I just had a look at the film of the gunman on the beach in Tunisia.

Our family had a frightening experience in Sousse two years ago, but it had a happy ending and pales into insignificance compared to the shooting on the beach.

We rented a car in another town and did a day trip to the Medina (walled old city) of Sousse one Sunday morning. As we were strolling around, a teenager on a motorbike (with a much younger child as a passenger sitting in front of him) made a beeline for us. We all jumped out of way but our youngest son (then 9 years old) wasn’t fast enough. The motorbike knocked him over (so he fell backwards slamming his head on the cobbles) and then drove across his small torso. We were beyond horrified and so were the local people. Some set off in pursuit of the motorbike, but it was long gone. The teenager was laughing hysterically as he sped off. I have have never been more angry in my whole life.  This was not an accident. It was a deliberate act of one “child” terrorizing another. (In that moment I had to acknowledge the ‘capacity for violence and murder’ in myself!)

Our son is a “natural born shaman” (he wrote a small book about shamanism later that year called The Love Hall). He told us later that in the moment he knew the motorbike was going to hit him and there was no escape, he called in all his power animals and they protected him, ‘filled him with their presence and power’. He got off with a big bruise on his chest (and a big shock) but no permanent damage. What he said was: “I have always known that the the tiger powers are powerful, but only now do I exactly know HOW powerful. Strangely I feel safer than ever after this!”

A motorbike is one thing but a gun is another. Many people in the shooting on that beach didn’t stand a chance. And they would not have been ‘on guard’ either, they were there to relax and get away from the pressures of their everyday lives.

Could their intuition have warned them? In the aftermath we may be reading some stories on that subject in the media.

There has been a lot of talk recently about young people becoming ‘radicalised’. I am not a native speaker of English and I was not aware, until recently, of the word ‘radical’ existing in ‘verb form’. I have always liked the word ‘radical’ as in ‘radical love’ or ‘radical compassion’. For one year of my life I studied Mandarin Chinese. The Chinese language has radicals around which other concepts are organised. One such ‘radical’ is the ‘heart radical’. It combines with other characters to create the concepts of e.g. loyalty/endurance, worry/anxiety and forgetting.

So what does the word ‘radical’ mean?

radical (adj.) Look up radical at Dictionary.comlate 14c., in a medieval philosophical sense, from Late Latin radicalis“of or having roots,” from Latin radix (genitive radicis) “root” (seeradish). Meaning “going to the origin, essential” is from 1650s.Radical sign in mathematics is from 1680s.

Political sense of “reformist” (via notion of “change from the roots”) is first recorded 1802 (n.), 1817 (adj.), of the extreme section of the British Liberal party (radical reform had been a current phrase since 1786); meaning “unconventional” is from 1921. U.S. youth slang use is from 1983, from 1970s surfer slang meaning “at the limits of control.” Radical chic is attested from 1970; popularized, if not coined, by Tom Wolfe. Radical empiricism coined 1897 by William James (see empiricism).radical (n.) Look up radical at Dictionary.com1630s, “root part of a word, from radical (adj.) Political sense from 1802; chemical sense from 1816.



So it comes from the Latin word for ‘root’ or ‘having roots’ and means going to the origin of something. And the radical symbol has the same meaning in mathematics. The radical sign is the ‘root symbol’.

So young people becoming ‘radicalised’ are trying to return to ‘their cultural roots’. What drives them must be a profound sense of disconnection: generally they are second generation teenagers from immigrant families who do not truly feel at home in their country of birth. So teenagers as young as 15/16 years (I have a 15 1/2 year old son myself and I shudder to think of this!) try to fly to places like Syria and enlist in organisations like ISIS (formerly Al Qaeda).
And in this misguided attempt to heal a severe sense of disconnection they find themselves immersed in the activities and propaganda of ISIS – and ISIS does not shy away from “beheadings”. And isn’t that the “ultimate” in disconnection?? I can’t even imagine to what extent one needs to lose touch with one’s own humanity to be able to behead another human being.
What makes a teenager (about 15 years old with a  much younger sibling “on board”) willfully drive into and across a defenseless blond 9 year old?
Does that same ‘thing’ allow a 23 year old to shoot dozens of harmless tourists on a beach in the same town in Tunisia?
I wish I had clever answers to all of this and right now I don’t! This blog is a plea for RADICAL COMPASSION – as opposed to “radicalising young people”.
Radical compassion is a term coined by the philosopher Khen Lambert in 2003. He identifies compassion as a special case of empathy, directed towards the “other’s” distress.  Radical compassion is a specific type of general compassion, which includes the inner imperative to change reality in order to alleviate the pain of others. This state of mind, according to Lampert’s theory, is universal, and stands at the root of the historical cry for social change.
Imelda Almqvist



Imelda Almqvist is a Dutch shamanic practitioner, teacher and painter based in London, UK