Terrorism: plus ca change (Part 2)

If you are a faithful reader of my blogs or have had the opportunity to listen to my podcasts you will know that I have been going on lately about Buddhist terrorism. Yes, I am referring to that oddly-phrased form of violent extremism which I imagine strikes most as oxymoronic (can peaceful Buddhists REALLY engage in terrorism?) And if you have indeed read my posts you already know the answer is yes (a quick search told me that I have used the words “Buddhist extremism/terrorism” 34 times since I began this blog in May 2015).

The manifestation of this form of terrorism most familiar to many would be the current scourge of Buddhist-infused hatred directed mostly against Muslims in Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand (although Christians have also been targeted in Sri Lanka). The more astute reader may have cited the bizarre Aum Shinrikyo quasi Buddhist cult in Japan in the 1990s. Aside from these examples, however, I’d bet that you would assume that, like other terrorist ‘movements’, Buddhist violent extremism is a recent phenomenon.

Think again.

Master Nissho Inoue and his band of assassins teach some uncomfortable truths about terrorism, for those who will hear
Master Nissho Inoue and his band of assassins teach some uncomfortable truths about terrorism, for those who will hear.

I came across a very interesting article on the Aeon Web site on Nissho Inoue, a convicted Japanese domestic terrorist and lay disciple of one of Japan’s most famous modern Zen masters, Gempo Yamamoto. Inoue had once been the leader of a terrorist band, popularly known as the ‘Blood Oath Corps’, which was responsible for the deaths of two of Japan’s political and financial leaders in the spring of 1932, with plans to assassinate many more.

In the midst of the Great Depression and a government crackdown on left-wing activists accused of ‘dangerous thoughts’ as defined by the Peace Preservation Law, Inoue became radicalised. After receiving some Zen training he headed up a Buddhist temple where initial normative religious instruction led to political activism and militancy. In his own words:

“In an emergency situation emergency measures are necessary. What is essential is to restore life to the nation. Discussions over the methods for doing this can come later, much later… We had taken it upon ourselves to engage in destruction, aware that we would perish in the process.”

Drawing on the lessons of a 13th-century Zen collection of koans Inoue maintained that

“Revolution employs compassion on behalf of the society of the nation. Therefore those who wish to participate in revolution must have a mind of great compassion toward the society of the nation. In light of this there must be no thought of reward for participating in revolution.” In other words, the use of violence was actually compassionate Buddhism!

The terrorist group sought to assassinate (their terrorist method of choice) 20 Japanese political and financial leaders but managed to kill only two before the band’s members were arrested. At his trial Inoue again emphasised the links between his acts of violence and Buddhism:

”I was primarily guided by Buddhist thought in what I did. That is to say, I believe the teachings of the Mahayana tradition of Buddhism as they presently exist in Japan are wonderful.”

Inoue’s Zen master Yamamoto testified for his disciple on trial stating

”It is true that if, motivated by an evil mind, someone should kill so much as a single ant, as many as 136 hells await that person … Yet, the Buddha, being absolute, has stated that when there are those who destroy social harmony and injure the polity of the state, then even if they are called good men killing them is not a crime.“

In the end Inoue was convicted and given a life sentence, although he was released a scant six years later. Incredibly, this Buddhist terrorist was invited by the then Prime Minister to serve as an ‘advisor’ and never expressed remorse for his role in the assassinations. On the contrary: he felt that his actions had “dealt a blow to the transgressors of the Buddha’s teachings”.

So what are the lessons here? There are several:

  1. Any ideology, including religion, can be used to justify terrorism, even Buddhism;
  2. Terrorism is not a new phenomenon;
  3. Terrorists sometimes never apologise for their actions;
  4. Extremists will go to inordinate ends to use ideas and sacred teachings to make their violent acts acceptable or even preferable.


The campaign of terror spurred by Inoue based on his interpretation of Buddhism should give pause to those who maintain that certain religions (i.e. Islam) are inherently violent (hint: no they are not). It has been my experience that many religions have served as the foundation for terrorist movements and that the ways in which terrorists use and misuse doctrine are all but incomprehensible to normative believers. We might want to bear that in mind when we think and write about terrorism based on religions.

At the same time it perhaps gives new meaning to the phrase “if you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him”.

PS This is as good a time as any to promote my new book, When Religion Kills, to be published by Lynne Rienner this winter.


