Irene, terrorism and Human Nature


Whenever human beings are hit by phenomena we are not used to, we do tend to overreact. I grew up in Buenos Aires. Over there you don't get snow, you don't get huricanes, and only sporadically you feel the echoes of the eartquakes happening in the Western part of the country, on the Andes Mountains. We did, however, get plenty of rain – so for example driving in the rain is normal.

The first place where I lived in the US was Los Angeles. Not much rain over there, but plenty of earthquakes. Whenever it rained and I had to drive on the Santa Monica Freeway I felt people didn't know how to drive; of course now I know they were just subjected to conditions they were not used to. On the other hand, when you're driving on the freeway and you feel that your car is moving side to side, but you see everything around you moving with it, it can be pretty scary for somebody who is not used to it. But we do get used, and earthquakes are not so scary anymore.

After living in Delaware, and now in Poughkeepsie, I do now understand the meaning of “snow”. When I first had to drive in (relatively deep) snow or ice, it was scary...the car was not responding as usual and I had to learn the differences. Today, I'm still cautious, still don't like it, but it's not so scary anymore. We get used.

Irene is coming and as I write these lines it is still classified as a Class 2 Hurricane, but expected to become a Tropical storm before it hits us late Sunday. People stock up on everything because it's the power going to be cut? Will there be gas after the storm? Will food be available? So we stock up. If eventually we would have a storm a year like this, we would get used and gain a better sense of proportion.

In similar fashion, when you are first faced with a rocket alarm while visiting Israel, you are scared. Afterwards, according to what Israelis tell me, you still run to the shelter (nobody wants to be caught vulnerable) but you gain a sense of is not the end of the world and after the alarm you get back to your routine...or in some cases you prepare your shelter at home (if you have one) to serve a temporary home where you can continue your routine. During the current crisis, however, even Israelis are scared. Hundreds of missiles are falling where they could not reach before, like Be'er Sheba and Ashkelon. And judging by the progress of the Hamas engineers, they might soon be able to reach Tel-Aviv. Israelis still go about their routine, but they are scared. It is just human. Those lving in Sderot might have gotten used to the sirens announcing rockets, but they're still scared.

If we are in an earthquake, or in a hurricane, or even in flooding rain, our chances of survival are still good overall – at least while living in the US and given what we have available here to help us. If you are even near where a rocket lands, you chances are not so good – so being used to it doesn't make it easier, and that is precisely what the terrorist islamists are after: to scare the infidels into giving in and pulling up stakes. Their goal is the expansion of Islam, by force if necessary – but relentless. The duty of every Muslim, according to them, is to either be directly engaged in Jihad (and I don't mean a “spiritual” fight) or to contribute to it. In their world view, non muslims must be forced to accept Islam or be destroyed and they will quote to you the Qur'an to prove it. Jihad defines for them what Islam is all about. Those in the muslim world who disagree with them are many times afraid to speak out because that would get them branded as “takfir” (unbelievers) and subject to the same treatment as non muslims. How are people able to live with such repressive ideas? - they get used to it.

Thankfully, Nature doesn't have any evil intentions of extermination and we therefore know that the storm, or the earthquake or the snow are not “out to get us”. Extreme islamist groups, however, are definitely out to get us and anybody opposing their views in their own societies – and that is something nobody should have to get used to...


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