What is the source of Terrorism?   How about Vigilance.   Latin tells us what it is and how to find it.  The Trojan Wars give us examples of it.  But where is it in our daily lives?   Where is the beginning of Vigilance and the end to Terrorism?


Sunday--December 8, 2002—Ground Zero Plus 452
The "ab ovo usque ad mala"
Of Terrorism & Vigilance

Cliff McKenzie
   Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

GROUND ZERO, New York City, Dec. 8 -- Everything has a beginning.   Everything has an end.  Including Terrorism.
         Latin captures this simplistic formula in a phrase--ab ovo usque ad mala.  It means from beginning to end, from first to last.  In its purest form, ab ovo usque ad mala refers to a Roman banquet where one starts by eating eggs and ends up polishing of the feast with eating apples.
       The phrase demands one to seek the prime source of anything, and, after discovering the roots of its existence, to extend the branches to an end-point--what we term in the 21st Century as the "bottom line."
        Ab ovo usque ad mala was used by Homer in telling his tale of the Trojan War.   He said: "If Paris had not eloped with Helena, there would have been no Trojan War."  President Bush has said, “If Iraq discloses its weapons of mass destruction, there will be no war.” 
        Terror Hunters like myself are forced to find the ab ovo (the beginning) of Terrorism.  We must nail down its source or we will never be able to end its assault on the innocent, the unconscious, the complacent.   
         Terror Hunters need to ask:  What is the ab ovo of Terrorism?  Where is its egg?   From whence did it sprout?   A Terror Hunter cannot fell the Tree of Terrorism without digging up its roots and exposing it seeds.    Cutting down Trees of Terrorism only creates more seeds that sprout more trees until the world is a forest of Terrorism.   The ab ovo, the “Seed Of Terrorism” must be found.  
        In the 16 Century, Sir Philip Sidney adapted the ab ovo phrase(from the egg) it to its modern English sense, "from the beginning":   He wrote in Classical English the following:  "If [the dramatic poets] wil represent an history, they must not (as Horace saith) beginne Ab ouo: but they must come to the principall poynt of that one action."

Sir Phillip Sidney  adapted ab ovo  "from the egg" to its modern English "from the beginning"

