Author Topic: Humiliation  (Read 716 times)

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Offline Anonymous

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« on: July 29, 2005, 12:03:00 AM »
Since many of us felt frequently humilaited at MMS I thought this article applicable- even if the focus is on human rights, talks about the history of domination and use of humiliation.

Theory of Humiliation
Summary (as narrative)
see also as short table, as executive summary, and as longer paper
Evelin Gerda Lindner, 2004
Summary without references, see a comprehensive overview over references in Lindner, 2003.
Please ask the author for permission when you wish to quote her.

Taken from
Lindner, Evelin Gerda (2004). Humiliation in a Globalizing World: Does Humiliation Become the Most Disruptive Force? New York, NY: Paper prepared for the "Workshop on Humiliation and Violent Conflict," November 18-19, 2004 at Columbia University.

In order to understand a globalizing world, we need "global" research, as well as the participation of researchers who have a global outlook and global experience. In my case, a specific biography made me acquire a profoundly global perspective and identity. This experiential background has led me to conceptualize psychology in a specific way, firstly as being embedded within broader historic and philosophical contexts, secondly as being profoundly intertwined with global changes, and thirdly as currently gaining significance. I avoid single interest scholarship, work transdisciplinary, and probe how even local micro-changes may be embedded within larger global changes.

I begin by giving attention to new technologies of communication and mobility (such as the internet, or transportation by airplanes, for example), that allow for a) new visions of the world, b) the ingathering of humankind (ingathering is an anthropological term for the coming-together of tribes, Ury, 1999) and c) for a continuous uprising of underlings.

To summarize Ury (1999), most of humankind's history went by relatively peacefully, with small bands of hunter-gatherers cooperating within noticeably egalitarian societal structures. The available abundance of wild food provided hunter-gatherers with an expandable pie of resources and a win-win frame. Roughly 10,000 years ago, agriculturalism began to emerge, giving rise to hierarchical societies, framing life within a win-lose logic, and fuelling war. In the wake of the most recent transition, technological innovations enable humans to relate to their home, planet Earth, in profoundly new ways. People around the globe communicate and meet as never before. At present Homo sapiens is about to create a global knowledge society, says Ury, thus returning to the win-win frame of hunter-gatherers, and thereby regaining the potential for relatively peaceful egalitarian societal structures for the global "tribe" of humankind.

Ironically, we might add, the technological means for this most recent transition were provided not least by Homo sapiens' attention to warfare, which turns inappropriate, at least in its classic form, in the global village. And these technological innovations give underlings the tools to link up and form uprisings, for the first time in history, feeding a continuous uprising. All three features, the new vision of the world, the new means for coming-together, and the continuous uprising of underlings, represent new phenomena and in many ways make "lessons from history" obsolete. Profoundly new ways of thinking must be developed.

The new technologies give humankind access to profoundly new visions of the world. Planet Earth has finally become visible as what it always was, a tiny planet in a vast universe, and home to all humankind. Television news programs around the world begin with the image of a turning globe, a view that no human being in the past had access to.

The new technologies also enable humankind to come together; they drive the ingathering of humankind. We can also call this phenomenon globalization, or the coming-into-being of One single global village , which represents the coming-into-being of One single in-group of humanity. The ingathering of humankind turns formerly rather separate entities into one single entity, where relationships play a more important role than before. No longer have separate entities merely separate "interests." The quality of their mutual relationships gains weight. In short, the decisive element for potential conflict moves from separate interests to the quality of relationships . In an atmosphere of mutual respect, conflicting interests will be accommodated, in an atmosphere characterized by dynamics of humiliation, conflicting interests may be used to fuel violence.

The term global village signifies that at the global level One single in-group is currently emerging and that the notion of out-groups disappears; what emerges is One single family of humankind. As long as rather separate entities dominated the global theatre, the Security Dilemma was strong. It left no other option to people than continuous fear of unexpected attacks from outside. The coming-into being of One single in-group, in contrast, brings people into mutual relations. No longer do they belong to separate entities that seem mutually opaque and incomprehensible. People enter into relationships, with all their potential outcomes, from forming friendships to feeling humiliated when respect and recognition are felt lacking. In the wake of a weakening of the Security Dilemma, fear of the unknown outsider, as dominant emotion, gives place to the desire to be recognized and appreciated by fellow human beings or to feelings of humiliation when respect, recognition and appreciation are perceived to be lacking. Thus, we can observe a shift to a more relational global life world, a weakening of the Security Dilemma, and a shift from fear to humiliation.

