I recently read an article titled “They used to love shopping and selfies, now they’re jihadi brides”, written about teenage girls who had gone to join Isis. Not that I think Isis is necessarily better than shopping and selfies (personally I enjoy buying a pair of pants much more than beheading someone), but I don’t think it’s hard to see how someone (i.e. a teenager) who is looking for meaning in life is absolutely not going to find it in the prevailing messages our culture gives.
They see people working themselves to death just so they can buy more things that they’re not really happy with. In school, they’re told an education is important not so you become a better person, not so you can improve the world, but only so that you can then get a job (the higher paying the better), which you can use to get money and buy stuff.
People who have higher materialistic values are less happy day-to-day, and it’s not surprising. Anybody reading this knows that things don’t make you happy. Relationships make you happy. Activities with intrinsic value make you happy. Helping others makes you happy. Petting cats makes you happy. Buying things, long term, does not and cannot make you happy. And yet, that’s what our entire country is focused on. Everywhere around me, on TV, in movies, in books, on the radio, in newspapers, in your town center, lining every street, in politics, the messages are the same. Money and what you can buy with it are what’s important.
For a person looking for a meaning in life, someone who has been failed by what our culture puts up as important, Isis could provide a meaning, could make you feel a part of something bigger, could make you feel like you’re doing something. I don’t think being part of something like Isis is the way to find meaning in your life, but some people who are desperately seeking meaning will find it in ways like that.
The way to stop people being influenced by horrible ideologies like that of Isis is to offer them something better. Are we doing that?