The Clash of Emotions

Fear, Humiliation, Hope, and the New World Order

Thirteen years ago, Samuel Huntington argued that a "clash of civilizations" was about to dominate world politics, with culture, along with national interests and political ideology, becoming a geopolitical fault line ("The Clash of Civilizations?" Summer 1993). Events since then have proved Huntington's vision more right than wrong. Yet what has not been recognized sufficiently is that today the world faces what might be called a "clash of emotions" as well. The Western world displays a culture of fear, the Arab and Muslim worlds are trapped in a culture of humiliation, and much of Asia displays a culture of hope.

Instead of being united by their fears, the twin pillars of the West, the United States and Europe, are more often divided by them -- or rather, divided by how best to confront or transcend them. The culture of humiliation, in contrast, helps unite the Muslim world around its most radical forces and has led to a culture of hatred. The chief beneficiaries of the deadly encounter between the forces of fear and the forces of humiliation are the bystanders in the culture of hope, who have been able to concentrate on creating a better future for themselves.

These moods, of course, are not universal within each region, and there are some areas, such as Russia and parts of Latin America, that seem to display all of them simultaneously. But their dynamics and interactions will help shape the world for years to come.

THE CULTURE OF FEAR

The United States and Europe are divided by a common culture of fear. On both sides, one encounters, in varying degrees, a fear of the other, a fear of the future, and a fundamental anxiety about the loss of identity in an increasingly complex world.

In the case of Europe, there are layers of fear. There is the fear of being invaded by the poor, primarily from the South -- a fear driven by demography and geography. Images of Africans being killed recently as they tried to scale barbed wire to enter a Spanish enclave in Morocco evoked images of another time not so long ago, when East Germans were shot at as they tried to reach freedom in the West. Back then, Germans were killed because they wanted to escape oppression. Today, Africans are being killed because they want to escape absolute poverty.

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