A Theory of Runaway Nationalism: Love of Country/Hatred of Others
A Theory of Runaway Nationalism: "Love" of Country/Hatred of Others
Thomas J. Scheff
Abstract: The idea of ethnocentrism, idealizing oneís own group, vilifying others, provides a first step toward understanding fervent nationalism, but doesnít spell out the details. It is also static, with no indication of the dynamics of collective behavior. In what kind of soil does a fever of "us and them" mentality grow? A theory of social and psychological bases of nationalism is outlined, focusing on dynamics in the emotional/relational world. Blind loyalty and identification with oneís nation seems to be a form of infatuation, rather than genuine love. Similarly, hatred of designated enemies could be a defense against shame and alienation. Both of these propositions depend on demystifying the vernacular meanings of love and hatred. Infatuation and hidden shame may be key components in hypermasculinity, a pattern that dominates national and world politics. Several reforms that might counter these processes are suggested. (6290 words)
Most contemporary discussions of blind nationalism and violence are entirely descriptive (See, for example, Kressel 2002). Psychological explorations of collective "evil" are also largely descriptive, even though they refer to the most basic component of ethnocentrism, the "us-them" attitude. Both Baumeister (1997) and Staub (2003) have written about collective violence, but lack an explicit theory of individual and collective dynamics.
A first step into a dynamic theory of nationalism is suggested by Durkheimís (1915) idea that any enduring religion requires the interplay between belief, on the one hand, and ritual, on the other. He proposed that the elemental basis for religion is the reciprocal relation of belief to ritual, and vice versa. Belief leads to ritual, and ritual to belief, in a feedback loop. Organized religions can be viewed as social systems arising out of the interaction between belief and ritual, ideas and actions.
Viewing religion as a social system can further understanding of blind allegiance to nations or ethnic groups. But more detail will be needed. In particular, we need to understand how blind nationalism is generated not only in the world of ideology and action, but also in the emotional/relational world (E/RW). How is nationalism forged out of belief, ritual, emotion, and relationships?
Benedict Anderson (1991) has suggested that a nation is an "imagined community." Although he doesnít develop the idea, this phrase suggests what might be seen as an anomaly. We all know many people personally, our neighbors and work associates and members of our own families. Yet we may identify with, and will lay down our lives to protect the millions of fellow citizens who we not only donít know, but have never, and will never, meet. For reasons that will be considered below, it may be much easier to identify with imagined people you donít know then real ones that you do.
The social theory of G. H. Mead (1936) and recent discussions of infatuation may be next steps toward further understanding. Mead argued that the self is social, a response to a community that is, in great part, imagined. The core of this theory is what he called "taking the role of the other," by which he meant viewing a situation not only from our own point of view, but also from the point of view of the other(s). His concept of "the generalized other" makes it clear that role taking refers not only to people that we know, but also to those that we only imagine. Although Mead didnít explicitly discuss the possibility of identifying with the imagined other, his theory implies it.
One example of an imagined point of view that one might identify with is posterity: one imagines what future generations might think of oneís self, and judges oneís self from that point of view. A more common generalization of the other would be for a white person to imagine the point of view of all other whites, and identify with that imagined point of view. The only step remaining for forming an "us and them" mentality would be to idealize the one at the expense of the other.
Imagining the point of view of the other(s) occurs not only in nationalism, but is a commonplace requirement of everyday life for everyone. Since ordinary language is extremely ambiguous, one must take the point of view of the other in order to understand even fairly simple statements. A crucial part of the context of any message is the point of view of the person(s) from whom one received the message. As Cooley (1912) said, "We live in the minds of othersí without knowing itÖ" But the "us and them" mentality requires not only imagining points of view of two communities, but also identifying with one and rejecting the other. When a friend complained to one of my relatives about our careless destruction in Iraq and the death or injury of many of its people, my relative said "Better them then us."
One problem with Meadís scheme is that he didnít worry about variability in the accuracy with which we imagine the point of view of the other(s). His theory seems to imply accuracy, which canít possibly be always, or even, typically, true. I will return to this issue below, in the discussion of infatuation and voter education. The other issue that pursued here, more extensively than the issue of accuracy, will be the emotional aspects of role-taking. Neither Mead nor Anderson has anything to say about emotions. This paper will suggest that they play a dominant part in the kind of identification and rejection that leads to aggression.
