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Terrorism: New frontiers

Wednesday, 22 April 2009 12:47
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Epos converses with Evelin G. Lindner

by Emanuela Del Re (EPOS)
EPOS Conversations

"Phenomena such as terrorism, in their interplay with emotions, are embedded into two current trends, first the transition toward increasing global interdependence (which is part of what typically is labelled as globalisation), and second, the human rights call for equal dignity for all.Humiliation is of eminent significance for both trends."

Evelin G. Lindner

Emanuela Del Re-EPOS: Osama Bin Laden in his latest audio tape broadcast has accused some Arab leaders of being ‘complicit’ with Israel and the West against Muslims. He has defined the leaders those ‘that America calls moderate’. The major consequence of the recent conflict in Israel seems to be the reorganization of alliances, positions, policies in the Arab world both as regards the Muslims and the West. Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan, must come to terms with internal and external fronts of terrorism. Which is your view on this?

Evelin Lindner: Phenomena such as terrorism, in their interplay with emotions, are embedded into two current trends, first the transition toward increasing global interdependence (which is part of what typically is labelled as globalisation), and second, the human rights call for equal dignity for all. Humiliation is of eminent significance for both trends.

Increasing interdependence (the first trend) does not automatically create positive feelings. Particularly when respect is perceived as wanting, feelings of humiliation may emerge and create enmity. The contact hypothesis, or the hope that mere contact can foster friendship, is not necessarily true. Likewise, human rights (the second trend) do not automatically create a more peaceful world. Humiliation takes a pivotal place in the complex web of misunderstandings and backlashes that occur in the transition from traditional cultural scripts of ranked honour to cultural settings that are informed by human rights.

The core difference between an honour culture and a culture based on human rights (together with the institutions that express these cultures) is that the worth and value of a person is seen as unequal in a setting of ranked honour (for example, men and women are ranked as unequal), while each person is regarded as equal in a context of human rights (even though, clearly, theory and practice are not always synchronic). The core ideal of human rights is formulated in Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, namely, that ‘all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights’.

The transition is marked, at least in part, by a shift in the meaning of the word humiliation. In the English language, the connotations of the verbs to humiliate and to humble parted around two hundred fifty years ago, going in opposite directions. Until that time, the verb to humiliate did not signify the violation of dignity. To humiliate meant merely to lower or to humble (‘to remind underlings of their due place’), and this was widely regarded as a prosocial activity. William Ian Miller (1993) tells us that ‘the earliest recorded use of to humiliate meaning to mortify or to lower or to depress the dignity or self-respect of someone does not occur until 1757’ (p. 175, emphasis in original).

In the traditional world of ranked honour, what is perceived as humiliating, and how humiliation is sensed, comprehended, and responded to, is different from cultural contexts that are informed by human rights. In a traditional setting, cultural scripts urge the translation or feelings of humiliation into retaliatory acts of humiliation, and this may include terrorism in case of asymmetric resource ratios. In traditional societies, inflicting humiliation is often condoned as a legitimate and useful tool, sometimes even as an honourable duty. In contrast, in a human rights framework of equal dignity, humiliation is regarded as a violation of humanity. As to Osama Bin Laden, he conceptualises the world through the lens of the traditional cultural framework of honour. For him, it is humiliating to betray honour, and from his point of view, human rights do so by definition. He respects opponents who ‘have honour’ more than those who betray it. From this point of view, George W. Bush’s administration was an honourable opponent, since his administration, despite of its human rights rhetoric, was informed by honour. Bertram Wyatt-Brown (1982) studied the history of American Southern honour and humiliation, and highlights that Southern culture embraces a ‘warrior ethic’.

David Hackett Fischer (1989) (p. 843), informs us that Southerners in the United States ‘strongly supported every American war no matter what it was about or who it was against’ (p. 843). Donald Kagan (1998) contends that ‘national honour’ applies in today’s world no less than it did earlier, even when it is partly concealed by human rights rhetoric and no longer invoked as openly as in the past.

In other words, the significant fault lines between honour cultures and human rights cultures do not run between East and West, but through the middle of all societies – there are human rights defenders everywhere, and they face opposition everywhere.When both opponents in a confrontation use honour as framework for their deliberations, they may be expected to create cycles of humiliation. Human rights, in contrast, aim at breaking, stopping, and preventing cycles of humiliation.

Barack Obama’s administration is predicated on a culture of human rights. This represents a double attack on Osama Bin Laden and his ideology and followers: he is still regarded as enemy, but he is now a de-legitimised enemy, no longer an honourable enemy. Barack Obama does not frame terrorism as ‘war’ between heroes fighting for victory and cowards suffering defeat. Obama invites all humankind to join into shared responsibility. ‘To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist’, is what he said in his inauguration speech as President of the United States on 20th January 2009.

George W. Bush regarded Osama Bin Laden as enemy in war and thus legitimised the honour code and bestowed honour on Osama Bin Laden and his followers. Barack Obama removes this legitimisation and thus undermines the very foundation for measuring the core tenets of honour that carry Osama Bin Laden’s campaign, tenets such as courage versus cowardice. Terms such as heroism, dignity, respect, and humiliation, all have different meanings in honour settings as compared to human rights contexts. Heroism, for Obama, for example, is not flowing from the strength of resolve in maintaining enmity until victory, but from dedication to ending enmity by transcending terms such as victory and defeat.

By warning ‘moderate’ Arab leaders, Osama Bin Laden affirms that, from his point of view, honour is the only legitimate framework for Arab leaders. They should withstand being lured into the double attack by Barack Obama. In Bin Laden’s worldview, ‘moderation’ is equivalent to betraying the honourable duty of affronting one’s enemies with courage; moderation is equal to cowardice and despicable dishonourable self-humiliation.

Barack Obama, in contrast, frames moderation as a dignifying solution for confrontations, a solution that transcends the dichotomy of victory versus defeat.To sum up, what is a dignifying approach for one side equals dishonourable cowardice for the other. The human rights framing is not necessarily received kindly in an honour context, where victory is seen as the only solution for confrontation, and moderation amounts to appeasement and sell-out of victory. For Osama Bin Laden, it was easier to have George W. Bush as an opponent, since Bush and his administration shared the same conceptualisation of cowardice and courage, victory and defeat. The human rights language, in contrast, is alien to Osama Bin Laden.

Emanuela Del Re-EPOS: Are the Fatwas important in the fight against terrorism in the Muslim world, in your opinion?

Evelin Lindner: Cultures of honour are different around the world. However, they all carry a central dogma, namely that hierarchical rankings are divinely ordained and/or express nature’s order. God is ranked above humans, men are ranked above women, and so forth, with the details of ranking varying in different cultural contexts.

In The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future, Riane Eisler (1987) describes how otherwise widely divergent societies, from the samurai of Japan to the Aztecs of Meso-America, were characterised by very similar hierarchies of domination and a rigidly male-dominant ‘strong-man’ rule, both in the family and state. Hierarchies of domination were maintained by a high degree of institutionalised (socially accepted) violence, ranging from wife and child beating within the family to aggressive warfare on the larger tribal or national level. She speaks of the dominator model in contrast to a partnership model (in Eisler’s cultural transformation theory).

