When it comes to international relations, many things are obvious and need not be said. However, they get better when they are made explicit. In this first part, the author deals with the feeling of superiority that we all have and our unconscious prejudices about the meanness of our interlocutors. In the next episode, he will deal with the specificities of the Middle East.
In this representation of the Battle of Poitiers (8th century), painted in the 19th century by Charles de Steuben, the Muslims are barbarians, both violent and lascivious.
In the course of the many e-mail exchanges, it has become clear that many things I take for granted are not for all my readers. So I would like to return to some ideas, some of which you will find generalities, but others of which will surprise you.
We are all human, but different
It is possible to travel to a faraway country and visit only hotels and sunny beaches. It is good for tanning, but it is humanly a missed opportunity. This country is inhabited by people like us, maybe different in appearance, maybe not, with whom we could have exchanged. Surely we would have befriended some of them.
Generally speaking, the traveller will always make sure that he or she has more resources than the locals he or she is visiting so that he or she can deal with any problems. Perhaps, in this comfortable situation, the traveller will then embark on a journey into the unknown and approach a few people. But who is going to speak freely and entrust his joys and anxieties to a rich traveller?
It is the same in international relations: it is always very difficult to really know what is happening abroad and to understand it.
International relations involve several actors who are foreign to us. That is to say, men who have traumas and ambitions that we don’t know and that we have to share before we can understand them. What is important to them is not necessarily what concerns us. There are good reasons for this that we need to find out if we want to move forward with them.
Each of us considers our values to be qualitatively superior to those of others until we understand why they think differently.