Terrorism has become a misused word ever since September 11, 2001. The U.S. government has declared war on it, like they declared war on drugs and war on poverty awhile back. But “terrorism” isn’t an invading army, a warrior tribe, or even an enemy nation. It might be a frightening enemy, a disturbing act of violence, and a nefarious evil that even pacifist humans would like to destroy, but it is just another noun that has a range of meanings.
Webster defines the word as: “1: A systematic use of terror as a means of coercion, 2: An atmosphere of threat or violence.” The threat of violence by a few suicidal types isn’t something a military action can eliminate. It is something nebulous that all of us must get used to living with, like anything that threatens our personal sense of security, our individual health, and our unpredictable lives.
In the United States last year (2001) there were many scary moments. In California: the threat of an insufficient supply of electrical power at a horrifying cost for what was immediately available. In the stock market: a surprising reversal of optimism in the technology industry that led to a major sell off of shares on the NASDAQ Stock Exchange due to the abrupt failure of some respected companies. Then came the Pentagon and World Trade Center tragedies. These three appalling incidents were followed by the Anthrax scare and a terrifying moment when some foreign individual boarded a commercial airline overseas with some exotic explosive in his sneakers. Internal security at major airports was obviously ineffective.
Recently the shocking news of Enron’s bankruptcy showed what a poor job members of some boards of directors were doing abetted by aggressive and deceptive auditing practices. Pacific Gas and Electric Company and Southern California Edison’s financial troubles were the consequences of the deregulation of electric power. Now Kmart is rumored to be seeking bankruptcy protection. Such financial troubles are terrifying to those of us who rely on the services, the jobs, and the income these companies provide. Such reversals of fortune for large, financially dominant corporations with numerous employees make the rest of us, who work for a living, very concerned about our own job security and personal welfare.
From time to time all of us are intimidated to some degree by fears that something might happen to disturb the tranquility of our close families, our companies, and our communities. The realization of these possibilities threatening to upset the status quo can terrify us. Criminal violence, serious accidents, terminal illness are examples of the events that could change our lives drastically. None of us wants to contemplate how or when or where.
We buy insurance, save money for a rainy day (when we can), and take the normal precautions to avoid natural catastrophes. We hope there is a safety net of some kind in the U.S. to assist us in those times of real emergency. Even if it is only the grace of God. We don’t need the continuous harping by the members of our government and the media about the potential violent acts of a few Islamic terrorists. Such insensitive action is not helping us deal with the various normal threats to our personal welfare that are caused by local miscreants.
Terrorist acts are unfortunate and regrettable, especially when security measures were supposedly in place to prevent them. But fomenting an escalation of additional terrorist violence by drastic military action like the Jews have done in Israel does not appear rational. Nor does some promised military offensive against countries that are suspected of harboring terrorist elements. We have wreaked great havoc in Afghanistan without capturing Osama bin Laden and his top aides. How many millions of dollars must our “alliance” pay to help restore that country to their former standard of living – one which would be far from acceptable to the Western World?
The boss who intimidates subordinates and coerces them to defraud the public, their employees, and their investors as happened in Enron is a local terrorist. In fact, anyone who abuses power should be classified a terrorist, because by doing so he or she is threatening the abused with serious negative consequences or devilish inconveniences, if not actually employing physical violence.
Threats that instill fear into people usually are aimed at coercing the weak to submit to the will of the powerful. Anyone who works in an accounts payable office knows who are the companies and individuals receiving checks, and he or she also knows if the money is being used to pay questionable invoices or services (approved or otherwise.) The boards of directors know, or should know, who are getting the bonuses, the stock options, and the perks doled out to the executives. The auditors know, or can find out if they choose to ask enough questions, where the “skeletons of the dead” are buried and if a company is conducting their business ethically.
There are potential whistle blowers at all levels of business and government, and many of these people want to clean up internal corruption as well as close the loop holes in legislation that tolerate exploitation of the weak and innocent. What kind of ambitious leaders rose to the top of Sotheby’s and Christy’s with such greed and arrogance that they felt that they could defraud their clients and keep the collusion a secret from the employees? What kind of fear did they use, or promises to share the wealth?
The terror of tyranny is one ancient form of managing the masses with threats of violence. Is loss of position, income, and status not a threat to an underling? Shouldn’t we be exposing and attacking all degrees of terror and intimidation used in society, not just the easy one of physical violence from highly emotional and irrational foreign activists? Any random act of using power to intimidate subordinates should never be justified.
How can we flaunt our military power to conduct a “war on a word,” to quote Molly Ivins, when we have so many abuses of power which our government chooses to ignore? Our courts are full, and many benches need replacement judges. Yet Congress is loathing taking action to fill the empty seats. The issue of campaign financing is another ugly situation that Congress is reluctant to address seriously. And the redistricting of voting precincts.
So, whom should we fear today? How should we spend our limited tax dollars in restraining the local “terrorists” who have the power to make our lives unbearable and unsustainable? Can we leave it up to our elected representatives to act with our interests in mind? If everyone was permitted to carry a weapon on those airplanes that flew into the World Trade Center, don’t you think whoever dreamed up that terrorist plot would have considered some other way to call our attention to the Islamic Jihad against our infidelity to Allah and our outlandish worshiping of the materialistic way of life?
Man’s sinister inhumanity to his brother and sister is not limited only to foreign tyrants and crazy religious zealots. The classroom bully, the gang down the street and across the block, and the many unscrupulous, sophisticated business executives amongst us are all examples or those who aren’t afraid to terrorize their victims directly or indirectly. We should be actively against the abusive evil-minded wherever they reside, and we should be very careful not to follow in their footsteps nor rationalize such manipulative behavior!
It’s August 2010. A lot of money has been spent during the last nine years, and a lot of debt has been accumulated in this country. Have the ethics changed much? Are citizens any safer?!