Intertwined with the ingathering of humankind is the rise of Human Rights ideals. Human Rights ideals entail two historically new elements. Firstly they may be labeled ingroup ethics , which now are globalized, while outgroup ethics losing their scope, secondly they drive the historically first continuous uprising of underlings (Lindner has coined the term egalization for this revolution, matching the term globalization; globalization describes the trend towards the horizontal coming-together of humankind, while egalization describes the vertical coming-together of humankind, on one single level of equal dignity for all).

As to the first element, Human Rights ideals in many ways resemble the ethical norms that people usually apply within what they regard their ingroup. In tact with the ingathering of humankind, ingroup ethics apply to the entire world, and out-group ethics lose their scope. As to the second element, Human Rights ideals entail a revolution; their advocates drive a transition away from societies where ranked worthiness of human beings (lesser beings and higher beings) was normal, to the notion of equal dignity for all. Equal dignity for all is a norm that turns a host of formerly appropriate strategies into violations. And these violations carry the potential to elicit feelings of humiliation. For example, security and peace can no longer be attained by parading "strength" and holding down people by sheer force. While this might have rendered humble underlings in former times, it does no longer.

In the new historical context, the phenomenon of humiliation (expressed in acts, feelings and institutions), gains significance in two ways, a) as a result of the new and more relational reality of the world, and b) through the emergence of Human Rights ideals. Dynamics of humiliation profoundly change in their nature within the larger historical transition from a world steeped in Honor codes of unequal human worthiness to a world of Human Rights ideals of equal dignity. Dynamics of humiliation move from honor-humiliation to dignity-humiliation, and, they gain more significance.

As soon as Human Rights ideals have entered the hearts and minds of people, the notion of humiliation changes profoundly as compared to pre-Human Rights contexts, and it gains weight. Formerly it was seen as the duty of underlings to accept being put down. They had no right to invoke feelings of humiliation. Only masters were permitted to label their privileged position as "honorable" and defend their honor against attempts to humiliate it. In Human Rights context the situation is turned on its head. Underlings are empowered, which means that they are permitted to use words such as oppression or humiliation to label their lowly state, while masters are told that they ought to descend from arrogating superiority and adopt the new humility of equal dignity, together with risen-up underlings.




The human rights revolution could be described as an attempt to collapse the master-slave gradient to a line of equal dignity and humility (see graphics). The practice of masters arrogating superiority and subjugating underlings is now regarded as illicit and obscene, and human rights advocates invite both, masters and underlings, to join in shared humility at the line of equal dignity. It is important to note that the horizontal line is meant to represent the line of equal dignity and humility. This line does not signify that all human beings are equal, or should be equal, or ever were or will be equal, or identical, or all the same.

Brigid Donelan kindly comments this model as follows (personal message, December 20, 2004), "This is a model with twin features: one a historical trend and the other a contemporary potential/choice. We may think of humanity evolving through stages of pride, honor and dignity. We can also see that each stage is 'alive and well' within each contemporary individual, as a choice/potential. The value of the model lies in clarifying the choice, and suggesting a trend towards emergence of a 'global knowledge society,' for which there is certainly evidence, and benefits for all."

Feelings of humiliation may lead to three major consequences, a) to depression and apathy, b) they may nurture an urge to retaliate with inflicting humiliation (in humiliation entrepreneurs such as Hitler; genocide, terrorism), or c) they may lead to constructive social change (Mandela).

New public policies for driving not only globalization but also egalization and create a peaceful and just world must be developed. They need to entail three elements that are intertwined. Firstly, new decent institutions have to be built, both locally and globally, that heal and prevent dynamics of humiliation (Decent Society, Margalit, 1996). Secondly, new attention has to be given to maintaining relationships of equal dignity. Thirdly, new social skills have to be learned in order to maintaining relations of equal dignity. We need not least, a new type of leaders, Mandelas, who are no longer autocratic dominators and humiliation-entrepreneurs, but knowledgeable, wise facilitators and motivators, who lead toward respectful and dignified inclusion of all humankind as opposed to hateful polarization.

All three tasks, albeit informed by ideas and practices developed in the past, are historically new and unparalleled in their scope. To help render a future global society that is peaceful and just, where equal dignity for all is respected and dynamics of humiliation prevented, Lindner calls for a Moratorium on Humiliation to be included into new public policy planning.