          Sir Sydney was a Terror Hunter.  He demanded to know not just the beginning but the end of the beginning.  For anything to be deconstructed it must be first constructed.  If Terrorism is the end point, the result of the “egg,” we must march back through Terrorism’s path and rout out its roots, dig deep into the core of its history to find the seed, the ovum, the egg from which it sprouted.
        To merely say, “We must rid the world of evil!” is not sufficient.   Sir Sydney was telling us, as Homer did, we must find the “egg,” the moment of impregnation when Terrorism was fertilized, when “evil” was given life.   Then, and only then, could we begin to understand what we must do eliminate it, to constrain it, to sterilize or neutralize it.
        “In the beginning…” suggests the creation of something.   When was the first time you were afraid, the first time you were intimidated, the first time you were complacent?  When was the first time you felt courage?  The first time you felt Conviction.  The first time you knew you had taken Right Action?
         Those are all “creation points,” ab ovo points.
         Only when the “creation” or ab ovo point was found, Sir Sydney said, were we allowed the right to seek out the consequences of such actions.   Fighting a war, according to Sir Sydney’s thinking, was not as important as determining what caused the war.   Fighting Terrorism is not as important as understanding what creates it.   
       Today, six centuries post Sir Sydney, many of us wallow in the confusion of whether we should attack Iraq.  The confusion isn’t based on whether we should wage war or not, but rather on justification of such a war.  Will the war on Iraq really stop, hobble, hinder or extinguish Terrorism?
       Ironically, we cannot answer the dilemma about the value of war, or its justification until we have found its “egg,” its “ab ovo,” its seed.
        I had an experience of it this morning.  I went uptown to the West Side YMCA to meet with some friends for breakfast.  After we finished, three of us gathered outside about twenty feet from the entrance on 63rd and Central Park South.   One of the guys lit a cigarette.  A man came trundling by with a gym bag.  He was perhaps in his sixties.  He stopped abruptly and stared at the man who was smoking and announced, “You can’t smoke in front the Y.”
        I thought about his demand, then asked if he was the President of the Y.   He growled “no,” but he was a “member.”
        Earlier at breakfast I had been speaking in general terms about ab ovo and elected to use this situation as a test.
       “Okay,” I said, “Would you please tell me where the front of the Y is?  Is it here?”  I drew my finger along a brick on the wall.  “Or, is it here?”  I moved down a few steps and drew another line.  “Or, is it here?  Or here?  Where does the front of the Y begin and end?  We’ll be happy to comply if you can tell us where the front of it is.”
       The man snarled at me and huffed into the Y.  
       The exercise of bringing moral judgment on an action or impending one requires a benchmark to measure it by.   If we are going to eliminate the “evil ones” then we must eliminate not them, but their seeds, the reasons they came to be “evil” in the first place.  Rules cannot exist without parameters, even rules that say we are justified to wage war.
        Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were not born “Evil Terrorists” eager to kill innocent people in the name of some jihad.  
         Adolph Hitler wasn’t born with a gas chamber pellet clenched in his teeth and a Nazi swastika etched on his forehead.  John Malvo, the teenage Washington D.C. sniper who shot and killed innocent people at random, also wasn’t born with a sniper scope glued to his eye.
        What happened?   Where is the ab ovo that comprises the Ab ovo usque ad mala? 
        When someone queries: "Why are you doing that?," or "Why are you planning that?" or, "Why did you do that?" they are asking for your ab ovo.  They want the seed of your reasoning, the source, purpose, behind the action.
       So, what is ab ovo of Terrorism?
       In my book of simplicities, it's selfishness.
       It's total neglect for the future of the children's children's children.  It denies all others rights and bestows upon the Terrorist the ultimate right of being “god,” of being the “center of the universe” at the expense of the universe.
       Vigilance, Terrorism's opposite, also has its ab ovo.   It is the protection of the children's children's children.   Vigilance egg is selflessness—a learned respect for the future safety and security of the children’s children’s children.
        Daily, we read and watch news with absolutely no reference to ab ovo.  Sadly, we accept that news as though it were gospel.  In the same vein, we daily receive edicts from our government without any ab ovo, and just as blindly as we nod to the news, we bow to the edicts without ever challenging their source.
       Few if any news or political leaders cite the reason for actions from the perspective of “the egg” of human purpose.  Political and news commentators don’t lead off their statements:  “The following decisions were made today after great review to the benefits they offer the children’s children’s children.”
      Politicians and the media avoid prefacing their comments with ab ovo because if they did, it would rob them of the ability to alter the present with disregard to the future.  Instead of nailing down the future to a specific universal benefit, they swirl emotionally charged words such as “evil” or “bad” or “Terrorist,” or “victim” at us, perpetuating their selfish right to ignore being responsible for their actions.   Later, when things don’t work out, they can wriggle their way out of the quagmire by creating new demons and weapons to lop off their heads.  The idea of hunting down Terrorism’s seeds not its trees and forests, never dawns of them.   And if it does, they never use it as a reason or justification for their actions.