Most discussions of nationalism give little or no attention to the role of emotions. For example, it has been argued that military service simply involves the meeting of oneís obligations, as in any other institution (Hinde 1994). The willingness of soldiers to die for others is simply normative. But without invoking the emotional/relational world, it is difficult to understand the fervor of nationalism. Untold millions of people have laid down their lives, and taken the lives of others, in the name of their nation or other imagined communities.
Such willingness is understandable when it is quite clear that oneís group is in danger because of a threat by another group. But current and past history suggests that most citizens support killing and being killed purely on spec, even without plausible evidence of threat. The war on Iraq is one instance, and WWI, which commenced without any real attempt at peacemaking, and with little immediate threat (Scheff 1994), is another.
Few people would be willing to die for their neighborhood, county, state, trade or professional association. My own professional association is the American Sociological Assoc. Although I have been laying down dollars every year for many years in order to belong, I wouldnít kill to avoid a hostile take-over by another discipline. The ASA may have a few such members, disciplinary patriots. For the rest of us, words, yes, but not bombs and bullets.
There is another, much smaller group that may demand blind loyalty, the immediate family. An earlier study (Scheff 1995) illustrated this dynamic. In conflictful families, the child will often identify with, and idealize one parent, and vilify the other. This pattern is particularly prevalent in, but not limited to families of divorced parents.
This paper proposes that infatuation and shame/rage are the key elements of the social and psychological dynamics shared by conflictful families, aggressive nations and ethnic groups.
Infatuation and Hatred
To begin to understand the social/psychological dynamics of fervent nationalism, it will be necessary to understand what is meant by "love of country," on the one hand, and hatred of its designated enemies, on the other. These terms, in vernacular usage, may not be as simple and straightforward as they seem to be. They can be used as mystifications that both distort and hide the nature of the emotional/relational world.
What most patriots profess to be love of their country doesnít have the characteristics of genuine love, but is closer to being what might be called infatuation. Similarly, what is called hatred of national enemies could be a gloss on a complex process of hiding feelings of inadequacy and alienation under the cover of "pride" in oneís country, as will be discussed below. The meaning of love and pride are so ambiguous in ordinary language that that they can easily be used in the service of defensive maneuvers like denial and projection.
Genuine love requires detailed knowledge of the other(s). Having only an image of the otherís appearance, say, or some other single quality, is not love but infatuation. In this sense, it is not possible to actually love a celebrity who one has never met, and whose real life and character is unknown. If one were to ever get a chance to know the actual person, "love" might receive a rude shock. The star who seemed wonderful from a distance might turn out to be, at best, a mere mortal person like the rest of us, rather than a god or goddess. Genuine love means loving warts and all, not just admiring best features from afar.
Love is distinguishable from infatuation, which is mostly about the lover, rather than the love object or the relationship, since infatuation is self-generated fantasy. Collective infatuation is not only self-generated, but also socially amplified. Nations, like fan clubs, can whip their participants into an ecstasy of adoration. Unlike fan clubs, nations also do the opposite, amplifying individual negative feelings into orgies of hatred and rage.
Both individual and collective infatuation can be an enormously arresting, intense experience. The idealization of a mere image of the other(s), unlike genuine love, has no reality check, and therefore can spiral into infinity. The great never-ending stream of poetry of romantic infatuation bears witness to the infinitely intense experience of the "lover:"
For should I see thee a little moment,
Straight my voice is hushed;
Yea, my tongue is broken, and
'Neath the flesh, impalpable fire
Nothing sees mine eyes, and a
Voice of roaring
Waves in my ear sounds;
Sweat runs down in rivers, a
All my limbs, and paler than
Grass in autumn,
Caught by pains of menacing
Death, I falter,
Lost in the love-trance.
In the last line, Sappho calls her ecstasy/nightmare a "love-trance." But I would call it, at the risk of seeming a killjoy, an infatuation-trance. Although this particular poem was written over 2500 years ago, similar sentiments can be found in current pop song lyrics on the Top40, less artfully represented.
