The Fatal Consequences of Dehumanizing Your Neighbor
The following is from the Trumpet Brief sent out yesterday. These daily e-mails contain personal messages from the Trumpet staff. Click here to join the nearly 20,000 members of our mailing list, so you don’t miss another message.
The Oxford dictionary defines dehumanize as: “the process of depriving a person or group of positive human qualities.”
To dehumanize a person or group is to stop recognizing the features that identify them as human—their natural rights, their thoughts and emotions, their familial and social relationships—to the point that people consider them to be like an animal or even an inanimate object.
History is laden with examples of humans dehumanizing one another and the sickening consequences. Recall Adolf Hitler’s dehumanization of Jews, whom he referred to as “rats” and “parasites.” Jews didn’t live in homes, he said, but in “nests.” Like dogs, the Jews traveled in “packs.” During the war, Hitler had Jews herded into camps and branded with a number. Hitler considered the Jews to be animals, and this view, naturally, allowed him to treat them as such.
Harvard University psychologist Herbert Kelman has studied the effects of dehumanization. When a victim is no longer considered human, he wrote, “the principles of morality no longer apply to them and moral restraints against killing are more readily overcome.” Deprive a foe of his or her status as a human and it becomes much easier to persecute, torture and kill him. History shows that dehumanization is often an inevitable step toward unimaginable suffering, violence, torture and mass murder.
In America today, there is a growing tendency to dehumanize the enemy.
This is evident within U.S. politics, but also in American culture and society. For a growing number of Americans, the other party (or race or group) is not merely ill informed or ignorant, or championing flawed policies or ideologies. For many, the opposition is inherently evil and dangerous. For many, politics today is no longer about challenging the opposition’s arguments and policies, or even running them out of politics. It’s about destroying the enemy lock, stock and barrel.
“There is a strong current of dehumanization running in our politics,” wrote columnist and former presidential speechwriter Michael Gerson recently. “The rival crew, it turns out, is not only wrong but evil. And how can mortal enemies embrace the give and take of a shared political project? Only the raw exercise of power can decide between them. The goal is no longer to win arguments but to crush opposition.”
There is a vast difference between working within the democratic system and principles to respectfully, rationally challenge your opponent’s views, policies and ideologies, and seeking to eradicate the opposition and his views altogether.
Two recent studies by Vanderbilt University provide a measure of evidence here. In the first study, respondents were asked to rank members of their own political party and the opposing party on the evolutionary scale. (Respondents were shown a visual scale with images of apelike creatures on one side and modern humans on the other.)
Alexander Theodoridis and James Martherus conducted the study and explained the results in May in their article in the Washington Post. “Seventy-seven percent of our respondents rated their political opponents as less evolved than members of their own party. Respondents who considered themselves strong partisans were more likely to dehumanize opposing partisans, and Republicans and Democrats were equally likely to dehumanize their opponents” (emphasis added).
A recent Quillette article discusses the emergence in America of programs designed to teach and foster unity and cohesion between individuals of opposing political sides. Across the U.S., civilian movements like Better Angels, Benjamin Franklin Circles and the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation are hosting workshops and local meetings designed to teach people how to listen to and respect one another.
The Quillette article stated: “Better Angels seeks to heal a broken America by improving our public discourse. The volunteer-led workshops teach skills of human connection—paraphrasing, listening, asking questions of understanding, and how to offer a critique of one’s own political position—not of persuasion. The intent is not to minimize differences or to convert. It is to humanize others who think differently—ultimately, to make us less inclined to demonize others and more inclined to peacefully coexist.”
This is 21st-century America! Sadly, though the cause is noble, this movement to restore peace and civility to America will be too little too late. The forces behind the tendency to dehumanize the enemy are now overpowering; the spirit of competition and hatred too strong. To learn more about the forces behind this growing tendency to dehumanize the enemy, request America Under Attack, by Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry.
Finally, consider the end-time prophecy in 2 Timothy 3:1-3: “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good ….”
In the end time, men will be “without natural affection.” Many will be cold, heartless, without compassion or empathy. And this lack of natural affection for fellow human beings will make them capable of committing extreme acts of violence. Prophecies in Isaiah 1-3 and Ezekiel 7 talk about America being plagued by race wars and civil unrest.
You can see this future even now: in the demonization of Brett Kavanaugh and his supporters, in the vitriolic accusations America’s leaders routinely levy on one another and on segments of the American people, and in the sadistic, violence-inducing, nation-destroying remarks regulary made by media personalities, music moguls and Hollywood stars. And you can see this grim future in the growing proclivity among Americans to dehumamize the enemy.