Chomsky, what it should have done is remind him of the old admonishment that no matter how many people say a wrong thing, it is still wrong.

Ignoring for the moment that Osama bin Laden was wealthy and that all the participants in the September 11 terrorist attacks were the privileged and educated sons of the Arab world's well-off, it's silly to attempt to find root causes outside of the obvious: hatred of the secular and free west and what we represent. As experts have repeatedly pointed out, conclusions perhaps missed by Chrétien, terrorist groups have little use for illiterate peasants who can't pass convincingly as members of the society they are targeting or unable to comprehend the complex plans needed to pull off attacks like the one that brought down the World Trade Center.

Foreign Policy Research Institute Senior Fellow Michael Radu recently pointed out that terrorism "has been a virtual monopoly of the relatively privileged." From the members of the Environmental Liberation Front -- a group labeled by the FBI as America's largest terrorist group -- and their intellectual peers in the radical anti-globalist organizations to past groups like America's Weathermen, Germany's Baader-Meinhof Gang and France's Action Directe, terrorist groups tend to be composed of middle class members.

If there is a root cause for terrorism, it's far more complicated than simply material success. The common denominator that unites terrorists -- regardless of their ideology or ultimate goals -- is their hatred of rationality, individualism, secularism -- whether political or religious, and capitalism. Their common enemy is Western culture itself.

"That enemy is the Western culture of democracy (which is correctly declared un-Islamic by all ideologues of Islamic terrorism), capitalism (hated in a very ecumenical way by Marxists of all stripes and Islamists), and individualism (opposed by Marxist totalitarians dreaming of Marx's stateless communist Utopia, as well as by Islamic believers in a new Caliphate to lead the community of Muslims worldwide)," wrote Radu.

That means the West can dump all the aid money it wants into Africa -- which appears to be Chrétien's preferred solution to address his root cause -- without addressing what truly motivates people who become terrorists. It isn't material success which they envy, it's the conditions which causes material success that they hate. Addressing a person's world view is far more difficult than simply writing a cheque. You can't pay someone to stop thinking that evil lives in the form of a Western citizen that does not subscribe to their beliefs.

Although Chrétien and the 22 per cent of Canadians who -- according to a COMPAS poll -- "strongly agreed" with the statement that "Western democracies, including the United States, may have fueled terrorism, including events such as September 11, because of their greater wealth and power" may continue believe the root cause of terrorism is poverty, the reality is that the Arab world itself is the root cause. If Chrétien truly believes that poverty is the root cause of terrorism, he would be wise to support the belief that the autocratic regimes that dominate the Middle East should be replaced with Western style democracies.

Steven Martinovich is a freelance writer from Sudbury, Ontario, and Editor-in-Chief of Enter Stage Right Internet Magazine at http://www.enterstageright.com. He can be contacted at editor@enterstageright.com.

This TRA feature has been edited in accordance with TRA’s Statement of Policy.

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