There are three apparently intractable problems facing Western nations: the nihilistic violence of ISIS, the problem of immigration from disadvantaged countries and the attraction of young Western Muslims to fight for a religious cause. They should not be a surprise; they are the inevitable result of failures in society. For evolution to function there have to be failures as well as successes. Secular capitalist countries have achieved a level of wealth and health never seen before in human history. However, most of the world’s population live outside these successful countries. They are fully aware of the difference of their own lifestyle to that of the west through the ease of international communication. Most countries have failed to achieve the benefits of capitalism because of corruption, religious bigotary, or the brutal behaviour of the ruler and his elites. In the first half of the second millennium AD Islamic states were world leaders. However they failed to keep up with the developments in the West, stagnated, lost power and eventually collapsed. New secular states in the Middle East: Egypt, Syria, Iran and Iraq, created post the Second World War in a partial implementation of western ideas of governance, also failed to deliver prosperity. Most African states have struggled from their inception.
When people despair of their own governments it is no wonder they seek a better life elsewhere. This competitive instinct for self-improvement is totally understandable. The desperate desire of migrants to cross from Africa and the Middle East into Europe is a symptom of failure of their own native societies.
For those left behind the collapse of central state power is very dangerous. Envy and hate of the disadvantaged against their former masters can lead to revolution and terror. It happened in France in the eighteenth century, in Russia in the twentieth, in Iran in the 1970’s and now with ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
What is more difficult to understand is the reverse flow, young people leaving the West to join ISIS. The banner of resurrecting Islam appears to be only part of the story. In his article in the Guardian of 25th July ,Humiliated rage and furtive envy, http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jul/24/how-to-think-about-islamic-state,Pankaj Mishra said that ‘both phenomenon are failures of a globalised western model [of society] that promises freedom and prosperity to all but fails to deliver’. Those who find it difficult to succeed become disaffected with Western Society. Identifying with a religious cause allows them fulfilment in a way not available to them at home. Feelings of weakness, inferiority and envy can be overcome by active participation in a popular movement. The aggressive violence of ISIS is not an issue. Violent behaviour, when it is justified through religion or feelings of kinship, has been a constant throughout human history.
The implementation of global capitalism has spread health and wealth throughout the world. Most people live longer, have more possessions and live more fulfilling lives than they did a century ago. But economic competition always has winners and losers. In the past popular religion provided comfort and support for the disadvantaged, offering them some hope for the future. However the old religious canons are now discredited in the West and active participation is dying out. In this modern materialistic world there appears to be little more purpose in life than the acquisition of wealth and the raising of children. For those that fail, there is no solace. We need a new philosophy of life to replace the old religions; one that supports all in society. Eco-humanity is one such approach. It should provide a new purpose in life, both to support all of mankind and save the planet for our children.