How Rotten Schools Can Become a National Security Issue

 

brussel airport
Staff members at Brussels airport and rescuers stand outside the terminal for a ceremony March 23, 2016. (REUTERS/Geert Vanden… © POOL New / Reuters)

 

Once again, the heart of Europe is under attack by religious extremist; by terrorists; by citizens. It was not a matter of if, but when. Europe, along with its allies, is fighting what seems to be an impossible war against ISIS. Some argue for a full military intervention, some argue for diplomacy. Some argue higher security, some argue that our lives should go on as usual and let the terrorists know they will not win by attacking our democracies and values.

What is different this time, is that it is the same cell in which carried out the Paris bombings that attacked Brussels. How can a cell; hunted for months by Belgian and French police, still be able to carry this out? Even after, only four days prior, the man behind the Paris bombings, Salah Abdesalam, was captured? The Belgian police will have a lot to answer for in the coming days.

The Norwegian correspondent Frank Rossavik writes about parallel communities that exists in more or less every country. There are known areas in nearly every big city around Europe with communities living completely separate from the rest. No-go areas, where police literally (unofficially) have no power, areas controlled by it’s own “juristically systems” and their own interpretations of right and wrong, have existed for decades. This is not an Islamic issue alone, far from it, but it is a great problem authorities need to take seriously and start figuring out as it is in environments like these extremism and negative attitudes can be nurtured and continued.

Nevertheless, it is not only in these environments we see terrorist cells pop up and kids being recruited. There is no formula for who can or will be recruited; we see middleclass teenagers from the West leave their friends and families, without any strong religious beliefs prior to the joining of ISIS. There are the people from the no-go areas, and then there are young adults from poor, rural areas, where their only option is join – or get killed. Many people, especially in Syria today, only join ISIS because they earn a salary and thus can take care of their family.

The common denominator for all the groups of recruits, no matter the background or social status, is based on two things; lack of opportunity and lack of education. Authorities need to acknowledge the link between, and the possibility it produces, a better education system and national security. A system where schools in low-income areas are being prioritized, where as much attention are given upgrading schools, the education level, and last but not least; social services at the schools in all parts of the society, will have enormous benefits. Not only is this important on an individual level and for the country’s future when producing educated citizens; it also serves as a counter-violent extremism measure.

If children and youth have access to both good educational systems and schools that are not rotten and low-funded only because of the area they live in, as well as psychosocial security networks of advisors, optional vocational training, job- and application training, along with all sorts of other resources to make sure everyone are at their best, one will have come a long way in countering violent extremist behavior. Although we can never “save” everyone, this would be just as justifiable as spending years and years and trillions of dollars on military operations and traditional national security measures.

It is when people feel like they have no opportunities, are not being seen or heard, or feel like their religion is being stamped on, that it is easy to get caught in a web of lies, manipulation and false promises. This goes for the kid down the street you automatically think has the same possibilities and base as you do, as much as the poor people in war-torn countries deprived of everything. We need to make sure we invite everyone along the way to democracy, an open society and to share our inclusive values. We have to stop only saying that we do; we need to start doing it.

 

Kaja Wold is a first-year graduate student studying Development Management at

American University, School of International Service

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Zootopia, an Animal Movie About Humans

By Aaron Bumgarner

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It wasn’t surprising to see Disney Animation’s new movie, Zootopia, top the box office during its opening weekend. The biggest competition was London Has Fallen, the sequel to the underwhelming Olympus Has Fallen from 2013. It was still almost expected when Zootopia was number one again the following weekend, since the only other new opener with a chance was niche thriller 10 Cloverfield Lane. But this past weekend, when Zootopia bested the third Divergent movie, making it the number one movie three weeks in a row, it was time to pay attention.

You honestly already should have been paying attention to Zootopia, for its quality if not for the quantity of dollars it’s bringing Disney. Again, even in the area of quality, Zootopia wasn’t really a surprise. Disney Animation (separate from but friendly with Pixar, both of which are under John Lasseter’s management) has released great movie after great movie, starting in 2010 with Tangled, then Wreck-It Ralph in 2012, Frozen in 2013, and the Marvel collaboration Big Hero 6 in 2014. With this track record, quality was to be expected. But what was wholly unexpected was the kind of movie Disney ended up making. Zootopia is not only an exciting, zippy piece of children’s entertainment but also an insightful and timely plea for human decency.

Of course, it takes a movie about animals to demonstrate our need for human decency. Zootopia follows Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin), a rabbit from the country who wants nothing more in life than to make the world a better place by becoming a police officer in the great metropolis of (you guessed it- congratulations!) Zootopia. Zootopia is filled with animals of all kinds, both prey and predators, but Judy would be the world’s first bunny cop. We see a montage of Judy working hard at the police academy, and then a scene of her being badged in which we learn Judy is the first officer instated under the mayor’s new “mammal inclusion program”. That phrase alone should give you an idea of which side of this movie’s bread is buttered.

And yet it goes in a completely different direction. You’d think this might be a harmless movie that uses Judy’s story of succeeding against prejudices within the police force as a paean to both hard work and inclusion. And the movie does explore that angle to great effect. But Zootopia goes further, giving Judy an assignment to find a missing otter with the help of an untrustworthy fox (Jason Bateman) and finding ways therein to comment on police violence, identity politics, and fearmongering politicians. What starts as a “you can be anything you want to be” fable becomes a kind of social commentary unprecedented from Disney.

I feel comfortable designating Zootopia a liberal movie because of the ways that it comes down on a lot of these issues. But ending my description there (as I often have over the past few weeks when describing the movie to friends) has seemed incomplete in retrospect, especially after a conversation with a few of my good friends last weekend. We talked at length about the concepts of privilege and diversity and what the costs and benefits are of a culture that uses such demarcations. We disagreed on a lot and agreed on some, but by the end it was clear that we were all seeking solutions to the same problems: disunity and disharmony. Zootopia, while being decidedly in favor of liberal ideals, is far more in favor of unity and harmony, and the movie recognizes that achieving those goals in the real world is complicated.

And that’s why Zootopia is such a special movie. Some have gone so far as to call it anti-Trump- that’s probably a stretch, since it went into production before our country’s Trump situation had reached peak Trump. But I suppose it’s inherently anti-Trump just by virtue of being pro-human decency. More than anything- more than a celebration of diversity or an ode to hard work or an argument for inclusive government programs- Zootopia is a movie that values harmony above all. And in the midst of this divisive political campaign, harmony seems to be what we need most.

Aaron Bumgarner is a speech-language pathologist for Oklahoma City Public Schools, but he’s mulling over a move to Zootopia.