Fear, I have long argued, is an irrational emotion. Flight or fight. The coward choses flight, an engaged soul opts to fight. Yes, yes…and this leads us to where? Imagine a new Islamic caliphate or a Trump administration. Who flew and who fought? Still asking that question? Stop reading newspapers and listening to NPR. Stuff tissue paper in your ears and pretend reality is a construct only suffered by idiots careless enough to glance out a kitchen window as the garbage truck meanders through one’s back alley.
Fear always wins.
And not for irrational reasons. Sometimes the obvious obstructs the intellect.
Consider demographics. Here I start at home…it becomes more frightening abroad.
The city of Chicago. Hog butcher of the world, “City of big shoulders.” Gun fight capital of the United States—at least one would believe if Donald Trump was reading the nightly headlines. (Statistics play no small role here…turns out that per capita Detroit wins hands down with a violent crime rate of 1,988.63 per 100,000 people. Chicago comes in a distant 24th at 884.29 per 100,000. (http://www.worldatlas.com/articles/most-dangerous-cities-in-the-united-states.html)
But Chicago wins in gruesome behavior on a daily basis. Why? The youth “bulge.” 18% of Chicago’s population is aged 20-29. In Detroit that figure is a slightly smaller 16%. The difference? Chicago youth just blast away because they have nothing better to do. Detroit, one can argue, has reached a stage of economic desperation that suggests aiming is a better idea than simply pulling trigger.
Bullets are expensive.
Aim to kill or wound…at least in Eminem’s neighborhood. Chicago youth can apparently afford to blast away with little consequence to their pocketbook.
Kind of like living in Iraq, Somalia, Syria, or Yemen. Bullets must be damn cheap in those ‘hoods. Or subsidized by outside sources.
Wait, wait. I am off on a tangent. We will come back to cheap ammunition in a minute. First let’s complete the conversation on demographics. Violence in Chicago echoes a more disturbing trend in the Middle East and Levant.
In Syria 20% of the population is 15-24. In Libya it’s 18%. In Iraq it’s 19%. And in the US? 13%. (Note the difference—it is more than just statistically significant—your longevity could depend upon keep the “youth bulge” as small as possible.) Now add to that equation opportunities for education, employment, marriage and participation in governance. The result is a stew worthy of Macbeth’s three witches. “Double, double toil and trouble; fire burn, and caldron bubble.”
Even Muammar Qaddafi was wise enough to realize youth with unrealizable ambitions are an endless potential for disaster. (Now we are back to Chicago.) The Libyan autocrat went so far as to subsidize marriage. After all, once you have children to feed and a wife to make happy, who has time for war or instigating trouble? Just the thought of coming home to an unhappy spouse is sufficient to deter most would-be jihadi.
But not all dictators are as wise as Qaddafi—he did survive 42 years as a symbol of authoritarian exercise and excess. A world record, by the way, that may only be surpassed Paul Biya of Cameroon during this calendar year. Seems Qaddafi was on to something. A “something” sorely missed in Assad’s Syria or post-Saddam Iraq.
A “something” we are going to revisit in the days to come.
First, we must return to the issue of guns and money. Revolutions are not free. Bullets—as the citizens of Detroit seem to suggest—are expensive—and even “freedom fighters” or jihadi need to eat. Thus the question of “deep pockets” standing in a shadowy background. Who pays for the AK-47s and associated ammunition? We used to know the answer back when it was Charlie Wilson’s War, the same is not true of Caliph Ibrahim’s new caliphate—aka the Islamic State.
Oh, yes, I have read the Bloomberg, Time and think tank studies on illicit oil shipments and ransacking of antiquities. Trust me, that isn’t enough cash for the havoc we have witnessed over the last five years. Deeper pockets are at work here.
With that you walk into the world of Osiris and the books to follow. We are not here to simply unreel mayhem, but to also pry open closet doors more than one government would like to remain closed. Fear, it seems, is not irrational when you could be the next to join Qaddafi in that eternal sleep many call death.
Life imitates Osiris.