Communication, speaking with one another, is the search for mutual understanding. Communication leads to solutions. The value and importance of communication in the information age has been recognised in the medialised world. There is also an opposing movement, however, which brings communication to its end: War.
Several official buildings in the United States were attacked. The American president believes this gives him the right to hunt down an international group of terrorists wherever they may be in the world. This is a dangerous assumption. To answer negative action with negative action only reinforces it. The use of force breeds violence.
Those who committed the act of terror did not want dialogue. They wanted destruction. It is essential to end their activities, make these impossible and illegal. Those who use violence have to be stopped and brought to justice immediately and without exception. They necessarily lose their freedom of speech, an important lesson to be learned from Hitler’s success in Germany.
National institutions and authorities who have power over and responsibility for others have, however, the duty to seek communication. It is necessary to allow the voice of terrorism to express itself, at least to them, in means other than violence: in words. A responsible response is to find answers to the underlying disappointment, anger, hate and confusion.
Furthermore, representatives of democracy are required to adhere to law and constitution. The accused, terrorists included, have to be heard before a court. They have a right to legal defence and to a hearing before an independent judge. The accuser cannot also be judge and executioner as well. In addition, the death penalty is not unilaterally applicable internationally.
Communication is necessary to break down terrorism in order to attain long-term peace. The authorities of democratic society must understand terrorism and its causes in order to alleviate one’s fear, to let go of one’s anger and to put an end to it.
To understand means to listen, to immerse oneself in another world, into its thoughts and language. If you cannot speak this language or understand their thinking there are highly qualified translators to help you. One does, however, have to seek their services. An authoritarian teacher-pupil dialogue is usually no longer appropriate if you communicate across different social or cultural boundaries, often not even between man and woman.
Responsibility means to respond to others. There are several responses: You can talk away in the way you know, in your own language and from your own world, becoming frustrated or even angry if others do not respond the way you expect them to. Or you can make an effort to listen, to try and understand the language of your partner, to wish to communicate: A way to find the right answers, a way to find the right solutions.
After the events of the 11th September President Bush could have chosen dialogue, the way of the love, as proposed by the Dalai Lama in his statement on the 11th September. For this he would also have received the support of the whole Commonwealth of Nations, even perhaps Afghanistan. However, he decided to end dialogue for the time being. The end of communication is the beginning of destruction.
The production of military technology and weapons is a large and powerful industry. The manufactured products need markets and fields of application. New developments require testing. A dialogue with this industry is just as necessary as reasoning with terrorists and about terrorism. Its existence threatens mankind. Just as the production of horror and terror films breeds horror and terror, the production of killing machinery produces violence and death.
Terror, fear and violence should be met with understanding, with justice and law and with demilitarisation in order to further trust, democracy and peace.