Marx was wrong: Humiliation is the base

Tom Friedman was in Berlin this week, hosted by the American Academy, to make himself smart on Germany and to begin plugging the book he’s working on, “Thank you for being late”.

Sipping drinks on a Charlottenburg rooftop before a dinner given for him, Tom and I were talking about one of the many ideas he is pursuing in that book, which is that humiliation is the driver of events in the Middle East today. Young male Arabs in that region arguably feel more humiliated than any other group in the world today. That puts them at extra risk of drifting into the various forms of nihilism. Young Arabs in the banlieues of Paris and other European cities also feel humiliated and are also at risk.

Then Tom and I pondered whether humiliation drives human action (and thus history) more generally. The Germans after World War I felt humiliated by the “peace” the Allies imposed on them, and that humiliation, probably more than hyperinflation or depression, drove them into the arms of Hitler. Today, the Russians feel humiliated by the “peace” the West and NATO imposed on Europe 25 years ago, which appears to make them surrender willingly to the propaganda of Putin. And so on.

Just then I had an embryo of an idea and dropped it into the conversation: Marx was wrong, I said. It’s not the mode of production that is the base, with everything else being the superstructure. Instead our sense of dignity or humiliation is the base. The base is thus not materialistic but psychological.

Tom was intrigued by that half-formed thought so we met again on Saturday at the American Academy’s beautiful lake-side villa for a long talk, marred only by that day’s pollen count, which left me a red-eyed and sniffling hunk of misery. Tom wanted me to flesh out the idea. I’m hardly an expert on Marx. But we ruminated on it for a while and came up with a hypothesis along the following lines, which I would now like to test on you.

Marx was a Hegelian, ie a follower of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, whom I’ve called “the archetype of the Teutonic windbag” on this blog before. Hegel thought, in his convoluted way, that history was a process that led, via many surprising turns, to a higher end state. So Marx wanted to one-up Hegel by explaining what the mechanism or driver of that historical process was, and what the end state looked like.

Marx called the driver the “base” and postulated that it was the mode of production — ie, how and by whom things are made in a given society. That thinginess is the Marxist “materialism”. (If I am wrong, you experts, please correct me in the comments.)

Everything else — ideas, thought, art, music, religion, politics, relationships — is but the “superstructure” built on top of that base. User “Alyxr” on Wikipedia depicts it thus:

Base-superstructure_Dialectic

In his own time, Marx thought, Europe had gone from feudalism to capitalism. A new class, the bourgeoisie, had taken over from the feudal lords as the owners of the means of production. This capitalist bourgeoisie now determined the superstructure. But as more and more of the workers on the capitalists’ payroll felt exploited (“humiliated”?), they would eventually rise up, ushering in socialism, and eventually communism. That would be the Hegelian end state.

So Marx thought that production was the deep-down driver of human action, in the way that Nietzsche thought it was power and Freud thought it was sex. But as Tom and I scanned today’s landscape, we started thinking that maybe humiliation was the more powerful driver. We see it in China, for instance, where a synthetically hyped “memory” of the humiliations by the West and Japan play a big part in driving progress.

I see it in America: Many blacks feel humiliated by cops in certain places. Prisoners feel humiliated by the reigning punishment mentality in the country with the highest incarceration rate in the world and in history.

I also see it in eastern (ie, “East”) Germany, where many Ossis march in the so-called Pegida demonstrations in Dresden against foreigners. Like members of the Tea Party in America, Pegida followers tend to be middle class and middle-aged and thus objectively not at the exploited end of any mode of production. But they have a subjective sense that they were marginalized in a reunited and politically correct Germany and feel humiliated.

I think postwar Germany, given what it had just committed, recognized this primacy of humiliation in 1949 by enshrining its positive opposite, dignity, in the first article of Germany’s new constitution:

Die Würde des Menschen ist unantastbar.

(The dignity of every human being is inviolable.)

Despite this post’s title (which is meant to provoke), the idea is not to suggest that humiliation/dignity should become a new base, with everything else becoming its superstructure. I don’t see, for example, how humiliation (as opposed to technology) could determine the mode of production. And there are plenty of people who don’t feel humiliated but make history nonetheless. So there probably is no single base, and trying to pick one was the real error of Marx and people like him.