       When one is forced to act from the narrow borders of ab ovo, one must whittle away the selfish, self-centeredness of one's decisions to the critical path of what is right for at least three generations into the future, and not just our children, but all children.
         But it easier for most of us to react to Terrorism than to proact to it.
        A parent, for example, about to strike a child for "not minding," raises his or her hand in anger because the parent is selfish.  The parent doesn’t want to know why the child is acting the way he or she is.  The parent doesn’t want the child to tell him or her that the child only wants attention, to know it is loved, to be respected and it’s misbehavior is all about attention, all about “Love Me!”
        Parents who refute the child’s cries of ab ovo, are Terrorists.   They find it easier to drive a child into the Beast of Terror’s arms than to take the time to embrace the child’s Fears, Intimidations and Complacencies.   Thus, the child hides in his or her bed at night, covers pulled over his or her head, seeing the Beast of Terror in the shadows, or knowing it is under the bed waiting to grab his or her leg and violate him or her.   The child knows he cannot expect the parent to rush to his or her rescue, for when the lights were on and the child sought to be loved and respected, the parent denied him or her that right.
        Thus is born the ab ovo of Terrorism.
        The parent breeds it in the child.
        Not all “eggs of Terror” are laid in children’s souls by violence.   Emotional neglect is just a ferocious.  A “busy parent” who hasn’t the time to sit with a child and listen to its Fears, Intimidations or Complacencies, or who assumes the priority of work or business over the child’s hunger to be “with” the parent, creates emotional scars just as deep as those imposed by the parent who uses the lash.
       A nation who amasses weapons of mass destruction and threatens to use them on those who do not bend to their will is no different than a parent holding a fist in a child's face, or one too busy to “get involved” with a child’s inner self.
       The ab ovo of Terrorism is always selfishness.  It is bred always by parents in their children.   And, in nations where the people of a society abdicate their rights to government, the parents of such nations breed Terrorism in their governments.   By not “caring” what government does, government does what it wants to do—anything.
       Fundamentalists who believe their religious views are more holy than others, and under the name of their "god" strap on suicide bombs and enter buses or public places and kill themselves and innocent men and women around them, are nothing more than fists in the face of the innocent children, smashing their vulnerability to serve their selfishness.
       Were such suicide bombers to employ the phrase ab ovo usque ad mala--from the beginning to the end--they would see the world for what it is--a nursery for the development of the children--not a playground for adults to selfishly express their Fear, Intimidation and Complacency. 
       When an individual asks of everything he or she hears or sees, "What's the benefit to the children's childen's children?" he or she is living within the scope of ab ovo.  He or she is practicing the art of Vigilance rather the art of Complacency, from which the seeds of Terrorism are born.
        America is wallowing in such Complacency.   No one is standing up to government and asking:  “How will these actions protect the children’s children’s children?”   The United Nations isn’t either.   Everyone is pondering “the right to act” rather than the “reason to act.” 
        The United States is standing over Saddam Hussein with its fist cocked, staring at Hussein and saying, "If you don't strip naked and take away the guns and knives you have stored to endanger the children and children's children's children of your nation, and other nations, we're going to smash your face into a bloody pulp."   However, we’re not hearing the ab ovo, the “in the beginning,” comments about the children’s children’s children.   If we did, we might well understand the reasons for our actions more clearly.
       Saddam Hussein gassed over 50,000 Kurds, killing indiscriminately women and children in a blatant act of Terrorism for which he has never been prosecuted.  Many fear a man who will do that to his own people in his own country, would not think twice about killing and maiming other innocent people for far less reasons that he did his own.
       However, if the ab ovo of American Vigilance against Hussein is more selfish than selfless, then America is just as big a Terrorist.  In other words, if our real intent is to conquer and occupy the land, to make it a colony, to suck its oil dry and enslave its people to feed ours, then we are simply Terrorists disguised as the Vigilant.  But that's not the historic case.
       Throughout the world, wherever America has committed its troops on foreign soil and offered the lives of its citizens, it has left the majority of such nations with one fundamental gift--the right to chose and the freedom of the children from the bonds of slavery.
      Modern Japan and Europe are examples.   When America ends a war with Terrorism, it tries to leave Vigilance in place.  The ab ovo usque ad mala of American involvement in foreign affairs has been to see the children of that state or nation rise up in as free and opportunistic an environment as possible.
       This doesn't make America perfect in its actions, but it makes its ab ovo pure.  At least, so far.
