Cults, Terrorists, and Teens

When I was 20 years old, I found myself in an unusual situation. I had, at that rather young age, achieved my goal of becoming a professional bass player. In my eager drive to achieve this one goal, however, I overlooked various items. Yes, I had achieved much, but this was done at the cost of being ripped out of my peer group. No more dorm life, no more classes, no one to hang out with.

The people I was now working with were generally older than me, in some cases very much older.  Work itself was sporadic.  I had a lot of time on my hands, and I started to feel really lonely.

Long story short, being young, energetic, alone, and lacking any other option, I spent a lot of time walking around downtown Boston. And as I did that, I started having unusual adventures.

I discovered that there were various cultish groups who were constantly on the prowl for new members. They were trained to look for young people walking around with a lost and lonely look, e.g., me, and recruit me.

Long story short, there were various cultish groups, including Scientologists and Moonies and another group of Buddhists, who liked to sit around repeatedly chanting “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.”

The Scientologists offered a “personality test.” I was bored so I took it. I did not hang around for the results. The Moonies were awfully organized, and I got corralled into a very persuasive seminar before escaping, all the while being chased by a young lady whose job it was to recruit someone like me off the street. Thank goodness for a 60 Minutes report, otherwise I might be still selling flowers in Gloucester or Logan Airport.

The point I am making is, there are organizations that understand the potential of the many young people out wandering the streets that have, for whatever reason, lost the cultural tapestry of desperately needed social connection.  I know how desperate one can be to get re connected. And this is a big piece of the terrorism puzzle.

The home grown terrorists we have in the USA have a common thread: they are not first generation immigrants coming here in secret cells. No, they are either second generation citizens, or the loner boy next door.  In either case, a their core, they are , as I once was, lost, disconnected, and insanely desperate, on a very basic lizard brain level, to find some sense of belonging.   Such people are terribly vulnerable and they can, in some instances, become fanatics because of the mental imbalance loneliness can cause.  Combine a little narcissism, grandiosity, resentment, anger, frustrated sexual desire, self destructive tendencies, access to weapons, and there you have a suicide bomber.

I realize terrorism is a complex problem, but we have to recognize the root human vulnerability that makes it likely for lost young men to seek something to join that seems noble in its purpose, however evil in reality.  We must, like generations past, start to pre-emptively recruit these young men and offer some path to camaraderie and a way to acquire real belonging in society.  Otherwise, we invite the horrific results of letting someone with evil intentions exploit this commonplace resource and use it against us.

– JL

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