Self-radicalization is a term that came to the fore after the Boston Marathon bombing; the big question of how these two young men could, on their own, come up with the rationalization to do such an awful act on their own. It is a concept that troubles people when they contemplate the wide range of information available on the Internet which can deviate from the accepted norms and narrative of our society and culture. And of course we can see examples of behavior based on a set of constructed principles that groups and individuals adopt and act upon. That is normal human behavior. There is always the chance that the normal human behavior of forming or adopting some paradigm to live by will, in some people, be taken to the extreme
From the adoption of strict dietary principles, the fanatical fixation on sports teams, complete devotion to one form of music over all others, or one religion over all others; it is also what we humans do. Very troubling here is where “American Exceptionalism” fits in; one nation over all others.
One of the quite-neglected skills that our U.S. culture lacks is critical thinking; it is not emphasized in schools, and our media, with its bi-polar form of discussion, make it seem over-simplified. There is that common narrative everyone accepts, and then we argue shading within that narrow paradigm. There is a hubris that develops and a closing of the mind to alternatives. Taken further, there is a hostility that can develop to those who do accept a different point of view. We can see no better example than the hostility to single-payer healthcare, a practice most of the world uses. It is, as Obama said, “off the table.”
I believe there is a very healthy form of “self-radicalization,” and that is when the blinders come off, and through study and critical thinking, you can see that things can be another way. That’s what the slogan of the World Social forum meant by “Another World is Possible.” That’s what the founding fathers thought when they threw off British colonialism.
It is “Self -Pacification” I worry about. It’s the idea that protests are bad, that debating religion or politics is rude and unseemly, that mindset that chants “USA, USA, USA.” The unquestioning “patriotism” that leads to our U.S. foreign policy, its drones and occupations, its support of authoritarian rulers; that these are not being made topics of debate or discussion is, to say the least, unhealthy.
Now, through the Internet and expanded sources of information, we do have the tools for “self-radicalization” and critical thinking, and that’s a good thing. And I hope this paper helps.