A Declaration of Global Responsibility:
Ten Psychospiritual Principles for Responding to Terrorism and Fanaticism

By David Gruder, Ph.D.


Wide-ranging reactions to the events of September 11, 2001, have made it clear that although most of the people in the world oppose terrorism, there is considerable conflict over how to best address this problem. I believe that this is because we are collectively awaiting the articulation of the underlying principles that can guide us in creating a solution; principles that strike a common chord in our hearts and give us a collective sense of purpose, direction and empowerment. 

It is necessary that we wisely navigate the river of international cooperation that flows between the steep banks of "destroy them" and "they're only violent because they're oppressed." A principled voice must emerge above the shouts of anger and the pleas for absolution. But these two extremes, while they garner media attention, do not represent what most people really feel. The time has therefore come to articulate a new doctrine, a fresh way that responds to the realities of the times in which we live and can be used to guide the thinking, commitments, strategies and actions of a civilized world dedicated to enduring peace and prosperity for all.

The events of and responses to 9/11 have made it clear to me that a highly principled document must be created that can guide the entire world community in addressing fanaticism firmly yet compassionately as one voice. Such a document would not set out specific strategies and actions to be taken, but would instead outline the core values and intentions to guide our choice of actions as we respond worldwide to terrorism and fanaticism in all its many forms. 

I have attempted to compose such a doctrine based on psychologically sound principles that are rooted in the concept of responsibility. This document endeavors to identify beliefs that contribute to violence and terrorism, no matter how reasonable-sounding, commonly believed or politically correct these beliefs used to seem—or may still seem—to some citizens of our planet. It also seeks to articulate values that can create an end to violence and terrorism.

First, I will explain the assumptions about terrorism and fanaticism that underlie this new doctrine. Then I will set out the ten crucial principles of the new Declaration of Global Responsibility.


About Terrorism and Fanaticism 


Terrorism can be physical (flying a plane into the World Trade Center, shooting up the store of an American Muslim in retaliation) or psychological (shouting racial epithets at people, intimidating them so they hide in their homes for fear of attack).

It can take place within our mind (our own Inner Critic ripping us to shreds for something we've done), between two people (our Inner Critic ripping someone else to shreds instead), within a community (vigilantes lynching a black man), within a nation (the Communist witch hunts of the 1950s) or between nations (the attacks and counterattacks of the Israelis and Palestinians).

Terrorism can be public and dramatic (the slaughtering of an ethnic group while the world watches) or private and covert (the molestation of a small child, or the sexual or physical abuse of prisoners of war, behind closed doors).

On a subtle level, these apparently different types of terrorism are the same. But their impact is vastly different. Some forms of terrorism are disruptive and damaging on a small scale, some on a large scale. In either case, the disruption and damage they wreak can be physical, psychological, economic, ethnic, religious and/or political. As a psychologist, it is clear to me that the larger terrorism will not be eradicated unless we eradicate the smaller acts of terrorism we perpetrate on ourselves and each other. 


It is time that experts in psychology help our society and governments effectively respond to terrorism and fanaticism by identifying these conditions as the severe mental disorders that they are. What I term "Fanaticism Disorder" is a state of deluded thinking that is:

  • Paranoid in nature
  • A profound distortion of reality, often including an extreme distortion of a specific religious or political ideology
  • Impervious to change—unwilling to reconsider their violence-creating belief system despite being reached out to
  • Used to justify attacking groups that are seen as threats to the delusional belief system
  • Fanaticism Disorder has psychotic features and is all the more dangerous because, until now, it has not been understood as a mental disorder. It has instead been tolerated as being within the realm of normalcy, particularly within the culture in which it initially arises. This is the case with terrorism against Americans by Muslim fanatics, and terrorism against Muslims by American fanatics, for example.
 A key characteristic of Fanaticism Disorder is the belief that "the way I think is the way everyone should think." This belief is taken to such an extreme that virtually any type of attack on those who don't think similarly is considered justifiable—or even mandated by the ideology or religion of the fanatic.

Terrorist actions result from the militant righteousness of those with Fanaticism Disorder, who believe they are justified in controlling others through violent means. "Militant righteousness" is the fanatic's unswerving conviction that "My ideologically based opinion (which I declare to be 'the truth') must become your 'truth'," and "If you don't concede to my position, I am justified in forcing you or in destroying you." 

