A Tipping Point in Terror: “Those who Tell the Stories Rule Society.”

The discourse of terror is vicious cycle- moving from bad to worse. After writing the article Mistaken Identity and the Discourse of Terror I began to think of other tipping points research I had done revealed. Local terrorist movements that have been developing for many years can shed light on the global crisis. The local stories reflect global the global story. The local story I am most familiar with is the Southern Philippines.

One tipping point is that the discourse of terror spreads through insecurity of teachers. Insecurity of teachers creates fewer educational opportunities for children (Figure 1). In remote areas where terrorist groups are present, teachers face being kidnapped for ransom. The fear of kidnapping leads to fewer teachers in schools. Fewer teachers leads to fewer educational opportunities for children. Fewer educational opportunities leads to more children being taught the discourse of terror. More children being taught the discourse of terror leads to its spread. Education is always important for a flourishing society. In places where terror is present, education is easily connected to a concern for human security which influences global security.

Lack of educational opportunity

In the Philippines, in areas where terrorists are based education is less accessible. In remote areas of Basilan (a rural province), education in “far-flung” areas is far less accessible than in urban centers, thus resulting in a gap in educational opportunity between those who grow up there. One male who grew up in the far-flung area of Al-Barka reflected on his struggle to achieve an education: “I had to stay at my aunties’ and uncles’ houses [in more urban Isabela] just to get the education I need.” He added that having to move was especially true “in high school and college, because, usually in our place, people are just up to elementary.” The local education system is limited, so, if people want to further their education, they need to move. This respondent pointed out that an issue people in “far-flung” areas face is the “deployment of teachers.” He explained,

“During Grade 1 in the school, there were a lot teachers in the school, so each grade has their own teacher, so children were given more opportunity to study very well. But right now, there were just few of the teachers. They will only teach one grade for 1 day.”

He added that, sometimes, “teachers go home without completing the weekdays.” During his educational experience, his opportunities to study decreased as fewer teachers per student and grade were available.

Number of teachers decreased because of threat

This male respondent continued,

“In my time, the teachers were Christian [ethno-religious identity]. When I was in my Grade 3, kidnappings were very rampant, so the teachers were transferred to other areas, and they were taken over by the Yakan teachers.”

He continued that one issue is although there has been a push to certify Yakans as teachers there are still not enough to fill the demand in remote areas. Even those who have been trained as teachers now live in fear due to kidnapping. In recent years, kidnapping of teachers for ransom is an increasingly common event. Muslims teachers as well as Christian risk their lives to teach children in these same areas. As more have become teachers, the threat remains.

Education prevents people from being “brainwashed” by rebels

Another respondent who works with the Department of Social Welfare and Development, talked about how rebel groups often gained support from people who lacked educational opportunity.

“They say that it is easier to recruit young minds than the old ones, because the mind-set of the young minds are changed or they are being brainwashed just to join the course [cause].”

When people cannot gain an education, the respondent added, “they will easily get involved with the acts…like when they are issued guns.” Rebels target young people who have not had the chance to gain education. Lack of educational opportunity leads to increase in the discourse of terror.

Reversing the cycle

One way to create a virtuous cycle – good leading to better – is to increase security of teachers (Figure 2). Securing teachers would lead to more teachers in the classroom. More teachers in the classroom leads to greater educational opportunity. More educated children would lead to more rejection of the discourse of terror. More rejection of the discourse of terror (and embracing one of peace) leads to less terror. It is important to mention that this case might only be relevant to the Southern Philippines. However, often movements spread in similar ways in diverse locations. Individual local stories reflect emergent global trends. From this case study, we can say a focus on education as a tipping point will decrease the spread of terror in the long-term in Baslian. With additional, comparable cases, we might be able to apply this principle at a larger scale.

What was not mentioned (but is also important) is the quality of education. Quality is important. For example, in locations like Basilan, it is vital to have curriculum which promotes a discourse of peace and not assume this is taken care of elsewhere. But this topic – curriculum for a discourse of peace- is for another day (Figure 3). The bottom line is we need to secure not only national boarders but the vital core of the lives of people who live within those boarders. Education is a powerful tool. It can promote terror or peace. Those who tell the stories rule society.

Note: The cover photo I used for this blog at first glance is out of place. I used it because as I wrote I could not help but to think of a couple quotes by Plato. The first quote which I used in the title is, “Those who tell the stories rule society”. The second, “Education is teaching our children to desire right things.” What I am calling a “tipping point” is nothing new. It is actually very old. Plato named it as a tipping point. The newness of what I have said is in the context. It is a reminder. We need people that tell stories (ideology) that promote peace not terror to be the main stories we hear and tell.

1 responses to A Tipping Point in Terror: “Those who Tell the Stories Rule Society.”

  1. M of California says:

    Seeing this in Turkey as they face immigrant glut from Syria, lack of education for displaced will no doubt trigger a greater following for ISIL


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