Isis and Authenticity: The Search for Identity

While reading Devij’s reflections on the ISIS fighters and how they appear to be embroiled in a search for struggle for authenticity on a geopolitical scale, I was reminded of the main character of the book “The Sirens of Baghdad” and his struggle for identity and authenticity on a personal scale. Through his birth and life in a small village outside of the eye of history, and through the apparent erasure of his bedouin identity through the actions of American soldiers he was left drifting without an identity , authentic purpose, or even home that he could call his own. I believe that this character and those in the real world with a similar experience would be drawn to an organization such as ISIS. Unlike Al-Quaida, ISIS is seeking to establish an expand a concrete geographical homeland that it’s followers can identify with. Beyond that, their focus on anti-hypocracy and transparency would certainly draw those who are dissatisfied with the two-facedness of their current social contracts.

Deviji writes that “Our impulse is to look for the secret wellsprings of ISIS violence itself constitutes a rehetorical gesture, in which such acts of terror are seen as possessing a certain kind of authenticity and so a deep existential truth”. This romanticized viewpoint of violence could be shared among many members of ISIS, but I believe that this is a viewpoint that is shared with the society at large and pop culture of the United States. Many of our film and works of literature center around characters that are able to break free from the bullish*t of the westernized society and that often defend their liberation through the use of violence. The hyper-violent film “The Matrix” is one example of this, where the protagonists realize that world that they live in is so inauthentic that it is literary a computer program, a shade that has been pulled over their eyes that they must wake up from. Another example is “God Bless America”, an independent film that follows an “enlightened” office drone as he sets out to gun down all the jerks in the country. The fact that our violent fantasies are reflected in our media indicates to me that we share some of the struggles for authenticity that those considering joining ISIS also face. That being said, violence is in my opinion a very poor method of achieving personal authenticity

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