Throughout time and across cultures, Fanaticism Disorder has been used to justify imposing one individual's or group's will on another. Historically, most revolutionary political, economic and religious movements originated in response to exactly this type of oppression. Unfortunately, many of these movements themselves later became oppressors of other groups. It is necessary for humanity to unite and put an end to this vicious cycle of revolution and oppression. To do so, we much acknowledge the various forms that terrorism and fanaticism take and recognize that, regardless of form, fanaticism and terrorism are severe mental disorders, not sane perspectives.


Fanaticism is an attempt to control others by using fear and violence to deprive them of their basic human rights, and by using ideologies that deviate from universal codes of conduct to justify harming others. Fanaticism can be considered terrorism, even when it expresses itself as psychological rather than physical violence. Fanaticism Disorder therefore must be identified as a form of insanity, and it must be contained in order to prevent it from harming others or brainwashing the unsuspecting, as it has too often been allowed to do in the past. (The dictionary defines insanity as a persistent mental disorder or derangement.)


Fanatics cannot, however, be considered "insane" in the legal sense because they do know right from wrong. The term "insanity" as applied to fanatics and terrorists in no way indicates legal insanity. (Legally, a person is insane if they do not know right from wrong at the time they commit a crime; a person who is legally insane cannot be held criminally responsible for his actions). To the contrary, fanaticism and terrorism are well thought out, premeditated and based on a version of right and wrong—albeit a very idiosyncratic one. 


Fanatics exist in every country. One despicable example of fanaticism in the U.S. came from Jerry Falwell, who, two days after the September 11 attacks that killed over thousands of people, stated in public that "abortionists have got to bear some burden for this." Falwell—whose statement was supported by another public figure named Pat Robertson—then added that feminists, gays and lesbians also bear responsibility for the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. 

These kinds of pronouncements must be recognized as being every bit as fanatical, terrorism-inciting, and insane as those of Osama bin Laden or any other fanatic living in any country or sitting on the fringes of any religion. It is time to identify statements such as these as evidence of fanaticism and as acts of terrorism, and it is time to identify fanaticism and terrorism as insanity, no matter who the speaker is, no matter what culture they spring from, and no matter how politically incorrect it might seem to do so. Free speech does not give anyone license to incite the attack of others whose beliefs and personal practices are different from their own, be the speaker a terrorist who calls himself a Muslim or a fanatic who calls himself a Christian.


Mental health professionals and social scientists must provide much more of their expertise than ever before to help the world community identify, understand and correct the harmful social conditions that make it possible for terrorists to lure and brainwash others to support their violence. The purpose of understanding is not to absolve terrorists and those who incite, fund or assist terrorism from culpability for their actions (they absolutely must be held responsible for what they have done). We need to understand terrorists so we can alleviate whatever social, economic or political ills they capitalize on to bring others under their sway. Social conditions that motivate those who are suffering to vow allegiance to these insane individuals are the fertilizer that nourishes the growth of insanity, and thus of fanaticism and terrorism. Only when these harmful social conditions are identified and eliminated will we end the cycle of fanaticism, terrorism and violence that has been such a destructive thread in humanity's fabric for many millennia. 

Mental health experts also have an ethical obligation to help all levels of society (from individuals and families to communities, religions, and whole countries) to identify Fanaticism Disorder in all its forms as mental illness (but not, as mentioned before, as "legal insanity"). If mental health professionals do not actively offer their expertise, well-meaning people—both leaders and private citizens—will unintentionally undermine the world's peace and safety by trying to use reason in dealing with terrorists, who, being insane, are not capable of reason. The insane need to be contained, not reasoned with; because their disorder renders them unwilling to change their minds or their strategies, it is impossible to provide psychotherapeutic treatment that will heal their mental disorder.


A Declaration of Global Responsibility: Ten Principles for Responding to Fanaticism and Terrorism

We, the people of this planet, in order to secure lasting peace and the continuation of life on Earth, join together to end terrorism by committing ourselves to a common code of beliefs, behavior and action, regardless of our individual politics, religion, ethnic affiliation or nationality. We vow to stand behind the ten principles of this common code. We will live by them, we will demand that our communities, businesses, governments and the United Nations adhere to them, and we will hold them accountable for doing so.


