The ‘sentimentalists’

Many politicians – some experienced, others merely enslaved by their ambition – have concluded, in their attempts to explain the worldwide anti-war rallies last weekend (and grabbing the chance to justify their own absence as they had no inclination whatsoever to catch a cold or soil themselves by shuffling along with the masses), that the thousands of protesters who took to the streets had done so for «purely emotional reasons.» What they are also implying is that people fall into two camps: On one side are «the masses» who behave according to their emotions, and on the other side is the «spiritual politician» who is able to ponder, to discern, and to exercise self-control. Such politicians, and a range of other modern-day commentators, cannot tolerate emotions. They regard them as evidence of mental primitivism and spiritual immaturity. So, they studiously keep their distance from the «sentimentalists,» who can only respond to the dilemmas of history monosyllabically, with a «yes» or a «no.» But the logic of these sober commentators can neither understand nor excuse the deeper logic of the emotions. Saturday’s demonstrators weren’t parading their emotions. Their protest was backed by logic. They had reviewed the aims of the imminent war in Iraq (both the stated and unsaid) and the likely consequences. And with these in mind, they decided to be counted among the «sentimentalists.»