With respect to violent conflict, both at the global and local level, the paradigm of good quality policing of neighborhoods needs to replace the paradigm of war on enemies. The global village, as any village, needs to maintain its inner security by good quality policing. War is typically waged with neighboring "villages." In the case of the global village, there is no "neighboring village" left. Thus the paradigm of war loses its anchoring in reality, and the paradigm of policing is what is left. And good quality policing connects coercion with respect.

During my time in Egypt (1984-1991), I was amazed at the low rate of crime and unrest in Cairo, a huge metropolis of at that time ten to fifteen million people. I soon understood that a high amount of social control is part of Egyptian culture. I frequently witnessed incidents that gave testimony to this social control. When I analyzed conflict resolution and containment scenes in the streets of Cairo, I observed a twenty-to-two ratio, or at least a ten-to-two ratio. Ten or up to twenty physically powerful men were required to cool and pacify two clashing opponents. The young men in the Cairo scenes did not need to exert brute force because they outnumbered the quarrelers. Their overpowering count enabled them to combine coercion and respect. Respect alone would not suffice, and coercion through outnumbering alone neither.

If this scenario is to be taken as a blueprint for attending to violent conflict, it is a combination of coercion and respect that has to be striven for by the international community, the United Nations, and bystanders in general. Resources for the prevention, containment, and resolution of conflicts around the world are to be increased. Overpowering numbers of blue helmets/global policepersons with credible overpowering mandates and well-devised overpowering strategies are required, embedded in an overall approach of respect.

This approach, incidentally, combines elements of coercion and respect that also can be mapped onto traditional male and female role descriptions. What is combined is "female" talking, understanding, empathy, perspective-taking and healing on one side, and a "male" potential for overpowering, coercion, and force on the other. "Male" strength and well-dosed counter-aggression are required to hold the clashing opponents. "Female" awareness of the cohesion of the social fabric is needed to take the quarrelers seriously. To combine the "male" aspect of force with "female" empathy could be described as the modern recipe of conflict resolution.

UNESCO's Culture of Peace Programme urges precisely the strengthening of the "female" aspect in conflict resolution efforts. The list is a long one: using multi-track, "track II" and citizen-based diplomacy; installing early warning institutions; rethinking the notion of state sovereignty; setting up projects to better study and understand the history of potential conflict areas, collect this information and make it available to decision makers; using psychology not only on a micro-level, but also on a macro-level, taking identity as a bridge; keeping communication going with warring parties; talking behind the scenes; including more than just 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.

Thus, globalization opens space for women and "female" strategies, inviting both women and men into embracing and combining them with the traditional ?male? strategy of coercive containment. And Human Rights ideals call for egalization , meaning equal dignity for all humankind, to be the broader guiding framework for globalization.

For the downtrodden around the world, be it women or discriminated minorities of any kind, who wish to carry out a successful and constructive uprising and change their lowly lot, a Mandela would have another threefold advice. He himself implemented this strategy most wisely: Firstly, underlings who wish to change their lowly situation constructively, have to psychologically step outside of the master-slave dyad and learn to think autonomously. Secondly, they have to stop merely re-acting to the master's actions and definitions, and begin to act. Thirdly, underlings must teach their master elites that change is necessary and unavoidable, both normatively and practically, and that a peaceful transition is preferable to violence and war.

For third parties who are trying to secure peace around the world, yet another threefold approach seems significant. Firstly, it is important to identify the fault lines between moderates and extremists in opposing camps. Not the Singhalese or Tamils, for example, are the parties to reckon with, but the Mandelas (moderates) as opposed to the humiliation-entrepreneurs (extremists) on both sides. Secondly, third parties need to facilitate alliances between moderates of both camps to transform violent reactions to feelings of humiliation among extremists. Thirdly, humiliating living conditions of the broad masses must be minimized, because otherwise frustrated masses will be open to recruitment by humiliation-entrepreneurs.

Sultan Somjee, Kenyan ethnographer honored by the UN for his efforts to preserve indigenous people's peace traditions, says in response to the Iraqi Prisoner Abuse of 2004, "Humiliation does not have nationality, religion, color or gender. Humiliation of one human being humiliates humanity and our dignity of being." I would add, only if we avoid institutions, attitudes, and behavior with humiliating effects will we create a future for our world in the spirit of Kofi Annan's promotion for the Olympic Games of 2004, namely "celebrate humanity."
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