George Lakoff & Mark Johnson (1999) describe the approach to parenting that maintains ranked honour societies (pp. 313-314). They call it the strict father model, in which the father expects his commands to be obeyed and enforces his moral rules through reward and punishment. Children must not be coddled, lest they become spoiled. Through their obedience they are expected to learn the discipline and self-reliance that is necessary to meet life’s challenges.

The strict father model ‘tends to produce children who are dependent on the authority of others, cannot chart their own moral course very well, have less well-developed consciences, are less respectful of others. Interestingly, these children have no greater ability to resist temptations than children raised in more liberal environments’. The strict father model produces what Theodor W. Adorno et al. (1950) called the authoritarian personality whose principal characteristic is obedience and readiness to follow orders blindly, irrespective of their moral contents.

The nurturant parent model of rearing children, in contrast, describes a parenting style that abides by the emerging human rights ideals. What formerly was regarded as ‘good for children’ (routine humiliation seen as legitimate and prosocial) turns into abuse and neglect in the new nurturant framework, in which humiliation is defined as a violation: what I call honour humiliation transmutes into dignity humiliation.

In a cultural context, where people have learned that obedience to superiors is divinely ordained, a fatwa has more weight than it would have in a context where people learn that individuals have a right to judge autonomously. The Pope’s encyclicals, for example, do not have the same effect on people steeped in human rights and brought up within the nurturant parent model, as they have on people who adhere to more traditional cultural scripts and who were brought up within the strict father paradigm. Therefore, the role of fatwas is easily underrated by people steeped in a human rights culture. They tend to overlook the significance fatwas have in a world where obedience is rated in ways they are not familiar with.

Emanuela Del Re- EPOS: How much does the social situation, that I call ‘social climate’, contribute to generate terrorism? Or is it terrorism that creates a social climate? In both cases, what can be done in terms of prevention?

Evelin Lindner: In Chapter 6 in Evelin Gerda Lindner (2006), one section is entitled ‘Extremists and Moderates’ (pp. 119-121), where I differentiate between both groups and orientations by looking at how humiliation is reacted to. To say it short, I define moderation as aiming to end and prevent cycles of humiliation, while extremism turns ever new spirals in such cycles in the hope for victory, a hope that might have been warranted in former times, but no longer in times of global interdependence.

As soon as cycles of violence and humiliation are in motion, terrorism and the social climate influence each other. A person may be a ‘moderate’, wanting to end cycles of violence and humiliation, until her brother is being killed, and she transmutes into an ‘extremist’, yearning to inflict retaliatory acts of humiliation on her humiliators, thus maintaining cycles of humiliation.

Emanuela Del Re-EPOS: Why do some people choose to become terrorists in the western world? Is it a question of ‘uneasiness’, ‘discomfort’? Is the West a fertile ground for terrorism?

Evelin Lindner: New research on mirror neurons is currently making headlines in mainstream magazines such as the New York Times: ‘Social emotions like guilt, shame, pride, embarrassment, disgust and lust are based on a uniquely human mirror neuron system found in a part of the brain called the insula, Dr. Keysers said,’ writes Sandra Blakeslee (2006) (p. 3). The human brain is hard-wired for connections’ – see, for example, Amy Banks & Judith V. Jordan (2007) – social pain is processed like physical pain – see, for example, Naomi I. Eisenberger & Matthew D. Lieberman (2005), p. 110, and we can also feel humiliated on behalf of others, because we identify with other people’s suffering via our mirror neurons – see, for example, Vilayanur S. Ramachandran (2000).

Research on mirror neurons is important not least for research on global terrorism, because it shows that one can feel as humiliated on behalf of victims one identifies with, as if one were to suffer this pain oneself, a phenomenon that is magnified when media give access to the suffering of people in far-flung places.

I worked in Cairo, Egypt, for seven years as a clinical psychologist and psychological counsellor (1984-1991). I had Palestinian clients who suffered from depression because they felt they should help their suffering families in Palestine, instead of studying in Cairo, preparing for a happy life.

Farida, a young woman, not yet 20 years old, had a story that illustrates the workings of mirror neurons:

“My father wants me to study, get married, and have a normal life. But I cannot smile and laugh and think of happy things, when my aunts and uncles, my nieces and other family members face suffering in Palestine. Their suffering is a heavy burden on me. I feel it in my body. Sometimes I cannot sleep. I feel tortured. I know Palestinians my age who do not care. They go to the discotheque and dance – they even drink alcohol. I think this is disgusting. Our people are suffering and we should stand by them. If we cannot help them directly, we should at least not mock them by living immoral lives or be heartless and forget them altogether. I feel I have no right to enjoy life as long as my people suffer. I respect my father and I try to obey him and concentrate on my studies. If it were not for him, I would go to my homeland, get married, have as many sons as possible, and educate them in the right spirit. I would be overjoyed to have a martyr as a son, a son who sacrifices his life for his people. I feel that suicide bombers are heroes, because it is hard to give your life. I want to give my life. I want to do something. I cannot just sit here in Cairo and watch my people suffer and be humiliated. I feel humiliated in their place, and feel that I humiliate them more by not helping them. I feel so powerless, so heavy; sometimes I can hardly walk. ”

Emanuela Del Re-EPOS: Why is terrorism accepted and even somehow welcomed in some social environments? Which is the persuasive strength of terrorism?

Evelin Lindner: Adolf Hitler invited the numerous forms of frustration and humiliation that Germans felt during difficult times into one unifying narrative of national humiliation. Likewise, humiliation-entrepreneurs such as Osama Bin Laden pool widely disparate feelings of discontent into a unifying narrative, and also he offers as remedy retaliation with acts of humiliation. The persuasive strength of terrorism lies in the clear-cut and straight-forward offer of relief that it provides to people’s complexities of discontent.

May I quote from Evelin Gerda Lindner (2006) to elucidate this point (pp. 31-32): “The person who has learned to consider herself a victim of undue humiliation (in contrast to due shaming or humbling) at the hands of other people also has four options. (1) She may turn her rage inwards and become depressed, apathetic and even turn to drug abuse (like the depressed wife suffering from psychosomatic symptoms). In that case the conflict is almost invisible.

If, however, this person chooses to turn her rage outwards, we have several outcomes. (2) She may explode in hot desperate and self- and other-destructive rage. Passionate murder and/or suicide might be the result. (3) She can go down the Hitler-path and organize humiliation entrepreneurship. Hitler attempted to redress humiliation by inflicting humiliation on the supposed humiliators, achieving only another spiral in the cycle of humiliation. In Rwanda feelings of humiliation were systematically incited. Terrorists attract followers with humiliation narratives.