       Critics of American policy against Iraq and Terrorism need to ask if our involvement is based on the desire to benefit the children's chidlren's children of Iraq, or, is it bent on increasing tyranny and domination, designed to suppress rather than expand individual rights? 
       Millions of young people in Europe and Japan are evidence that America doesn't fight wars to dominate the minds and hearts of those who are liberated.
       In my own case, nearly twenty years after the Vietnam War a young Vietnamese boy came up to me in an office I worked at .  He was nineteen and worked in the copy room to support his college tuition.   He had heard I fought in Vietnam.
       He stood by the copy machine and looked me in the eyes and told me his family came from Vietnam and that he was born here.   He spoke perfect English and was as much a teenager as any I have ever seen.  Suddenly, though, he became solemn.
       He looked at me and bowed, as though I were some king or saint, embarrassing me.   As he righted himself from the bow he said, "I wish to thank you for what you did for me and my family.  You gave us the gift of freedom.  I am, and my children will be, forever grateful."
       For a brief moment everything around me stopped.   The sounds of business-- the clatter, the ambient sounds of a cacophonous office--all froze.   For a moment I was in the egg of purpose.  For a moment I was at the center of ab ovo.
       Then the young man turned to his copy machine and began to shuffle his feet to the radio playing rock music.  I took the papers he had handed me and left.  I thanked him, of course, for his comment.
        I have never forgotten my ab ovo moment regarding war.
       I knew that any attempt to free a society from Terrorism to the benefit of the children's children's children was a Vigilant one.  Vietnam was a political quagmire, a war of internal political Terror.   Our government let us dangle out in those rice paddies, and I shall never forget that.   But despite my anger at government, and its righteousness to assume it has more power than the people to do “what is right for us,” I respect the ab ovo of America.  I respect the belief that the Constitution was designed for the children’s children’s children, and that when all the smoke clears, we end up holding it up, not the politicians.   I could handle the blood of over 54,000 Americans and two million Vietnamese for the beauty of the words that young man spoke to me that day.
       At a much more subtle level, I know that Terrorism gnaws at ab ovo in an attempt to eat it before we see it. 
       Throughout America, most of us don’t think of ourselves as Terror Hunters.  We don’t look in the mirror each morning and look for the Beast of Terror lurking within us, waiting to make us think we’re too busy to go to the kid’s ball game, or too busy to take them to the zoo, or too busy to go for a walk with them and just talk and share our souls.  
        Most of us don’t give our ab ovo a second thought, or ask ourselves:  “How can I show my children I love them today?  What more can I do to get to know their insides and not just their outsides?  How can I help them neutralize their Beast of Terror and build more Courage than Fear within them, more Conviction than Intimidation, and the ability to take more Right Actions than to fall into a pit of Complacency??
        Grandparents don’t necessarily ask that of themselves when they awake.   Neither do uncles or aunts.
         But they should.
         The ab ovo of Vigilance is Courage, Conviction and Right Action, to the benefit of the children’s children’s children.
         The ab ovo of Terrorism is Fear, Intimidation and Complacency at the expense of the children’s children’s children.
          Two eggs sit side by side in each child.
          One is fertilized by neglect.
          The other with tender loving care.
           If we doubt this, simply take out a piece of paper and start writing down your own personal Fears, Intimidations and Complacencies.  Write as fast and furiously as you can. 
        Who and what are you afraid of? 
        Who and what intimidates you?  What and whom don’t you really care that much about?  Trust that much?
          Don’t spend more than sixty seconds on this list.  Count up the numbers of Fears, Intimidations and Complacencies.
         Now, take another piece of paper.  In sixty seconds, write down your Courage, Conviction and all the Right Actions you have taken.  Do it fast and furious.
         When were you aware you were Courageous?
          What happened?
           How many other acts of Courage can you think of you performed?
           What was the most courageous thing you’ve done?
           When did you face your first Conviction, when you chose to do what was right rather than what was wrong?
            How many acts of Conviction do you remember as a child?  Teenager? 
            When and what was your Right Action?
            How do you define a Right Action?
            How many Right Actions have you performed over your lifetime.
            Now, count your ab ovos of Vigilance and compare them to your ab ovos of Terrorism--your Fears, Intimidations and Complacencies.
             Finally, ask yourself:  “If I have more ab ovos of Vigilance versus Terrorism, would I win the war against my own Terrorism?”
           Now, ask that question of your children.   And ask:  “Who’s going to teach them the ab ovo of Vigilance.
           Be the beginning of the end of Terrorism.
           Be a Parent of Vigilance, a Loved One of Vigilance, a Grandparent of Vigilance, a Cousin, Brother, Uncle Aunt or simply just a Citizen of Vigilance.
            Don’t give Terrorism a place to lay its eggs.

Dec. 7-- Dawn Of Terrorism's Infamy

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