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A Collective Trauma: Geopolitics and Emotions
By admin October 5, 2016

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In 2010, scholar and author Dominique Moisi set out to prove his thesis, put simply, that geopolitics are intertwined with emotions. He notes the paradox with joining these two structures as geopolitics is about rationality, objective data, economic resources, military might, and the cold political calculus of interest. Whereas, emotions by contrast, are “essentially subjective, if not purely irrational“. The framework for studying emotions as they relate to politics is important when assessing some of the more pressing political issues facing the world today. Just this week, we have witnessed the complexity of the civil, albeit not so internal, war inside Syria deepens as the world powers quarrel over how to alleviate their own related burdens. As ceasefires are broken and diplomatic ties are severed, the trauma of the Syrian people worsens. Given that more than half of the country’s 26-million person population is currently displaced or dead, there is a high chance many of us know someone who has been affected by this conflict. The numbers are far more than a figure as they represent a collective population that inevitably is forced to move forward with an emotional burden experienced by many around the globe.

The world also witnessed a landmark referendum vote take place in Colombia this week in which the proposed peace deal forwarded by Colombia’s president and the FARC rebels was denied, by a small margin. As many wrongly assumed that Colombians against the vote were voting against peace, these people failed to understand the inner workings of the deal, which precluded the rebels from serving consequences for their injustices over the years. Those who spoke out against the deal cited that justice is necessary in order to have peace and reconciliation. Therefore, a deal that arbitrarily absolves those with blood on their hands, fails to bring justice to those who have suffered an insurmountable emotional burden. Similarly for Syria, as well as neighboring countries of Lebanon and Iraq, the effects of civil war go far beyond the destruction of physical property.

As journalist Peter Harling notes in The Syrian Trauma, “More than 25 years after their civil war, the lifestyle and worldview of Lebanese are still shaped by the experience, influencing how they position themselves politically, how they assess strangers and in which neighborhoods they choose to live, down to where they shop and on which roads they drive.” A conflict that has been co-opted by foreign agendas and restrictive ideologies of Islamism, Western democracy, a reignited Cold War and Realpolitik, has left many on the outside deciding what is best for those who are on the inside. While a legitimate starting point to reducing the violence and working to end the conflict would be a ceasefire, there are intangible advancements that needs to be made in order to alleviate the collective emotional trauma suffered by Syrians. A resident cited in Harling’s piece stated, “To move on we will need some minimal sense of justice. Without that we can’t have reconciliation with each other, nor even within ourselves.”

While pragmatism is necessary in some situations, realizing that many of us do not know the prescription for a place we have not been and a collection of people we do not know, the least we can do is employ empathy and understanding in realizing this is just one of many conflicts that will take decades of reconciliation and justice in order to rectify the emotional burden this war has exacted on its people.

For more information:

The Syrian Trauma

Colombia Peace Deal is Defeated, Leaving  a Nation in Shock

Aching for Peace, but Also Justice

Make Food Not War Initiative

The Geopolitics of Emotion

The Origins of the “Geopolitics of Emotion”, the Clash of Emotions


Thanks for sharing !


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