Government is by nature collectivist. By abstracting from individuals and their choices and actions, it sidesteps the very valid moral criticisms that would be made against what it does, if it were viewed at an individual level. An individual person cannot use force to fund his social, economic, or moral goals, but “The Government” can. An individual cannot destroy a perceived yet unproven threat, but “The Government” does so, calling it preemptive war. Individuals are expected to make accusations public and provide an argument before retaliating against alleged criminals, but for “The Government”, the mere accusation of wrongdoing is enough to justify violent action in the minds of the public.
This kind of fuzzy thinking prevents people from understanding the historical causes for problems like modern terrorism .. Thus, the picture of the world painted in the popular mind is that of The West versus Terrorism, or versus Radical Islam. And that picture exists when viewed from the other side. It is tempting to attribute France’s commitment to free speech, including speech that may be offensive to religious persons, to the Charlie Hebdo attack, but it is the collectivist identification of The West as “the Great Satan” by Islamic extremists that has drawn their violent intent to Western people.
It would be naïve to believe that rejecting collectivism in the way we think about the East vs. West struggle will bring that struggle to a quick and neat end. But it is a necessary first step. So let us be committed to cutting that kind of language out of our discussions of events such as the recent tragedy. Are there systemic or cultural issues at work within Islamic communities that drive such violence? Certainly. And are there systemic or cultural issues that permit Western thought to excuse the constant meddling of Western governments in the Middle East? Absolutely. But we must remember that such issues are the accumulation of individual decisions and actions.
.. We must be more sophisticated, more precise, and ultimately, more realistic than that. Individual people chose to accept the collectivist narrative that excused the violence that was committed. That goes for the Charlie Hebdo attack, for every terrorist attack preceding it, and for the actions of Western politicians that gave birth to modern terrorism. We must be dedicated to the rejection and refutation of that narrative.