Incels, Terrorists, and Crybabies
Extremists are the ultimate crybabies. Underneath their facade of moral righteousness and perpetual victimhood, their bad ideas permeate, and often result in deadly consequences.
There are two things that unite violent extremists around the world; they justify their acts as exercises of righteous self-defense, and they share a disdain for women. For example, when the Taliban recently took over Afghanistan, one of the first things they did was ban women from attending school— they have even taken it a step further by issuing a decree barring women from working in national and international nongovernmental organizations. Rather than take any form of personal or collective responsibility for their lives and their choices, they instead seek to blame an external force for their grievances. Extremists are the ultimate crybabies. Underneath their facade of moral righteousness and perpetual victimhood, their bad ideas permeate, and often result in deadly consequences for those who oppose them.
Many conversations about extremism tend to focus on the differences between extremists and their tactics but fail to adequately address their similarities. Within these similarities lie potential solutions to the metastasis of extremism.
As someone who grew up in a civil war, I saw firsthand how easily people silo themselves off from society in favor of a “marginalized” tribal identity. Terrorist groups often claim to be defenders of the weak or oppressed in order to pit one group against the evil “other.” One major explanation for ISIS, other than the ideological appeal to men desperately searching for belonging, is the fact that it claims to defend the Sunnis from Iranian aggression and expansion. The same can be said about the Iranian militias that claim they're trying to defend Shias from Sunni militias. When Al Qaeda perpetrated the terrorist attacks of September 11th, they viewed themselves as defending the Muslim world, not just attacking American civilians. These zealous fanatics don't view themselves as violent crusaders. They sincerely see themselves as defenders of their tribe and ideology.
Terrorists in the Middle East and incels in the West share more in common than one might think. There are parallels to be drawn between the mindsets behind these bad ideas. An incel or "involuntary celibate" is a member of an online subculture of people who define themselves as unable to get a romantic or sexual partner despite desiring one. The ideology of this group has been the impetus for many mass shootings in the US and abroad. Incels lament the fact that it is significantly harder today for a man to find a loving partner than it was 100 years ago when women had little, if any, say in the matter. Feminism, which incels revile, brought about women’s agency in choosing a mate. Men are no longer entitled to a wife; instead, they must earn her love and affection. Rather than rising to the occasion, incels blame feminism and women for their problems. Rather than heed the calls of the modern world for secularization and equal rights for men and women, terrorists in the Middle East blame America for the spreading of what they perceive to be ungodly ideals. Whether their perceived enemy is America or women, both groups succeed in dehumanizing their opponents in order to justify their actions against them.
The fact that relationships now necessitate a woman’s consent is a very positive development. It raised the bar for women and allowed them to become more discerning when choosing to enter a sexual partnership. Broadly speaking, straight women seek reliability in their search for a male partner. Whether financial, emotional, or physical, women seek strong, consistent men. Incels lack these traits, and rather than turning inward and attempting to cultivate them, they look outward and blame others for their shortcomings. The Taliban and other religious extremist groups blame women for men’s lust, and incels do the same. Women, in the eyes of terrorists and incels, bear the responsibility for both not tempting them, as well as satisfying their impulses when so desired. It doesn’t take a genius to understand that if these men were to take responsibility for themselves and their actions, they would have a much better chance of organically forming a connection with a woman.
I consider women’s empowerment to be one of the greatest phenomena that came of the twentieth century. Women with agency are able to engage in far more genuine relationships. Real admiration, love, and respect must be earned. Incels in America who decry women’s empowerment and claim to long for the “good old days” when women were subservient and obedient are missing the point entirely; they are not victims of modernity, rather, they are victims of their own mentality. The same can be said of extremist groups in the Middle East. While they are busy thwarting women’s opportunities for advancement, they simultaneously deprive their countries of the socioeconomic benefits that follow when women are allowed to participate fully in society. The only thing standing in the way of incels forming meaningful relationships, and extremists in the Middle East improving their homelands, is themselves.
While it is tempting to write these groups off as lost causes and consign them to the outskirts of society, incel and terrorist mentality spreading is a danger not just to women, but to society writ large. We must grapple with the fact that the number of disillusioned men in both the Middle East and America is growing. How might we integrate them back into society as contributing members? As Jordan Peterson said in his book 12 Rules For Life: An Antidote to Chaos, “And if you think tough men are dangerous, wait until you see what weak men are capable of.” A former classmate of mine who was despised due to his unpleasant and hostile personality joined Al Qaeda shortly after graduation. The formation of these groups is what happens when bitter men surround themselves with similarly pathetic thugs who are determined to make the rest of the world pay for their grievances.
I'm a big believer in the concept of shame. As uncomfortable as it may be, shame is almost certainly a driving force for changes in behavior. Unfortunately, the more often these groups justify their horrific acts by clinging to a victimhood narrative, extremist ideology to flourishes and spreads. Even if it is true that one has been dealt an unfair hand in life, accountability is the way out of a bad situation. The best path toward a better life includes hard work and lots of it. There is no alternative. The victimhood narrative that incels, terrorists, and crybabies cling to is just that: a justification for laziness. Rather than adapt and adjust to the modern world, they would prefer the world adjust to fit their needs. How can one expect to change society if they can’t first improve themselves? Bad behavior needs to be shamed, not intellectualized. As the coward-to-killer pipeline continues to grow and evolve, we must sternly remind people of their capacity for positive change.
My message to the incels, terrorists, and crybabies is this; take radical responsibility for your choices, and I promise you will not regret it. Only you have the ability to change your life for the better, and no one is going to do it for you. It is easy to destroy what you despise, to bring the rest of the world down with you. It is hard work to build a foundation strong enough to build upon. Instead of using all your resources and energy to defeat those you believe have wronged you, turn inward and focus on putting your house in order first. The rest will follow, and the world will be a much safer place for it.
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