England and France first defeat, then humiliate, persecute, and blame Germany for WW1.  (I blame the war on greed.) A proud people, the Germans were soon driven to economic desperation and psychological shame. Enter Hitler, who understood how to transform that, and the seeds are planted for WW2. The German payback went to the Jews.

The Jews, being no stranger to humiliation from the Anti-Semites of Europe, the Nazis being the ultimate persecutor, respond by making a homeland for themselves. The Arabs, who have been colonized and insulted and humiliated by England, France, and the rest of Europe going all the way back to the crusades, see the Jews coming to Palestine as more insulting colonization and try to drive them out. The Jews win, further humiliating the Arabs, who can’t let go of this. Meanwhile, Israel builds a little empire, still fighting against centuries of psychological put-downs from the Europeans. But the Palestinians just feel humiliated, and opt for jihad with suicide bombers, who are heroes to some of them. Neither side understands the other, and they have been going at it for over sixty years.  Then the United States invades Iraq to secure the oil while talking about democracy and wonders why they are not greeted as liberators. The European powers lament the trouble in the Middle East and Africa, imploring the combatants to play nice. They do this while standing back and getting indignant if anyone whispers about their role in all this.

The Israelis have stated their need to retaliate against Arab attacks by stating, “Two eyes for an eye,” one-upping the ancient law of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” Ghandi explained that, “an eye for an eye and the whole world will be blind.” Ghandi, no doubt, understood the psychological dimension of this when he chose non-violence as a way to reveal the English for what they were and for the Indian people to reclaim their dignity.

Internalized humiliation is shame. And shame lashes out at others and/or turns inward. A person who feels worthless and demeaned will either punish others through bullying or will skulk around with addictive tendencies and no confidence to accomplish much of anything. As you perceive yourself, so shall you act. Shame is like slow-acting poison. Nothing good can come from it. It is not stable. It is dangerous. The Columbine teenage murderers were supposedly bullied and felt humiliated. The massacre was their stated revenge.

Benjamin Franklin said, “Whatever is done in anger, ends in shame.”  Put an end to it. Do not abuse others, never humiliate in public, never shame a child. Speak up when you see it. And don’t let what has been done to you turn you against yourself. Check the impulse as it comes to the door. We have enough to deal with without being our own worst enemy. No one can be lifted up as they are being put down. And someone’s axe to grind cannot be allowed to become someone else’s problem. Sooner or later, everyone has to stand up straight, see the light, and right themselves.

One Response to “Humiliation”

  1. Well said, Terry. I can’t help but think that what happens amongst countries mirrors what happens in our communities and families. Each of us has the responsibility to be in right relationship with one another. I appreciate Ghandi’s saying. The nonviolent approach is one way to free us from our animal nature that can keep us stuck in some seriously dysfunctional patterns. Thanks again for another thoughtful blog.

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