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  •  Dehumanizing enemies is an all-too human thing (2+ / 0-)
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    Wee Mama, kbman

    Authoritarian personalities, both leaders and followers, do it for group cohesion; they build their own identity as a group on the foundation of who they exclude and demonize. Sometimes it is the only thing they have in common as a group to hold them together.

    The targets serve two other purposes as well. A) they are scapegoats for the failings of the leaders and the group - i.e.: "Obama only won the election because ACORN stole it for him", "the mortgage crisis blew up the economy because the government made banks give too many mortgages to those people", and so on. B) The threat of being declared an 'other' is used to keep followers in line and silence dissent. "If you're not with us, you're against us."

    The thing is, all groups do this - the key difference is how far it goes and whether the group's basis is positive or negative. The admonition "Hate the sin, but love the sinner" is a way of remembering that we are all sinners in some respect, but the possibility of redemption is one we should all aspire to. "We pray for mercy because we would all be fools to pray for justice."

    That being said, I always try to remember I'm dealing with  humans in any case, because on this entire planet you will find no other species so vicious, depraved, untrustworthy, stupid, violent, and just plain evil as human beings in all their 'glory'; and that includes the 'good guys'.

    The darker impulses of our nature are still there because we still need them. It's what gets the heart pumping, the adrenaline flowing, provides the irrational imperative to 'man the barricades' and fight to defend our interests - even in the face of death. Emotional appeals work, because they reach us at a very deep level - and it's one sure way to motivate people to act, whether for good or ill.

    No one knowingly chooses to be 'evil' - what we choose is to believe are things that make us 'right' and others 'wrong', or more charitably, 'mistaken'. It's when we make those choices on the basis of things that aren't so that we fall into error and 'sin'.

    As part of the self-identifying "reality-based community", I'd hope that A) I've made the best effort to have my facts straight, and B) have made sufficient allowance that I never have ALL the facts and even with them, can still arrive at the wrong conclusions. To be human in the ideal sense of the word is to know that I am fallible, yet strive to rise above it and do better when I stumble.

    To be human in a less ideal sense is to act without ever questioning one's assumptions, to assume those who disagree are not worthy of consideration, and to double-down on those beliefs even in the face of incontrovertible evidence to the contrary. In the case of such people, dehumanizing them is redundant because they've already done it to themselves. They have abandoned reason for unthinking emotion. They've chosen to limit themselves and their understanding of the world to something small enough for them to grasp without having to think. They want the rose but can't deal with the thorns.

    You can only deal with them accordingly. You don't have to hate them back, but you don't have to disregard the  consequences of their choices either. The word "human" encompasses a broad range of contradictory impulses, some noble, some not. There's another reason we form groups: survival.

    There are people who ARE real threats, and the "us versus them" choice is inescapable. "Neither can live while the other survives" is sometimes not an overly dramatic statement, but is rather a simple statement of fact. We can tolerate opposing views, but not to the point where they demand we commit suicide to accommodate them. Especially when the people we're dealing enough are so paranoid, they think it IS a matter of their survival. And they may be right, because to give up their beliefs would mean giving up who they believe they are. Appeals to reason are not going to work, because it's something that has little reason in it - but a lot of emotion.

    The art of civilization is building a society where ideally such choices would not have to be made, while recognizing that it is an ideal that we are inevitably going to fall short of from time to time because we are human, not angels, not logical machines. How we deal with such occasions is the greatest test we and the civilization we are trying to build may ever face. We can't avoid conflict; we must find ways to channel it into solutions. Sometimes those solutions come with a heavy price.

    150 years ago, it took the blood of thousands of people to settle what kind of country America would be. (And let's not forget that one side in that conflict actually did class an entire group of people as less than fully human.) It would be hubris to think we've gone beyond such things, and folly to think it couldn't come to a similar pass again or that we could avoid having to choose a side.

    All we can do is prepare for the worst, hope for the best, and do what we have to do. Wisdom is knowing what that is - and it's a quality in too short supply.

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Sat May 17, 2014 at 03:45:03 PM PDT

    •  Shorter version (1+ / 0-)
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      Dehumanizing opponents, enemies, what ever you want to call them is a mistake in this regard. It interferes with your ability to think clearly about them.

      "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

      by xaxnar on Sat May 17, 2014 at 08:17:02 PM PDT

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