I have an alpine goat that I milk everyday. She is the perfect milk goat. Having been raised as a bottle baby she assumes I am her people and therefore does pretty much whatever I want her to do, including standing on the milk stand without being harnessed in any way while I milk out an entire gallon. She’s fabulous.
So one day I went out to milk and I was in a hurry because I was leaving town for a long weekend. I had already packed and was dressed ready to go when I went out to milk. Not my standard milking attire but whatever works, right? I opened the pen and let out my goat, placed her food bucket where it normally goes, positioned everything I needed, petted her like normal, and she climbed up on the stand.
But she wouldn’t stand still and showed no interest in her food bucket full of grains and sunflower seeds. Instead she kept squeezing her body into a bunched up ball and turning her head to me, nuzzling my arm. I was puzzled. This wasn’t her normal behavior.
I did everything I’d ever read in a book about goats to get her to cooperate – made sure she knew where the food was, enticed her with a treat, made sure she didn’t need down to do her business, made sure the others goats weren’t distracting her, etc … but nothing worked. So, in a hurry, I was going to give up and forego the milk for the day. (it’s not the end of the world after all) I stood up and started moving things around and walked around the corner.
My goat followed and nudged my arm again.
And suddenly I understood her hesitation at letting me milk. You see, I never wear jewelry out in the animal yard, especially not something like this. It’s colorful and bold and the chickens would peck me to death trying to figure out what it was or they would destroy it … so I never wear things like this outside.
My goat noticed it. Something so small and insignificant.
Once I put it in my pocket, she was fine with me milking her and stood still for the remainder of the time. But the incident stuck with me … how something so small and trivial played havoc on our routine.
As I read the following article in the wake or recent terrorist activities around the world, the incident came back to me in a way I hadn’t thought of it before.
The article is interesting in that it gives a LOT of information but it doesn’t really say much or give us a resolution that we might expect from the title. We are left with ISIS as a mystery to behold … which doesn’t really help at all.
Truth is they aren’t really a mystery. What drives them to do what they do, what attracts people to join them, is simple to understand if you can understand the significance of how my goat responded to my bracelet.
No matter how intelligent, compassionate, caring, loving, or thoughtful a person is, humans are attracted to that which is different … and this group is definitely different in a vast number of ways.
I can already hear the arguments … oh no, I like things to be the same or I’m a traditionalist or I like routine … it doesn’t really matter. You can be like my uncle who was an engineer and wore the same shirt and pants everyday and ate the same things for breakfast every single day and had the same routine of life every single day and your brain will still seek out that which is different. That’s because that’s how our brains work.
As humans we acquire language skills by categorizing the world around us. We learn patterns and shapes and how to fit things together by giving everything a place, a name, and position in our lives. As infants these skills are innate to us. We don’t consciously think about them, we just do them. As children these skills are then expanded on in school as we learn mathematics and higher thinking concepts. As teens and adults we use them to organize social situations and people.
But at the base of it all is the fact that our inborn need to categorize the world makes us susceptible to seeking out things that are different in our attempt to organize the chaos. Our brains are hard-wired to make everything fit into place.
If you are human, you can’t help it.
So when something comes along that is different, we react to it. And how we react to it is based on what we’ve learned in life. For some people anything different is to be feared and avoided, for others studied and learned from, and for still others embraced and loved. What determines our reaction is the unique set of life experiences that we’ve each had. It’s very personal.
Articles like this one continue to pursue the same themes over and over and over that are popular in media and rhetoric throughout the world. Governments, religions, social structures, armies, education … big bold swipes of their pen, big bold ideas. Broad concepts about why hatred and racism and terrorist groups even exist.
And in doing so, they miss what is vital to understand about the situation.
Groups like ISIL don’t exist because of something a government did or didn’t do, because of some religious ideology, because of a lack of education … they exist because individual people made individual choices to associate with something different.
But, but, but … They’re evil and filled with hatred and prejudice and they kill people and terrorize people and … how could anyone ever want to be associated with THAT?
Well, here’s the thing … it’s easy to hate. We can let all our pent up emotions, jealousies, rage, anger, etc have free reign over our lives. No controlling anything. We just let go. No stress, no worries, no doubt, no angst ridden sleepless nights, no guilt, no apologies, no responsibility. That’s what hate does and is.
For someone whose life has been filled with stressful days, who’s tired of dealing with failed love, lost jobs, being outcast from social groups, left alone … giving up is a very real prospect, an inviting prospect even. All those big things that people pursue day in and day out, government, religion, social affiliations, end up being the very things that push other people away, that cast them into the very scenario that leads them to join a group like ISIS.
Our fight in this life isn’t against other governments or religions or social media or education … our fight in this life is personal.
It’s the little things that matter … like my bracelet.
Every act you commit, every word you say, every single thing you do toward another human being matters. Hate is a broad all-encompassing concept with very very intimate roots. We will never win the war against terrorism by pandering about governmental policies, world religions, or educational systems because those are not the root of the problem.
The problem is much more intimate and close to home than that.
Until we start treating everyone we meet and know with compassion, terrorism will live on in this world. And compassion is created and met one person at a time. No government can regulate it, no religion mandate it, no educational system teach it if individuals aren’t willing to give it.
Wear compassion like my bracelet. Make it be the thing that others notice is different about you. Make compassion the difference this world is seeking to find … and then hatred and terrorism won’t be.