Similarly intense feelings of infatuation form the dominant emotion in the propaganda of any nation preparing for war. One clear example occurred in the patriotic novels, lyrics, and poetry of France during the period between between wars with Germany (1871-1914: Scheff 1994). Most exiguous was the "military poetry" of the right-wing extremist Paul de Roulede. His "Songs of a Soldier" (1872) gushed passionate "love" for the glory of France, and demanded revenge on Germany as necessary for the honor of France. It went through an unprecedented 83 editions by 1890, making it one of the most popular books ever published in France.
The infatuation-trance of blind patriotism is like the naked trust that small children have for their parents. After 911, some of my colleagues were asking "Why do they hate us?" But if I answered by pointing to the machinations of our government over the last fifty years in the Middle East and the slaughter and mayhem that resulted, they rapidly lost interest. They didnít want to hear, with no concern even with whether what I said was true or not.
Collective Hatred and Rage
Collective hatred, like collective "love," can achieve much higher levels of intensity than that of individuals, but the spiral is much more hidden and complex. To understand this process, it may be necessary to forego everyday, vernacular explanations. I propose that hatred is the commonly used word for hidden shame/rage sequences, humiliated fury. The elemental source of hatred may be the shame of not belonging, forming groups that reject the group(s) supposedly rejecting them. The culture of such groups generates techniques of neutralization that encourage hatred and mayhem. At the level of individuals, there is rage generated by threatened or damaged bonds. There are also social and cultural spirals that give rise to collective hatred and rage.
Dictionary definitions of hatred focus on hostility as the key component.
Hatred: 1. To feel hostility or animosity toward. To detest. 2. To feel dislike or distaste for: I hate washing dishes
Animosity: Bitter hostility or open enmity; active hatred.
(American HeritageDictionary 2000).
The inclusion of animosity in the definition is important because it emphasizes the intensity that is usually involved in hatred, counteracting the scaling down of the word in everyday, non-conflict situations, as in encounters with dirty dishes. The definition of animosity includes both bitter hostility, an attitude that may or may not be expressed, and open enmity.
The key to the intensity or bitterness of hatred seems to be an emotion that is a hidden component of rage and aggression: unacknowledged shame or humiliation. One way to deal with the feeling that one has been rejected as unworthy is to reject the rejector, rather than to blame oneís self as unworthy. This is the process that will be discussed below as a technique of neutralization, but in the relatively new language of emotions, instead of being framed entirely in cognitive and behavioral terms.
Hidden, covert shame, in combination with either hidden or overt rage, may be the primary components of hatred. The first step is to discuss intense rage. An immediate problem in making this argument persuasive is the difficulty of describing in words the experience of rage and other compelling emotions. When readers are sitting the comfort of their study, feeling more or less safe and secure, it will take some effort to help them visualize the intensity of "war fever," or of the feelings that lead to massacre on a vast scale.
The intensity and primitiveness of humiliated fury beggars verbal description. Unless one is a great artist, how is one to convey intense feelings with mere words? A verbal description of emotions is two- dimensional and flat, like a mountain represented on a map. The 12th century Irish epic, The Tain (cited in Cahill 1995) attempted verbally to bridge the gap between words and reality:
[Cuchulainn then] went into the middle of them and beyond, and mowed down great ramparts of his enemies' corpsesÖ
This sentence is excerpted from a long passage that tries to convey intense fury by exaggeration, since it is unlikely that a single warrior, no matter how powerful, could have skill and stamina enough to wage wholesale destruction.
Certain emotions in sequence, and the social and cultural settings that generate these emotions, could be key causes the kind of intense hatred that leads to rage and violence. Most social science writing on violent conflict assumes a "realist" or materialist perspective, that the real causes of human conduct always involve physical, rather than social and psychological reality. But eliminating emotional and relational elements as causes of violence may be a gross error. It is easy to do because of the difficulty of conveying emotional states in words, as already indicated. Those who map mountains without also viewing them can easily loose touch with their vast immensity.
