What do ISIS and the AFA have in common?
Fear. I do not mean they inspire it. Far from it. I was a professional soldier in the Canadian Armed Forces and understand far better than either one of these groups the reality of force projection, and the complex application of every aspect of military power, from data-space to battle-space, from logistics to lethal force far better than groups whose fundamental unifying characteristics is that they are terrified of a world too complex to be comfortable.
At the root, the AFA and ISIS are groups driven largely by men who don’t understand the world they live in, and wish to drag everyone back, kicking and screaming, to the fantasy they cherish of a simple time when men of their particular belief system ruled as benevolent dictators over a society that existed to serve their will, and praise them as they feel they deserve to be praised, for their patriarchal virtues.
The myth of the benevolent dictator is the one of the most persistent and damaging in human history, and has lead to the cult of personality that we see exemplified today in Trump and Putin. The desire for a strong father figure to force the world to make sense is one that is common for humanity, and very dangerous. Let us be honest about the reality of why the peddlers of these dangerous fantasies are so often successful in the court of public opinion when their promised solutions tend to prove to be failures more often than not.
Fear is real. Fear of change. Fear that the world may indeed be more complex than people want to understand. They want things to be simple. They don’t want to hear that some things they don’t agree with are necessary, and that some of what they are deeply offended by is in fact in the public interest.
ISIS seeks to impose its own harsh version of Sharia Law over the world, remove the voice from women altogether, and make all knowledge that is not contained in their scrolls to be stripped from mankind forever, so the one “truth” that remains is one that they can accept. Not necessarily understand, they have scholars who can understand for them, but they can accept that all remaining knowledge fits neatly into the world view they are comfortable with. There is an order to the universe, and they understand everyone’s place in it.
That their vision is a third world crap-hole that now encompasses the whole of the earth, where men live in poverty, ignorance and fear, yet are far better off than women, does not seem to bother them, because it is a world at least they understand.
The AFA seeks to “return” to a vision of a “before times” that was created by romantics in the 1920-30’s of a glorious Germanic tribal past where strong Nordic demigod men ruled over homes filled with adoring blond wives and dozens of small tow headed children of chiseled features right out of a painting of Wagnerian Opera. Gender roles clearly defined, power vested in only the “right sort” of racially pure, doctrinaly pure, conservative men united in the purpose of keeping their world free of confusing thoughts or ideas that threaten the perfect fantasy that all is not only understandable, but controllable.
This mythological “before time” never existed, and the world was never as simple as they need it to be. Our ancestors had no time for this dogma of ideological or racial purity as they were driven very much by the survival imperative to always get better, to seek better ways of doing everything, because each generation buried too many of their young paying the price of “the way things always were” to accept that. Each generation of the ancestors the AFA seeks to venerate strove hard to CHANGE, to adapt and overcome. Rather than a perfect unchanging world, our ancestors inherited a world that was trying hard to kill them, and sought each and every possible ally and advantage into making it better for those who followed after. Like Odin, they did not come with the knowledge to succeed, but they came with the drive to find it, learn it, even steal it if they had to.
We see the success of fear marketers. ISIS recruiting among the failures of young Islamic men who look at a world that is complicated, that requires them to learn, to adapt, to struggle, and to accept others who do not think as they do, even WOMEN, as their equals, and frequently workplace superiors. Such recruits want a world where they do not have to adapt, to understand. Where everything they don’t agree with can just be made to go away, where everyone who disagrees with them can just be forced to shut up.
We see the AFA and White Supremacist groups recruiting heavily, even as we see Christian Conservatives recruiting heavily across the same demographics, among the white men and women who look at the same complex world they don’t understand, but feel somehow that they have the inherit right to rule, and want things to go back to “the way they were”. They want simple, they want a world that does not contain ideas they don’t understand or agree with. They want gender roles they understand enforced on people. They want those facts that do not fit their belief structure to simply go away, as if objective physical reality can be legislated because their myth says the world ought to be different than it is.