There is no need to buy expensive weapons when feelings of humiliation are hot, neighbours kill neighbours with knives (Rwanda), and civil planes are turned into missiles (9/11). Therefore I labelled feelings of humiliation the ‘nuclear bomb of the emotions’. (4) Mandela, in contrast, made constructive use of energy in his rage for social change. He facilitated the birth of a new social order based on respect for individual dignity.

Central to his effort was the inclusion of the humiliator, the white upper class, as co-protectors of human rights. In other words, Mandela solved the conflict by peacefully but firmly making Frederik Willem de Klerk and his followers (in the case of the couple this would be the unwilling husband) understand that the old order was dying. The only way the formerly privileged could bend this conflict into concord and convergence was by relinquishing their outdated framings of reality. Mandela attempted to attain shared humility without humiliation.

In Iraq, there will be convergence only if the Arab World frames the second Iraq war as liberation. Conflict will ensue as long as the Arab World frames the military action as humiliating invasion. In this event, conflict may remain invisible and be lived out as depression and apathy on the part of Iraqis and Arab citizens and those who identify with them (1). However, simmering rage may also lead to hot retaliation (2) or Hitler-like reactions, such as terrorism against the West (3), or (4) Mandela-like or Gandhi-like outcomes if such leaders are available. This is what people mean when they speak of winning not just the war, but also the peace.”

Emanuela Del Re-EPOS: Terrorism largely uses internet and information technology. It is a tool that has been used in some conflicts as a weapon to paralyze the information system of the enemy. Attacks nowadays do not need to be armed in traditional sense. Are there organizations in Asia or in the Islamic world that have demonstrated to be able to use such tactics? How to prevent a similar attack? How to prevent cyber warfare?

Evelin Lindner: Internet and information technology help both terrorism and counter-terrorism in that it facilitates connections across geographical distance. Internet and information technology facilitates the human rights movement, but it also the expression of the complex web of humiliations created by misunderstandings and double standards, together with its retaliatory backlashes.

As an example for the human rights movement, RAWA ( was founded by Afghan women who went out with cameras hidden under their burkhas, taking pictures and publishing them on the Internet. Western women and human rights advocates became aware of this site, forged a coalition, and contributed their resources.

As to the complex web of humiliations created by misunderstandings and double standards, and its retaliatory backlashes, cyberspace is filled with examples that are well-know and don’t need to be listed here.

Among the first large-scale victims of cyber war was Estonia. Estonia’s websites were under heavy attack in 2007. ‘Many of the attacks have come from Russia and are being hosted by Russian state computer servers, Tallinn says. Moscow denies any involvement’ (BBC NEWS,, published: 2007/05/1).

Similar large-scale attacks are to be expected also from terrorist networks, that is, depending on the success or failure of Western societies to recognise their own double standards, apologise for them, and enter into dialogue with those who are intent on using retaliatory acts of violence and humiliation to remedy the humiliation they feel is perpetrated on them.

Let me illustrate what I mean with misunderstandings and double standards and how they can trigger feelings of humiliation. Let me present four cases: First, intercultural misunderstandings, second, misunderstandings occurring in settings characterised by power differences, third, double standards, and, fourth, in-group/out-group bias.

Please allow me to draw on Chapter 4: ‘Humiliation and Misunderstanding’ in Evelin Gerda Lindner (2006).

1. Intercultural relations

That humiliation can be perpetrated by mistake is particularly relevant on the intercultural level, where communication is more prone to produce ambiguities than is communication between individuals with the same cultural background. It is essential to know how to behave when unintended humiliation occurs – or risk the possibility of setting unnecessary cycles of humiliation in motion.

Ignorance about another culture may have humiliating effects, especially when it is understood to mean ‘your culture is so unimportant to me that I do not need to be informed, it is your responsibility to excuse my ignorance’. The guest’s refusal to empathise with the host gives rise to feelings of humiliation. It is not sufficient to merely hope that ignorance will be excused. Expecting excuse for ignorance too lightly, after having been informed of a faux pas, may create the very humiliation that the faux pas itself did not yet cause.

2. Power difference

It is important to understand the dynamics of humiliation caused by power differences – including the power differences in the so-called global village.

Let me speak to a Western person on holiday somewhere in the South: Even if you don’t perceive yourself as such, you must expect to be regarded as a member of the world’s elite and you must understand that you are scrutinised carefully by the less privileged who are afraid that you will exploit your superiority. Even the mere suspicion that you may operate by double standards can cause feelings of humiliation. On the other side, if you are a member of the world’s less privileged, it would pay to try to understand that some elites may be benevolent and feel humiliated by your mistrust. Both should be prepared to say ‘I’m sorry, I did not know that I humiliated you’.

The ‘West’ is perceived as lacking ethics by many in the ‘non-West’. Anybody travelling in the non-West soon sees that, under the admiration and yearning for Western quality of life, there brews a host of ill feelings. The West, in non-Western eyes, does not sufficiently care for the elderly or for children, has an appallingly high divorce rate, and shows little genuine compassion and insufficient social cohesion. Equally, the West targets the non-West – in Western eyes, non-Western women are abused, individual freedom choked, and self-expression curtailed.

However, the West and the non-West have more in common than is apparent at first glance. Both value social cohesion. For my doctoral dissertation in social-psychological medicine – Evelin Gerda Lindner (1993) – I compared Germany and Egypt and what these two countries regard as core priorities for good quality of life. All yearn for social cohesion balanced with individual freedom. In the West, rifts to social cohesion such as divorce, or lack of compassion, are deeply regretted as unwanted side effects, a price to be paid for the transition towards more personal freedom, authenticity, and flexibility. In the same vein, non-Westerners value individual freedom and regret any need to curtail it as a sad side effect, as a price to be paid for social cohesion.

3. Double standards

Feelings of humiliation stemming from intercultural misunderstandings are typically compounded when the wealthy preach human rights, while being blind to the fact that violations of these very rights may create feelings of humiliation in the victims of such violations. This blindness partly stems from a bias, namely, the belief in a just world that tends to blame the victim. The belief in a just world gives the more privileged in the global community an ‘alibi’ to be blind to the sufferings of the less privileged, because ‘everybody deserves what he gets’.

The situation is aggravated when wealthy individuals, blind to the injustice and obscenity of poverty, fail to recognise how much they contribute to the suffering of the poor by promoting human rights without assuring that what they promote becomes reality. On the part of the recipients of empty promises, double standards quickly become double humiliation.

4. In-group/out-group bias

Allow me to again quote from Evelin Gerda Lindner (2006) to explain this point (pp. 73-75): «If we reflect on ‘Eastern’ – especially Islamic – values versus ‘Western’ values, we find a similar dynamic. The rich West exhibits blindness to the fact that its casual display of power may have offensive effects. In the non-Western camp, on the other hand, we see an essentialisation, the belief that Western power play proves unbridgeable evil intentions. In reality all sides are in astonishing concord, both within Germany and between the Islamic world and the West.

Just look at people like Osama bin Laden. They speak softly. They present themselves as holy ascetics, not power-hungry bullies. They project an image of brave victims who defend themselves in spite of all hardship. Whether they are authentic and believe what they preach is not the point here. What is important to note is that many of their followers are attracted by this display of humility.