But the need for dignity, and the power of humiliation, nonetheless seem basic. Whenever dignity is violated (much more than when property rights are violated, for example) human beings will react. The more humiliated they feel, the stronger their reaction will be. That’s not how all of history is made. But it’s how much of history is made. And because people will always humiliate and feel humiliated, history has no end state.

83 thoughts on “Marx was wrong: Humiliation is the base

  1. I found myself in a conversation in the past week about pathological narcissism — the true personality disorder, not the glib attribution of vanity to this or that person — and remarked that, as it’s a problem whose fallout I’ve personally witnessed at close range, I had come to think of it as the root of all evil. Briefly put, without psychobabble, this is the character that develops when people feel so deeply shamed and diminished, while still young and vulnerable, that they dedicate all their energy to proving that it is other people that are defective and unworthy. while they are actually superior and deserving of all positive attention and privilege. Which of course leads to other people, in succession, being shamed and diminished, hallelujah world without end. Sound like people we know, including some nations or social groups at large?
    As you remark, real evil has a fair number of roots, but some of the nastiest grudge matches in history seem to partake of this affliction.

    • Yes. In strict accordance to clinical diagnostic criteria, not, as you pointed out, within or sharing the meaning of the same word as it is used in everyday English conversations, the presence of this Personality Pathology precedes the development of another clinical pathology, this time frankly manifest on a behavioral level – Sociopathy (another clinical term that adheres to strict diagnostic criteria).
      .
      Very worrisome folks . Yes, we find matches in history and contemporary reality that partake of this affliction, and that includes critics of the affliction (many of whom found in irresponsible journalism). There is no “pill” to cure this pathology. “Change” in this personality type presents one of the biggest challenges in clinical work. It takes years for change to happen. Often it doesn’t. By the time the “affliction” advances to sociopathy, it becomes a matter for the courts, or the World Court. That is the worrisome part.
      .
      Yet, there is another side of the same coin. Some of the most accomplished people in history (in literature, in the arts and performing arts), East and West, share a good chunk of narcissistic characteristics. The Q therefore becomes what determines which side of the fork a person takes when he comes to it.? I don’t know for sure Yogi Berra gave us the answer.

    • But you do touch on the spiritual question raised by narcissism — possibly beyond the scope of a conversation about social and political issues, but still, important to them. People who have not been shamed and humliated face little or no temptation towards the “narcissistic defense” (“I’m wonderful and you suck,” to the point of “I therefore have the right to do with you as I please”). Those who have experience the temptation, but why do some choose it and others don’t? Understanding what makes honesty and humility — versus humiliation — the obvious “right path” for some and not others would mean so much in repairing the griefs of the world.

      I’m not sure if NPD is a stepping stone to sociopathy as is generally understood. But I have seen then convincingly yoked under the rubric of “the abusive disorders.” That people with florid expressions of those disorders can lure an entire populace into agreeing with their pathology says to me that as a species, we remain way too susceptible to controlling the young and helpless with shame and its relatives. A vice of evolution? Humans are born much more helpless than many other mammals, far more susceptible to the disordered attitudes of their own elders. Science has a job to do here, while the earth is still in one piece.

    • I didn’t know that that was the correct definition of narcissism. So you’re saying that it is usually caused by prior humiliation, right? Like an overreaction to it, a need to humiliate others in return, like a bully who was once bullied. V interesting.

    • Exactly. At least, that seems to be the best understanding and observation. Most of the best writing on the subject comes from intelligent laypersons or people actually diagnosed with clinical narcissism (like Sam Vaknin, whose writings are profuse). A real full-blown narcissist is so obsessed with and good at practicing his image that they usually fool clinicians. Projecting a false self is central to the problem — which is why it seems likely to be pervasive in politics. Only people really close to the individual see their hot buttons and touchiness to the slightest criticism. Think of all the people in powerful positions who’ve proven capable of childish tantrums when thwarted. Makes you queasy about the world’s “leadership.”

