On Humiliation, Terrorism, Free Markets, and Democracy

  • SumoMe

This was a post we were assigned to write in response to a quote from one of our texts. The quote and the text are mentioned below. This was for my Trends and Issues course at NSU. I felt this a timely post in the wake of Osama Bin Laden’s recent death.

I am taking a different tact this week. Consider my post this week as an Op-Ed response to Canton’s quote on page 201 of his book, The Extreme Future (2006).

One of the central ideas of this book is determining whose Future Vision will prevail. Will it be the vision of secular, terrorist, or religious extremists who would hijack the future to insulate their societies from others, keeping them in poverty, tyranny, and manipulation? Or will the future belong to those of modernity, people who uphold the values of democracy, tolerance, free trade, and individual rights—including, religious rights?

Mr. Canton, I find your division of the free market, democratic world vs. the secular, terrorist world overly simplistic. Black and white, with us or against us, divisions worked well when the world was a simpler place like during WW I and II. Back then, there were bad guys, psychopaths that were able to convince millions that it was their side that was the righteous path. That killing millions of Jews actually made sense. More recently, this worked well for propaganda and fear mongering in the latest Bush administration’s assessment of world powers where he accumulated the “bad (terrorist) guys” into the Axis of Evil. It still sounds like something out of a James Bond film. At best it rouses slightly more than a chuckle for the overt ignorance of the attempt to label the good guys against the bad guys. Even more puzzling then is why President Bush in 2003 would have wanted to set up Free Trade Agreements in the Middle East on the doorstep of the Axis of Evil (Gouse, 2005). Apparently the Bush administration also favored your ideals that free markets and democracy will save everyone from the oppressive, subversive, and extremist Middle Eastern governments. But G.W. missed something subtle in the whole mix like you too. You both tried to separate the world into two halves. These divisions serve the fear machine the media feeds off of.

On that note, I would offer that you, Mr. Canton, examine the division that the media’s polarity of the world (that you served to your readers to grapple with) has created in the United States of America. Political stances seem more polarized in the U.S. more than ever. You see what happens when you polarize things into two sides? You make one dependent on the other without trying. So, do we need the terrorists in America? Do the terrorists need democracy and free markets? I would argue yes on both accounts because without one another to hate, what is there to do? Where does the humiliation come from that Taliban recruiters prey upon for new recruits to their “cause?” How does America defend the billions it spends in taxpayers hard earned salaries on the bombs and wars it wages on the Muslim, terrorist world? The world no longer exists in these simplified terms.  I do agree that globalization demands we acknowledge that the dichotomy exists but I would argue, in response to you Mr. Canton that neither side will win. Instead, we will continue to face a stalemate of sorts because the free-market that you see as the democratic save all, demands that there are pawns, or have-nots, that can support the machine of the developed, democratic world.  Here is the rub though. As long as those countries that are the economic have-nots, either by choice or by the will of powerful, more developed countries, exist, so to does a feeling of humiliation.

Humiliation is the most potent seed for hatred to sprout into its perfect blossom of terrorism and extremist politics. I wish you had Mr. Canton, mentioned this as one of your characteristics of those opposed to the free-world, democracy lovin’ people that you pitted them against. A simple Google search of terrorism and humiliation offers over 1.4 million hits. You see, a silent, more insidious product of your free economy is the production of humiliation by the barrel full. The machine dictates that in order to run and produce there has to be someone working the machines, manning the factories and killing our planet to sustain it. Currently, China does a fine job of all three of these, but they lack the humiliation piece of the puzzle since their strong communistic government sees to it that someone gets at least a little nibble from the cheese. Other counties lack the ability to produce for the free market machine. Humiliation for them comes in the form of zero opportunities for self-realization or fulfillment or personal freedoms that we so easily take for granted.  What the free-market, democratic governments have created is a humiliated international population that isn’t restricted just to the Middle East. Humiliation leads to retaliation and retaliation when your poor and faceless is best served up as terrorism because it is the only way to get noticed. It is the only way to say, “look at us, validate us.” For many, it is the only opportunity to get a hot meal. You simply cannot have one without the other. So, to answer your question Mr. Canton, neither of your over simplistic world view will ever play out because one side feeds the other exactly what it needs to keep feeding itself. Some studies have empirical data to suggest that the promotion of democracy might further increase the incidence of terrorist attacks in some countries. This would suggest that your attempt to divide the world between democracy and terrorists is flawed at best (Piazza, 2008).


Canton, J. (2006). The extreme future: The top trends that will reshape the world in the next 20 years. New York, New York: Plume.

Gouse, G. (2005, September). Can Democracy Stop Terrorism. Retrieved March 23, 2011, from CThe Council on Foreign Relations website: http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/61021/f-gregory-gause-iii/ can-democracy-stop-terrorism

Lindsey, B. (2003, August 5). The Trade Front: Combating Terrorism with Open
Markets. Retrieved March 25, 2011, from CATO Institute website:

Piazza, J. (2008). Do Democracy and Free Markets Protect Us From Terrorism? International Politics, 45, 72–91. Retrieved from http://www.politicalscience.uncc.edu/jpiazza/

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