The Sons of Odin recruit from those who couch their denial of diversity in the myth of defending our culture from immigrants. You know, I really get a kick out of that as a Canadian of European ancestry. Do you see the “Sons of Raven” out there trying to protect the actual First Nations against us immigrant descendants? Nope. It seems in the Sons of Odin mythology, immigrants are non-white people, which would be more defensible if our First Nations people looked Scandinavian rather than Salish.
I am not a Son of Odin. I am the son of James Thomas Mainer. Soldier, construction worker, father, world traveler and deep student of human history and politics.
Dad taught me that you could not look at questions in isolation, that the “simple” solutions offered by historians in hind sight were usually complete BS. You had to look at the politics, but the politics were driven by the economics and the history, and the history and economics are driven by the geography. The “simple solutions” largely exist through the ignoring of facts that don’t fit in the models people wish to use, but reality does not care about how wonderful your model is; reality simply exists. Deal with it or not, reality will continue, but your success or failure depends on your adapting to it, not how well you adhere to your model of how you think the world ought to work.
You do not succeed in life by ignoring facts that do not fit what you wish to be true. You succeed in life by discarding those models that don’t fit the facts you can prove, and working towards a better understanding so your decisions are based on the best understanding of reality you can make.
My father understood fear, he just failed to let it rule him. He taught me to listen to fear, like I listen to pain, or the weather report; as information to factor into my decision making, but not in any way the driving force behind it.
We live in a society that, on both the left and the right wings, has decided it is more important to be pure in doctrine, than grounded in reality. We are living in a society that is beginning to give in to fear.
Fear of change. Fear of that which we do not understand.
Listen closely, you can hear the howling of your ancestors that their blood should grow so thin as to fear to face the world as it is.
At no time in human history has so much information been available to us. At no time in human history have so many been given the freedom to chose in so much of their lives. No longer is the bulk of humanity little better than farm equipment, no more choices to make than the plow oxen. Now we have the ability to choose, to succeed or fail in a thousand different fields of endeavor. Now different genders, and even different levels of physical ability can each see a scope of opportunities to prove themselves and make their mark upon the world as NEVER before. This is a time of unprecedented opportunity to build worth not only as individuals, but as societies.
Faced with the chance to build worth through choices, to prove yourself through word and deed in the greatest scope of opportunity that mankind has ever known, the voice of fear is whimpering in every corner “take away the choices, make it simple, I don’t want to understand”.
ISIS and the AFA both represent the naked face of fear. Fear of that which they don’t want to understand. Fear of change.
They couch themselves in language of power, because they MUST hide the core truth, that their message is weakness, is no less than the absolute and abject surrender to fear. Fear the world is too much for them. Fear they are not worthy to face the world that is, they must turn back the clock to a world that is small enough that they may stand and not feel like dwarves.
To the crows with both of them!
I laugh at their fear, and embrace change. The world is vast, contains many wonders I struggle each day to understand, growing deeper in my love of this world with every new understanding. When I die, I will still have drank only a sip, as did Odin, of that well of ever brimming knowledge, but until my last day I will be drinking as deep as I may of that knowledge, without fear.
I am not a Son of Odin, I am a follower of Odin. I am a lover of this world, unafraid of the clash of ideas, proud enough of my own choices not to be terrified if another chose otherwise and is also proud. I celebrate diversity, not because I am not proud of my own beliefs, my own heritage, but because I believe everyone should be free to be as free to do so as I am.
I am not afraid. The world is vast, and I am small, but I stand tall as I walk up and down in the world, eyes open, ears open, mind open. I will fight as hard as I must to make sure my children inherit a world in which they have the chance to eclipse my marks because the world offers for them more choices, not less. When I look to the past, I realize every one of my ancestors that left stories worth retelling had one thing in common; they were all facing forward, moving forward. Not one of them was trying to look or move back.