The Next Generation of Zealous, Intolerant Crusaders

Mike Myers

An interesting fact has emerged from the recent jihadist rampage in Paris is the age of the attackers. According to the BBC the attackers that have been identified so far are all in their late 20s or early 30s.

This should be a time in young people’s lives when they’re settling into careers, starting families or any number of activities other than plotting to carry out mass murder. It certainly raises a number of questions as to how did these young men become so marginalized, so radicalized and so filled with hate that they chose this path?

One of the important life lessons my grandmother taught me is that nothing exists without history. Everything we see around us, experience and learn about comes from somewhere. While the action we see looks spontaneous, it in fact has a history, a starting point.

In order to make sense of what appears senseless we must look into the history of its origins.

One clue that has come to the surface is in their e-mails and on web sites where they refer to Europeans as “crusaders.” The First Crusade was launched on November 27, 1095 by Pope Urban II—920 years ago. That’s a long time to hold a grudge.

The Crusades went on from 1095 to 1291, a period of 196 years of successive waves of European Christians invading the so-called Holy Land to conquer and drive out the “Saracens and infidels”. Eventually Europeans began to ignore the calls for more crusades and the region settled into an uneasy status quo.

The tenor of relations between Christians and Muslims had been set. Each saw the other as non-believers, infidels and ultimately defined their struggle as their god given responsibility for the propagation of their faith against the other.

All these years later these young men still embrace the belief that anyone who is not of their faith is an enemy and if the enemy will not convert, then they must be destroyed. But it is not just Muslims espousing this. You can hear the Christian, Jewish and Hindu zealots saying the same things about others who don’t embrace their faith. It is the ranting and craziness of the extremists regardless of which religion they profess to follow, and it’s more than a thousand years old.

The gathering of souls and increasing the numbers of the “faithful” has been and continues to be a global struggle. It is this mindset and belief system that arrives in the Western Hemisphere 523 years ago. The Puritans and Pilgrims weren’t seeking religious freedom they had been exiled to our territories because they were the extremists of their time.

The Papal Bulls and Doctrine of Discovery make it clear that we were seen as “infidels” and “non-believers” and we had to either convert or be destroyed. This was and is a continuing perception of us. Every year hundreds of missionaries come to our territories still trying to convert us to their beliefs. There are organizations that have been established for the sole purpose of raising money to carry on the proselytizing of their particular faith to Indigenous peoples. And there is no foreseeable change in this dynamic.

Beyond the religious wars there remains the question of how did these young people arrive at a point in their lives that holy war is the only option they see for themselves?

When you look at the state of affairs for young Indigenous folks it’s actually surprising that we haven’t experienced a similar form of radicalization and violence. The violence is there but it remains largely internalized. Studies and reports consistently show that the highest numbers of negative indicators are amongst this age group of 20 – 35. They have the highest numbers of suicides, being victims of violence, drop outs, unemployed, etc.

Over the next ten to fifteen years this is the generation that will be coming to power in our world. They will become the future elected officials, administrators, managers and will be the majority of most of our populations. In most of our territories they already represent an average of 32% of our population. When you add in the next group – 10 -20, they become the majority at an average of 60%.

I’m not saying that there aren’t any positive, empowered, innovative and dynamic young people, but I am saying that they are outnumbered by the negative and disempowered. I’m also saying that this is something we can change that this is not a fait accompli.

The fate and future of our young people has to stop being an election campaign promise that gets dragged out every cycle and then isn’t followed up. If you don’t think the young people notice this then you’re the one who is blind. They notice it, hear it and reject it as empty promises. Ask them, and you will find it is an essential element of their disenchantment with the current state of Indigenous politics.

At the same time, we cannot put the whole responsibility for the development and empowerment of our youth on Indigenous governments and their programs. There is a great deal we – the citizens – can do through non-governmental efforts. One of the nationwide efforts are Boys and Girls Clubs in Indian Country. There are many successful local programs and projects being carried out by non-governmental, non-profit community based organizations.

These approaches are successful because they’re not based on campaign promises. They are the efforts by people who genuinely care about the future of our youth and are doing something about it. And I believe they’re part of the reason we haven’t seen an explosion of hate, hopelessness and frustration.

Indigenous governments can’t and shouldn’t do everything for everybody. This is still the colonial models we inherited from the settler governments. From the outset these models were developed to maintain control and power over the colonized. We mindlessly jumped at the opportunity to take these models over when the settler bureaucracies offered them to us. In doing so we became the oppressors, the colonial administrators.

More and more I see and engage with Indigenous folks who know we can’t simply go on mimicking or perpetuating the old models that have more than proven they don’t work. These folks are asking a very important question – if we do this ourselves, what would it look like?

The successful approaches that are out there have asked this question and are actively trying to answer it. They are not content with being “culturally appropriate” they are striving to be “culturally congruent”. There is a major difference in these two approaches.

To me, culturally appropriate is about putting feathers on someone else’s thing and pretending that this is now somehow Indigenous. Striving for cultural congruency requires deep thinking, understanding and innovation that draws upon the worldview, generations of cultural development, values and beliefs of our particular way-of-life to be the center of whatever we are doing.

We do not come from ways-of-life that are violent and hateful. We come from legacies of excellence and genius that developed amazing civilizations.




Title: Crusades                                                          Author: Mike Myers

Address: PO Box 741, Cass Lake, MN 56633                       E-mail: [email protected]



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Sammy7's picture
” To me, culturally appropriate is about putting feathers on someone else’s thing and pretending that this is now somehow Indigenous. Striving for cultural congruency requires deep thinking, understanding and innovation that draws upon the worldview, generations of cultural development, values and beliefs of our particular way-of-life to be the center of whatever we are doing.” Mindfully written Mike and so central to living in right relationship.

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