Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria butcher thousands of “infidels” and carry off their women and children into slavery. This type of savagery can also be seen in other countries in history and currently in Africa with such faces like Boko Haram, other fascist groups and similar ISIS groups like Al-Qaeda but who even denounces the savagery of ISIS. The most notorious was Hitler who exterminated 6,000,000 Jews.
Savagery Begets Savagery
What, then are the origins of savagery, if they cannot be ascribed to a single religion or ideology? The first part of an answer may be horribly simple: savagery begets savagery. Callousness, aggression, and lack of empathy are common responses by people who have been harshly treated themselves. In the Nazi concentration camps, for instance, many of the cruelest guards were themselves prisoners—the notorious “kapos”.
Sexually abused children—particularly males—are more likely to go on to become sexual abusers themselves as adults, although the majority do not. Victims, in other words, often respond to trauma by themselves becoming victimizers.
The “shock and awe” bombing of Baghdad and subsequent invasion in 2003 triggered an explosion of violence and a total break down of law and order in the country. Few Iraqis escaped the effects of savagery. Marketplace car bombs and sectarian assassination squads were prevalent.. Between 2003 and 2011, over 114,000 of them were killed and many hundreds of thousands more maimed. So a minority of these, overwhelmingly male, victims of violence are now themselves propagating savagery through Mosul and its environs.
But victim becoming victimizer is not the only explanation for savagery. When the State breaks down, and with it law and order and civic society, there is only one recourse for survival—the group. Whether defined by religion, racial, political, tribal or clan—or for that matter by the brute dominance of a gang-leader—survival depends on the mutual security offered by the group. This no different than here in the United States when one becomes a gang banger searching for solace when they themselves are victims of society and then become the victimizer. I have been dealing with them for 25 years.
War bonds people together in their groups and this bonding assuages some of the terrific fear and distress the individual feels when the state breaks down. It also offers self-esteem to people who feel humiliated by their loss of place and status in a relatively ordered society. To the extent that this happens, then individual and group identities partially merge and the person’s actions become as much a manifestation of the group as of the individual will. When this happens, people can do terrible things they would never have imagined doing otherwise: individual conscience has little place in an embattled, warring group, because the individual and group selves are one so long as the external threat continues. It is groups which are capable of savagery, much more than any individual alone.
You can see it in the faces of the young male Islamic State militants as they race by on their trucks, black flags waving, evil smiles on their faces, clenched fists aloft, fresh from the slaughter of infidels who would not convert to Islam. What you can see is a biochemical high from a combination of the oxytocin and testosterone. Much more than cocaine or alcohol, these natural drugs lift mood, induce optimism and energize aggressive action on the part of the group. And because the individual identity has been submerged largely into the group identity, the individual will be much more willing to sacrifice himself in battle—or suicide bombing, for that matter. Why? Because if I am submerged in the group, I live on in the group even if the individual “me” dies.
This psychology I beleive and always has relates to all subject matter to drug cartels, mafia and all crime mobs, terrorist groups, religious fanatics and such.