I am not arguing that material conditions are unimportant, only that violence is caused by a combination of physical and social/psychological elements. I will consider hatred first at the level of individuals, then at the collective level, showing how both hatred and violence are products of unacknowledged emotions, which are in turn generated by alienation and by cultural scripts for demonizing purported enemies.
This is another example from the Tain (Cahill 1995) describing the outward appearance of a warrior in a fit of rage:
The first warp-spasm seized Cuchulainn, and made him into a monstrous thing, hideous and shapeless, unheard of. His shanks and his joints, every knuckle and angle and organ from head to foot, shook like a tree in the flood or a reed in the streamÖ
The extraordinary intensity of enraged actions, as described in the first quotation, and of the experience of rage, as suggested in the second, leads to the belief that rage is a virtually irresistible force and that it is an elemental component of human nature. This essay will contradict both of these beliefs, first that it is an elemental, and secondly, that it is irresistible.
The ability of primitive warriors and current killers on the world scene to work themselves into a state of rage suggests that it is something that can be constructed, rather than an elemental. How is it done? We will probably never know the answer to that question. But studies of actual discourse suggest a sequence of events that seem always to occur prior to the outbreak of violent rage. At the group level, it may be that alienation and certain cultural beliefs militate toward states of hatred and rage, and violent behavior.
As already indicated, rage seems to be a composite affect, a sequence of two elemental emotions, shame and anger. This idea has been advanced by other authors, notably Heinz Kohut (1971), and Helen Lewis (1971). Kohut proposed that violent anger of the kind he called "narcissistic rage" was a shame/anger compound. Lewis suggested that shame and anger have a deep affinity, and that one can find indications of unacknowledged shame occurring just prior to any episode of intense hostility.
This sequence has been shown in many transactions during psychotherapy sessions by Lewis (1971), in four marital quarrels by Retzinger (1991), and in Hitler's writings and speeches (Scheff 1994). Retzinger demonstrated that prior to each of the 16 episodes of angry escalation in her cases, there had been first an insult by one party, indications of unacknowledged shame in the other party, and finally intense hostility in that party. This sequence can be seen as the motor of violence, since it connects the intense emotions of shame and anger to overt aggression.
Although there has been little research focused explicitly on pure, unalloyed anger, indications from the studies of discourse by Lewis (1971), Retzinger (1991) and my own work, (such as Scheff 1990) suggest that pure anger is rare and unlikely to lead to violence or even social disruption. On the contrary, anger by itself is usually brief and instructive. A person who is frustrated and unashamed of her anger is mobilized to tell what is going on, and to do what is needed, without making a huge scene.
In my own case, I can testify that most of my experiences of anger have involved shame/anger, either in the form of humiliated fury, or in a more passive form, what Labov and Fanshel (1977) call "helpless anger." Both of these variants are long lasting and extremely unpleasant, especially for me. Shame-induced anger was unpleasant while happening, and even more unpleasant when it was over, since I inevitably felt foolish and out of control.
But in the very few episodes of what seems to have been, in retrospect, pure anger, the experience was entirely different. I did not raise my voice, nor did I put any one down or any other kind of excess. I simply told my view of what was going on directly, rapidly and with no calculation or planning. I was overcome with what might be called "machine gun mouth." Every one who was present to one of these communications suddenly became quite respectful. I didnít feel out of control, even though my speech was completely spontaneous; on the contrary, I was wondering why I had not had my say before. It would seem that anger without shame has only a signal function, to alert self and others to oneís frustration.
When anger has its source in feelings of rejection or inadequacy, and when the latter feelings are not acknowledged, a continuous spiral of shame/anger may result, which may be experienced as hatred and rage. Rather than expressing and discharging one's shame through laughter ("Silly me" or "Silly us."), it is masked by rage and aggression. One can be angry one is ashamed, and ashamed that one is angry, and so on, working up to a loop of unlimited duration and intensity. This loop may be the emotional basis of lengthy episodes or even life-long hatred that seems intense beyond endurance.
