Sick Collectivism

It seems to me that there is in these terrorist attacks a kind of sick collectivism in which the perpetrators hold whole nations, races, or religions responsible for wrongs (real or imagined) committed in the past or present by a government or some other supposed representative of the larger group.

Examples of this sick collectivism are easily found in the so-called “holy books” of the Abrahamic religions. In those books, God is often portrayed as judging not merely individuals but, rather, nations. Yes, there is individual judgement and punishment described in those doleful tomes but judging and punishing whole nations is a consistent theme.

We see that concept echoed in the bizarre American fundamentalists who claim that everything from school shootings to natural disasters to 9/11 is God’s judgement on America for allowing same-sex marriage, legal abortion, teaching evolution in schools, taking forced prayer out of schools, and so on.

This disease infects followers of the other Abrahamic religions, as well.  In my online conversations with fairly conservative and even moderate Muslims, I’ve seen them attribute Islamist attacks against civilians to European colonial history in the Middle East and Africa, the West’s admittedly ill-advised meddling in the Middle East, American support of Israel, and so on.

Of course, the people who are actually killed in these attacks and the people who are bereaved are not the individuals who had any part in the wrongs that are the apparent motivation for the attacks. However, they are (or are perceived to be) part of the nation, race, etc., that is thought to be responsible.

The killing isn’t personal. I think it’s morally far worse for being impersonal. People are killed not for what they have done but, rather, for something done by supposed representatives of a group of which they are thought to be a part. That’s why I call it a sick collectivism. Individuals who likely had little or no connection to the reasons for the attack are seen as part of a collective entity that is being held responsible.

And it’s bullshit. It’s absolute bullshit whether it’s coming from some lunatic American Christian nutbar or some rabid Muslim Jihadist. Or from a relatively moderate person who accepts the sick collectivism of the Bible or the Qur’an.

If you hear someone attribute some characteristic – some virtue or sin, some curse or blessing – to “the Jews,” “the Muslims,” “the English,” “the blacks,” “the whites,” etc., you can be confident that you are hearing an echo of that sick collectivism. You can be confident that it’s bullshit.


 

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