There appears to be some disquietude surrounding the reasons why so-called “western” raised young people leave the relative comfort of their situations and enter the world of extremism. In the past few years this has been exemplified by the number of Europeans and North Americans travelling to the Middle East and joining ISIS, becoming jihadist warriors. At a recent summit meeting in Washington DC, set up specifically to study the phenomenon, leaders from many countries gave their interpretation of this seemingly irrational activity – and those following the proceedings listened for words of wisdom with unconcealed disappointment. Nobody, it seems, harbours any insightful explanation as to why this attitude shift occurs.

Well, far be it from me to suggest that I know more than they (is that sarcasm, I'm not even sure), but, if my arm were twisted and I was forced to hazard a guess, I might suggest that part of what’s driving young people from their more secure and freedom loving existence into the arms of a strict, narrowly-defined, brutal, lifestyle could involve the hypocrisy inherent in our western style political system. Let's not beat around the bush, most governments lie to their constituents – and they do it blatantly and poorly. They say things that will get them elected and then they fudge on the follow through once they get elected. They mouth wondrous rhetoric about equality and freedom and then discriminate in favor of groups that support their re-election. They gather power unto themselves and hide their abuses, while demanding a high level of transparency and responsibility from citizens. They invoke secrecy provisions for many of their most controversial activities claiming it would be too dangerous for we, the people, to know – and they extend this avoidance policy by simply refusing to answer direct questions on anything that might cause them a problem – even on issues that are minor in nature, although possibly embarrassing, to ministers and senior bureaucrats. And they do all of this while constantly and, with great fanfare, declaring themselves the pinnacle of democracy and good government.

Thanks to the growth in the Internet and social media, young people nowadays have attained a level of sophistication far beyond what past generations enjoyed, and with this new understanding they are losing faith in their governments. Indeed, many are losing faith in everything. If the great leaders of their nations can lie and cheat and reward them selves, their friends, and their largest supporters, at taxpayers expense, while ignoring the promises and rhetoric they espoused during campaigns – and still be re-elected time after time – how is this system worth believing in?

Young people haven’t lived through times when our governments were even less responsible and more discriminatory, often with the support of the populace. Granted, those of us who were a part of that darker era may not have had the access to information and opposing opinions that are available today, (I’m looking for excuses), or we may have satiated our need for reform by grasping onto a few subtle improvements that occurred along the way. In other words, we may believe things are bad, but they have been worse. Unfortunately, this is a downer message to hand to young people so we prefer, instead, to pump them up with nationalistic rhetoric and engineered history until they eventually discover it’s all a glorious myth and choose to either ignore reality and live the fantasy, or accept reality and try and live their lives with fewer illusions regarding our claims of cultural superiority. It’s from the latter group that radicals gather their converts. This loss and disillusionment produces a fertile soil for all manner of radicals to till - be they religious, anarchist, or simply people who support “opting-out” and setting up cocooned communities.

I suspect that those who suffer the greatest disillusionment are the ones most vulnerable to accepting the dangerous and self-sacrificial forms of conversion. Radicals offer a simple, black and white, alternative. They offer a world so different, so challenging and, unfortunately, so rewarding to the individual, that people who have lost faith with our Western hypocrisy see it as a meaningful alternative. They offer real and significant change in a world where change is always promised but seldom delivered. They offer truth and passion in a world of bland untruths. And they offer a life-ever-after full of respect and stature. It may all amount to brutal, soul-destroying lies but to those who feel cheated and ignored in their homelands it holds the promise of something better. Few people should be surprised that our political leaders can’t understand why this is happening… or why their particular solution to the problem is to make changes to the rest of the world and not themselves. (To paraphrase: Let’s kill the bad guys and support the good guys and hope that, soon, people living there will begin to think, and act, like us.) It sounds like a plan most Westerners are programmed to support.

There are, undoubtedly, charismatic radical leaders in this world who attract the attention of vulnerable young people while displaying psychopathic tendencies that literally define the concept of evil - and we would all be better off rid of them - along with their expressed goal of spreading terror to the entire world. Yet, it is telling that our political leaders, during their many public discussions, have discovered no short-comings within our political systems that may contribute to the recruitment of these radical cause volunteers. Children are naive but not stupid, and blaming parents or on-line recruiters for their coversion may be the easy route but it's hardly a complete answer. If we truly want to change this situation we should accept our own shortcomings and begin recognizing the harm we do by leading our young people down a garden path that leads into a house of cards? .