Is there a difference between the recent mass murder at the Washington Naval Yard
and the terrorist attack at a shopping center in Nairobi, Kenya
? When I look at these and other mass shootings that have taken place in the United States, I see a very large similarity ' they all took place against "soft" targets, and they all were committed by insane people.
One may argue that terrorist attacks such as 9/11 in New York, the train bombings in Madrid of March 11, 2004, etc. were ideologically or religiously motivated while school shootings obviously are the result of mental derangement.
I see little difference, however. Muslim fanatics who commit such cowardly acts as the massacre of the innocent in Kenya may surely be counted among the criminally insane by any civilized definition of the term. Like the members of Jim Jones' cult at Georgetown, British Guyana, these terrorists have imbibed deeply of the Kool-Aid ladled out by profoundly evil, fanatical preachers.
I have said before that no moral relativism should be permitted to "explain" the motivations of these terrorists, to make their immoral actions seem rational. The purpose of terror, as Lenin said, is to terrorize, to break down the moral authority of the target, to sow fear and dissension. Does that make the use of terror rational? In the case of today's murderous religious fanatics, I would say no. Their intolerant, medieval radicalism is a malevolent, invasive worm that is debilitating Islam and leading to madness.
So-called "Islamism" is a result of the inability of Middle Eastern societies to adopt modernity, provide education, provide employment, work to eradicate poverty and ignorance. It is the result of an inherited socio-economic system that closed itself off from the world and rejected progress after its attempts at conquest were repulsed and defeated so long ago by Western Civilization. This system stifles development and preserves stratified societies in which great swathes of humanity are left in poverty and without hope.
This is a formula to turn men into beasts, to mold ignorance and hopelessness into blind rage and madness. What else can explain the inhumanity to which we are witness, the slaughter of innocents, rape, pillage and savagery not seen for centuries?
There is no reasoning with insanity. As with rabid dogs, there may be only one, unfortunate solution to the problem. The question is whether we are capable of its application. We, too, are debilitated by notions of moral relativism, the conviction that it is possible to reason with such people, that we even have common frames of reference.
Some believe that changing the language we use will make a difference. Thus terror becomes "manmade tragedy" or "workplace violence." Shakespeare's Juliette argues that whatever name we may apply to a thing does not change its nature: "What's in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." A politically correct vocabulary does not alter reality. At most, it dulls our perception and leads to apathy and indecision.