Terrorism: plus ca change (Part 1)

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.
(Ecclesiastes 1:9)

For many in the post 9/11 world, it may seem as if terrorism is something new – and terrible. We are constantly inundated with news about attacks here and attacks there, sometimes in our own backyard. For instance, Canadians were hit with a double whammy over two days in late October 2014 when two Islamist extremists killed two members of the Armed Forces in Montreal and Ottawa.

It may appear at first blush that terrorism is a new scourge, and one that we are having a very hard time eradicating. And it all began with the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on that fateful day 18 years ago, right?

The last prisoners awaiting execution during the Reign of Terror in 1794, undated engraving
The last prisoners awaiting execution during the Reign of Terror in 1794, undated engraving.

Except that terrorism is not new. Not at all.

The term ‘terrorism’ itself is not that old – its first usage dates back to the French Revolution (do you remember reading about the ‘Reign of Terror‘?). As a more widespread phenomenon, however, I imagine most scholars would say that it really took off in the late 19th century. The first broad manifestation of it was the wave of anarchist attacks that plagued the West in the form of assassinations (although assassinations certainly pre-date the acts of anarchists – et tu Brute?) and bombings.

Among the victims of terrorist acts were Tsar Alexander II (1881), French President Carnot (1894), Spanish Prime Minister Canovas de Castillo (1897), Italian King Umberto (1900) and US President McKinley (1901).

The TV version is quite compelling and very true to the original book: I highly recommend you watch it

All this came to me as I watched a recent dramatisation of Joseph Conrad’s classic 1907 novel The Secret Agent. This is the fictionalised story of a group of revolutionaries bent on undermining British complacency to terrorism by blowing up the iconic Greenwich Observatory.

The TV version is quite compelling and very true to the original book: I highly recommend you watch it (available on Acorn TV, an American subscription streaming service offering television programming from the United Kingdom, as well as Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Spain).

The Secret Agent

The Secret Agent is a riveting masterpiece of literature with all the requisite characters: Verloc, the agent provocateur who owns a seedy shop in Soho and who is paid to infiltrate terrorist cells; the Professor, a madman who makes explosives; Winnie, Verloc’s wife who tolerates her husband’s activities until it is too late; Stevie, Winnie’s simpleton brother who dies tragically for a cause he cannot understand; Vladimir, the First Secretary at the Russian Embassy in London who wants to shake Britain to the core and force it to crack down on the anarchists; and the Chief Inspector trying to keep a lid on all the violence.

What is more important for our purposes today is the fact that while the anarchist ‘wave’ of terrorism (to use David Rapoport’s framework) may have waned in the aftermath of WWI it did not disappear. Anarchist groups – Black Bloc is a good example – are still among us and still capable of carrying out acts of violence. They are still against capitalism, a system they think insulates those in positions of economic power and disenfranchises those of targeted groups. And as economic inequality is still with us, and may be getting worse, it is not too difficult to predict the actions of these terrorists will increase.

All this merely underscores the reality that terrorism is a longstanding problem and remains complicated. Yes, Islamist terrorism still poses the greatest threat and will probably continue to do so for the foreseeable future but attacks by anarchists, other far right extremists, ethno-nationalist groups and probably eventually far left actors cannot be ignored. We might want to keep this in mind as we continue to deal with terrorism. We also might want to brush up on our history so that we don’t assume that our problems are new ones.

As for me I think I will re-read The Secret Agent this week and I think you should give it a go as well.

Deserts, facts and information

Deserts are diverse ecosystems that occur on all seven continents. Learn about the four major types of deserts, the surprising amount of wildlife some of them contain, and how new desert areas are beginning to form.

The global internet is disintegrating what comes next?

In 1648, the Treaty of Westphalia was signed, ending 30 years of war across Europe and bringing about the sovereignty of states. The rights of states to control and defend their own territory became the core foundation of our global political order, and it has remained unchallenged since.

Russia's increasingly restrictive internet policies have sparked protests across the country, including this demonstration in Moscow in March 2019

In 2010, a delegation of countries came to an obscure agency of the United Nations with a strange request: to inscribe those same sovereign borders onto the digital world.

In 2010, a delegation of countries – including Syria and Russia – came to an obscure agency of the United Nations with a strange request: to inscribe those same sovereign borders onto the digital world. “They wanted to allow countries to assign internet addresses on a country by country basis, the way country codes were originally assigned for phone numbers,” says Hascall Sharp, an independent internet policy consultant who at the time was director of technology policy at technology giant Cisco.

After a year of negotiating, the request came to nothing: creating such boundaries would have allowed nations to exert tight controls over their own citizens, contravening the open spirit of the internet as a borderless space free from the dictates of any individual government.

