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The Mechanics of Madness

September 2003
The Mechanics of Madness

The recent terrorist bombings in Iraq, Israel and the latest in India are a testament to the madness that humans, it seems, are forever condemned to. The sheer futility of such measures is an affront to all that is right and decent in life.

Whether the twin towers of September 11 or the twin blasts of Mumbai, whenever terrorism claims innocent lives with reckless abandon, the world is left wondering, "Why?"

What are the mechanics - the thought processes, the reasoning, the logic and the payoff behind such madness? After all, we are not talking about a spur-of-the-moment, rage-induced shooting spree, or about the acts of a deranged madman, but of premeditated and well planned acts of wholesale murder of innocents.

The perpetrators may well accuse us of idealistic naivet� for questioning their means. "You wouldn't know of our pain and the injustice suffered! What else can we do?" This is often the cut and dry rationalization proffered. But emotions and justifications aside, even from a cold, hard, cost-benefit analysis, where is the sanity in such extreme measures? It is not that as soon as they commit these heinous crimes, the other side suddenly brings to them on a platter whatever they want to make things right. Rather, it only strengthens the resolve of their adversaries.

Such madness unfortunately is not limited to the specific act of terrorism. While it is usually a tool of the weaker side in any conflict, the 'madness' often practiced by the stronger side is that of the abuse of their overwhelming power over the weak. It is just that terrorism is overt, acute and dramatic, while the abuse of power by the strong is insidious and chronic. Both are equally harmful and equally wrong. Worse, both continue to perpetuate this vicious cycle of madness.

And so the fanatics on both sides continue to have a field day with this never-ending cycle. Thanks to the latest Mumbai blasts, the Hindu hardliners will soon offer their predictable ranting: "See, we told you so! These Muslim fanatics are not to be trusted!" [As of this writing, there are only suspects as to which group, Muslim or not, that is responsible for the bombings; no confirmations. But the point of this exercise is not to call the perpetrators of this bombing, but rather to elicit a hypothetical round of malicious stereotyping that continues]. And with that, these champions of Hindutva will call for vengeance against the Muslim.

If they have their way, and if a Gujarat-type show of majority power were to take place, then it will be the Muslim fanatics turn. "See, we told you so. The Hindus have turned against us. They are denying us our own country just because of their strength of numbers." And so they will, yet again, go to the drawing board, planning out the next terrorist attack.

Sadly, I am reminded of a definition of 'insanity' that is offered by management gurus: "To expect different results while continuing to do what you have always done."

- Parthiv N. Parekh


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