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Richards, B. (2017). A Response to Robert M. Young's ‘Fundamentalism and Terrorism’. Free Associations, 18(2):86-88.

(2017). Free Associations, 18(2):86-88

A Response to Robert M. Young's ‘Fundamentalism and Terrorism’ Related Papers

Barry Richards

Written as it was just after 9/11, this essay by Bob Young vividly captures the response (then and now) of many people in the West - and specifically those in psychoanalytically-minded intellectual communities - to that world-changing event. It points to the fundamentalist mindset as the executive agent of terror. It puts al-Qaeda in its context of Wahabi fundamentalism, but also examines two essentially American types of fundamentalist violence - ‘Patriot’ militia groups and racist lynch mobs - and so locates the problem squarely in a universal potential for violence. Moreover, it draws ideas from the heart of psychoanalytic understanding to offer an account of how, and why, fundamentalist hatreds incubate in the mind - as defensive responses to catastrophic anxieties and phantasies of annihilation.

The essay offers its author's typical combination of rich learning with sharp personal observation, much of the latter from his upbringing in the mid-twentieth century Bible Belt of the USA. Perhaps that kind of milieu, in its saturation with dogma and a sense that violence is never far away, is in some ways a better preparation for being a global citizen in the twenty-first century than growing up in a milder culture where less of human nature is on display. One poignant autobiographical tableau caught this reader's attention, that of the earnest young student from Dallas patiently pointing out to his relatively liberal professor that every word in the bible was true, and meeting, it seems, a patient and respectful response.

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