Wars have been waged since man first evolved. Wars generally involve ownership of something, usually land. Oh religion is the common scapegoat, and yes it can be argued that many wars were instigated in the name of religion, but, when you strip the veneer off its all about land and valuable goods.

The Nazi regime is a great example. Land was the goal, but anything of value was saved. Clothes, Hair, Gold fillings, paintings, buildings, if there was value, they found a way to preserve it. Human life had no value, but the things that the humans owned most certainly did.

This brings us to ISIS, ISIL, or whatever they are called this week. What could their goal be in destroying priceless artifacts from the region? To make it even more curious why video it and gloat by publishing the destruction for all to see? How could this possibly help them in their quest?

There are a couple of ideas that spring to mind, does the destruction of the past change the past? Does this give them a clean slate to permit them to start history again?

I know when I am stumped by difficult questions such as these I reach out to those that might offer answers or at least insights as to what is going on.


While it is possible that this is a cultural issue, I am not convinced, I asked Psychologist Dr Gary Penn for his views.

Gary I am a simple man and none of this makes sense to me. How can the destruction of the past help their quest? What, in your opinion is going on?

I think their goal is to terrorize. They want to scare everyone. The United States has the greatest power to kill in the world but most people aren’t terrorized by us. ISIS has a ragtag army of a few thousand. They don’t have nuclear bombs to scare us but the do have a knife and a video camera. When we see someone get beheaded, it terrifies us. We imagine that we were the one on the chopping block. Also, we become scared of the person doing the cutting. Again, we become terrified of them because of their commitment to death and destruction and their willingness to carry our such gruesome acts. ISIS videotapes these events for two reasons; 1. To prove/show other wanna-be fighters their commitment to their cause and to prove/show the developed world that they are not safe and that they are coming for us watching in our living room while sipping wine. They want to invade our minds because doing so makes them relevant as attested to by this article.  

Almost all fundamentalist groups think in terms of black and white. For example, in the evangelical world, abortion is the exact same thing as putting a gun to a newborn and pulling the trigger. Because of this, it is perfectly rationally, in fact necessary, to murder the doctor who is doing this. In their mind, the clump of cells that represents a 4 week old fertilized egg, has as much value as you or I. Black and white thinking forces us into these boxes. Also, by destroying ancient and cherished relics, members of ISIS are convincing others, and themselves, of the depth and certainty of their beliefs. Look what I’m doing! I’m killing and pillaging because of how certain I believe in what I believe.

Darth Vader is correct when he says: “Feel the power of the dark side”. The dark side is powerful. It is seductive and it most certainly is scary. The dark side is insidious however. ISIS is an easy target but I’m sure that this force also affects American. Feeling joy when we bomb other counties, hatred of our president or political parties, hatred of people crossing our borders and seeing them as all bad, are, if not in the dark side, certainly represent pathways there…

While not the comment I had expected, Dr. Penn does make some interesting observations. The Dark Side is seductive. Better still is the idea of living it vicariously. Look what I’m doing! I’m killing and pillaging because of how certain I believe in what I believe.

This is hardly the first time that the technique has been used, and clearly it will not be the last. The herd mentality prevails. Or as my good friend Sam Moffie calls these followers ‘Sheeple’. The big question is how can you reason with the unreasonable. ISIS are more than happy to destroy history, but I do not see them destroying the tanks and weapons they have pillaged to kill innocent people.

Simon Barrett

Dr. Garry Penn can be found at his web site. Rarely do Gary and I agree, but I do value his input.




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