The Mix

My values can beat up your values

Despite the Bush/Blair spin, the London attacks weren't necessarily an attack on our values.
"It is important that those engaged in terrorism realize that our determination to defend our values and our way of life is greater than their determination to cause death and destruction to innocent people in a desire to impose extremism on the world." So says Tony Blair.

The London bombing was a horrible, tragic attack. But it was not an attack on Britain's particular values. It was a guerilla warfare strategy in the vaguest war of them all, the war on terror. Nobody likes to be bullied. And bombs, whether dropped from above in Iraq or left on the Tube in London, are tools of bullies. That's one of my values: that people shouldn't be bullied and that those who are have the right to self-defense.

I'm not an expert on this "values" thing, but my understanding, from those who study it, is that most of us have more similar values than we imagine. I'm curious what percent of the people we call terrorists just want us to leave them alone (get out of Iraq, get our bases out of their countries, etc.) and what percent actually want to impose "extremism" in our daily life. Can I get a show of hands?

For the extremists who want to get us all wearing burqas, I say send them to a remote region of a mountainous country with an extreme climate and let them fend for themselves. Oh wait, they're already in Afghanistan.

In organizational development groups, people often use a tool called a "values clarification exercise." This apparently, is supposed to get people to figure out what their own values are, realize what they have in common with others, and then think about how they act out their values in daily life. While I'd agree with those who say it's mostly navel gazing, there could be some good things that come out of doing this on an international scale. Then we could at least dispense with the rhetoric and get down to negotiating the real questions of how do we strategically advocate for security, equality, and freedom of speech and thought, which I'd wager are up there on many peoples' value lists around the world.
Rachel Neumann is Rights & Liberties Editor at AlterNet.
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