I stumbled upon the story of Theodore Kaczynski, aka The Unabomber, the lone wolf that terrorised America for 17 years. As I read his story from different sources, I couldn’t help wondering what went wrong. Ted was notorious for mailing home-made bombs to random unsuspecting victims and eluded the authority for almost two decades until luck ran out of him. In fact, if not for his elder brother that “snitched” on him, maybe he would have still been reigning till date. The only thing The Unabomber wanted was for technological development to be stopped. He believed that technology is destroying the world and the only way he could call attention to his message was by killing and maiming with technology. What an irony.
But what is spectacular about The Unabomber was that he is a PhD holder. In fact, Ted is a product of Harvard University, where he obtained his degree in Mathematics. After earning his PhD from University of Michigan, he became an instructor with the University of California, Berkeley. But barely two years after starting this promising job, he resigned for unknown reasons, went into the woods, and lived as a hermit in a small cabin he constructed by himself. It was in this cabin that had no electricity, water, telephone, or any basic amenity, that The Unabomber began to terrorise the world.
Thinking about this promising young man deciding to leave a promising life for a terror-filled one will make a lot of us wonder if he was crazy. But from what the psychologist that tested him during his trials said, Ted had a sound mind. Nobody can actually tell what went wrong, but it is suspected that an experiment he was subjected to while in Harvard must have triggered something that turned him into a radical. But then, he was not the only student that was used for this experiment. So why was he the only person that became a terrorist?
References to his background showed that he grew up in a community composed of people from different races. There is nothing odd about that except that each race lived in their “colonies” kind of. Ted was said to be very brilliant and so he did not mix up properly with his peers in his neighbourhood (he was the nerd that must be bullied). But then, other isolated youngsters did not turn into terrorists as well.
The essence of pointing out all these is that the true causes of terrorism are yet unknown. Most of us believed that it was poverty. For instance, I have heard a lot of people saying that the reason Boko Haram recruits people in Nigeria is because of the economic situation of the country. After reading up The Unabomber story, I changed that ideology. There is a lot more to terrorism than poverty.
The only thing I can still point an accusing finger on as the cause of terrorism is the society. Radicals are not born; they are made. Some people may have reservations about a particular thing but it takes his personal experiences to become a radical. At the same time, it takes an extreme experience to become a terrorist. Sometimes terrorists are bred from information they were fed by others. I can bet you that the reason we have more of religious terrorism than any other one in Nigeria is because religious leaders twist what they tell their followers and push them into radicalism. This has nothing to do with poverty; neither does it have anything to do with education. Remember that The Unabomber was an ex lecturer in Mathematics.
I am not saying that the economic condition of the country is not a contributory factor, but its effect is minor. People are obviously not recruited by terrorists because they are poor, as we were meant to believe. They were recruited because they have been radicalised. What causes this extremism in them is the only thing we need to find out. Until it is known and uprooted, I am afraid we are heading nowhere.