Generational Dynamics: Forecasting America's Destiny Generational
 Forecasting America's Destiny ... and the World's


Generational Dynamics Web Log for 15-Jul-05
Defiant Britons join people around the world in two minutes of silence

Web Log - July, 2005

Defiant Britons join people around the world in two minutes of silence

The revelation that the subway suicide bombers were young native-born Britons has thrown Western Europe into alarm

Crowds at the vigil in London's Trafalgar Square <font size=-2>(Source: BBC)</font>
Crowds at the vigil in London's Trafalgar Square (Source: BBC)

At 12 noon on Thursday in London, cars and busses pulled to the side of the road, people poured out of buildings onto the sidewalk to bow their heads, the government shut down, sporting events paused, stores closed, and radio and television statements went silent, to pay two minutes of respect to the victims of last week's subway bombing.

One Muslim man told CNN that he was worried about the attitudes of his own children. "The bombers were just like us. And if they're just us, then more of them could be anywhere, couldn't they?"

They were all native-born young men whose parents had emigrated from Pakistan. One was a 22-year-old cricket lover whose parents ran a fish and chip shop; another was a 30-year-old married primary school teacher with an eight-month-old daughter; another was an 18 year old boy.

Last Thursday, they traveled together on a train from Luton, arriving at King's Cross subway station a little before 8:30. They left separately in four different directions (north, south, east and west) and exploded their bombs, killing themselves and dozens of others.

Since then, at least four mosques have been fire-bombed, and others have seen their windows smashed and their doors damaged. Some have had racist graffiti scrawled on their walls and, in one case, a mosque was hit by bloody pig parts, a particular offense in a religion that eschews eating pork. A Muslim man in London was beaten by passers-by, and some women have had their hijabs pulled from their heads.

Prime Minister Tony Blair, trying to reduce people's anxieties and at the same time head off further public backlash against Muslims, is planning to meet with Muslim leaders around Britain, and at the same time he's recommending the passage of new laws: It's already illegal to commit a terror attack, of course, but one new law will make it illegal to "prepare for" such an attack; and the other new law will permit the deportation of anyone who "incites hatred."

These laws don't mention Muslims, of course, but no one doubts that they're targeted specifically at Muslims.

French Premiere Jacques Chirac observed the two-minute period of silence, and said that "no country in the world is safe from attacks" like the ones in London last week.

And yet, Chirac, who last week expressed his contempt for British food, did not hesitate at the same time to express his contempt for England in other ways, saying that the French are better than the British in many ways: They have more children, they spend more on research and they live longer.

Those who had hoped that the London bombings would re-unify Britain and France after last month's acrimonious European Union summit that has put EU into crisis were disappointed by Chirac's additional comments: "I am not disposed to making the least concession on agriculture," he said.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, we're seeing a continuing hardening of many attitudes that are unique to "generational crisis" periods. Most of the world is in a generational crisis period because it's 60 years past the end of World War II, and today's leaders have no personal memory of the horrors of that war, and lack the personal experience necessary to govern.

On this web site I've often said that what's important in generation trends are the behaviors and attitudes of large masses of people. Each individual, each politician is an individual who can do what he wants, and his actions cannot be predicted. But it is possible to predict certain attitudes and behaviors of large masses of people as generations change, and we're seeing that now.

The British people are in a state of shock over the bombings, because the same thing could happen again at any time. If something like this had happened ten years ago, it wouldn't have had nearly the same impact. Ten years ago, the country's leaders were people who had lived through the daily "blitz" bombing of London by German bombers. A single subway bombing is nothing compared to what those living through the blitz had to go through every day, and they could have shrugged it off. But everyone in active life today in Britain -- and in Western Europe and in America and in Pakistan -- have never experienced anything like the subway bombing, and are scared to death of it.

What made these four young men decide to bomb the subway? Generational Dynamics provides some partial answers.

Children who are born right after a crisis war (the "baby boomer" generation after World War II) grow up in a very structured environment with parents who are determined to protect them from ever having to go through such a war again. When these kids come of age, the kids rebel against their parents' world view and harsh rules, in a "generation gap" like the generational awakening period that America experienced in the 1960s. Kids born during an awakening period ("Generation X" in the 1960s case) have a very different childhood from the preceding generation. Kids born during an awakening become disaffected, unhappy, cynical, and they consider the earlier generation (the Boomers) to be extremely arrogant and narcissistic.

The kids who turned into suicide bombers were from the tail end of the disaffected Generation X. This might have taken them in any direction, but these kids decided to bomb the London subways.

There are 700,000 Britons who came from Pakistan. Because of their high birth rate, their mean age is around 16. They have a high crime rate, and a very high unemployment rate.

Why target England? That's easy to explain. Their parents had immigrated from Pakistan, but not just anywhere in Pakistan: They had come from the Kashmir region.

India and Pakistan had fought a very bloody crisis war in the mid-1940s, Kashmir became the major, most bitter geogrphical fault line. Kashmir is an overwhelmingly Muslim area, and when the United Nations partitioned Kashmir in 1947, into Indian and Pakistani regions, it was supposed to be temporary, since the UN Security Council mandated an election in 1951 to permit Kashmiri self-determination. That election has never been held because India has blocked it, since Pakistan would probably win. India is allied with England, and used to be part of the British empire. So, to a disaffected young man whose parents came from Kashmir, who is suffering bias and unemployment and poverty, and who is looking for a way to make his life meaningful, might well see the suicide bombing of a subway as the way to make himself a hero (not to mention getting 72 virgins).

Once you've established the patterns of history, and once you understand that what's happening today has happened many times before, for exactly the same sorts of reasons that it's happened before, you can't be surprised.

The result is inevitable: Muslims are already becoming increasingly isolated and radicalized throughout Europe, and non-Muslims are becoming increasingly suspicious and anxious. Desperate politicians will pass new laws that restrict civil rights, hoping that these new laws will prevent a new terrorist attack. And related issues, such as the contemptuous attitude of the French toward the English, are not affected at all. (15-Jul-05) Permanent Link
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