The farce that played out at Schweizer-Reneke primary school in recent days is far from tragedy, but some other words of Greek origin referring to our less heroic instincts apply perfectly: isothymia and megalothymia. Those two concepts, the desire to be equal to others, and the desire to be superior to them, are to be found in Francis Fukuyama’s latest work, in which he deals with the contemporary problem of identity politics. Liberalism, while being the basis of today’s best-functioning democracies, has been unable to fully administer to one fundamental human craving: the recognition of dignity. “Equal respect, embodied in individual rights, the rule of law, and the franchise … do not guarantee that people in a democracy will be equally respected in practice, particularly members of groups with a history of marginalisation,” Fukuyama writes. Isothyma is unlikely ever to be completely fulfilled. Likewise megalothymia will be with us forever, and cannot be overcome. It “thrives on e...

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