A few days before departing for a vacation in Curacao I checked the headlines and State Department warnings to see if there was anything going on that would cause me to cancel my trip. There was a report of a terrorist act – a car bombing. This worried me a little, but I’d been to Curacao before and knew I was staying in a fairly isolated resort.

I’d been to the resort before, so getting re-acquainted with the staff was easy. It’s also very easy to make friends when traveling alone. On my second day I felt comfortable enough to ask a few of the locals about the recent terrorism outbreak. There was laughter, and they said it was not a terrorist act. We had diving to do, so I didn’t get to hear any more about it that day.

Two days later one of the staff introduced me to a man from a town. After some light talk about the weather and the island, the man started to tell me about a friend of his: a man from Haiti.

First, you should know that Haiti is a very, very bad place. The political corruption is rampant, and most of the politicians back up their desires with violence. The US Government, through military and CIA, have done what they can to worsen the situation in nearly every way possible. Human life is cheap in Haiti. For this reason, any Haitian who can leave, does. There aren’t many places they can go though. The AIDS rate in Haiti is very high. Most countries do not want a bunch of poor, diseased Haitians; including the United States. Several Haitians have made it to Curacao. However, because the Dutch government does not want them there, they must live there illegally. They cannot turn to the government for assistance of any kind.

So this Haitian man was working for a white Curacao man. He worked as a carpenter. He worked long hours in staggering heat. He worked with a crew of other illegal Haitians. The white man (and yes, there is quite a bit of prejudice in Curacao) paid these guys a little at first, but not as much as he had agreed to pay. Then he stopped paying the Haitians altogether. He knew there was nothing they could do about it. They could not turn to the government and report the white man.

So this guy who was talking to me, he rigged a bomb in the white man’s car. It connected the ignition and the gas tank. When the white man went to start his car, the resulting fire caused severe burns on his ass.

Terrorist acts are committed by people who have no other means of action. People who are disenfranchised, who are disempowered, who are ignored.

In a literal sense this man committed a terrorist act. But what do you call what the white man was doing to the Haitians?

I really liked this brave man who stood up for the Haitian workers. I was fortunate to be able to spend time with him through the remainder of my week in Curacao.

Terroists are individuals or a group of indivduals who use violence or threats of violence to affect national or international policy or to gain material or spiritual wealth. Most modern terrorist organizations operate in a loose knit collection of "cells" each one of these cells has a connection to one or more of the other cells but no cell has direct connections to all the others. This allows the organization to keep up operations if one or more of these cells are taken out. It is this felexible and rather "unorganized" method of operation that makes terrorists so difficult to stop. Usually major terrorist organizations are funded by a wealthy idealist (whose views are in line with the goals the organization wishes to achieve). This idealist however will not usually (with some notable exceptions) participate directly in the terrorist activites himself, except in the most dire of circumstances. Records will usually be well concealed so that all monies going to terrorist causes appear legit.

Individual (or lone) terrorists are usually easily caught, it is by working as a loose knit group that terrorists are able to achieve their goals. Most materials used in the making of explosives are well tracked by government agencies and any person buying all the components themselves are surley to be singled out for investigation, by having diffirent cell members purchase (or merely bring into the country), several components (each benign by themselves), the terrorist organization can build weapons with relatively little scrutiny. This is just one example of how the "cell" organization is effective.

Rape, the attacks in the United States of America on September 11, 2001, abortion clinic bombings and the Ku Klux Klan are all people and events that can evoke strong emotional feelings primarily because they are all forms of terrorism. (Barkan 2001, 64) The definition of a terrorist act varies depending on the situation and the person analyzing it. The various definitions of terrorism typically involve violence, fear, and political change (Barkan 2001, 65).

People opposed to the views of the terrorist often wonder how this act of terrorism occurred as well as what would, and has, driven a person to harm fellow humans in such a way, committing great atrocities. As with all problems, socially or otherwise, there is never just one answer. On a macro level, terrorism is a tool used to manipulate a change that the terrorist wants, most often a political change, as stated in most definitions of terrorism.

Through out history the majority of known terrorists have been male (Barkan 2001, 85). In the past this was believed to be due to the male sperm being more aggressive and moving around (Barkan 2001, 85). As research has improved, scientists have found the increase in male testosterone makes them more apt to be violent (Barkan 2001, 85). As the social roles of females have evolved and changed, females have been involved in more known acts of terrorism than they were before (Barkan 2001, 85-86). This could be because of women being less secretive than previous years, or due to their changing roles in society (Barkan 2001, 85-86). Further studies have also created questions about if the number of females involved in terrorism has really risen and what the reasons for that may be, it is too early to confidently say either (Barkan 2001, 86).

Often the media assists terrorism and encourages it without intending to do so. The various reports about terrorism allow a public megaphone for the terrorists to spread their demands and increase fears throughout the viewing audience, which in some cases is the world (Barkan 2001, 83-84). As the intended victims learn of the terrorist attacks, especially details, wide spread panic and fear often erupt (Barkan 2001, 83-84). The threatened citizens become more informed and scared, therefore often giving in to the terrorist’s demands (Barkan 2001, 83-84).

Media can also promote groupthink. Groupthink is the loss of individual reasoning and morals in a larger group of people (Irving 2000, 31). Victims of groupthink, if one can consider a terrorist a victim, often lose a lot of the judgment and individual decision making processes that they would use. Generally if there is a consensus with other people, those people feel satisfied that everyone else agrees with them so the idea must be right, which is commonly not the case (Irving 2000, 32). Seeing reports on the news, in the newspapers, or through other forms of media, future terrorists find out that other people agree with them, and even that their cause is news-worthy.

Terrorist’s causes and methods vary, but the overall mindset of them is similar. The analysis of the reasons behind why these terrorists commit these acts varies, but the apparent mindset of terrorists is very similar.

Rushworth M. Kidder, a prominent researcher on terrorism, has identified seven characteristics observed in interviewing well-known terrorists around the world: oversimplification of issues , frustration about an inability to change society , a sense of self righteousness , a utopian belief in the world , a feeling of social isolation , a need to assert his own existence , a cold blooded willingness to kill. (Davis 2004, 23)

The combination of those seven characteristics can be fatal to the victims of terrorism, yet a person with those characteristics is not necessarily a terrorist. The environment can play a factor in who commits these violent acts, as well as the motives. Terrorism is a complex subject, with no easy definition, and no complete accurate way of pinpointing what causes a terrorist and his or her thoughts.

Works Cited

Barkan, Steven E., and Lynne L. Snowden. 2001. Collective Violence. Allyn & Bacon: Boston.

Davis, Paul B. 2004. “The Terrorist Mentality” pp in 22-23 in Violence and Terrorism Annual Editions 04/05 7th Edition edited by Thomas J. Bady. Guilford, CT: Mcgraw-Hill/Dushkin

Janis, Irving. 2000. “Victims of Groupthink” pp in 30-35 in Approaches to Peace A Reader in Peace Studies edited by David P. Barash. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, Inc.

Ter"ror*ist, n. [F. terroriste.]

One who governs by terrorism or intimidation; specifically, an agent or partisan of the revolutionary tribunal during the Reign of Terror in France.


<-- 2. One who commits terrorism{2}. -->


© Webster 1913.

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