  2. Did Tom (like we’re old pals) say how young male Arabs are humiliated? Are we supposed to know? What are they humiliated about? The view from the ground is boredom.

    Also, I’m confused. Are you saying that The Humiliated are on neither the blue team or the red team?

    • No, Tom didn’t say. An extreme form of “l’ennui” is perhaps the start. No job, no girl friend, no prospects. Need to blame somebody. Feeling of exclusion (especially among Arabs in the West). Et cetera.
      It doesn’t have to be rational. I don’t think Russians today are being rational about their alleged “humiliation” by the West, eg.

    • To Mr. Crotchety and Kluth,

      From my perspective, humiliation takes place on both a group and an individual level. In that sense, one might trace the “source” of group humiliation from the cultural and political history of a group, as one does for an individual. “Nothing comes from nothing” is the assumption and rationale for this thinking.

      “An extreme form of ‘l’ennui'” (Kluth), perhaps is the starting point of a process in individual youths. But alone it does not account for the valence of actions that result. Nothing comes from nothing. What comes out reflects what went in. From my perspective, this is basic.

  3. Very interesting and I agree. This is a logical post-Marx conclusion given what has happened post Washington Consensus. Have a look at The Precariat Charter by Gary Standing for a more detailed analysis of how this applies to the wider world.

    • That’s the first time is see “Precariat” as an English word. They’ve been using it on the Left in Germany for years.
      Interestingly, this one could still be considered Marxist (ie, it’s a result of the current mode of production, no?). But the effect is humiliation.

    • Fascinating, I didn’t know that the term was in wider use. I recommend the book.
      Yes, definitely the result of the current mode of production but I was thinking “post-Marxist” in terms of perhaps a more nuanced class struggle apparatus than he articulated. But that’s just an idle observation that doesn’t bear on the substance of the issue because, yes, humiliation is the end result.

  4. Hi Andreas,

    Very nice indeed.

    Might there be yet another Q addressing “The base”.

    That Q is : What is at the base of the base?

    • Reminds me of a joke Richard Dawkins once told.

      He asked an audience rhetorically: If you think the world is resting on a giant turtle, then what is the turtle resting on?

      An old lady spoke up. Professor Dawkins, you’re clever but you can’t fool me. It’s turtles all the way down.

    • Hahahaha!

      You are more wicked than the old lady!

      There is a real answer to my Q , I mean, after a fashion – my fashion, that is. I needed to test the water because I wanted to write for my audience. It is very hard to just point blank jot down a thought in a language that is not shared.

      OK. A solid stack of turtles do not spiral.

    • Also, do I have your permission to tweak the translation just a tiny little? I don’t know German better than a solid D in 101 in college. But the last word “untouchable” gets on my nerves a little.

    • Actually, “inviolable”. There is a difference.

      Would that be acceptable to you? Think before you say yes or no.

    • For God’s sake! 🙂 I asked for permission because I didn’t know whether your “dignity” as host of this blog was untouchable or inviolable!

      No, I am not quoting you “somewhere”. I don’t quote people “somewhere” without permission either! Don’t worry, I’ll behave on your blog. Btw, I am not on Twitter. I don’t do Twitter. I don’t have a website. I am not on Linkin (I canceled) I just kind of “think” in between thinking.

      Now that you accept “inviolable”, we can start with a shared language.

    • Let me rephrase. Now that you agree there is a difference between inviolate and inviolable (assumed from your acceptance of one and not the other), we can have a shared language to talk in about the base of the base. Trust me. I am not playing word game or mind game with you. But this conversation cannot proceed without that bit being cleared up.

    • I am confused where to post my post for a continuous thread. Did I just post somewhere else with the long one?? Sorry – not thinking between thinking when I did the click. 🙂

  5. The ending paragraph of this piece says: “But the need for dignity, and the power of humiliation, nonetheless seem basic. Whenever dignity is violated (much more than when property rights are violated, for example) human beings will react. The more humiliated they feel, the stronger their reaction will be. That’s not how all of history is made. But it’s how much of history is made. And because people will always humiliate and feel humiliated, history has no end state.”