All life is interconnected. We are linked by the laws of science and by the binding force of the universe, which some call God and some call nature. Since it is impossible—scientifically, economically, ecologically and spiritually—for us to be separate from each other, believing that we are separate is an illusion. No religious or ethnic differences among us are more important than the ways in which we are one. When we attack each other, for whatever reason, we are attacking ourselves. 


There is one binding force in the universe although it goes by many names and is worshiped by many religions (both monotheistic and polytheistic) and is honored by many non-religious philosophies. Each of these names and religions and philosophies speaks to some of us. It is time to unite in accepting that no single name or religion or philosophy can or should speak to all of us. To believe otherwise leads to fanaticism and the need to dominate and control others. Domination and control are acts of violence and thus are forms of insanity.


We do not attack, belittle or hold inferior one religion/philosophy or ethnic group over another. To do so is a form of fanaticism and insanity because it inevitably leads to spiritual, social, psychological, religious, ethnic, and/or community violence. We respect diversity because it promotes collaboration and respect, and therefore peace. 


Universal values are those held by all the world's major religions and philosophies. These values include qualities such as love, collaboration, treating others with dignity and respect, and according basic human rights to everyone. Anything that is called a "value" but is not universal isn't a value at all. It is a belief or dogma belonging to a particular religion, philosophy, sect or ethnic group.


We do not inflict our religious/philosophical beliefs on others. To do so is to sow the seeds of oppression, terrorism and war. We hold separate religious/philosophical beliefs but we unite in support of universal values. We agree that universal values always take precedence over religious/philosophical beliefs and ethnic mores when two or more religions, philosophies or ethnic groups are in conflict or have conflicting interests. 


We recognize that it is no longer possible to be isolated economically or ecologically. Sovereign countries can no longer consider themselves independent. All nations and their citizens belong to an economically, ecologically and politically intertwined world. We depend on one another. One country's economic and ecological interests—and their resulting actions—will affect many other countries. To deny this is to engender violence.


We recognize and prevent (or ameliorate) the harmful consequences that our actions have upon other countries, groups or individuals. Whether that harm is potential or actual, intended or unintended, we recognize that we set ourselves up for attack when we do not take responsibility for having harmful effects. We will right the wrongs we have done. If we do not, we are essentially acting like terrorists: we are disrupting and damaging others without regard to their rights. The refusal to recognize what we have done to harm others economically, ecologically, politically, religiously, philosophically, physically or psychologically incites terrorist retaliation. Most nations in the world have taken actions, internally and/or internationally, that have—even if unintentionally—contributed to the development of fanaticism and violence. It is crucial that we unite to identify these actions with an eye toward correction rather than vengeance. 


We hold accountable any country, group or individual that refuses to take responsibility as described above, or that chooses to create change through the use of force, manipulation or violence. We, the broader community, will subject such immature countries, groups, or individuals to enforced maturity through containment and understanding.


We apprehend those who use force, manipulation or violence to dominate, control or terrorize others and deliver them to the appropriate legal system for necessary containment. Those who cannot be successfully apprehended will be removed by whatever means necessary. This will be done by the least violent means possible, and will not be done for reasons of vengeance but to preserve social safety and unity. Such drastic actions will only be taken by coalitions of recognized governments, not by individuals, self-proclaimed organizations or individual governments. 


We seek to understand fanatics and terrorists so that we may discover how to reduce the conditions that contribute to the recurrence of violent behavior in others. We do not seek such understanding in order to excuse their violent actions nor release them from suffering the legal consequences. But legitimate grievances, such as religious or ethnic persecution, that fuel the attraction to fanaticism and terrorism, must be addressed. For example, we must understand how anti-Western fanaticism and terrorism could raise its ugly head in a country whose leader, publicly supported by the West, gets rich by raiding the vast reserves of his country's natural resources while his people are struggling to live on as little as four US dollars a week.

Therefore, part of the long-term solution to terrorism must include efforts to understand the situation in countries outside our own. One such effort would be to hold summit meetings that include Western leaders, leaders of emerging countries, representative citizens of those countries, and academic experts, particularly experts in theology and psychology (for instance, experts on the interface between Islam and the West).

