The International Club of the Humiliated

Putin, Erdogan, Hollande feel compelled to respond to the humiliations they believe they have suffered. Where are the powers that can curb these dark passions? This is the question Volker Ulrich Ladurner asks in Die Zeit on December 7.

Putin considers the collapse of his beloved Soviet Union a humiliation, Ladurner writes. Erdogan feels he was humiliated by his own people, who last June denied him an absolute majority whereupon he declared war on the Kurds. Hollande feels he was humiliated by the atrocity that was committed in the centre of Paris and has declared war on the “Islamic State.” Germany follows her ally into war. The USA felt it was humiliated by 9/11 and took military action in Afghanistan and Iraq. And after the horror in San Bernardino, the Republicans are in a mood for war.

And of all those who feel humiliated, the terrorists of the “Islamic State” feel themselves the most humiliated of all. They believe the rest of the world has put them in a straitjacket. From this they derive the right to commit quite extraordinary barbarities.

A special bank account might be established to enable the UN to mobilize an army of psychologists to deal with these perceived humiliations. “We understand your state of mind,” they might say to their patients. “But there is no reason to resort to violence. There are other ways in which you can express your feelings.”

We all know this wouldn’t work.

Readers may think I am exaggerating. In the end, people, they may say, follow their interests, not their passions. If they say that, they have not understood their century.

That was written by the great French political thinker Raymond Aron. He meant the twentieth century. Our twenty-first century began with the attacks on September 11, 2001, with the unleashing of these destructive lethal passions. They have not cooled down.

On the contrary.

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