Read entire post The global internet is disintegrating what comes next? | Sally Adee | BBC

Belgium monks forced to sell prized beer online to beat resellers

St Sixtus Abbey in Westvleteren, Flanders, is one of the world’s 14 official Trappist beer producers. Buyers can purchase a crate of its Westvleteren beer for around €45 (£40), around €1.80 per bottle.

A glass of Belgian Trappist beer Westvleteren is seen at St Sixtus Abbey in Westvleteren, Belgium
A glass of Belgian Trappist beer Westvleteren is seen at St Sixtus Abbey in Westvleteren, Belgium

Trappist monks do not profit from the sales of their beer

As a rule, the monks ask customers not to sell their product to third parties. The abbey’s sales have traditionally been limited to private customers who order by phone before collecting a maximum of two crates in person.

But profiteers have been ignoring their “ethical values” for selling the brew, forcing them to go online to dampen demand on the black market.

Read entire post Belgium monks forced to sell prized beer online to beat resellers | BBC

ISO 22301:2019 What will change?

The first edition of ISO 22301 was launched in May 2012. It was the first truly internationally accepted standard on business continuity, and it consists of requirements to implement a Business Continuity Management System according to ISO Annex SL. As such, it stood in line with its prominent predecessors such as ISO 9001 and ISO/IEC 27001.

When ISO/TC 292 (ISO Technical Committee 292 on SEcurity and Resilience), its workgroup WG 2 – responsible for this standard – first asked within the community about the need to update it, there was an astonishingly little response.

We, as members, could not believe that nobody had the intention or desire to update this international standard. However, all of a sudden, the interest exploded and teh respective Project Team within WG 2 was challenged within an unprecendented volume of change requests concerning ISO 22301:2012.

Read entire post ISO 22301:2019 What will change? | PECB Insights


The quality of national libraries contained in new ISO standard

A new ISO standard helps to find that out via a combination of performance indicators and specific methods for impact assessment.

National libraries may resemble a ballroom or a UFO, but no matter what they look like, they house the documents of an entire country’s history. These libraries contain numerous rare, valuable or significant works of great cultural importance; in other words, a country’s prized possessions. Some of these national libraries are centuries old and serve as a major tourism attraction, but all of them aspire to quality service.

ISO 21248:2019 – Quality assessment for national libraries, provides 34 performance indicators for assessing the quality of national library services.

ISO 21248:2019, Information and documentation – Quality assessment for national libraries, provides 34 performance indicators for assessing the quality of national library services. The standard tries to cover the whole spectrum of national library tasks, from the national collection and the national bibliography to cultural events and educational services.

Read entire post The quality of national libraries contained in new ISO standard | Elizabeth Gasiorowski-Denis | ISO.org

The value of an outside-in perspective

Following my article: Reflecting on the past 365 days! I’d like to deliver here some reflections around the following…

The value of an outside-in perspective

The concept of taking an outside-in perspective to leadership and management first started gaining traction around 2010. At that time, George Day and Christine Moorman published their book “Strategy from the Outside In”, explaining the value of strategy development based on market insights and customer value. The book gained massive success for its insights into how companies such as P&G ride out the storms of multiple market down cycles and somehow remain profitable.

The concept of taking an outside-in perspective to leadership and management first started gaining traction around 2010

In 2011, renowned psychologist Daniel Kahnemann published his bestseller “Thinking, Fast and Slow”. In the book, he told a story about a group he had previously worked with, which had made some errors in forecasting due to an inward-looking approach.

Kahnemann’s story made a compelling case for collecting as much external information as possible to aid the process of making decisions. Not just strategy-level decisions as in the 2010 book, but as Kahnemann himself said: “the argument for the outside view should be made on general grounds”.

Recently, I’ve been considering how learning the value of the outside-in perspective has guided my career journey from the corporate world to full-fledged entrepreneurship.

Breaking Silos for Better Decision Making

During my corporate career, I had the opportunity to create and facilitate a discussion forum for peers in the risk management area, many of whom were working in large Swiss companies. The forum was very well received among the colleagues who attended, with many people asking for repeat events or organizing separate meetups. The main reason the event was so successful was down to people from different organizations, and across different sectors, finding common threads in the discussions.

The opportunity to talk to people who had a different perspective gave participants fresh ideas about how to approach their own particular challenges. In some cases, understanding that others share the same issues gave participants some reassurance that their problems weren’t unique, echoing Kahneman’s advice about collecting external metrics in order to define your own yardsticks.