    So let me address the key concepts there, namely: need for dignity, power of humiliation, action and reaction (much of history is made from this action and reaction and reaction to reaction and so on sequence and therefore history has no end state).

    From my perspective, I also see history as having no end state. But I see the “no end state” not as a series of horizontal see-saw shifts, even as all the elements in the see-saw may move in a spiral pattern, but rather a vertical ladder of human attainment. The ladder is something like the Maslow’s but on a mega scale of collective consciousness which manifest, as it always does, in concrete events which each time when they happened becomes history.

    Why do I see a ladder? I see a ladder because there is a difference, when discerned, between “untouchable” and “inviolable”. The difference plays a part in mitigating the the power of humiliation. “Humiliation” is not a block of indigestible gunk. It is merely a visceral feeling that can be change by an external agent or an internal “force”*. If “touchable”, see-saw. If “inviolable”, ladder. * This part is very complicate. I can’t get into it without writing at least 3 treatises on it, or maybe one good novel to take the place of 3 treatises.

    Also, “dignity” needs to be defined before you can draw that diagram of how things work. Why does humiliation drive person or nation A to do X, and person or nation B to do Y?. What determines the valance of humiliation? What determines how the humiliated react to humiliation? These are some of the Q’s I would ask, and they are implicit in the original Q I asked: What is at the base of the base?

    • This part I need to rewrite; otherwise it is unreadable –

      If “untouchable”, –> see-saw. If “inviolable”, –> ladder.

      Please ask me to explain if it is too dense.

      It is very late where I am. Will continue when I receive your post next. 🙂

    • To Andreas,

      Can you explain right now to me something?

      How do you reply to a specific person, or, rather, the content of the post of a specific person? It is important to know that because the answer works both ways.

      It is getting already more confusing by the minute as I try to follow the posts. I don’t know when someone asks a Q, to whom that Q is addressed. So I don’t know how to post.

      Also, I can’t tell when people are being witty, sarcastic or something else. Do you have some great emoticons for that?

      As I said, blog is not my usual mode of communication. I don’t know the rules and often don’t know how to read the posts, even as I am very interested in the material. Also, I don’t want to convey my thoughts and ideas without risking being too misunderstood (I would say when more than 50% of what I try to say is missed, it is misunderstood. When that happens, the failure is accountable to me and me only as I can write better if I try harder and obviously >50% is not trying hard enough.

      Thanks in advance for some enlightenment.

    • I once had a dado rail on a wall in my house. It formed neither the base nor the superstructure. So carefully located was it that it divided the wall precisely in the ratio of the golden mean. Or perhaps not quite precisely, a source of such humiliation for me that I tore it down.

    • Which perfectly demonstrates the causal link between humiliation and physical violence, vandalism in particular.

      A dado is also defined as the part of a pedestal between the cap and the base. So if one views the entire pedestal as the base for some superstructure, the dado forms part of the base, albeit not its lowermost one.

      At the very bottom of the base, most likely, resides some sort of sense of community, a desire to belong to something larger than oneself, that drives human action. And whatever comprises the dado then determines the form that action will take; although, since collective humiliation manifests differently in different times and places, other factors must be in play as well.

      And then it gets complicated.

    • When things get tough, CQ, persist. Particularly since this comment thread appears at the dado level of these comments. Pay no heed to the base.

    • Hey Diddle Diddle! Thank you very much. (In case of misunderstanding I should just point out that I am not the father – it’s the ancestor’s tale.)

    • Every male British subject can say he’s not the father. We’ll just have to wait and see whom Princess Gloria Ursula Yasmine (I chose these names as their acronym logically complements her brother’s — kindly inform the Cambridges of my decision!) will come to resemble when she gets older.

    • When I discussed your requirement with them, they were almost persuaded to name the baby Charlotte Alice Diana.

      I promise, I tried.

    • Bill Clinton’s granddaughter is named Charlotte. Next time you hang with the Cambridges, please tell them that I would have expected a little more originality from them so as to distinguish themselves from American royalty.