An earlier essay (Scheff 2003) proposed that physical aggression or complete withdrawal is common component of hypermasculinity, which in turn has social/emotional bases: 1. No affectional attachments. 2. A single overarching obsession. 3. Complete repression of shame. Only to the extent that all three of these conditions are fully met is silence or destructive violence likely. The earlier essay used Hitlerís biographies to show how completely episodes from his life illustrate all three of these conditions. Although women with this pattern would be as likely as men to commit or condone violent acts, men appear to qualify much more frequently and fully than women.
Most men are trained from early childhood to suppress all vulnerable emotions, especially fear, grief, and shame. Parents and male children usually confound fear with cowardice, and grief and shame with weakness. After thousands of episodes of intentional suppression, men learn to numb out these feelings automatically. In terms of the theory proposed here, the repression of shame is the core process in hypermasculinity, because it numbs out both fear and conscience. Killing or maiming other humans would be intensely painful if the automatic shame response were still in play.
In an as yet unpublished essay, Why Do Nascar Dads Support Bush?, Hochschild (2004) suggests a similar mechanism of defense to explain why working class men, against their economic interests, support our cowboy president. She argues that Bush covers his own fears and other vulnerable emotions by aggressive action, a pattern that these males also follow or would like to. This analysis points to key issue in understanding how reactionary leaders generate support among their followers (as was the case with Hitlerís appeal to the Germans). Their appeal is largely social and emotional, rather that economic or ideological.
Social and cultural conditions for the development of intergroup hatred
Another essay (Scheff 1997, Ch. 3) described how bimodal alienation generates violence at the collective level. Bimodal alienation between groups occurs when there is "isolation" between them, but "engulfment" within them. On the one hand, members of group A are distant from members of group B, and vice versa. But on the other, members of each group are infatuated with each other, to the point that they give up important parts of themselves, in order to be completely loyal to the group. A very wealthy and influential person in my local community said to me: "I am a patriot. When my country wants something, I give it, no questions asked." I said, "Suppose you have doubts?" He said, "Not possible. My country comes first." Idealizing the nation means suppressing oneís thoughts and feelings.
The initial motor in this theory is the need to belong. It makes sense that the German language has the most beautiful word for home, in the sense of the place that you belong: das Heimat. As both Elias (1995) and I (1994) have independently argued, historically the Germans seem to have long had an unsatisfied yearning for a place in which they belong, and have had great difficulty in managing the feeling of rejection, of not belonging and being accepted. Members of a group who feel not accepted both by foreigners and in their own group are in a position to surrender their individual identity in order to be accepted, giving rise in the German case to the principle of obrigkeit (blind loyalty and obedience). Bimodal alienation (isolation between groups and engulfment within them) may be the fundamental condition for inter-group conflict.
Under the condition of bimodal alienation, a special culture develops within each group that encourages the acting out of unacknowledged resentment and hatred. There are various ways of characterizing this culture, but for my purposes I will describe it in terms of "techniques of neutralization." This idea was originally formulated in criminology (Sykes and Matza 1957) to explain how and why teenagers engage in delinquent behavior, how a special culture develops among them that neutralizes the norms in their larger culture that oppose crime. But the idea has also been carefully applied by Alverez (1997) to the behavior of the German people in tolerating or actually engaging in genocide.
Alverez shows how each of Sykes and Matza's five techniques of neutralization can be used to explain the special culture that developed during the Nazi regime, a culture which neutralized the norms in the larger culture that forbid murder. The first technique is the Denial of Responsibility. Alverez shows that this technique in the German case usually took the form that the perpetrator was only carrying out orders from above. 2. The Denial of Injury under the Nazi regime took the form of special language that hid or disguised what was actually being done, euphemisms in which killing became "special treatment," "cleansing" (also applied to the massacres in Bosnia) and many other similar examples. 3. The Denial of Victim asserts that the victim actually brought on their own downfall. In the German case, Hitler and his followers believed that Jews were involved in a conspiracy to enslave the whole world, so that killing them was self-defense. Although a fiction, many Germans appeared to have believed it to be literally true.