At the same time, we must not flinch from labeling all perpetrators (terrorists, fanatics, etc.) as insane, even if they are in the guise of religious or ideological devotees. The insane cannot and should not be expected to see the light or behave sanely when they are incapable of doing so. So, until and unless we develop reliable ways to help unwilling fanatics and terrorists become willing to change their minds, the insane must be contained so they can no longer harm others. 

Closing Comments

I believe that change is only effected by using multiple strategies—and by using them simultaneously, in a coordinated way, and with immense wisdom. These strategies include the obvious ones, such as diplomacy, legal action, international cooperation, economic intervention, relief efforts, true collaborative problem-solving, and, when necessary, overt and covert military action. There are less obvious strategies, which I deeply believe are essential, even if their results are in some ways intangible. These include individual and group prayer, meditation, energy healing, and other psychological and spiritual methods that will help raise people's consciousness so they increasingly act on behalf of the greater good. 

I felt compelled to write this document in part because I believe that a truly comprehensive effort is required to solve the problems of fanaticism and terrorism. I am convinced that excluding any of the strategies described above would place pressure on the remaining strategies to more produce results than they are capable of on their own. Many of us see only a single piece of the pie and, thinking it's the whole pie, we start to argue among ourselves over whether the piece we see is more important or more valid than the piece someone else sees. We don't have to choose which piece of the pie is best. I see all the strategies I've mentioned as extremely compatible if they are undertaken with wisdom and compassion rather than vengeance or misguided naivete.

Without appropriate and judicious military intervention, many insane individuals, locked in their Fanaticism Disorder, will continue their reign of terror. At the same time, I am certain that it is crucial for the human community to join together to support efforts to engender peace through diplomatic, collaborative, and prayer-oriented means. Fanatics of all stripes would love to sabotage our ability to proceed in a unified and honorable way. Our polarization means their victory. Our unity is required to end terror. Unless we remain committed to join hands in support of coordinated efforts on all fronts, we will ensure our own demise, splintering our own unity and allowing terrorists to prevail. 

I pray that we collectively have the wisdom to retain this clarity as we come out of our initial shock over the September 11 attacks and our attention moves increasingly from compassion for the injured, the dead and their loved ones to addressing the vast economic, theological, ethnic, human rights, political, cultural and ecological challenges that lie ahead of us if we are to create an enduring end to terrorism.

In closing, I want to add two things: 

First, the ten principles in this Declaration of Global Responsibility are a mind set for creating new solutions to old problems. They apply equally to international issues as well as to national affairs within any country. And, with minor modification, the principles in this doctrine also apply to communities, the business world, families and interpersonal relationships.

Last, even though I articulated this document, I am grateful to Dr. Rebecca Grace, Psy.D., for helping me birth its seeds. I am also indebted to Margot Silk Forrest for her considerable gifts in editing far more clarity and grace into this Declaration than I could generate on my own. 

If you resonate with this document, please send it to those you believe should see it.

David Gruder, PhD
Business, Leader & Culture Peak Performance Psychologist
CA Licensed Psychologist (PSY9266), Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist (MFT18889)
Founder of Integrity Revolution, LLC & Integrity Culture Systems™
Co-Founder of Willingness Works®
More at: www.DrGruder.com | www.HijackingOfHappiness.com


Originally drafted: San Diego, California, September 28, 2001 (August 2004 revision)
© 2001-2004 Dr. David Gruder. Future revisions of the Declaration and/or its Prefaces are likely to occur.

David Gruder, Ph.D., is dually licensed in California as a psychologist (PSY9266) and marriage & family therapist (MFC18889). He is Chief Collaboration & Integrity Officer for Integrity Revolution, LLC and its subsidiaries, Integrity Culture Systems™ and Willingness Works® in San Diego, California, is the founder of the Integrity Pledge (www.IntegrityPledge.org) and was Founding President of the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology. Author of The New IQ: How Integrity Intelligence Serve You, Your Relationships and Our World (January, 2008) and The New IQ Integrity Makeover Workbook (January, 2008), Dr. Gruder was also the co-author of Sensible Self-Help, which was named Collier's 1997 Mental Health Book of the Year, Conversations With the King, and over 70 audio titles, as well as four e-books, Dr. Gruder is a speaker, trainer, mentor, and trusted advisor in conflict prevention & resolution. He can be contacted for interviews or consultations related to this document through the contact links on his www.DrGruder.com website.