My intimate knowledge of the Arab world indicates this. Interestingly, Western human rights activists and Islamic fundamentalists both believe the world needs improvement. Human rights advocates and Islamic fundamentalists share a sense of suffering from a world they perceive as unjust and obscenely materialistic, combined with a vision of how to remedy this sad state of affairs. The difference lies in how the two groups perceive justice and remedy. Western human rights promoters see the way out in the ideals they draw from their social and cultural environment, namely human rights ideals.

The Osama bin Ladens grew up in another kind of world and were exposed to a different set of solutions. Not all cultural contexts on the globe have martyrdom on offer. Confucianism in China, for example, does not provide people with a dream of an afterlife that rewards holy warriors for martyrdom. Islam and Arab history, in contrast, provide scripts for heroic martyrdom (see, for example, Saladin).

The Arab world has a tradition of ‘noble warriors’. Afghans and Yemenites (this is Osama bin Laden’s family background) are ‘noble warriors’, as are Somalis. After several years of research on Somalia, I am familiar with people who are intensely proud they never were subjugated. Somalis told me they do not experience humiliation, because ‘a man would rather die than accept humiliation’. Thus, Osama bin Laden and his sympathizers can rely on several cultural ‘scripts’ for bravery and martyrdom, which in a number of ways are anti-concepts to human rights teachings.

What happens to the common ground that could be useful for developing cooperation instead of mayhem? It is squandered by feelings of humiliation that arise when I hear you misattributing my intentions. As long as communities live far away from each other and do not know about other communities misreading them, there is no problem. Everybody feels comfortable whitewashing their in-group and blackening all out-groups.

However, this becomes problematic when people learn how biased others’ judgments about them are. It is humiliating to learn about evaluations that place me in a less than advantageous light, particularly when I feel that those who levy such judgments lack any moral authority to do so. Thus, the attribution error, or the human tendency to treat out-groups less leniently than in-groups, can elicit feelings of humiliation in those out-groups who are on their way to becoming part of the in-group. The coming into being of the global village, the merging of out-groups into one in-group, confronts people with humiliating and unwelcome out-group biases that in former times they never would have known.

Only when the transition towards one in-group is successfully completed can misreadings and confrontations of this kind be expected to wane. In an asymmetric situation, when one side fights with the ultimate weapon – the feelings of humiliation that make masses willing to support or even become suicide bombers – to label them ‘dishonourable’, for example, is a sure way to lose. The only way towards mutual respect is to acknowledge common ground and courage, on all sides. Acknowledging this does not mean condoning suicide bombing. On the contrary, it is the first step to halting it. Biases ‘hide’ common ground. In reality, all seek quality of life for their loved ones and are ‘courageous’, nobody is a ‘coward’. Also Japan helps illustrate this point. If Japan were isolated from the world – as it was when its Tokugawa Shoguns closed it to the outside – Japanese current ‘inner affairs’ would not be known to anybody else. However, in an interdependent world, in 2005, modifications in Japanese school textbooks (‘in order to make our children proud of Japan’) trigger enraged mass demonstrations in China and Korea, who feel that Japan tries to ‘gloss over its past’.

Floyd Rudmin explains what happens (personal message, April 11, 2005): ‘It is the humiliation of history. Japan’s neighbours are furious because Japan has again tried to gloss over its history of humiliating its neighbours, but Japan in turns finds it humiliating that it alone is required to continually account for and atone for its past’. These insights are crucial for building a world without terrorism. It is inherently impossible to win a war on terror with conventional weapons. Admittedly, missiles send powerful messages. Yet, the recipients may not ‘understand’ those messages in the intended way. They may not see them as inducements to humility, but rather as humiliation, reason to react with enraged defiance. Using ever more conventional weapons could mean the eradication of humankind, rather than its rescue. The only way to win this war is to gain trust and turn enmity into neighbourliness.

The hearts and minds of the masses must be won to take away their incentive to resonate with those few humiliation entrepreneurs who instigate and organise terror. When the masses turn away from the few terrorist leaders, they can safely be policed, without fear that every dead or captured terrorist will be replaced with a new one within minutes.

Emanuela Del Re-EPOS: While some analysts sustain that the increased availability of unconventional weapons (including nuclear) is creating a dangerous convergence with terrorism, others see this eventuality as remote. What is your opinion about the issue? How much does this influence the security strategies of the states at global level?

Evelin Lindner: Dangerous convergence with terrorism is to be expected depending on the success or failure of Western societies to recognise their own double standards, apologise for them, and enter into dialogue with those who are intent on using acts of violence and humiliation to remedy the humiliation they feel is perpetrated on them.

Nuclear terrorism poses a grave threat to global security – read, for example, Michael Levi (2008). In June 2004, Mohamed El Baradei (2004), the usually guarded Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), described the threat of nuclear terrorism as ‘real and imminent’, and talked of a ‘race against time’ to prevent terrorists from obtaining nuclear and radioactive materials.

El Baradei’s warnings are highly relevant also for Southeast Asia, see Tanya Ogilvie-White (2006). Ogilvie-White outlines some of the most vulnerable sources of nuclear and radioactive materials in use and storage at facilities throughout the Southeast Asia region, ranging from high-risk highly enriched uranium at existing nuclear research reactors, to lower-risk radioisotopes, which are widely in use and yet insufficiently monitored by a number of Southeast Asian commercial enterprises.

Emanuela Del Re-EPOS: The perception of risk is fundamental in my opinion. There is a diffused perception of an escalation of terrorism, although the data demonstrate that the number of victims is constantly decreasing (apart from 9/11). Is the risk in proportion with our perception? Is the perception influenced too much by the media? How do you judge the role of the media?

Evelin Lindner: To my view, five main factors tend to increase risk perception, while only two (which are intertwined) decrease it: First, approaching the world through the lens of an ideology of honour increases risk perception. Second, the fact that drama sells, causes media to increase risk perception. A human rights outlook, in contrast, can be expected to decrease risk perception, except, third, for the fact that also contemporary democracies are defined as national democracies. Fourth, the linguistic and conceptual confusion about the word understanding increases risk perception.

Fifth, even though increasing global interdependence should decrease risk perception from terrorism, the lack of awareness that in an interdependent world self-interest coincides with common interest, may work in the opposite direction. The two elements that decrease risk perception, at least with regard to terrorism (while they may increase risk perception from other challenges, such as global warming), may be identified as growing global interdependence and a growing global awareness of human rights.

1. Ideology of honour

In a context of honour, it is part and parcel of in-group identity to have enemies against whom the own identity is stabilised. In such a context, people must be expected to play up risk from outer enemies, rather than play it down, because this risk is the foundation of their world view and identity.

