“Radicalization (or radicalisation) is a process by which an individual or group comes to adopt increasingly extreme political, social, or religious ideals and aspirations that (1) reject or undermine the status quo or (2) reject and/or undermine contemporary ideas and expressions of freedom of choice.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radicalization
If I am to interpret the above definition correctly then groups such as; political parties (U.S: Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Tea Party), Pro-life, Pro-choice, Environmentalists, Labor Unions, etc. , all can have factions deemed to be radicalized. So why do we keep hearing the same question over and over via our news media regarding the apparent ease by which our global youth is being radicalized.
I believe we are asking the wrong questions. We’re not having the difficult conversations that must be had in every family, community and country. The question is not ‘how’… but ‘why’?
It is the why that makes it difficult, because then we would have to truthfully discuss the ugly reality that so many in our world, especially young people are facing daily; war, violence, hate, social and economic inequality, and yes…the almighty race and religion conversation, which then must also lead to the acknowledgement of bigotry. If we were willing to ask the why questions, then perhaps we could begin to initiate the necessary dialogue, especially with our youth. The images they see, the stories they hear, the daily survival that many are faced with, how can they not become enraged; I dare say many of us feel the same way. The difference for those of us who are fortunate enough to engage in conversations, dialogues, is that then we can express how we feel without fear of judgment, and it is through this process of expressing and listening that we learn, we understand. Hopefully transform our inner rage into positive action.
Youth that feels lost, alienated, hopeless, bullied, devalued, are and will continue to fall prey to any group that offers them a different world, especially if that difference is associated with ‘power’, and power is an opiate. Radicalization is the result of the attainment of perceived power. If we want to stop the manipulation of our vulnerable populations by those who preach fear and hate, then we must be willing to have the difficult conversations and more important we must be willing to listen with authenticity.
Crystina Wyler is President of The Artful Communicator, a firm providing creative methods to facilitate communication and transform conflict.