    • A single? Hell, an operetta!
      I would like that even better!
      For the enormouser the job
      And the derisiver the mob,
      The intenser the disgrace
      The composer’s apt to face.
      And the bigger the humiliation
      I’ll incur for my creation,
      The more likely I’ll have proof
      It’s the base and not the roof!

    • Musical or operetta,
      You’ve nailed it, even to the letter.
      Comparatives defeat the mocking yob
      Determinder you’ll be. Don’t sob!
      For in a culture-driven race
      To you’s the honour and first place.
      Nor can a baser machination
      Question any punctuation –
      Even written on the hoof.
      Forever you will stand aloof.

    • PS. Joking apart, your mastery of a non-native tongue is remarkable. One is reminded of the achievement of Joseph Conrad. A visit to your website confirms also your musical talents.

    • Speaking of which, I’m one of your red double-decker buses now, as I was hired to replace the fired lead singer in an Austrian rock band named (for reasons still inscrutable to me) The Routemasters. We have a few gigs coming up, which, judging from my bumbling performance at a trial gig we played at a birthday bash last week, shape up to be a thoroughly humiliating experience for me. I already see myself roaming Pressbaum at night, smashing store windows and setting cars on fire.

    • I’m quite certain things went much better than you suppose.

      I utubed the band and was impressed. What they need, though, is your originality and creative talent.
      Are they based in London? They must be. Dont forget to look us up if you come.

      I remember when the Routemaster buses were new in the early 1950s and were the cutting edge of public transport. They were part of the long line of hop-on hop-off buses with conductors, who were famed for their friendly wit, particularly in wartime.

      That type of bus nearly disappeared in the health-and-safety craze. Boris recently re-introduced them as a successful modern version. I was glad to be able to hop on and off again at will when I tried one a few weeks ago.

      I wish you equal success

    • Well, I was really just testing. That’s the word, intellectually testing. Tom and I just cooked that thought up in a brainstorm.
      As I said, I doubt there is any one “base”. The base metaphor (which Cyberquill appropriately mocked with his dado comment above) is too limiting.
      Also, humiliation is one state (in the way that capitalism was just one of many possible states of Marx’s base). So to refine it, I would need a catchier and more general term, like “self-worth” or “status” or …
      Anyway, what do you reckon about the hypothesis?

    • From my perspective, humiliation is a good word. Very good word, actually.

      Unfortunately, words in everyday parlance too often have loaded meanings. The loaded meanings are not the same for everyone. It is those loaded meanings, when left unclarified, or implicit for one person and not the other, that cause confusion and lead to battle of words in an “intellectual exercise.”. Sort of like jogging on a smoggy day in LA.

  6. Until I realised that the diagram represented the perceived reliance of all human activity upon the organs of production, I struggled to make the connection to your tentative observation concerning humiliation.

    Dealing first, then with the diagram, in reality it draws a distinction between intellectual activity and non-intellectual activity. The distinction is false because there is plenty of the intellectual in the blue box and much sheer physical grind in the red box. Historically, human advances have been a result of an interplay of the two, not only between groups but also within individuals and within the groups consigned to the blue and red boxes.

    Some activities are difficult to classify. Where, for example, would you place computer software production and where computer hardware development?

    The connection, then, derives from a false but widely held perception that one sort of activity is superior to another and that one is to do purely with the mind while the other exclusively physical. The intellect is supposedly the distinguishing feature of human beings and thus production is somehow base and inferior. Those, it is said, who would not dirty their hands command the rest to their service.

    Thus the question becomes one of humiliation and a political divide.

    A further fallacy arises, as you wisely point out, when attempts are made to build a psychological, sociological or pseudo-scientific theory from this mix. You are wrong, however to call in a parallel to Freud or Nietzsche, for theirs are mere single starting-points to rich, if ultimately fallible, insights.

    You identify an interesting aspect of the human personality, but, as you fully realise, it does not lead to any new understanding. The discussion between Sledpress and Ash demonstrates not the relevance of humiliation alone but the complexity and variety in human nature.