The background for this dynamic is the so-called security dilemma, as described in international relations theory. It became the defining factor for almost all cultures around the globe beginning circa 10,000 years ago, when agriculture emerged as basis for livelihood. The phrase ‘security dilemma’ was coined by John H. Herz (1950) to explain why states that have no intention to harm one another may still end up in competition and war. Its very essence is tragic (157-180). The security dilemma has been expanded on by many authors – see, for example, Robert Jervis, Richard Ned Lebow, & Janice Gross Stein (1985). The definition of the security dilemma by Jack Snyder (1985), where one state requires the insecurity of another has been labeled by Alan Collins (2004) as a state-induced security dilemma.

Under the conditions of the security dilemma, the Hobbesian fear of surprise attacks from outside one’s nation’s borders reigns. Barry Posen (1993), and Russell Hardin (1995) discuss these emotional aspects of the security dilemma and how they play out between ethnic groups as much as between states. Constant preparations for war drain societal resources. Everybody has to be on continuously alert, dependent on leaders and governing organs. Stereotyped fear of out-groups permeates in-groups. For millennia, this fear became manifest in societal, social, and cultural institutions, from Ministries of War or Defence to identity constructs such as patriotism, or gender division – see, for example, Joshua S. Goldstein (2001), and how he links war and gender division.

2. Drama sells

The fact that drama sells may cause the media to increase risk perception. There is a saying that the forest grows in silence, while the cutting down of trees causes great commotion. Peace and calm don’t draw attention, while their disturbance does. Disturbances are news, of which peace and calm form the background.

Particularly in a cultural environment where profit maximisation is accepted as primary normative guideline, it must be expected that the fact that drama sells will be exploited by media to the detriment of peace. This is only preventable by a change in the normative prioritisations of entire communities. The economic crisis that broke in 2008 epitomises the damage of a culture of profit maximisation in a world where homeostatic balance must be optimised. The image of the forest applies to all, the economic system at large, and the activities of their entrepreneurs and citizens, including media: when the cutting down of trees acquires pre-eminence, there will soon be no forest anymore.

If we analyse the culture of profit maximisation, we observe that it represents a variation of the traditional honour culture. While in traditional honour societies, elites keep underlings in their inferior position more or less openly, in a culture of ruthless individualism and profit maximisation, elites trap underlings into submission by the promise that they can easily join the elite if only they believe in maximising profit.

If we read David J. Rothkopf (2008), a small number (circa 6,000) of largely unelected powerful people around the globe have shaped the world during the past decades in ways that the financial meltdown became possible, and they did this by the same mixture of self-centered power play that lacks consideration for long-term survival to the degree that it is self- and other-destructive.

Philip Delves Broughton (2009), in his book Ahead of the curve: Two years at Harvard Business School, describes the missionary fervour, and a sense of superiority that the culture of profit maximisation at all cost instilled in its students.

In my article ‘What the World’s Cultures Can Contribute to Creating a Sustainable Future for Humankind’, Evelin Gerda Lindner (2008c), I discuss the Anglo-Saxon culture of readiness for action that facilitated the large-scale manipulation of the past three decades into the belief that profit maximisation ought to receive primacy. I recommend utilising the Anglo-Saxon readiness for action as an asset by merging it with Asian, African, and Continental European cultural scripts of the more cautious design of structures.

3. National fragmentation

A human rights outlook can be expected to decrease risk perception, except for the fact that also contemporary democracies are defined as national democracies.

Human rights indicate that all human beings are equal in rights and dignity. This tenet invites all citizens of the world into one single human family. This world view decreases risk perception from ‘outsiders’ not least because it frees it from the security dilemma and its in-group/out-group biases which stoke risk perception. For a human rights defender, terrorists, or sympathisers with terrorism, are no longer enemies from an out-group, but misguided neighbours in their in-group.

A terrorist is no longer an enemy who stabilises ‘our’ identity against ‘them’, but a fellow human being who can be approached in the same way in which any in-group treats their problematic citizens, namely, with tools ranging from societal dialogue to the judiciary system.

This means that leaders of democratic countries, who subscribe to human rights, face a dilemma: How can they reconcile the fact that all humankind represents one family with the fact that they lead a country that comprises only part of this family? To be elected, a leader must represent the interests of his people, not the interests of other nations’ citizens. Even the most enlightened leader may be tempted to play up risk from ‘our’ enemies so as to be re-elected.

It is much more glorious to conceptualise terrorists as creatures who threaten ‘us’ from outside, than accepting that they may be misguided members of our own in-group. It is much more glorious and dramatic to announce military interventions against something (cutting ‘bad’ trees, to stay in the forest metaphor), than delving down into the details of self-critical scrutiny of the inner workings of one’s own in-group and announcing the tedious aim of working for more cohesion (growing a sustainable forest).

Let me quote from the section ‘You are an enemy! How outdated out-group language can humiliate’ in Evelin Gerda Lindner (2006) (pp. 43-44): “A village enjoys peace when all inhabitants get along without resorting to violence. Words such as “war,” “soldier,” or “victory” are anachronistic. The only language that fits the new situation is the language of policing, because safeguarding social peace within a village calls for police sustaining a cohesive social web, not soldiers seeking victory. Currently, we witness many such transitions of language. The traditional notion of the soldier is presently changing to connote peace keepers and peace enforcers.

The warrior-soldier who left home to reap national and personal glory, fame, and triumph is becoming obsolete. Furthermore, there is a movement away from the word enemy, toward the word terrorist. Terrorists are inner enemies, very bad neighbours, the only subgroup of enemy that can exist inside. In the global village, all concepts, ideas, and feelings formerly attached to out-group categorizations lose their validity. When there is only one in-group left, there can be no out-group.

Out-group notions now “hang in thin air” without their former basis in reality. When a tree dies, it no longer bears fruit. People may need time to grasp this, but they cannot escape this new reality. Words such as “enemies,” “wars,” “victory,” and “soldiers” (as well as the already mentioned word “they,” as opposed to “us”) stem from times when the human population lived in many separate villages. Under the new circumstances we are citizens of one village, with no imperial enemies threatening from outside. There is, indeed, no outside. Likewise, there is no “they” anymore; there is only “us.”

The only sentence that fits the reality of any village, including the global village, is, “We are all neighbours; some of us are good neighbours, some are bad neighbours, and in order to safeguard social peace we need police [no longer soldiers to defend against enemies in wars].” A village comprises good and bad neighbours, while enemies traditionally have their place outside of the village’s boundaries, as have soldiers, wars, and victories. A village enjoys peace when all inhabitants get along without resorting to violence. Words such as “war,” “soldier,” or “victory” are anachronistic.

The only language that fits the new situation is the language of policing, because safeguarding social peace within a village calls for police sustaining a cohesive social web, not soldiers seeking victory. Currently, we witness many such transitions of language. The traditional notion of the soldier is presently changing to connote peace keepers and peace enforcers. The warrior-soldier who left home to reap national and personal glory, fame, and triumph is becoming obsolete. Furthermore, there is a movement away from the word enemy, toward the word terrorist. Terrorists are inner enemies, very bad neighbours, the only subgroup of enemy that can exist inside.

