Is terrorism the result of root causes such as poverty and exclusion?
In the context of social sciences, it is a widely accepted assumption of human behavior that aggression is the outcome of frustration. When we do not obtain something to which we feel entitled, we feel anger and frustration, which, in turn, leads to violent actions aimed at removing the obstacle to our achievement. When we are horrified by acts of terrorism, by drawing this simple chain of causality we attempt to explain the motivations of those who carry these acts out. It is no wonder that millennia before psychologist John Dollard (1939) and his research team published their influential book linking frustration and anger resulting from social structural strains to aggressive behavior, Aristotle famously pronounced, ‘poverty is the parent of revolution and crime’. Since the time of Aristotle, most of us have taken for granted the link between the gaps in the social fabric and political violence. In fact, looking at the numbing loss of non-combatant lives from attacks by sub-national groups, one can reach one of two conclusions: these are the work of insane minds, or that those who perpetrated the attacks have little to live for. These associations are reinforced when we come to the most puzzling of the attacks where the perpetrators willingly sacrifice their own lives to kill others.