4. Condemning the Condemners involved, in the German case, claims made by the German government and the media that other countries that were condemning Germany were historically guilty of worse crimes, such as the treatment of blacks and Native Americans in the United States and the treatment of native peoples in the French, British and Spanish colonies. 5. In the Appeal to Higher Loyalties, German perpetrators of genocide thought of themselves as patriots, nobly carrying out their duty. 6. Finally, the Denial of Humanity is a category that Alverez himself added to those formulated by Sykes and Matza because of its special relevance to the Holocaust. Typical Nazi propaganda portrayed Jews and other non-Aryans as subhuman, filled with bestial impulses, such as the urge for destruction, primitive desires, and unparalleled evil. Although dehumanization often accompanies inter-group conflict, it seems in the German case that it was explicitly orchestrated by the government.
Any one of these six techniques can serve to encourage violence by neutralizing the norms against aggression and murder. To the extent that they are all implemented together, as they apparently were under the Nazi regime, to that extent a whole society can forgo moral values in order to engage in wholesale slaughter. The idea of techniques of neutralization suggests the cultural foundation for collective violence. In the remainder of this section, I will focus on the issue of reducing the emotional bases of violence by dealing with shame and alienation that has gone unacknowledged.
Practical Applications of Theory
How can spirals of unacknowledged shame and anger be avoided or slowed when they are occurring. ? One answer may lie in the direction of acknowledgment of shame. Acknowledgment, however, does not refer to merely verbal acknowledgment, as in the routine confessions in AA and its spinoffs. Unfortunately, there have been very few discussions of this issue. Acknowledgment is one of those terms like "working through" in psychoanalysis, that play a central role in professional discourse, but are seldom defined or even illustrated through concrete examples.
This discussion points toward several paths for conciliation between belligerent groups. My theory of protracted conflict suggests that the foremost cause is mass alienation within and between the groups. Any steps that would decrease mass alienation would lessen the potential for conflict. Some examples follow.
An earlier essay on alienation (Scheff, 1997, Chapter 4) proposed that teachers need to be retrained to be aware of the way in which they reject working class and minority students. I also suggest classes on family relations that would help young people form stable families. Also in that essay I recommend reform for welfare programs to lessen rejection and shame. Young men form the bulk of combatants for inter-group and international conflict. If they could be better integrated into work or welfare, school, and family, they would be less vulnerable to pressure to fight an external, and often, what amounts to an imagined enemy.
At the level of culture, to undermine the sources of intergroup conflict, we may need to counter the techniques of neutralization (Sykes and Matza 1957; Alverez 1997) that are used to foment hatred and violence toward purported enemies. Although there are attempts to control hatred and hatred in the mass media, they still have not been comprehensive enough to help reduce the pressure toward violence. An obvious example is the continuing sexism and violence toward women in commercial films, not to mention fringe films. An expensive film like "Revenge," with major stars (Kevin Costner, Madeleine Stowe, Anthony Quinn) degrades women and encourages violence toward them, yet is still shown both in theaters and on TV and video. Although racism and xenophobia has been toned down somewhat, it still forms an undercurrent in many current films. It seems particularly flagrant in "action" films (such as those produced by Sylvester Stallone). Needless to say, both sexism and racism are rife in most of the old films that are constantly being rerun on TV.
Learning to identify and acknowledge shame and rage in self and others is also a fundamental direction toward decreasing conflict. I have proposed in this essay that alienation and unacknowledged shame are basic causes of destructive conflict, as important as material causes. Obviously material interests matter in human affairs. They are topics of quarrels. But these interests can always be negotiated, if there is no unacknowledged emotion, in a way that allows parties maximum benefit or perhaps least destructive outcomes. Unacknowledged shame figures large because it make rational negotiation of interest difficult or even impossible, given the non-rational, that is, the elements of insult and rejection when shame is not acknowledged by both parties.
The manipulation of fear, shame and rage in the public seems to be the key element in the Bush regime strategy. Finding plausible outside enemies serves to protect its reckless political and economic maneuvers from criticism. The framing of aggression against Iraq for the past decade by the U. S. government has made ample use of techniques of neutralization. Denial of Victim has been especially important, in that our government makes the claim, with no evidence, that Iraq poses a threat to the US and to the world. The war against Iraq has made frequent use of the Denial of Injury. One example is the use of the phrase "collateral damage" to disguise the killing of civilian men, women and children. Another example is the idea that the purpose of the war is to "liberate," rather than control, Iraq. The idea that the US is liberating Iraq is also an Appeal to Higher Loyalties.