4. Understanding is not condoning

The linguistic and conceptual confusion about the word understanding entails the danger to increase risk perception. Many people reject the search for ‘root causes’ for terrorism because they fear that such endeavours amount to nothing but the condoning of terrorism. Many equate understanding with condoning, and de-scribing with pre-scribing, and believe that we excuse terrorism when we conceptualise perpetrators as ‘human beings’ rather than ‘mad monsters’ or ‘THE ENEMY’.

In my chapter ‘Humiliation and Global Terrorism: How To Overcome It Nonviolently’ – Evelin Gerda Lindner (2007) – I argue that this equation must be overcome if we wish to reach for constructive solutions to the terrorist threat, not least because the nature of terrorism indicates that only inclusive change will work. What is needed is Mandela-like maturity and ability for nuanced bridge-building.

5. Self-interest and common interest

The lack of awareness of the fact that in an interdependent world, self-interest coincides with common interest entails the danger to increase risk perception.

Not only the normative core of human rights calls for all humankind to be regarded as one single in-group, the reality of a world growing ever interdependent turns this normative call into a pragmatic call. The world is one, not only normatively, in theory, but also in practice. Consequently, when there is only one relevant in-group, namely all of humankind, national self-interest by definition coincides with the common-interest of all humankind.

Yet, this insight is still historically young. The world’s institutions do not yet express this insight. Few global institutions hold humankind’s common interest at heart. The United Nations, the highest international body, is a club of nations. The fear of an autocratic world government that would dominate the world, a fear that is informed by the traditional honour world view, is only one among many forces that hinder the creation of viable global institutions (others were mentioned above). Clearly, global institutions should not be an imperial project of world domination, but a project of new global unity. This is discussed, for example, by Joseph Preston Baratta (2004) in The Politics of World Federation. However, such voices are still weak.

As long as viable global institutions lack, due to short-sighted and ultimately self-defeating definitions of self-interests that do not serve common interest, risk is played up to hinder the coming-into-being of precisely such global institutions.

Emanuela Del Re-EPOS: Given the superficiality by which Islamism, Salafism, Wahhabism, Jihadism, fundamentalism and others are confused, would you explain what they are and in which way they can be related to terrorism, if this is the case?

Evelin Lindner: The terms ‘Wahhabi’ and ‘Salafi’ are often used interchangeably, but Wahhabi is also considered a particular orientation within Salafism, usually an ultra-conservative orientation. Islamism is a set of ideologies holding that Islam is not only a religion but also a political system. This political system should return to the roots of Islam, unite politically, and establish a world-wide caliphate.

Jihadism can be regarded as representing a sub-category of the latter orientation. Bassan Tibi is professor at the University of Göttingen, Germany, and a professor-at-large at Cornell University. ‘After any terrorist attack by jihadists – from the Sept. 11 attacks to those in Bali in 2002, Madrid in 2004 and London in July – two contradictory views are usually heard. Some people claim that such religiously legitimated terror has its roots in Islam; others, principally Muslims and politically correct Westerners, say such terrorism has nothing to do with Islam. The truth can only be reached by putting aside both extreme views and by recognising the difference between Islam, the religion, and Islamism, the religious-political ideology. Although jihadism may not be Islamic, it is based on the ideology of Islamism, which has emerged from the politicisation of Islam in the current war of ideas’, writes Bassam Tibi (2005).

During my seven years of work and life in Cairo, Egypt, and my doctoral research in Somalia, I had ample occasion to study Islam and the ways it is practiced. I grew up in a Christian home that could be characterised as fundamentalist, an orientation I have since rejected. In other words, I have experienced firsthand how identities, religious identities included, can be constructed, de-constructed, and re-constructed in response to cultural and social environments, the type of socialisation of a person, and a person’s individual psychological make-up. In all cases, to my experience, the yearning for recognition, and the lack of recognition – perceived as humiliating – are at the core of this negotiation of identity.

As to the macro level, German philosopher Max Scheler (1912) set out related issues in his classic book Ressentiment (similar to resentment). In ‘The Politics of Recognition,’ Charles Taylor (1994) argues that identity politics are motivated by a deep human need for recognition, with the injurious effects of various forms of misrecognition. Liah Greenfeld, writing in the field of political science, focuses on ressentiment and sees its dynamics at the heart of nationalism – see Liah Greenfeld (1996), Liah Greenfeld (1992).

At meso levels, I have observed how people socialised by the above-mentioned strict father approach, will tend to abide by the letter of rules brought to them from above, while elites, and people raised within the nurturant parent paradigm, will tend to place the locus of control within themselves and adapt their allegiances, be it cultural, religious, ethnic, or others, according to how they perceive others extending recognition or withholding it.

In Evelin Gerda Lindner (2000), I make the point that mostcultural differences are not a priori differences, but are secondary to humiliation. I contend that this argument is also valid for religion, and how it is lived in practice. Let me quote (p. 3): ‘Cultures’ are often conceptualised as ‘containers’ with more or less opaque walls, as being the product of diverse environments and diverse cultural beliefs in human groups that have developed in isolation.

A small allowance is typically made for ‘diffusion’ since cultures are expected to be in contact with each other and learn from each other, but this does not alter the basic concept of cultures as isolated ‘containers’. In fact, post-modern thought makes this approach its very foundation and assumes that different cultures are fundamentally impenetrable, unknowable, and enigmatic to each other. The post-modern assumption that no overarching grand narrative is valid and that different cultures are basically foreign and fundamentally unfathomable to each other is a clear expression of this line of thought.

However, this article proposes another approach to cultural differences. It argues that many cultural differences may be interpreted as a response to the process whereby one group has humiliated another. To a significant degree and in many cases, cultural difference may be understood as a response to humiliation, as a defensive reaction inserted within a discourse of humiliation between groups.

The central point is that when people feel humiliated they construct and deepen difference where there was none or little before. If this hypothesis is valid, it would suggest that much of cultural difference is secondary, not primary. Those cases would stand in contradiction to the post-modern assumption of unbridgeable difference. As is clear, the definition of culture adopted in this paper entails a deeply relational perspective. It is assumed that social groups, communities, social institutions, and societies are continually developing systems that interact with – and influence – each other continually.

A particular, relatively clearly bounded network of social relationships may for a while remain in a fairly stable ‘steady state’ in respect of the constellation of assumptions, understandings, customs and habits that prevail within it, and this condition may be called ‘having a distinctive culture’. However, this condition may also develop in the direction of greater fluidity, openness and uncertainty, and the appearance of having a clear and distinct culture may diminish.

Emanuela Del Re-EPOS: What is terrorism in Asia? Which are the origins, the effects? The strategies? Must it be interpreted as an element of the actual wider contest of terrorism or is it a phenomenon that can be explained only at local level?

Evelin Lindner: We can refer to what we have said so far. Local grievances are uniquely local and cannot be compared with others. However, people with grievances will tend to draw on the store of narratives available elsewhere, including the narrative of freedom fighters remedying humiliation by all means, including terror. Inversely, their strategies and campaigns will feed back into the global store of narratives and will fertilise others in different parts of the world. In this way, mutual fertilisation is to be expected.

