Communication, speaking with one another, is the search for mutual understanding. Communication leads to solutions. The value and importance of communication in the age of information has been recognized in the medialised world. There is also an opposing movement, however, which brings communication to its end: War.
Several official buildings in the United States were attacked. The American president believes this gives him the right to hunt down an international group of terrorists wherever they may be in the world. This is a dangerous assumption. To answer negative action with negative action only reinforces it. The use of force breeds violence.
Those who committed the act of terror did not want dialogue. They wanted destruction. It is essential to end their activities, to make them illegal and impossible. Those who preach violence have to be stopped and brought to justice immediately and without exception. They forfeit their freedom of speech, an important lesson to be learned from Hitler’s rise in Germany.
National institutions and authorities that have power over and responsibility for others, however, have the duty to seek communication. It is necessary to allow the voice of terrorism to express itself – at least to them – by means other than violence: in words. A responsible response is to find answers to the underlying disappointment, anger, hate and confusion.
Furthermore, representatives of democracy are required to adhere to law and constitution. The accused, terrorists included, have to be heard before a court. They have a right to legal defense and to a hearing before an independent judge. The accuser cannot also be judge and executioner as well. In addition, the death penalty is not unilaterally applicable internationally.
Communication with terrorism is necessary in order to attain lasting peace. We must understand terrorism and its causes in order to lose one’s fury and fear, and we must also understand it in order to put an end to it.
To understand means to listen, to immerse oneself into another world, into its thoughts and language. If you cannot speak this language or understand their thinking, there are highly qualified translators to help you. One does, however, have to seek their services. An authoritarian teacher-pupil dialogue is usually no longer appropriate when one communicates across social or cultural boundaries, often not even between man and woman.
Responsibility means to respond to others. There are several responses: You can talk on and on in your own way, in your own language and out of your own world, becoming frustrated or even furious if others do not respond the way you expect them to. Or you can make an effort to listen, to try to understand the language of your partner – in order to find the right answers and the right solutions.
After the events of September 11, President Bush could have chosen dialogue, the way of love, as proposed by the Dalai Lama in his statement on September 11. For this, he would also have received the support of the whole Commonwealth of Nations, even perhaps Afghanistan. However, he decided to end dialogue for the time being. The end of communication is the beginning of destruction.
The production of military technology and weapons is a large and powerful industry. The manufactured products need markets and fields of application. New developments require testing. A dialogue with this industry is just as necessary as reasoning with terrorists and about terrorism. Its existence threatens mankind. Just as the production of horror and terror films breeds horror and terror, the production of killing machinery produces violence and death.
Terror, fear, and violence should be met with understanding, with justice and law and with demilitarisation, in order to promote trust, democracy and peace.
The democracies have understood that terror and violence must be brought to a stop immediately and consistently in order to grant security to their citizens and stability to their economies. In addition, however – and far more important in the long run – there is the task of confronting the roots of violence: poverty, ignorance, and the lack of lifetime perspectives, especially on the part of young people. It is no longer sufficient to do this in one’s own country. The globalization of the economy definitively requires the globalization of politics – and as a rule, prevention is the most economic variant of all policies.
[Text by Marion Schneider]