In 2014, there were a series of shootings that occurred in the parliament hill in Ottawa. Corporal Nathan Cirillo, a soldier in Canada, was fatally shot by Zehaf Bibeau. This happened when he was in his ceremonial duty in the Canadian national war memorial. Zehaf Bibeau then entered the parliamentary building where various members of the parliament were holding some caucuses. After fighting with the constable at the entrance, multiple shootouts emerged with the security personnel. Zehaf later died in the scene after being shot 31 times by the security personnel in the resident. Before the shootings, Zehaf had made a video showing his interests to kill some soldiers in respect of his religion and concerning Canada foreign policy. The killing was the 2nd most serious security breach following the parliamentary bombing in 1966. The incidence attracted a global concern about the security measures in the legislatures, radicalization prevention and preventions of terrorist attacks. The TMT and mortality salience hypothesis can be used to describe the situation in the Ottawa shootings. According to the TMT, self-esteem is a feeling of personal confidence made by the morals in the validity of an individual’s cultural global view; Zehab lacked this sense of own value. People with more self-consciousness are regarded to have an increased death cognition and more opposing life prospect as compared to those with lower self-awareness. The paper focuses on how terror management theory and mortality salience hypothesis are used to reflect the shootings in Ottawa on October 22, 2014.
Terror management theory (TMT) states that dispute arises from having an instinct of self-preservation while understanding that demise is unavoidable and unpredictable to some degree. This conflict then creates terror, and terror can be managed by embracing various symbolic systems, or cultural beliefs that counter biological reality by bringing value and meaning. Zehaf Bibeau, after converting to Islam, spends his life building and thinking about religious elements that make him stand out different. Death creates anxiety in human beings; the nature of death is unknowable; it creates unexpected and random moments that no individual can be able to explain (Schmeichel, 2009). This is the reason why most individuals make efforts to avoid death. After noticing that Zehaf was shooting the people, the security personnel exchanged some bullets and ended up killing Zehaf, the terrorist. The security personnel did this due to fear of death, and this is described as the primary motivation in human behavior. Here, individuals tend to think of themselves as worthy and valuable; they have that feeling of permanence. A sense of heroism as showed by the security personnel who killed the terrorist develops when the self-esteem of an individual increase.
Self-esteem is found deep within the TMT; it is one of the most crucial aspects of its core paradigms. The approach generally explains the causes and impacts of self-esteem. Basing on the concept of culture and self-esteem according to Earnest Becker, terror management theory doesn’t only describe the ideology of self-worth but also the reason why it is needed in our daily life. Self-esteem is mainly used in coping with the anxiety mechanism. Here, individuals try to manage their feeling of dread and acknowledgment that they are just living in a while trying to manage the environment that they are staying in (Greenberg, 2011). Zehaf Bibeau engaged in terror attacks only because he didn’t have enough self-esteem. He didn’t see the need for managing the environment that he was living in; in other words, he failed to understand his value as a human being. According to the TMT, self-esteem is a feeling of personal confidence made by the morals in the validity of an individual’s cultural global view; Zehaf lacked this sense of own value. People with more self-consciousness are regarded to have an increased death cognition and more opposing life prospect as compared to those with lower self-awareness. This is the opposite of self-esteem; people with higher self-esteem view life more positively. Specifically, death in the form of anti-terrorist warning after making mortality to be salient; this indicates that individuals use enthusiasm as a shield against fear. Retaining disfferent norms even after they are termed as bad promotes cognitive dissonance, and the best method to avoid this is through ignoring the new information. Anxiety shields self-esteem in an individual allowing him to deal with the fears quickly. In this regard, death cognition caused negative reinforcement that led Zehaf Bibeau to engage in terrorism. This is because taking the new data of anti-terrorism would lead to reduced self-esteem, increased exposure and mortality awareness.
The mortality salience hypothesis declares that anxiety may be buffered by an individual’s cultural worldview and/or sense of self-esteem. Mortality salience paradigms have been conducted through various experiments; individuals have been asked to depict their death, and various researches have been done near the funeral homes among many more other methods. Mortality salience theory is used as a way of assessing terror management theory. In this theory, it is evident that an individual can sustain faith in a cultural belief system and make life seem more meaningful and support the belief they are capable of enduring beyond their death (Jong, 2012). It can be interpreted that the mortality salience encouraged the security personnel in the Ottawa shootings, 2014 to uphold their worldview by punishing Zehaf Bibeau who violated the morals of their worldview.
Various studies have proved that mortality salience leads individuals to positively react to the people who stand with their worldview and negatively react to those who violate their world view norms. Zehaf violated the standards in the Canadian world view by involving in terrorism attacks, and that why the security officers killed him. Even though he was a Canadian citizen, no law allows him to indulge in acts of shooting or involvement in terrorism. Various studies investigating the cognitive processes involved in mortality salience impacts shows that it directs individuals towards distracting themselves from the thoughts of death. When Zehaf was planning on the shootings, he failed to reason that he may die in the process. And even if, he reasoned about it, the religion had already brainwashed him. It is after some time that death thoughts return to the consciousness fringes, and at this time the world view and self-esteem bolstering effects of mortality salience occurs.
In conclusion, to support terror management theory, the mortality resilience research in the shootings in Ottawa on October 22, 2014, demonstrates that the unconsciousness about one own death motivate multiple judgments to bolster the individual in his self-worth and world view. The review suggests that mortality concerns contribute to terrorism as well as cultural achievements and prosocial behavior.
Schmeichel, B. J., Gailliot, M. T., Filardo, E. A., McGregor, I., Gitter, S., & Baumeister, R. F. (2009). Terror management theory and self-esteem revisited: the roles of implicit and explicit self-esteem in mortality salience effects. Journal of personality and social psychology, 96(5), 1077.
Greenberg, J., & Arndt, J. (2011). Terror management theory. Handbook of theories of social psychology, 1, 398-415.
Jong, J., Halberstadt, J., & Bluemke, M. (2012). Foxhole atheism, revisited: The effects of mortality salience on explicit and implicit religious belief. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48(5), 983-989.