Every generation grows up with its defining moment that changes the way that they view the world for good.
From both World Wars, the Cold War, the Soviets and threat of nuclear warfare to the financial crash of 2008 and terrorism that we are experiencing today, every generation has taken its own fair share of social battering.
It goes without a doubt to say that the events of 9/11, were one which has radically shaped the current worldview of young people – especially those who were born after it.
For many, they don’t know anything else, apart from growing up in a world governed by fear of terror attacks, people dying in bomb blasts and seeing revenge attacks take place in their own cities on innocent people.
But the angst of the last 15 years has not gone without a significant amount of collateral damage. It has cultivated a culture of suspicion, xenophobia and the racial profiling of millions of people across the world who resemble the ‘mad, bad, brown men with great big bushy beards‘ wielding guns on TV and veiled women with a sinister agenda.
Soon we were confronted with grainy images of men in the Middle East – dubbed as Jihadi Johns by tabloids – who were brandishing blunt knives and wished to commit mass murder.
On both ends of the scale, we’ve seen modern life (in all its glory) fall apart to both extremes. One being terrorism (which has existed since the beginning of time; to put things into perspective) and the other extreme has seen the rise of right-wing leaders across the world as a rather tepid attempt to ‘balance’ things out.
‘Mad, bad, brown men with great big bushy beards’ vs clean shaven men in suits running for office
Seeing such developments is enough to make people either feel an overwhelming sense of apathy, a spurt of victory and the feeling that ‘something’ is finally being done, or more fear on top of what some are already experiencing.
But what fuels ideas of fundamentalism on both ends of the scales? Many reasons have been given as to why young men and women go off to join terrorist groups (from across the world), but there hasn’t been the same level of scrutiny given to the rise of fundamentalism happening in front of our eyes.
The single thing that both situations have in common is a desire to create stability; often based on a distorted idea of what they deem to be a reality.
It’s paradoxical to think that establishing fundamentalist ways of thinking can establish social stability. This is because the very notion of what fundamentalism is contradicts what we (as a collective society) believe stability to be yet it exists and we are living right in the midst of it all.
Consider the language used from a variety of voices across the fundamentalist spectrum; a budding politician, the proposed actions of a government and from an extremist group:
“We will make ____ great again!” and “We will make _____ suffer and rule over you” to erasing 200 years of history from education books.
These are just three examples of radical statements (from both sides) that clearly demonstrate a desire to establish stability – just by using different methods.
While each case attempts to distinguish itself from other fundamentalist narratives and tries to prove that they are better than the other, it almost always results in two questions.
Who is easier to blame? And which voice appears to hold more credibility?
Is it those mad, bad, brown men with great big bushy beards wielding guns in the desert or clean shaven, well-educated individuals in corporate attire?