Radicalism in the Modern World

Photo by AfghanistanMatters

Photo by AfghanistanMatters

The main source of hostility in the modern world is the widening gap between the most and least developed segments of human civilization. While some societies are exploring potential life on other planets, life has not changed much for others over the past millennium. Unlike in previous centuries, the permeation of modern day technologies makes interaction between these extremely divergent societies practically inevitable. Consequently, such vast disparities between the development levels of societies lead to miscommunication, misunderstanding, and eventually hostilities. Poverty, lack of access to educational institutions, and few political channels for expression in less developed communities create fertile grounds for people of ill will to cultivate a sense of bitterness and hostility against more accomplished societies.

While in the past, various civilizations could develop separately without ever coming across each other, the modern day infrastructure for transportation and communication makes it almost impossible for any society to remain completely isolated. Up until the 13th century Chinese and European societies were largely unaware of each other. Today, however, the total annual value of trade between China and the European Union is more than half a trillion dollars.

From the Industrial Revolution to the technological and the digital revolutions to today’s information age, the world has changed immensely in the past 300 years. Today, a small child in a Syrian rural village has access to more information via a cell phone in his hands than any library could have afforded a few decades ago.

In the developed world, these technological transformations have been reflected in every aspect of human life, as they have been paralleled by social, economic and political reform. Though people in less developed communities have not experienced any of these holistic transformations, they still have benefited from some of the latest achievements of modern technology. This presents an opportunity for malcontents to manipulate the populations of less developed communities that do not have access to proper educational and political institutions.

Citizens of these communities have often not attended schools or had an opportunity to discover why so many historical attempts to create theocracies have failed. These citizens rarely have access to political instruments through which they may express their grievances or defend their rights. They are often unaware of the struggles and sacrifices of the millions who have fallen in the fight for the basic human rights and fundamental freedoms that citizens of modern democratic societies enjoy today.

Radical extremist groups like Al Qaeda, Taliban, ISIS and others use the ignorance and despair in such communities to cultivate hatred towards more fortunate societies. Unfortunately, an entire generation is now growing up in this darkness of hopelessness. Millions of children in those war torn communities have never had the luxury of care and sympathy. How do we think they will fit in the modern civilization?

Religion becomes their only shelter and escape from the harsh realities of life. Without proper education and political channels of expression, these people often fall prey to radicalization. Their perspective of religion, formulated in the extreme conditions of ignorance and despair, becomes their only prism for interpreting life around them. Eventually, they do not want to fit in and adapt to the demands of the new world, instead focusing on establishing their own world order.

In today’s globalized world, we are growing closer and closer to each other no matter how different our lives are. We are all only one email, one phone call, or one flight away from each other. As recent events demonstrate, if we do not reach out to less-developed communities and try to change their lives for better, we may have to deal with the consequences.

Image courtesy of AfghanistanMatters


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About Huseyn Panahov

Huseyn Panahov is a young researcher from Azerbaijan with a special interest in ethnic conflicts, conflict resolution, Eastern European politics and Euro-Atlantic security. He has presented about regional political developments at Yale University, Johns Hopkins University, The German Marshall Fund, The Centre for European and North Atlantic Affairs, and the Istituto Affari Internazionali. Huseyn is a graduate of the US Military Academy at West Point.

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