Monday, 24 January 2011
Violence and Humiliation in Arizona
“…his recent years have been marked by stinging rejection — from his country’s military, his community college, his girlfriends and, perhaps, his father…” NYT, Jan. 16.
Why did Jared Loughner shoot Gabrielle Giffords and nineteen others? If he is anything like the 200+ cases of multiple killers in Websdale’s study (2010), he would have a history of humiliation like theirs: so ashamed of his humiliation that he would hide it not only from others, but also from himself. Humiliation is painful but harmless when it is acknowledged; it becomes lethal only if it is kept secret (Gilligan 1997).
What does acknowledgment look like? A tiny example occurred in one of my own marital spats. My wife yelled at me about something I did or didn’t do. Instead of yelling back, my usual response, I said: “Ouch.” She said: “Ouch?” I said: “That hurt.” We both laughed, quarrel over. It lasted about a hundred seconds.
Can a quarrel last a hundred years? Yes, if one party is so secretly humiliated that it refuses to negotiate, because it wants to humiliate the other party in return. The problem with this strategy is that humiliating the other party for revenge sets up a chain reaction, revenge breeding counter- revenge.
The three wars that caused the most casualties in human history seem now, in retrospect, to fit this pattern (Scheff 1994). The French felt humiliated after their defeat by the Germans in the Franco-Prussian War (1871), so plotted revenge for 43 years. They were able to involve Russia, England and the US on their side. In the months between the assassination of the Archduke and the beginning of the war, there were NO negotiation meetings between the two sides. After losing the resultant war (WWI), the Germans, in turn, felt humiliated, which led to the rise of Hitler and WWII. 1871 to 1945: almost a hundred years and more than a hundred million casualties.
9/11 and the Iraq war may be a more recent example. In a broadcast on Al-Jazeera TV on Oct. 7, 2001, Osama bin Laden said:
“What the United States tastes today [9/11] is a very small thing compared to what we have tasted for tens of years. Our nation has been tasting…humiliation and contempt for more than 80 years. “
Bin Laden is referring to the final fall of the Ottoman Empire (1918) when the Allies dismantled it after WWI. Predictably, Bin Laden’s vengeance against the US touched off what may have been counter-revenge by the US. The official reason for the invasion of Iraq was their supposed attempt to develop nuclear weapons, even though the administration knew that there had been none, and that Iraq had not been involved in 9/11. One of several reasons for the invasion may have been the humiliation the regime suffered because 9/11 occurred on their watch.
Why is secret humiliation sometimes lethal? There are two patterns. Some of the multiple killers in Websdale’s study merely swallowed their humiliation until they could stand it no longer. After being fired, one of the men would pretend to go his now non-existent job until the day he shot his family members and himself. All of the women killers followed this pattern.
However, much more frequently, the cases involve men with a history of anger and/or aggression. Their pattern was to cover over their humiliation with anger. Fortunately, although most of us seldom acknowledge our humiliation, the cover-up with anger is much less frequent than simply swallowing the painful feelings, often resulting in silence or even depression, but not violence.
What can be done to stop the humiliation-vengeance pattern? The next part will consider approaches to acknowledgement.
Gilligan, James. Violence – reflections on a national epidemic. 1997.New York: Vintage Books
Scheff, Thomas. 1994. Bloody Revenge: Emotion, Nationalism and War. Westview Press (Reissued by iUniverse 2000)
Websdale, Neil. Familicidal Hearts: The Emotional Style of 211 Killers. 2010. Oxford: Oxford University Press
Posted on 01/24/2011 1:32 PM by Thomas J. Scheff
24 Jan 2011
Bin Laden (justifiably?) attacked the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001 because of the ending of the Turkish caliphate by the British at the end of World War I?
We (the U.S.) were forced to respond by attacking Afghanistan because our leaders (G. W. Bush et al) were humiliated by the 9/11 attack?
I appreciate that NER supports diverse opinion. I beg to differ with this one.
24 Jan 2011
It, uh, wasn't a "secret" that the French felt humiliated by the outcome of the Franco-Prussian War. And the involvement of Russia and Britain in WW1 had less to do with France dragging them in to avenge their humiliation than it did with German clumsiness and aggressive behavior.
Wasn't much of a secret that Germany felt humiliated after WW1, either.
One of several reasons for the invasion may have been the humiliation the regime suffered because 9/11 occurred on their watch.
That's totally unconvincing to say the least. You attack the author of your humiliation, not someone who did nothing to humiliate you. And again, it wasn't a "secret" that the Bush administration had been humiliated on 9/11.