The reactions from the forum participants gave me a deeper understanding of the value of developing connections across boundaries. The experience gave me a more profound realization that working without silos isn’t a nice-to-have — it’s a key enabler of effective risk management.

Leveraging the Entrepreneurial Mindset

When I left the corporate world to start my own consultancy business, an inevitable part of the journey to becoming an entrepreneur involved changing my mindset. A corporate entity operates on rules, policies, procedures and fixed governance processes that are (to a greater or lesser extent) documented, known and followed by everyone. While these rules are necessary to running a company, they can also have the unfortunate side effect of limiting creative thinking.

As an entrepreneur, there are no rules, no policies or procedures or instruction manuals

As an entrepreneur, there are no rules, no policies or procedures or instruction manuals. I had to navigate my own way through all the new and unfamiliar activities involved with setting up a business from scratch. While it can be daunting at times, it’s also exciting. I found that with total freedom to operate, I could think more creatively. I developed the mindset that nothing is impossible and became more proactive in bringing my ideas to fruition.

With this shift of mindset, I decided that I wanted to funnel my energy and experience into some kind of a platform for risk professionals to share knowledge and expertise. Recalling my experience with the discussion forum and throughout my professional life, I’ve always enjoyed and found value in developing networks, connecting other people and creating a sense of community between peers.

Connecting people across boundaries

So, the idea for Risk-!n came about, thanks also in part to my associate Antoine Lacombe who persuaded me to step out on a limb and start this new adventure.

At the time we were very open-minded about the direction Risk-!n might have taken. Thankfully and to my delight, the first event was a resounding success. We had close to 200 participants from three continents representing multiple industry sectors. 98% of participants said they would attend again, and 98% also said they would recommend the event to a friend. Suffice to say, I’m very much looking forward to opening the doors on the second Risk-!n conference just two months from now.

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Seeing through the eyes of others

Over the last decade, the value of the outside-in perspective is better understood and accepted, and not just on the macro level. Collaboration is more powerful when individuals and teams within an organization take an outside-in view of their own work.

Building connections, talking to those outside of your regular circles and finding common threads all help us as individuals to gain an outside-in perspective. Seeing through the eyes of others enables us to find new ways of solving problems, driving decisions and taking action.

This is the guiding principle of the Risk-!n event – breaking down silos to better manage risks. Across two days, participants from different disciplines and organizations will have the opportunity to share experiences and learnings in the areas of risk, resilience, insurance and, security. Registration for the 2019 Risk-!n conference is now open and spaces are selling out fast. Make sure you register today to secure your spot!

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The links between genocide and terrorism

If there is one activity that humans engage in that is worse than genocide I’d like to know what it is. Genocide is the deliberate intent to wipe an entire people off the face of the earth.

The UN defines it as: “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part ; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

There have been far too many instances of genocide, or attempted genocide, in human history.

There have been far too many instances of genocide, or attempted genocide, in human history. The Holocaust – the Nazi plan to kill all the world’s Jews – is perhaps the best known not only for the sheer scale of the slaughter but thanks to the efforts of many to keep the memory of this heinous program alive (especially important in the face of ‘Holocaust deniers’: morons who pretend nothing happened).

It is not the only one alas: the 1915-1917 Armenian genocide, the 1994 massacres in Rwanda and Islamic State’s recent campaign against the Yazidis are all representative as well of this scourge.

Is genocide terrorism?

A dear friend of mine put the following question to me yesterday: is genocide terrorism? It gave me pause. My immediate reaction was ‘no’ but upon further reflection I am not so sure. Using only the four examples above (I probably could have added China’s treatment of the Uyghurs) here is an inadequate analysis of the relationship between genocide and terrorism:

  • The Nazi-driven Holocaust was definitely an ideologically-motivated campaign of mass violence. As terrorism needs some kind of underlying ideology to qualify as such it would meet the definition. It is hard, however, at least for me to picture a multi-year program as an ‘act of terrorism’
  • The Ottoman Empire’s attempt to eliminate its Armenian population through murder, starvation and forced marches through the desert killed at least 1.5 million people. It too had some ideological basis as well as a religious one (the Ottomans were Muslim while the Armenians were largely Christian). Nevertheless it is difficult to see starvation as an ‘act of terror’
  • The Rwandan massacre of the Tutsis in 1994 was the outgrowth of that country’s civil war and was catapulted to the level of genocide following a plane crash in which the Hutu president died. This was an ethnic slaughter in which propaganda played a key role and there was talk of a ‘final solution’ (echoes of the Jewish Holocaust).
  • Islamic State is a terrorist group that is Islamist in nature and hence believes that anyone who does not practice its hateful strand of Islam must be killed. The Yazidis in northern Iraq were subject to genocide by IS starting in 2014: the men were killed and the women raped and forced to marry IS ‘fighters’.

