Anchor Lisa Mullins speaks with philosopher Dominique Moisi about his new book “The Geopolitics of Emotion: How Cultures of Fear, Humiliation and Hope are Reshaping the World.”
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LISA MULLINS: I’m Lisa Mullins and this is the World. Emotion isn’t supposed to drive foreign policy. Policymaking is typically thought of as the realm of logic, reason, and cold national interest. But French author, Dominique Moisi believes that human emotions should be part of the calculus. His new book is called The Geopolitics of Emotion: How Cultures of Fear, Humiliation and Hope are Reshaping the World.
DOMINIQUE MOISI: If you do not include emotions, you cannot really understand what the world is really about. And it’s even dangerous because by not integrating emotions, and in particular, the emotions of the others, you cannot act on them. And the second thing, which I’m trying to suggest, is that emotions are like cholesterol. There is good cholesterol, and bad cholesterol, and they are good emotion, positive emotions, which can help shaping the world at the margin, in the right direction. And bad emotion, negative emotions, which can have a dramatic impact on the world.
LISA MULLINS: Lets take the emotions that you talk about of hope, humiliation, and fear, starting with fear. Is fear always the equivalent of bad cholesterol? Is fear always a negative emotion? And where do you see it playing out?
DOMINIQUE MOISI: Well, first, I would like to say that the three emotions I select in my book, fear, humiliation and hope, are three emotions that I directly link to the concept of confidence. And fear is the lack of confidence in the present and in the future. No, to ask directly your question, is fear always negative? I think there is a certain element of fear that is necessary to survive. I mean, if you are an imprudent western tourist wandering at the boundaries between Afghanistan and Pakistan without any sense of danger, you are a dangerous fool. What I’m denouncing is not fear. But the access of fear, the fear that paralyze you, the fear that makes you betray your own values.
LISA MULLINS: And who is the you in that, in your level? Does that mean the president, the prime minister, the ambassador that one is dealing with from one country to another? Is it the people? because one would think that there is many emotions in a particular society, as there are individuals.
DOMINIQUE MOISI: Absolutely. But, I’ve been trying to do a mapping of emotions. The way you wear traditionally doing a geographical mapping of the world. And what I’m trying to say, is that the emotional boundaries of the world are as important to understand the world, than the physical boundaries of the world. And in that context, I’m looking for dominating colors, and I see the dominating color of hope, in Asia. Behind China and India, the dominating color of humiliation in the Arab-Muslim world, and the dominating color of fear in the western world.
LISA MULLINS: If we were to apply what you say about the acknowledgement of emotion in geopolitics today, lets say with Barack Obama, how would our international diplomacy be different? What would it look like?
DOMINIQUE MOISI: Well, I think, emotions are already integrated. When you look at the conflict in the Middle East, you cannot understand a relationship between Israeli and Palestinian, by simply speaking about the security, boundaries, territory, water, whatsoever. It’s deep down, a conflict about emotion. It is about the encounter between the culture of fear of Israel, largely is rectified. Think of demography, think of the Iranian nuclear ambition, and the culture of humiliation of the Palestinian.
LISA MULLINS: So if that Palestinians, though, are steeped in this humiliation, as you say, than how does the United States best deal with that? Would it be over come by speaking with a leader of Hamas, even though Hamas is a very diverse organization? Or would it be ignoring Hamas as–
DOMINIQUE MOISI: [OVERLAPPING] Well, I think you cannot ignore Hamas.
LISA MULLINS: I’m not speaking politically, necessarily, but more to get what you want in terms of politics, acknowledging the emotion.
DOMINIQUE MOISI: Acknowledging emotion, I would say, that one of the key of peace in the Middle East is for Israel to transcend the Shaw [PH]. And for the Palestinian to integrate the Shaw [PH].
LISA MULLINS: The Holocaust.
DOMINIQUE MOISI: But, the difficulty is that we’re going in the opposite direction.
LISA MULLINS: So where does that leave, for instance, the United States, regarding the region, acknowledging these very diverse emotions and extreme emotions?
DOMINIQUE MOISI: Well, given the weight of these emotions, neither Israelis nor Palestinian can deal with each other directly. They need to go between. And that go between can only be the United States. And for the first time, the United States are recognized as potentially acceptable mediator, not only by the Israelis, but also by the Palestinian. The image of America in the Arab world, in general, in the Muslim world, globally, has been transformed radically by the election of Barack Obama.
LISA MULLINS: So, as you’re dealing with fear, anger, humiliation, in other countries do it with a sense of humility here?
DOMINIQUE MOISI: Absolutely. I mean, be confident in yourself, but not over confident, and open yourself to the other. And by the end of the day, the message of this book is that, you can ignore emotions, but at your own risk, because emotions will come back with a vengeance. And so, it is essential to understand your own emotion, and even more important to understand the emotions of the other, especially if you want to make the world a less dangerous place.
LISA MULLINS: Dominique Moisi is the author of The Geopolitics of Emotion: How Cultures of Fear, Humiliation and Hope are Reshaping the World. Very nice to have you here, thank you.
DOMINIQUE MOISI: Thank you very much for inviting me.
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