Dealing with the Extremists
Mike Ghouse, March 2007
How do you deal with extremists? You have to have to have dynamite confidence. The first lesson I learned in my childhood was dealing with the Monkeys, the second one was on Tim Russet’s “Meet the press” program called “Interfaith in America” which is available at www.FoundationforPluralism.com.
In the program, a Catholic Nun says that the reason people are wooed towards neo-cons is because they give confidence. When there is fear, people do not really care about logic or reason; they fall for hope from any given source.
There is a famous story I've heard, where a boatload of people got caught in a rough patch in the middle of the ocean. Giant waves rock the boat and the passengers fear for their lives. One man makes an attempt to get up, when his friend pulls him down and asks what he was doing, he says, he is going to pray. The friend laughs at him, because he was never a sincere or religious person . The man stands up any way and loudly asks people to pray with him, he invokes (Jesus, Allah, Ganesha or.... fill in your own affiliation) God and starts asking God to help them steer through the storm. People were in awe and joined in the prayers with him. He promises safety to every one. About an hour later, the storm calms down and they safely reach the coast. As the man got out, passengers anxiously thanked him and fell at his feet (tradition) and admired him for his holiness.
The friend pulls him over and points that the promises made were false, how would you have made them? What if the boat had capsized? The man stares at his friend blankly and says, “There would not have been any one to question me then".
There is no one to know, how many boats have sunk? Only those that survive can tell the story. The neo cons, Islamofascists, Hindutva are precisely that. Create the element of fear and act with confidence.
This element of confidence has not germinated in most of the moderates, they cannot fathom that hope is crucial to survival. They will laugh at themselves if they said anything silly like that man in the boat or our President.
The neo-cons use this formula every day. Our President talks confidently about the dangers of terrorism. The neo-cons manufactured the data with ease and our gullible Congresspersons and the Senators buy the idea without even questioning it. When our President said, “they hate us for our freedom” every one bought it because 9/11 was a proof that blinded our ability to think clearly. They did not ask, not a single journalist ever asked for "proof" or counter “ Sir, is it our freedom or the administration’s policy that they hate?” Then our Senators and Congresspersons lost the guts to say no to invading Iraq, our President had the podium and the frightened public was ready to pray in the boat. No one dared question for the fear of being labeled un-patriotic. Thank God for November 6th, 2006. Americans are free again. It is our duty to speak up when we are wrong; we could have saved 3000 of our sons and daughters and 650,000 Iraqis and destruction in Lebanon. Our patriotism hinges on our duty to prevent our nation from going on the wrong road. Speaking up the truth, however harsh it is, is Patriotism.
“Newt Gingrich now admits that he was carrying on with another woman at the same time he was leading impeachment proceedings against Bill Clinton -- proceedings based on the president's actions during an investigation born out of his carrying on with another woman.” - AOL News. This is the confidence that all the neo-cons portray, they knew there were no WMDs and many other things. Still they had the gall to tell it like a fact. Of course, the moderates shy away from telling bold face lies, because, they know the truth triumphs at the end.
Now, to get back to the monkeys; the very first lesson I learned in life about dealing with extremists was dealing with the Monkeys. The town where I grew up was blessed with a lot of Monkeys; they were everywhere. As kids, whenever we stopped at the fruit or snack shop and picked up some little morsel to eat, without fail, a monkey would come down and snatch the food right out of our hands and run. When chased, they would stop and stare at you and growl. That is the defining moment in that relationship; getting scared or scaring off. Over the years, I have watched it over and over again – There will be a deadly pause for a few seconds, if you stand firmly, without flinching the eyelids, the Monkey will walk away. However, the one who flinches first loses. Monkeys have strong antennae to recognize the fear in you, the thought of taking a step backwards or flinching gives the signal to the monkey that he rules.
Humans are no different, I have experimented with this work several times, and one was standing face to face with a 6'.3” , 250 pound guy who threatened to thrash me. I was only 5'.8", and at that time 150 pounds. He backed off. I am sure one of these days some one will punch me hard.
As a moderate, when we talk about the peaceful co-existence, or stretching a hand to the extreme conservatives, I get jumped on by the other extreme. I have a choice of saying to myself, “Why do I need to be in this,” and simply not deal with it or I have to ask myself, if I believed in what I say, what is my commitment to it?
I am a big fan of Tom Hopkins, the motivational trainer, who says, look at the numbers, if you have a goal of helping one in ten people, and if the first one says no to you, thank him to let you climb the first step, 9 more to go. If you lose at the first step, and fail yourselves, only you have to blame yourselves.
When you set out to do good things, and are held back by the ultra-conservatives, think about this – only 2 or 3 or 4 are opposed, let’s check to see if we are wrong, if we are not, thank them for caution and march forward with confidence to do what you have committed to do. As long as your leadership is not for a personal gain, you will succeed.
And my lifetime favorite quote that has inspired me to speak about doing things wholeheartedly is as follows. “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy... Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred.… Whatever you can do or dream that you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now." – Goethe”.
Dealing with extremists, I have found that confidence is the key. Like the man in the boat or the one facing the monkey. Whoever is committed stays the course.
Mike Ghouse is a speaker, thinker and a writer. He is president of the Foundation for Pluralism and is a frequent guest on talk radio, discussing interfaith, political and civic issues. He has appeared on the local affiliates of CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, PBS and FOX and has been written up in the news papers. He founded the World Muslim Congress with a simple theme “good for Muslims and good for the world." The organization is driven by Qur'aan, Al-Hujurat, and Surah 49:13: "O mankind! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. The noblest of you, in sight of Allah, is the best in conduct. Allah Knows and is Aware." Mike believes that if people can learn to accept and respect the God given uniqueness of each one of the 7 billion of us, then conflicts fade and solutions emerge. His articles can be found at http://www.foundationforpluralism.com/ , http://www.mikeghouse.net/ and he can be reached at MikeGhouse@gmail.com