Friday, 28 November 2008

Mubai Terrorists - An Anatomy of Human Destructiveness

image credit AP and BBC

Anthony Pratkanis author and editor of The Science of Social Influence suggests that people in themselves are not gullible.There is no 'gulliblity gene'. What matters is the situation that is created in which people are taken advantage of.

Given that point of view, the victims of the Mumabi terrorists nor the Indian authorities could ever be accused of taking their safety for granted. That they were some how gullible for simply living ordinary lives in ordinary ways is an unfair and unjust criticism. Ironically nor could the perpetrators be accused of gullibility in believing they could walk away 'scot free'. Mind you, the chances are they were mentally prepared for 'martyrdom'. The classic case of it being OK to choose to end their own lives, and it not being OK to make that choice on behalf of other people.

It might be easy for the Mumbai Terrorists to rationalise their actions by wrapping their behaviour up in some anti-western philosophy (please explain the number of Indian casualties). However this attempt at their coping with the personal dissonance that must have been generated by their actions (the human desire for life & living versus the killing and carnage) can only be explained properly by the psyche not the situation.

The Mumbai attackers were clearly exhibiting what Eric Fromm in his book The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness calls the necrophilous or death loving character. These individuals are consumed by a desire to be close to death, and are driven to destroy life. In essence they are evil. They engage in life thwarting behaviours. Nothing must survive.

Contrast this psyche with the biophilous or life loving people. People who seek to enhance and preserve life. These are good people.

If we stand aside from the situation, if we unwrap the behaviour from its religious clothing and other philosophical rationalisations, we are left with the core of the argument. We are left with a war, not against terror. We have a war between Good and Evil.

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