    There is danger in over-generalisation, as in any bias, assumption or prejudice. The idea you submit for discussion is a false synthesis rather than the product of a careful analysis. There are plenty of disaffected groups who have not been humiliated and who do not feel humiliated. Conversely, there are many whom others have sought to humiliate, without success, and who find it within themselves to forgive.

    I suggest we have to look elsewhere for the answer to the world’s troubles and misunderstandings if we are not to cause more of them. That is, if there is indeed an answer, as someone here has already observed. Your idea has value as a metaphor, I suggest, but little more. All credit for trying, though!

    • Richard,

      Very nice post. I read it a few times.

      I agree on nearly all points. In particular the trap of over-generalization. Over-generalization was precisely Marx’s problem. [I don ‘t know Nietzsche that well. I know Freud quite well. Alas, a single blog post really does not do the man justice, so I am not going to do the man injustice. Suffice to say there is more to Freud than is found in “wild oats” lay literature]. So to solve the problems Marx created, one is well advised not to introduce the same problem.

      Re a “discussion between Sledpress and Ash”, I didn’t realize there had been one. Sled read what I wrote as “touching on” a “spiritual element” in “narcissism” as the term is defined by her and pointed out intelligent lay folks would know more about the subject than a clinician. My post neither posits, assumes, nor implies anything “spiritual” at all in the examination of this personality type and its concomitant relationship with sociopathy. I was afraid to get entangled in an argument of who knows better – a pro or a lay – and who is more intelligent. I abhor that kind of approach in discussions. So I didn’t get into it..

      Perhaps a little more than you, I do see humiliation as a significant driver in human behaviors. Some folks or groups formed by folks, humiliated, follow one path in the fork. Some the exact opposite. History is replete with examples.

      So I thought humiliation is an important piece in the mix. Another piece is creativity, and the role it plays in human civilization. I think that should figure somewhere in some diagram too if there has to be a diagram.

  7. Just a thought… humiliation is both a human construct and it is universal (for humans). It is an emotion and emotions drive us. A lack of productivity in our lives might be a cause of internal humiliation. And, I think, there is a difference between internal and external humiliation. But aren’t we, as individuals, the final determinants of that distinction (external vs internal)? I have felt humiliation many times in my life but the worst of it is always the internal; it says “I have failed.” The sociopathic response is that external forces caused that failure.

    • You may have “failed” and been “humiliated” as an individual, as all of us have, Douglas. But my guess is that, unlike many other people in the world, you have never allowed your humiliations to shape your politics. That’s the point at which humiliation starts driving history.
      To draw the analogy to marx: I’m sure Karl M. once took out his kitchen knife (means of production) to make a toothpick. That’s not yet the “mode of production” he meant. It has to become a system first.

  8. It would definitely be of interest to explore the dynamics of humilation: Who is us? And who is the other? Which of the two groups is actually doing more to perpetuate strong negative reactions and humiliation? What kind of measures can the group identified as ”them” or ”the other” take to placate the group that feels humiliated? This last question refers to the idea that among our nations we have subgoups whose cultures share in a feeling of shame/regret/ maybe even fear of an outside group. This noxious mix of feeling can easily be directed toward the majority or status quo powers of the country where the group lives. Then, what began as humiliation–perhaps for a generation that is not even still alive– lead to separatist movements or reinforced ideologies that condone violence.

    The question is not separate from the mode of production, because the mode of production is based on what a society has decided to value: what material resources are worth more than others? And of finished goods: whose welfare will they benefit? Can you find benefit in purchasing power if anything that the oppressor group values, by default, has no value to you?

    Are measures to reconcile the strong negatives of economic inequality (state-level and globally) seen as mere schemes to uphold a value system you can never be part of? What stops you from being part of it? With enough awareness, any person who feels humiliation-based resistance will see a part of the problem within themselves– but for a goal of social peace, any solution would necessitate those who have been identified as an oppressor group to meet the unhappy ones halfway.

  9. Humilation is not a term which lends itself easily to the consideration that Andreas has invited.

    There may be private or public shame for wrongs committed. It may be accompanied by injustice. It may be a sense of inferiority imposed or supposed.

