Friday, December 18, 2015

Economic growth, climate change, zero-sum-game thinking, and jihadism


Ana Johnson has an interesting piece in the Washington Post, “Why young people become jihadists, according to a top expert”, eight reasons. The source is an Italian history professor, Olivier Roy.

One interesting point is that the basic problems have little to do with the religion of Islam itself or with Islam’s responsibility to present itself responsibly to young people.  Many radicals did not start out in Islam, or were only loosely connected to it.

One problem could be that the world they grow up in doesn’t make sense to (some of) them.  They see people benefit from wealth they did not earn (although this observation tended to drive a lot of left-wing extremism or communist-related radicalism in the 1960s and 1970s, some of which I came into direct contact with personally a couple of times).  Instead of a secular socialist idea, religious vision has come into focus for attention, but that is somewhat circumstantial in history. But a sense of indignation is part of the issue.

Of course, there are young adults who become wealthy because of innovations they created, that other people want and will pay for.  That’s sort of the basics of a capitalist market.  But as Malcolm Gladwell has often pointed out, people have to be “lucky” to be in a position to go a long way with creative ideas.  There is not much “equality of opportunity”.


The New York Times has an op-ed by Eduardo Porter, “Imagine a World Without Growth”  The basic premise is that economic growth was connected to the use of fossil fuels, which has to stop.  (Think about the whale oil use before the 19th Century, as with the film “In the Heart of the Sea”, reviewed on Movies yesterday).  But economic growth benefits low income countries as well as rich countries, and relieves the “zero sum game idea” which contributes to war, slavery, aggression, and a familial morality of “take care or your own first” common on the right wing today.

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