24 Jan 2011
I think Tom is referring to unconscious motivations on our part - the desire for revenge was very strong after 9-11. No doubt about it. But I don't believe the Bush administration intentionally misled on the WMD concern. There were many, many people who wanted cooler heads to prevail and in hindsight, they were right. I don't think anyone would have supported the war had we known the true cost and length of our involvement.
Muslims, on the other hand, have nothing to buffer between rage and humiliation - they swing between the two because they have no real religion to give them any perspective or cultural values that would come to their rescue either. They're stuck with sheer animal impulse which is justified by their belief system. That way madness lies.
24 Jan 2011
Anais Horribilis Humbertus
Or: Avril's Dancing
On A Pnin
Or: A Preposition One Should Never
End Or Fill A Sentence With
We don't beg to differ, with either vim or vigor, with Hesperophobiaphobia.*
As American As Avril Lavigne In Arizona,
Vivian "Vim & Vigor" Darkbloom
& Anais Pnin
24 Jan 2011
In "Middlemarch" Casaubon spends decades writing his "Key To All the Mysteries." Apparently Thomas Scheff has, at least for the last two decades, decided that the "Key To All The Mysteries" lies in his idea that "humiliation" is behind so much of human aggression, and especially of war. He cannot conceive that those who go to war do so not because they are "secretly" or even "openly" humiliated but because they think they simply deserve to help themselves to more -- more land, more power, more loot, more locals to enslave or work to the bone, more of the other kind of humans from which to exact tribute.
Did the Mongols come out of Central Asia and create the largest land empire in history because they felt "humiliated"? Was it "humiliation" that caused Hulego to conquer the Abbasids? Was it, before then, "humiliation" that caused Alexander the Great to take his troops all the way to Central Asia? What about the Muslims who conquered in less than a century all of the Middle East, North Africa, and the Iberian Peninsula to boot -- all of them merely "humiliated"? What caused Hernan Cortes to march inland from Veracruz (burning his ships, so we are told) to arrive at Tenochtitlan? Pizarro to conquer the Incas? Were all those curled conquistadores merely taking out on poor Indios some remembered slight, as perhaps Alexander kept a lifelong smart from some remark made in an off-moment by Philip of Macedon?
And in the piece just put up, Scheff writes this:
"The French felt humiliated after their defeat by the Germans in the Franco-Prussian War (1871), so plotted revenge for 43 years. They were able to involve Russia, England and the US on their side."
This is completely crazy. Where is the evidence that the French were so suffused with the desire for revenge, that they managed to manipulate the German General Staff into an orgy of ship-building, and the conquest of colonies in southern Africa, jostling the British nearby, and at Agadir attempting to challenge both British and French claims? Was it the French who somehow crept into the nursery of the man who would become General Bernardi, of the German General Staff, who would then grow up consumed with a desire to surpoass Great Britain, and who laid out his, and many Germans', plans, as clearly as poossible in his "The Next War" which he published in 1914 (a book I have read, and I suspect Thomas Scheff has not).
And were the Italians, too, merely manipulated by the French into World War I?
And was it not the sinking of the Lusitania, and reports of German atrocities in Belgium, and the general sympathy for England exhibited by the American ruling class which felt keenly its ties of language, literature, law, and ancestry, to England, a feeling was not confined to the elites of Virginia and Massachusetts (the backbone, later, of that organization called "The English-Speaking Union"), that led to America entering the war, and not some manipulation by a "revengeful" France? France's ambassador to Washington before and during World War I,, J. J. Jusserand, was an impressive fellow, a scholar of English literature (who won, by the way, an American literary prize), but his charm was neither as diabolical, nor as effective as Thomas Scheff, wedded as he apparently is to his own Key
To All The Mysteries -- that "humiliation" he finds everywhere -- and that have allowed him to allow himself to play fast and loose with history, and to ignore so much, including the assassination by Gavrilo Princep of Archduke Ferdinand, although no doubt he would insist that it merely reflected "humiliation" over centuries of enduring the Ottoman yoke, now directed to the wrong address..
Scheff had an idea --- "humiliation" explains many things. Now that idea has him.
24 Jan 2011
The Arizona shooter, Jared Loughner, appears to be suffering from organic brain syndrome, based on media reports of his behavior. His diseased brain caused his rejection by the military, his expulsion from school, and his loss of personal relationships; not the other way around.
Osama Bin Laden, and Muslim jihadis in general (and wife beaters, for that matter), will ALWAYS point to some previous incident to justify their violence.