This essay concerns the emotional/relational components of blind infatuation and hatred, how they are generated, and how they might be overcome. I have proposed that there is always an irrational component in mass infatuation and hatred that is the product of unacknowledged shame and alienation. Can anything be done?
Changing individuals would require long term projects. One approach would be to introduce courses on emotional/relational issues in early schooling. A course on mediation and conflict resolution could be introduced in junior high schools, and at the high school level, a course on dating and family communications. I have been teaching a course on communication for many years to university students in their first year. Most of the students have been very receptive. A large majority in every class seem to understand that their own communication practices can be improved, as well as those of the people in their life.
Even if all schools introduced such courses, itself unlikely, major changes in the management of the emotional/relational world would still be a long time coming. In the meanwhile, it might be worth the effort to try to make changes at the collective level. One impressive institution that might work is the kind of Truth and Reconciliation Committees that proved to be effective in the transformation of relationships in South Africa. A byproduct of the acknowledgment of aggression by the perpetrators, and suffering by the victims and their kin, is the acknowledgment of shame and rage.
Perhaps in the future it will be necessary to institute a project to clarify the origins and emotional, political, and economic origins and consequences of the war on Iraq. A first step might be to form committees on the Gulf War, since there are many questions that need to be raised. One would be the origins of that war. Ramsey Clark (1994), the Attorney General during Carterís presidency, has claimed that the US instigated this war through Kuwait, and by deceiving Iraq. Another issue would be the treatment of the US veterans of that war, especially the claims that many were sickened by the war, but have been unable to get treatment.
At a more general level, it may be necessary to pursue reforms that could make the sentiments that the majority hold for their country less like infatuation and more like love, warts and all. And the sentiments that they hold toward the enemy less like blind hatred and more like understanding or at least objectivity. Most supporters of the Iraq war donít know where it is, much less the history of US interference. Perhaps they donít want to know. But in any case, one reform that might help would be the requirement that citizen pass an examination before being allowed to vote.
Getting knowledge relevant to the major issues of the day is not easy, even for a scholar. One problem is the complexity and depth of many of the issues. Another is the poor job the mass media do. Can relevant knowledge be made available to every one?
Can knowledge for public consumption be presented in a format that would result in easy access, yet could lead toward understanding? A wonderful model for such a format is available online for film reviews on the website www.metacritric.com. For virtually all films of the last three or four years, there are a large number of reviews (20-120) for EACH film. The website is designed remarkably well, enabling a quick look at opinion on films expressed as average rating, a crucial sentence from each review, and finally, one can actually read all of the reviews in their entirety.
By seeing the wide range of critical opinion, the average reader, might rapidly come to an adequate judgment of the film. Seeing how the experts agree and especially, how they disagree, gives the reader the possibility of what might be called binocular judgment (seeing an issue from many points of view, rather than just one). With this kind of material, the reader is in a position to form her/his own opinion.
A similar format for expert opinion on political and social matters could be made available in order to help citizens prepare to take their voterís examination. Such a reform, along with others mentioned above, and others, might move us back toward a democracy based on genuine love of country, rather than blind infatuation.
Finally, one last idea. It is possible that electing/appointing women to high office, rather than men, might be a step, on the average, of slowing down the leap into war and violence. There are exceptions, of course, like Margaret Thatcher, who manipulated collective emotions as skillfully as any man. But most women, it seems to me, are at least somewhat less easy with this kind of exploitation than our present leaders, hypermasculine men. Women also would be less trigger happy then men, who have a strong tendency to fight first and ask questions later.
Each of these initiatives may be only a small step or a step that could be taken in the distant future. Having a majority of leaders be women, rather then men, for instance, seems a long way away. In Lysistrata, a drama from ancient Greece, women joined together to deny sex to men who fought. Perhaps modern women might could take note, not only to lessen war directly, but also indirectly, to encourage men to vote for women or at least, less arrogant leaders.
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