In Evelin Gerda Lindner (2009c), entitled ‘How Asia Can Contribute to World Peace Psychology: Creating a Dignified and Peaceful World by Employing Unity in Diversity’, I discuss the situation of Asia in particular and highlight the cultural resources in Asia that can help build social cohesion (the term preferred in Europe) or harmony (the term preferred in Asia).

Emanuela Del Re-EPOS: Foreign armed forces on field are to be considered as deterrents or amplifiers of terrorism?

Evelin Lindner: In 2002, I had a discussion with an American friend who supported George W. Bush’s plans to invade Iraq – see Evelin Gerda Lindner (2002) – where I described two scenarios. The first scenario was that of liberation, the second that of oppressive and humiliating occupation. Unfortunately, history confirmed my fear that the second scenario would prevail, not only in Iraqi perception, leading to a host of painful consequences.

Let me use a quote from Evelin Gerda Lindner (2006) to illustrate some of the underlying cultural ‘clashes’ (pp. 95-96): “When I studied medicine in the 1980s, debates were waging between proponents of the two approaches. We learned, however, that patients benefit most when both strategies are used, supporting one another. In the global arena, building a sustainable world based on human rights would be equivalent to the preventive strengthening approach. Dissuading, isolating, and marginalizing extremists – such as terrorists – would correspond to strikes.

Current disagreements seem to focus on how the two should be calibrated. European hesitation confirms American suspicions that Europeans are not capable of being decisive and courageous and that Americans are the world’s most visionary and strong-minded leaders. Americans are good surgeons so to speak, and Europeans are weaklings who cannot stand the sight of blood. From the European point of view, American strategies risk being counterproductive – the wrong strikes at the wrong time – exacerbating the disease instead of healing it. (…) We can probably all agree that the appropriate approach is to tailor strategies to situations, assuring that the suitable strategy is implemented for the intended goal. Sometimes, courage is better invested in prevention and containment, and sometimes in strikes.

Sometimes strikes are necessary to defend ideals, and sometimes prevention and containment will get the job done more easily and with less loss of life. Strikes, if decided upon, must not be counterproductive. What is counterproductive for global peace, in any case, is automatically misreading one another’s motives. Such misreadings may stir up feelings of humiliation on a global scale.

Emanuela Del Re-EPOS: Is peacekeeping as it is conceived today, able to contrast terrorism?

Evelin Lindner: To stay in the forest metaphor, peacekeeping needs to emphasise the quiet growing of the forest rather than the noisy cutting down of trees. I see two main elements that would merit particular attention, first, the element of overpowering with force and respect, and second, the nurturing element that is traditionally associated with the female role.

I discuss these points in Chapter 8: ‘The Humiliation Antidote’ in my book Making Enemies: Humiliation and International Conflict (Evelin Gerda Lindner (2006), pp. 154-157).

1. Coercion should be wedded to respect

I contend that coercion and overpowering in the spirit of Gandhi’s concept of satyāgraha (non-violent action) – a combination of satya (truth-love) and agraha (firmness/force) – may be necessary to ensure local and global peace. Overpowering coercion may be needed in certain situations – a lack of regulations can create failed economies, as much as the lack of appropriate police forces can create failed states – but must be wedded to respect.

The question is not big government or small government, and so forth, but ‘what works.’ I agree with Riane Eisler, who calls for new social categories that go beyond conventional ones such as religious versus secular, right versus left, capitalist versus communist, Eastern versus Western, and industrial versus pre- or post-industrial. All these dichotomies are misleading and must be embedded into complex layers, not pitted against each other. I like the advice given by Jean Baker Miller (2006) to create alternative arrangements rather than accept false choices.

Let me illustrate my point of respectful coercion with an example ((Evelin Gerda Lindner (2006), p. 154): “I was amazed at the low rate of crime and unrest in Cairo, a metropolis of approximately 10 to 15 million people. A high degree of social control is part of Egyptian culture. I frequently witnessed incidents such as the following situation, which gave testimony to this social control:

An accident occurs in the street in the middle of overcrowded Cairo. The two drivers get out of their cars and angrily survey the damage. They shout and jump at each others necks. They scream, they shove and hit one another. Around this scene, in the street, in coffee houses, in shops, people watch attentively, their faces reflecting seriousness, urgency, respect and involvement.

About ten to twenty men, usually young and strong, slowly approach the two men. They stand in two groups of five to ten men each, with each group assuming responsibility for one of the opponents, restraining and talking to him. The restraint used is enough so that neither opponent can hit or hurt the other, but both can still shout and scream and make brief attacking lunges.Each group speaks with the man to which it has assigned itself, talking calmly and with respect. They show him that they understand the urgency which forces a man to behave in such a dramatic manner (a person who is outside him/herself is almost holy in Egypt).

The ‘facilitators’ try to understand the nature of the conflict and propose various compromises to resolve it. They do not focus unduly on the rational side of the conflict, they rather constantly grant respect to the fact that the opponents are psychologically overburdened and that the rupture of social peace has to be healed. After ten or fifteen minutes the opponents begin to calm down. If it’s appropriate, they agree on a compromise. If necessary, some facilitators promise to act as witnesses and/or enforcers of the compromises. The conflict is over. The opponents leave. The facilitators go back to their previous occupations without a lot of fanfare. Patching up conflicts is routine.

As we understand from this example, the conflict resolution and containment street scenes that I witnessed usually included a ratio of 20 to 2 ratio, or at least 10 to 2. Twenty physically powerful men were required to cool and pacify two clashing opponents. If this scenario is a blueprint for conflict resolution, resources for the prevention, containment, and resolution of conflicts around the world need to be increased. Overpowering numbers of blue helmets/global police persons with a credible overpowering mandate and well-devised overpowering strategies are required.

The international community can develop a wealth of creative ideas based on the 20 to 2 ratio blueprint. Why is it that hundreds of thousands of soldiers are available, but not hundreds of thousands of inspectors?

2. Nurturing, as in traditional female role descriptions

It is interesting to observe how the Egyptian approach combines elements of coercion and respect from traditionally male and female roles. The scene combines ‘female’ talking, understanding, empathising, perspective-taking, and healing on one side, and a ‘male’ potential for overpowering, coercion, force, violence, and aggression on the other. ‘Male’ strength and moderated counter-aggression restrain the fighters. ‘Female’ awareness of the cohesion of the social fabric creates an atmosphere in which the fighters feel they are being taken seriously. To combine the ‘male’ aspect of force with ‘female’ empathy could be the modern recipe of conflict resolution.

The old ‘male’ strategy of using destructive force is not appropriate in an interdependent modern global village, but the ‘male’ ability to use restraining force continues to be an important tool. Let me continue quoting from Chapter 8 (Evelin Gerda Lindner (2006), p. 156): “Today’s men and women are invited to share roles – men to use more of the traditional ‘female’ role characteristics and women to become more ‘visible.’

