The Hidden Causes of the Paris Killings And What We Can Do to Prevent Future Violence

Paris killingsOnce again we are shocked, sickened, and frightened as we come to grips with another mass killing. We want to do something to feel safe again and often we are told we must “fight fire with fire.”  One headline read: France vows to punish ISIS for fatal Paris attacks. We can all empathize with those who were killed and feel supportive of the citizens of Paris. We can also recognize the rage we feel towards those who are responsible for the killings.

But in order to prevent future acts of mass violence, we have to better understand who did the killing and why. There are no simple answers and, as always, it will take time to get all the facts about what went on. But here are some things we do know:

  1. Those who did the killing were young men.
  2. Each of the men had lost the will to live.

According to a November 16, 2015 article in NY Magazine, “What We Know About the Paris Attackers,” “Authorities believe that ISIS-linked extremists were behind the brutal attacks that killed 129 people and injured another 352 on Friday night in Paris, and details about the attackers and their possible accomplices are continuing to emerge.”

It may be simpler to just lump all the attackers together and call them “terrorists,” but if we want to understand them and prevent future violence it’s important to see them as real human beings. As I look at their names and ages, I wonder what their lives were like. How did they reach a point where they gave up the will to live and decided to kill others and die themselves?

Here’s what the NY Magazine writers Chas Danner and Margaret Hartmann say about the men:

  1. Salah Abdeslam: French police say the 26-year-old Belgian-born French national is still at large. His role in the attacks is unclear.
  1. Ibrahim Abdeslam: Investigators say Ibrahim Abdeslam is the suicide bomber who struck the Comptoir Voltaire cafe.
  1. Ismaïl Omar Mostefai: Mostefai, A 29-year-old French national, blew himself up after murdering spectators in the Bataclan concert hall.
  1. Bilal Hadfi: The 20-year-old French national was one of the three suicide bombers who hit the Stade de France.
  1. Samy Amimour: A 28-year-old Frenchman who blew himself up in the Bataclan music hall.
  1. Ahmad Al Mohammad: A Syrian passport with the name Ahmad Al Mohammad was found with one of the suicide bombers at the soccer stadium. The passport belonged to a 25-year old Syrian born in Idlib.

7 & 8.   These attackers have yet to be identified.

How do we understand these murder/suicides? An important insight can be gained from Rebecca Costa, a world-renowned and respected social scientist and author of the book, The Watchman’s Rattle: A Radical New Theory of Collapse. In January, 2013 she wrote an article, “Losing the will to live” following the murders in Newtown Connecticut. She said:

“Long before the perpetrators reached for a weapon, they lost their desire to live.

That’s right. It doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about Khalid al-Mihdhar and 9/11, or James Eagan Holmes opening fire on movie-goers in Colorado, or more recently, Adam Lanza, the 20-year-old responsible for the school massacre in Newtown, Conn. We now know that in each of these cases, the assailants felt they no longer had a reason to live. And it is this unnatural state that enabled them to commit unimaginable acts. Once a person makes a decision to die, the most abhorrent atrocities become permissible. There are no longer any consequences to fear: no arrest, no jail, no trial, no families of the victims to face, no remorse, no nothing. Dead is dead.”

In December, 2013, I wrote an article, “Remembering the Newtown Killings: We Can Choose Love.” I said, “We need to address the anger growing in the hearts and minds of young males and we need to address the fear in the general population.” I suggested that fear and rage only bring about more fear and rage. Love and understanding are the hope for the future.

We also need to address the increasing levels of depression and suicide that are being experienced by people all over the world, particularly young males. A recent article in the NY Times asked, “Is the World More Depressed?” and concluded that it is. We know the suicide rate for males is much higher than it is for females and young men and older men seem to be at highest risk.

Men’s health expert, Will Courtenay, Ph.D. in his book Dying to Be Men, reports national statistics showing the suicide rate for males between the ages of 15 and 30 is 4 to 5 times higher than it is for females of the same age.

Certainly we need to deal with fanatical elements in the world, including groups like ISIS. My colleague Dr. David Gruder offers an enlightened perspective on how best to do that. But we also have to recognize that, for many, living in our modern world has become a source of pain and despair. In a humorous, but insightful remark, the comedian Elayne Boosler said, “When women are depressed, they eat or go shopping. Men invade another country. It’s a whole different way of thinking.”

We must all work to keep our joy and hope for the future and help those who feel abused, neglected, and abandoned. We are all in this together and will survive together or not at all.

I look forward to your thoughts and comments. Come visit me on Twitter @MenAliveNow.

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  1. Hi Jed,

    Great Article and wonderful insight on why these perpetrators of violence do what they do.

    Early on in my education to become a Mental Health Counselor, I was exposed to the idea that those who perpetrate violence have become disconnected from Spirit, God, Creator, Higher Power, Allah, or what ever we choose to call that greater power. You are saying the same thing. When people lose the will to live they will give their own life and take others with them. Rebecca makes an interesting comparison between those perpetrators who have lost the will to live and those that want to keep living to thrive in spite of the violent acts they commit. I am grateful for this insight.

    My colleague David Gruder also makes wonderful points about how NOT to respond to these acts of terrorism. Although I am a spiritual man and not a religious man, I would simplify this by a quote from the Bible: “Violence begets more violence”. War is no the answer. Love and forgiveness are the path to peace and we has humans need to continue our spiritual evolution to attain PEACE.

    • Tom, Thanks for the comments. I agree that this in ancient wisdom, violence begets violence, love begets love. But in a fearful world we have to be continually reminded.

  2. Dear Jeb;
    You have been aware of these root causes for a long time.I recall being horrified at the closing of American Universities overseas by then pres. Reagon. Immediately a whole generation of men with the goal of education to improve themselves were wiped out, and fundamentalist schools rushed into fill the void. Of course, that was a few school generations ago. About the same time US federal funding for high school classes addressing consumer education, family training and the economics of the home were cut. Good food and understanding of ones responsibilities as they enter adult hood gave many young men, as well as women, a needed foundation for good mental health a well. I can imagine many American men also fill they have nothing to live for, hence they enlist in the army. What a waste of human and environmental energy!
    There is one school in my urban/suburban/farm county left that still has a Future Farmers of America club. Every year I represent beekeeping in an event they hold to introduce every third grader to the farm life. I Love watching the young men [and women] confidently set up the fair equipment, working together, and later leading teachers and classes through the booths they have invited, teaching basic ranching concepts to the youngsters.
    Although we no longer blindly plow fields for maximum organic productivity, Plowshares should remain plowshares! We, as a species, need to start carbon soil sequestration wherever we are, put our energy into healing the soil,and perhaps ourselves through regenerative horticulture. At the end of a days work, having touched that that gives us all life, there will be no energy, hopefully interest as well, left for fighting

  3. Hi Jed,

    I wish that it was as simple as what the “mainstream” media is putting out there. Unfortunately, there are much more darker forces at work that are all about controlling the masses through fear; and they would do whatever it takes to accomplish their agenda, including their continued assault on Muslims as the ‘scapegoats’ – once upon a time it was us as Jews who had fingers pointed at us. I would invite you and your readers to review the following video that has many insights on “False Flags” that have been happening for a very long time – since the assassinations of JFK, MLK and RFK:

    I would invite us to continue to send love and peace out there because this is the ONLY response that will stop this tyranny from continuing.



  4. Two good articles I read today address some of the causes. Exporting our western culture and capitalism rob people of their own culture.