|By Roger Strukhoff||
|September 25, 2013 04:33 PM EDT||
It appears that the siege at Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya is over. So it seems safe to write about it and what it means.
As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, "wretched violence has once again intruded in a big way into all the world's efforts to improve economies and the lives of people. It's horrible, disgusting, and will ultimately achieve the direct opposite of what it's backers seek."
My context then was a proposed war policy instead of an actual terrorism incident, but the concept remains the same. Violence only teaches that violence is wrong.
I was saddened to hear Kenya's president Uhuru Kenyatta say early on that the criminals in this slaughter would be punished swiftly "and painfully." Certainly everyone understands the anger felt against the perpetrators of a horrific act such as this, an anger that would be white-hot if friends and relatives were among the dead and wounded.
Today Mr. Kenyatta (a son of modern Kenya's Founding Father, Jomo Kenyatta), stated that the criminals had been "shamed" as well as defeated, again demonstrating righteous anger.
But blood lust achieves nothing. Although I'm reasonably sure I'm not a hard enough person to lead any nation, including a developing one such as Kenya, I always counsell strength through pressure, not violence. I would love to see the perpetrators of the Westgate violence dragged into a local court, sentenced to life in prison, then dragged into an international court, sentenced again to life in prison, then be able to contemplate living out their lives in a small, drab cell somewhere.
The cruel irony of many extremists - and not just religious extremists - is they want to die for their cause, they want to become martyrs. This is quite different from the heroism of the common soldier who is willing to die for his or her country. The latter is a case of selflessly offering the ultimate sacrifice in defense of one's country; the former is an aggressive narcissism that focuses only on the self.
So I urge Mr. Kenyatta, the Kenyan government, and all others who will be involved in this case to go easy on the violence as they go long on justice served. This malignant violence sidetracks all of the good that so many people are doing to improve global economies and people's lives.
I grew up around guns and sometimes violent ways of settling disputes. I'm familiar with the statistics oin violence and real-world environments of most places in the US, and many other places throughout the world. I've seen my share of young soldiers with machine guns guarding street corners, stores, and airports in all regions of the world. I spent three years living in Southeast Asia, with separatist violence in the air and one incident occurring just blocks from my apartment.
I get righteously angry as well when I learn of the latest incident of innocent people killed. But I won't be deterred from doing what I want to do. I'd visit Kenya tomorrow if my work required it. Our research at the Tau Institute has shown that Kenya ranks among the Top 10 African countries when it comes to its use of Information Technology.
We are sticking with this ranking. We do factor several socio-economic factors into our research, but our heaviest emphasis is on how much technological infrastructure is deployed in the face of these local conditions. I applaud all those who continue to work to improve the lot of people there in the face of everyday difficulties and of this recent massacre.
We also show Uganda emerging as the continent's leader - a nation where the government is threatened by an ongoing, extremely ugly guerrilla resistance that operates in neighboring countries as well. I'd go there tomorrow, too.
Hope Beyond Hope
All of us in the technology world must maintain our hope - quixotic as it may seem some days - that our industry's innovation and inventions can continue to improve the lives of people in all corners of the world.
I don't advocate that any particular person throws caution to the wind and travels and works in a place where he or she feels threatened. But I do advocate that no one advocates violence as the way to end the endemic violence that plagues so much of the world and impedes the progress of humanity.
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