Formerly, visibility was connected to the man guarding the frontiers separating inside from outside, just as clothes protect and hide the inside from outside viewers. There is an Egyptian saying, ‘The woman is the neck and the man the head; the woman turns the neck wherever she wants.’ In other words, Egyptian women feel that they create relevant content inside the home, which is presented to the outside by their men. With the disappearance of an outside sphere in a global village, this ‘division of labor’ loses its significance, letting women and men alike dwell together inside, in intimate privacy, and appear visibly outside. UNESCO’s Culture of Peace Programme urges the strengthening of the ‘female’ aspect in conflict resolution efforts.

The list of potential female contributions is a long one (adapted from Evelin Gerda Lindner (1999)): using multitrack, ‘track II,’ and citizen-based diplomacy; installing early warning institutions; rethinking the notion of state sovereignty; setting up projects to study and understand the history of potential conflict areas, collecting this information, and making it available to decision makers; using psychology on a macro level, taking identity as a bridge; keeping communication going between warring parties; talking behind the scenes; including people besides the warlords in peace negotiations; developing conflict-resolution teams with less hierarchy and more creativity; setting up mediation teams; installing ‘truth commissions’; allowing warring parties to feel the world community’s care, respect, and concern; taking opponents in a conflict out of their usual environment; taking the adversaries’ personal feelings and emotions seriously; recognizing the importance of human dignity; introducing sustainable long-term approaches on the social and ecological level; progressing from spending aid money after a disaster to allocating resources to prevent it; and so on.

According to the Culture of Peace Programme and conflict resolution experts around the world, these ‘female’ efforts must be combined with a certain amount of ‘male’ coercion to achieve peace. The term social control expresses the combination of both aspects. On the national level, police and prisons represent some of the coercive aspects (incidentally more effective if the average citizen does not carry weapons), while institutions like lawyers, courts, and rehabilitation programs have the potential to fulfill the role of social caring and healing.

Such a culture of peace, merging formerly separate ‘male’ and ‘female’ role descriptions, contains cycles of humiliation among conflict parties without humiliating them. If we desire world peace, we need to build global awareness and global institutions that are strong enough for the task of social control. On April 17, 2003, Kofi Annan explained that he rejects the idea of the UN taking on a task it cannot fulfill. Annan wants resources and a strong mandate to avoid a UN failure caused by member states withholding support. He says, in short, that you should not send out a boy with a stick to kill a lion, then lament the boy’s ineptitude.

Emanuela Del Re-EPOS: Can you comment on Obama’s counter-terrorism strategy? Do you think that he will bring some innovation in this particular field?

Evelin Lindner: Keeping a fragmented world together and marrying globalisation with egalisation is the task at hand for the world community, including for Barack Obama, if a sustainable social and ecological future shall be secured for humankind.

I coined the word egalisation to match the word globalisation and differentiate it from words such as equality. Egalisation avoids claiming that everybody should become equal and that there should be no differences between people. Egality can coexist with a functional hierarchy that regards all participants as possessing equal dignity; egality cannot coexist, though, with a hierarchy that defines some people as lesser beings and others as more valuable.

In Evelin Gerda Lindner (2003), I define egalisation as follows: “If we imagine the world as a container with a height and a width, globalization addresses the horizontal dimension, the shrinking width. Egalization concerns the vertical dimension, reminiscent of Hofstede’s power distance. Egalization is a process away from a very high container of masters at the top and underlings at the bottom, towards a flat container with everybody enjoying equal dignity. Egalization is a process that elicits hot feelings of humiliation when it is promised but fails. The lack of egalization is thus the element that is heating up feelings among so-called ‘globalization-critics.’ Their disquiet stems from lack of egalization and not from an overdose of globalization. What they call for is that globalization ought to marry egalization.”

The road map that I propose in my book Emotion and Conflict: How Human Rights Can Dignify Emotion and Help Us Wage Good Conflict – Evelin Gerda Lindner (2009a) – is the following (I quote from the summary that I prepared for the publisher): “This is a book about dignity and how realizing its promise can help improve the human condition at all levels—from micro to meso to macro levels. As the book uses a broad historical lens that captures all of human history, from its hunter-gatherer origins to the promise of a globally united knowledge society in the future, it emphasizes the need to recognize and leave behind the malign cultural, social, and psychological effects of the so-called security dilemma which characterized the fragmented world of the past millennia, where communities lived in fear of being conquered and enslaved by their neighbours.

The book calls upon the world community, academics and lay people alike, to own up to the opportunities offered by increasing global interdependence. Space opens up for the human rights message that ‘all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights’ as opposed to ranked hierarchical societies with ‘higher’ beings presiding over ‘lower’ beings, where both, masters and underlings, suffer psychological damage.

The book describes the path humankind needs to take if it wishes to create a world that is worth living in, a path that heals the damages of the past and prevents them from occurring in the future. The new philosophical foundation that will need to permeate all human activities is the nondualistic principle of Unity in Diversity and the optimization of homeostatic systems rather than the maximization of singular elements, for example, profit.

The book recommends an action plan for humankind with two core loops to travel, (1) acquiring new awareness for global responsibility, (2) acquiring new personal skills of cooperation, and (3) creating new global institutional frames that enable new forms of global and local cooperation. Institutions (3) have pre-eminence because decent institutions can drive feedback loops that foster (1) and (2) in systemic rather than haphazard ways.

The first loop, the initial realization of new institutions, depends on a few Nelson Mandela-like individuals, who ‘nudge’ the world’s systems into a more constructive frame. The second and subsequent loops will have the advantage of enjoying the support from the system, no longer only depending on a few gifted individuals. A new culture has to emerge, locally and globally, at all societal, social, and psychological levels, a truly humane culture of Unity in Diversity, where people have access to the full range of their emotions and learn to regulate them so that their motivational force can drive the creation of an ecologically and socially sustainable world rather than a world of destruction.

As to Barack Obama’s counter-terrorism strategies, I trust that he has sufficient intercultural experience to gauge the dilemma that is entailed in the fact that human rights approaches may not automatically meet friendly acceptance everywhere, but that human rights still have to guide his policies. He can’t fall for ‘since they don’t respect human rights, we don’t need to either.’ Gandhi’s concept of satyāgraha (non-violent action) – a combination of satya (truth-love) and agraha (firmness/force) – presents itself as a suitable guideline to ensure local and global peace, whereby policing the global village could fall into the category of ‘non-violent’ if carried out in ways that connect respect with coercion, rather than overpowering and humiliating ‘enemies.’

I believe that Obama, as a person, does possess the international experience that is necessary for his strategies to succeed, not least due to his personal background that bridges many fault lines and has taught him to see many perspectives. He has an inner ‘gut-feeling’ and intuition that guides him in the way described in this text. People who grew up in a more homogenous environment, understandably, have less access to his bird’s eye view on the world.

This means that only if Obama can muster sufficient persuasive power to pull those with less experience into his direction, will his strategies have a chance to succeed.


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Last modified on Monday, 18 August 2014 15:40
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