Roger Masters has already written for Futuribles (n° 228, February 1998), but his topic then was the future of the nation-state. This time, in an article begun before the tragic events of 11 September 2001, he discusses a more limited field: to paraphrase Montesquieu, not so much the "nature of things" as the "accidents of fate".
Masters highlights two aspects of this dreadful "accident". First, the altruistic element. Arguing as an evolutionary biologist, as he did in 1998, he sees the Islamist kamikazes as an example of self-sacrifice pushing individuals to die in order to increase the chances of survival and reproduction of others with similar genes to their own. The role of the environment is not, however, overlooked, since such altruism is more likely to occur in societies with a high birth rate and short life expectancy (the so-called developed countries, with their low birth rates and long life expectancy tend, by contrast, to exhibit individualistic/hedonistic patterns of behaviour).
As for the destructive element, it can be traced back ultimately to globalization. An increasingly unpredictable world and an ever widening gap between what the ordinary person knows and the state of science and technology together create a need for scapegoats whose destruction will put everything right. This is the role that some types of Islam, which promise Paradise to those who die for the jihad, is undoubtedly playing. Yet in his analysis and his recommendations, Roger Masters never allows us to forget that all beliefs, both religious and nationalist, may become messages of hate, though this is not inevitable. As a result he emphasizes the need to avoid lumping together mainstream Islam and the terrorist networks.