Book Discussion - A World Ignited: How Apostles of Ethnic, Religious and Racial Hatred Torch the Globe by Martin & Susan J. Tolchin

December 06, 2006 // 1:00pm2:30pm

In a recent discussion on their new book, A World Ignited: How Apostles of Ethnic, Religious, and Racial Hatred Torch the Globe, Martin and Susan J. Tolchin presented their explanation for the recent rise in hatred around the world. According to the Tolchins, there are three reasons why this phenomenon has recently emerged. One is the end of colonialism and the Soviet Union. These repressive regimes, which in the past successfully suppressed dissent in many areas of the world, are no longer present to contain discontent. The second reason is the rise of Muslim, Christian, and Jewish fundamentalism. Thirdly, the widespread availability of weapons and advancements in communications technology have allowed terrorist groups and others preaching hatred to reach broad audiences as never before. The United States, in particular, has become a major internet base for hatred because of its relatively freer press.

The Tolchins argue, however, that while the aforementioned explanations for the rise in anger are significant, there are deeper ones that must be addressed. Economic disparity, which has become more apparent because of new communications technologies, is one major reason. In addition, the use of scapegoating in political power struggles has mobilized populations against each other. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, are the existence of feelings of humiliation and defeat. These feelings, which are often passed on from generation to generation, were cited by the Tolchins as a major source of hatred around the world. Peace between populations with these unresolved feelings, such as the Israelis and Palestinians, is very difficult to achieve.

The primary targets of this surge in worldwide anger, which is ultimately expressed through violence, are the United States, Israel, and the U.S.'s developed country allies. The United States is a target because of its use of preemptive strikes and policies in the Middle East. Israel is a target because of its handling of the Palestinian population. The U.S.'s developed country allies are a target because of their treatment of Muslims within their respective countries. A significant first step in addressing these issues, the Tolchins said, would be for those involved in foreign policy to recognize the psychology of humiliation and defeat and to incorporate it into policymaking. Another potential solution would be to emphasize the commonalities of the Abrahamic religions. The Tolchins argued that taking these steps, among others explained in their book, would counter the current trend toward fundamentalism and improve the U.S.'s and others' capacity to contend with increasing anger and violence around the world.

Drafted by Mitch Yoshida
Science, Technology, America and the Global Economy Program - Directed by Kent Hughes

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