Children, Superheroes and
the Death of Extremism
(an Institutionalist Labour Analysis)
So, ladies and gentlemen, we have the biggest threat today in the Middle East, and
that is terrorism disguised as heroism (Bakhit)
Author: Marisa Elias
November 15, 2014
The rise of terrorism during the last two decades, particularly in the Middle East,
makes one wonder how extremist groups gained such momentum. Suleiman Bakhit, Jordanian
comic book artist has explored the rise and proliferation of terrorism in the aftermath
of 9/11. Recognizing the importance of children in the growth and development of beliefs,
Bakhit visited a low-income Jordanian school. He asked the children, Who are your
There was no answer. The children didnt have heroes, at least, not in the traditional
sense; they knew no Odysseus, no Superman. Instead, they admired Bin Laden and Zarqawi.
They admired colourfully painted terrorist exploits, stories woven to mimic the classic
hero. These stories use the concept of takfir, or formal Islamic excommunication,
to justify killing innocent people targeted as either hypocritical believers or infidel
invaders. The children idolized destructive heroes, with tendencies of promising victory
through fear and death, because these ideals were the only institution they knew.
And so these children would become the next generation of Hamas or Al Qaeda.
The appeal of terrorist activities has spread beyond the classroom to an international
level. Extremist organisations have an unhindered labour supply, filtering through
a biased educational system often run by local terrorist sects. Gradually (or quickly,
as the rise of ISIS has shown) the terrorist labour force unhindered by self-preservation
and motivated purely by the utility has expanded, reaching more and more areas and
thereby recruiting more and more members.
the main economist behind Institutionalist thought, has argued that people emulate
the more respected members of their socio-economic class in order to attain a greater
status within that social group. Terrorist groups become increasingly violent and
prominent as newer, lower class members seek to impress the longstanding, respected
leaders and as they seek to live up to the ideals of their heroe
s. Having a blindly willing labour force boosts terrorist group productivity, and
the success of its internal organisation has brought its ideals the world stage. As
productivity and notoriety rise, so does revenue, from both internal and external
sources. Profit, here both literal currency and figurative expansion of terrorist
influence, also grows. Influencing the beliefs of children, through something as simple
as limiting their choice of hero, creates an irreplaceable, devoted workforce, dedicated
to one cause, regardless of the consequences.
But without a willing and able labour force, terrorist organisations will not be able
to generate the revenue needed to fund their networks, nor possess the manpower needed
to reach low income, geographically distant areas. They will not hold numerous large
events. They will be limited monetarily and unable to continuously instigate violence.
They will not be able to reach low-income neighbourhoods and their stories will cease to be a central part
of the educational system. Children are the economic foundation for the future; their wants, ideals and growing
knowledge drives technological growth, resource distribution and economic policies.
So stop the generational spread. Stop extremist growth by destroying its institutions.
Make the destructive hero only one version of a hero.
Suleiman Bakhits presentation at OFF, found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHxOnXnp4Ho&list=PL9flMWibV82dajm01NQOFXsizdYj99Ttk&index=3