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The Extremist Soft Power

November 20, 2015

Struggling with my thesis, I can get one important thing that can relate to current event, but somewhat unrelated to my current research. It’s about soft power and extremism (what you called terrorism, but I prefer call the actor as extremist, as terrorism refer to their methods). Joseph Nye said that soft power can be utilized if the environment accepts the soft power itself. If you draw the soft power into extremist belief, you can relate it to how extremism spread like a virus. Soft power’s selling point is to influence people without being coercive. I think that is what happened to the extremist.

The high ranker don’t put them under then gun to make them do what they want; sacrificing themselves for the idea they believe in, killing people,trying to overthrow the government, etc. They influence them with values and ideas. Most of them are utopist of course. To be fair, I will not only talk about the ‘religious’ extremists, but also the ‘nationalist’ extremists.

In the ‘religious’ case, they offer you heaven as the ultimate price, not only that, they offer you an ideal state over regions that guarantee you a good, ‘religious’ regime that will lead you into wealth and in the end, again, heaven.

In the ‘nationalist’ case, they offer you pride for your identities. They guarantee you wealth and justice in the name of whatever nation they are fighting for.

Heaven, pride, and wealth, those are things that -for me- can be classified as the “value” from soft power. It attracts people. It is what made the people join them. I read a recent FP (http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/11/18/the-draw-of-the-death-cult/?utm_content=bufferc3123&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer) article, in which saying that there is machoism in the recent terror event. You know, handsome man in a combat gear, smiling with automated weapon on his arm, ready to kill. This is the JKT48 from my thesis to their machoism in their belief.

In the other hand, soft power won’t work in an unsuitable environment. That is why extremism tend to grow up in the area where people are unhappy, they are either opressed, poor, or feeling discriminated. Unhappy people are leading themselves to despair. And desperate people are the easiest ones to be influenced by the extremist soft power. Why ? Because it guarantee them better life. It is what the desperate people want: better life.

I always think that terror by the extremist is an act of despair, either in a small individual case, or in a big organizational case (in the big organizational case, it is their way to get attention. Because small crackers wouldn’t make the media come and report it, therefore, no publicity of what you are, who you are, what do you want, and why are you such a twat). In an individual case, people who are in despair are easy to be influenced. You can’t eat well, you don’t have a place to stay, people see you in despise, then suddenly, someone come with a solution: come with me, I’ll show you a better life. They give you food and shelter. They give you a proper military training. They give you doctrine. Then you are ready to die for their cause. If you are happy, and can eat well, you wouldn’t do that would you ?

Same things with people who got discriminated. “You speak with funny accent.” You get sad, because people are mocking you because of who you are and where you are from. But then your messiah come. “Come with me. Let’s build a country where people speak in our language.” Then boom. You joined them and get a free military training.

Oh, and you know what ? Even when you have a stable job, a place to stay, and people around you speak EXACTLY as you are, you can still be desperate and went banana. Read Haruki Murakami’s Underground, it’s about Tokyo’s Sarin Gas Attack in 1995, and you will see how despair destroy even the (what we thought should be) happiest people.

So, what is the problem ? Extremism can grow up nicely in a place where people aren’t satisfied with their lifes. Bigger problem is, as a human, you can never be satisfied.

The solution ? Well, if the entire human race can eradicate poverty, promoting tolerance (IN MY DEFINITION, which is basically “you can get bothered” with other people beliefs/way of life/action, as long as it doesn’t cross your right, you should just stay there, and keep your dislike to yourself), and being thankful for what they have after being able to eat and sleep well, I think extremism can be cut off. The real life solution would be education. Read a lot of book. Then you’ll see how the world works, it will give you ideas, and in the end, it will destroy the environment suitable for extremist’ soft power to breed.

Last but not least, violence won’t work against then. Bullets kill extremist, rockets destroy terrorist. But they don’t destroy their ideas, the most important thing to fight against. Bullet. Won’t. Kill. Ideas. And when you can’t kill an idea, at least stop them from breeding. Would be cool.

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