    Allow me, therefore, to draw something from fact rather than speculation.

    Over a number of months, on Wednesdays at around seven in the morning, I have watched the operations of the local government team that collects my classified and sorted household material for recycling – my trash or rubbish.

    The team consists of a driver, a relatively young man, who is the foreman, and four to five others.

    The foreman takes his job seriously. He has worked out the order of collection, directs his willing team and involves himself in the work. My road is short of access at one end and at the appropriate time he deftly reverses his cumbersome vehicle to visit the far reaches. No-one is ever missed out, material never dropped and the bins are left neat and tidy, neither strewn across the paths of pedestrians nor creating obstruction of any kind.

    So ordered and organised is he that on several occasions I have observed that he has carried out the whole collection single-handed, the absence of the others unaccounted for.

    His dignity comes from within and is proof against any humiliation he might suffer from the lowly repute of his livelihood. I know nothing of his background or politics yet he is a man of thought and principle and one to whom I would entrust my fate and my fortune, such as it is.

    Contrast the situation when he is not there. There is noise and hubbub, shouting, litter left about and the bins thrown haphazardly about. The prevailing demeanour is one of resentment for their supposedly well-to-do clients, arrogance and disinterest.

    Maybe humiliation is a significant driving force, but I hope my sketch demonstrates how it is a matter of choice for the individual, as Douglas proposes, and not necessarily the consequence of circumstance or neglect or abuse from without. Here, I suggest, conscious and not unconscious, economic or sociological influences are at work.

  10. I suggest that it is the means of production and and perceived humiliation that are the root causes of political nihilism or extremism or whatever you wish to call it, that currently finds expression in all the goings-on in the Levant.

    Automation (means of production) is currently doing away with more jobs than it is creating – a phenomenon that shows no signs of reversing, and which seems destined to spiral out of control.

    This is not a good thing because a man needs work in order to find meaning in his life. If he can never find work, he feels useless, and therefore humiliated. A humiliated unemployed man will therefore tend to be attracted to groups that advocate violence to change society (or the world) for the better.

    This is not to say that all humiliated unemployed men will join groups advocating violence. Most probably won’t, but they will give their tacit approval to such groups and their leaders.This tacit approval on a mass scale creates the oxygen that leaders of political extremist groups feed off.

    I suggest, then, that this is the dynamic that drives so many of the dispossessed of Levantine provenance in western societies to fight for ISIS, al Qaida, and their their like.

    To take up arms for a cause, a crusade, one believes in. Does this not give more meaning to a young man than a life of permanent unemployment, or, even if employed, to a life of doing meaningless and humiliating work at a below-subsistence wage?

  11. “………And voila, we have a Psycho-Marxist synthesis……..”

    Being accused of eclecticism is a cross I’ve always had to bear, and has led to my always feeling humiliated!!

    If I might dilate ever-so-slightly on humiliation, the sense of such applies, of course, to leaders too. This manifests usually as an inferiority complex.

    Enough has been written of the late A. Hitler, an unappreciated and humiliated artist on the streets of Vienna; or of the still-living GW Bush, whose strutting bellicosity arose, one reasonably assumes, out of feelings of inferiority (and humiliation) vis a vis his far more urbane and accomplished father; or of the still-in-power V. Putin, whose humiliating smallness of stature among normally large statured Russians, may have led him to compensate by becoming proficient in Judo and to publicly riding horses while shirtless.

    But, not enough has been written – well, at least recently – about Kaiser Wilhelm II, and the fact of his withered left arm, that he artfully hid from his adoring subjects. Did this humiliating disability fuel his need always to play the Tough Guy, and impel him thus to act unnecessarily aggressively on the world’s stage, making World War I more certain?

    What if Kaiser Bill had had a normal left arm? Would World War I have happened, and thus all its subsequent ramifications that still influence our lives today?

    • Now that is, once again, a display of intellectual bravura befitting of Christopher. Not only do you come up with a good thesis, but then you can elaborate on it at will. You, and we, are really onto something here…

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