I don't care to analyze where those feelings of humiliation came from, or validate them in any other way. Their actions are what matter to me, not their feelings. I don't care if the wife beater was weaned too early, or if the jihadi wants to feel empowered by having a global caliph who has the power to call for offensive jihad. If they commit violent acts, then they must be stopped from committing further violent acts.
Our invasion of Afghanistan may have partly been based on anger and vengeance (or humiliation if one prefers). But the main goal was to prevent a recurrence of the 9/11 attacks by physically degrading Al Qaeda and the Taliban's ability to carry out further attacks. Quite sensible and logical, in my opinion.
Our invasion of Iraq was something altogether separate from 9/11. My own opinion is that the invasion was meant to protect not the U.S., but our good friends the Saudis, Bahrainis, and Kuwaitis, the ones who were truly endangered by Saddam Hussein. That invasion was not motivated by fear or humiliation, but it was a calculated decision to "use" 9/11 to carry out a pre-existing strategic goal of the then-U.S. administration.
If the Muslim world is filled with humiliation for having lost the Turkish caliphate, and for having lost several wars against Israel, and for having moribund economies, and for being universally ruled by thugocracies, then I think the answer is to take steps to prevent those humiliated Muslims from taking their vengeance on us.
If, instead, the suggested answer to the 9/11 attacks is to communicate, "Ouch. That hurt." to the Muslim ummah, then I disagree wholeheartedly. That response would not cause them to empathetically stop their violence. It would instead reinforce their feelings of self-justification, and encourage them to increase their violence, since it is having the desired effect.
The relationship between the Muslims and non-Muslims is in no way comparable to the relationship between a loving husband and wife.
24 Jan 2011
Thomas Scheff makes some good points. I don't think for a minute that he is excusing Muslim violence on the grounds of humiliation, but merely explaining it. It is the natural state for a Muslim unaided by Western aid or oil money.
I think for Muslims "humiliation" is a great motivator. Muslims feel humiliated because, as "the best of peoples" they ought to be on top and they aren't. It's part of the shame/honour code, the same one that dictates that if a Muslim woman even talks to an infidel man, her father and brothers are humiliated. And how humbled the Muslim world is by Israel. Powerless, because of Islam, to match it, they can only rage and lash out.
And yes, the French have been humiliated in wars - with Prussia but mostly with England, which is why they hate us, and why, through the EU war machine, they want to get their revenge. Bastards.
25 Jan 2011
If the point of the article is that Muslims feel humiliated, then I think we can all agree with that. The jihadis often explicitly say just that in their statements justifying their attack du jour, as in the Bin Laden quote provided.
But I think the point of the article goes beyond that statement of fact to include a prescriptive component. I think the point is that we need to do something to break the humiliation-vengeance pattern. We must learn to recognize our own humiliation, and deal with it in a non-violent, non-vengeful way. We must recognize the humiliation felt by others, and try to mitigate their humiliation.
If we're talking about husband and wife relationships, I agree. I lived for several years in Marin County, I attended the Center for Attitudinal Healing in Sausalito. I recognize the role that emotions play in relationships. I get it.
But to apply that paradigm (sorry, Mary) to Islam is misleading at best, and dangerous at worst.
The jihadis think it's important for us to understand that they feel humiliated by their failures, and by their perceived slights.
I think it's only important for us to understand that they feel justified in committing violence, and to take the necessary steps to protect ourselves.
Mr. Scheff is certainly not the only person who believes it incumbent on the non-Muslims to understand the point of view of the Muslims. I look forward to the next installment.
30 Jan 2011
Because of the large number of comments, I can respond only to two of them.
Thank you, Rebecca, for your supportive words.
On one of your points, we are in agreement:: I have not read Bernhardi's Germany and the New War (1914), but I shall.
We would have also been in agreement if you had said that my ideas about massive conlict are crazy, but I don't think they are COMPLETELY crazy. (Humor?)
In my 1994 book, Bloody Revenge, I get into the media politics in France 1871-1918. I show that it is largely dominated by talk of honor, revenge, etc against Germany. For example, probably the most popular book ever printed in France (68 editions 1871-1914) was a little volume of poetry about regaining French honor on the battlefield.
Also suspicious. As I said, there were no negotiation meetings between the two sides in the months between the assasination at Sarajevo and the beginning of the war. However, the French sent a delgation to Russia during that period. What do you think was discussed? It has never been disclosed.
Being said, must also add that the hisotrical accounts of the origins of WWI are a giant mess that I swam in for many months. But go ahead if you like, give it a try.
The case I made in my book that Hitler was chosen as an agent of German revenge against France is much stronger.