Where does this leave us?

I am not sure. There is little doubt that each of these crimes against humanity were driven by those full of intense hatred and convinced that they had the right to erase an entire people from the face of the planet. But as I have argued in the past, hatred is not necessarily ideological. In some cases there appears to have been a well-developed ideological framework: in others, nothing more or less than bloodlust. The case of IS is complicated as the entire band is one of terrorists.

We can label an act terrorism and then assign it to a category: Islamist, far right, religious, etc.

I think perhaps we are used to seeing terrorism as a series of one-off events, even if there is a theme that joins them. We can label an act terrorism and then assign it to a category: Islamist, far right, religious, etc. We can even see a whole bunch of analogous events as examples of a terrorist phenomenon defined by the particular ideology its adherents propound. What we do with a systematic effort to remove all traces of a nation falls somewhere else maybe. I don’t know – what do you think?

What all of this shows is that we are sadly capable of enormous acts of the cruelest violence carried out because some of us don’t like the skin colour or faith of someone else. Whether this is genocide, terrorism or simply hate on a grand scale may not really matter. What is perhaps more important is that we do what we can to prevent it from happening in the first place.

Please make sure to share your thoughts about this topics in the comment section below!

Are we on the road to civilisation collapse?

Great civilisations are not murdered. Instead, they take their own lives.

Collapse may be a normal phenomenon for civilisations, regardless of their size and technological stage

So concluded the historian Arnold Toynbee in his 12-volume magnum opus A Study of History. It was an exploration of the rise and fall of 28 different civilisations. He was right in some respects: civilisations are often responsible for their own decline. However, their self-destruction is usually assisted.

The Roman Empire, for example, was the victim of many ills including overexpansion, climatic change, environmental degradation and poor leadership. But it was also brought to its knees when Rome was sacked by the Visigoths in 410 and the Vandals in 455.

Collapse is often quick and greatness provides no immunity. The Roman Empire covered 4.4 million sq km (1.9 million sq miles) in 390. Five years later, it had plummeted to 2 million sq km (770,000 sq miles). By 476, the empire’s reach was zero.

Read entire post Are we on the road to civilisation collapse? | Luke Kemp | BBC

How GDPR has changed the advertising game

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into force across Europe on May 29 and have since severely restricted popular forms of digital marketing. However, it has also created new opportunities which may be life-saving for online publishers who have been struggling with declining ad revenue for the last decade or so.

Many see GDPR as a blow to the digital marketing industry but, in reality, it’s a great opportunity. There are two ways of delivering an online ad: behavioural targeting and content-based. Behavioural targeting involves identifying individuals by their web surfing patterns, working out what their interests are from those patterns and then delivering “targeted advertising” which match those interests.

Content-based advertising is the foundation on which TV, radio and print have survived and grown for the last 200 years – and is also why Google is so richIt’s not new: behavioural targeting was pioneered in the United States by the Sears Catalogue in the 1920s, which analysed customers by their purchase patterns. The web simply made it possible to analyse more people in more detail. However, it has never been popular with consumers, who complain that it feels “creepy” when a company seems to know so much about you.

It became an online privacy issue because companies emerged who specialised in tracking people around the web through hidden techniques, building secret profiles of them, and selling that information to all and sundry.

Read entire article How GDPR has changed the advertising game | Brandt Dainow | RTE

Certified Data Protection Officer training - Maintain compliance to the GDPR

10 cities around the world destroyed and rebuilt

We can safely say that the rise and fall of cities has been a constant in history. Thankfully, not all these stories were made to be discouraging: Gathered here for you are 10 cities once destroyed by the hand of man or natural disaster, which now stand rebuilt.


The Blitz began on September 7, 1940. The bombing of London lasted for 37 weeks, with 57 nights of consecutive bombing. In all the Luftwaffe dropped 20,000 bombs on London in 71 missions. They destroyed over a million homes and buildings. You can explore the exact location of many of the bombs here on the interactive map of the website Bomb Sight, the result of a National Archives research project.

Read entire article 10 cities around the world destroyed and rebuilt | Culture Trip