Whether that conflict is over lunch, at work, in the store, mutual conflicts are always difficult and unpleasant. They are even harder and more painful when it comes to family. If your family is at all like mine, it means that you had to gather love and dignity from an environment of emotions that range from mild frustrations to raging anger.
When in some situations you stand alone in the middle of a family or community or among angry strangers, you feel like you are exposed to untamed wilderness and you have to gather courage to survive. When at one point I think Throw it away! It’s too hard. I am completely lost! – Maya Angelou’s words resonate in my head again: The price is high. The reward is huge.
However, a new question came to my mind during this research: Where is the border? Do at all there is a the boundary in the wild between behavior that is acceptable and that that is not? The reward may be huge, but do I have to put up with someone who oppresses me or asks if I have the right to exist at all? Is there a limit that must not be crossed? My answer is that it exists.
Research participants who experience true belonging spoke openly about their boundaries. Moreover, this research has confirmed what I have already established in my work so far: the clearer the boundaries and the more they are respected, the higher the level of empathy and compassion towards others. If there are less clearly set boundaries, we are less open. It is difficult to be good-natured when you feel that someone is taking advantage of you or threatening you.
After reviewing the collected data, I saw that the limit was set for physical security and code emotional security, as the respondents called it. I understand physical security. It is one of the inviolable preconditions for vulnerability. We cannot allow ourselves to be vulnerable and open if we are not physically safe.
Emotional security is a slightly less clear concept, especially in a world where the term “emotional security” is often used to mean I don’t have to listen to anyone else’s opinion if it’s different from mine, the one I don’t like, the one I think is wrong, the one that will hurt my feelings, and the one that doesn’t meet my standards of political correctness. I had to investigate this in more detail.
When I asked respondents to give me examples of when they felt emotionally insecure or in danger, a clear pattern crystallized.
They did not talk about hurting their feelings or having to listen to conflicting opinions; they spoke about dehumanizovanom speech and behavior. I immediately recognized this since I had studied dehumanization for more than a decade and encountered it through my work.
David Smith, author of the book Less Than Human (Manje nego čovek), explains that dehumanization is a response to conflicting motives. We want to harm a group of people, but that conflicts with our nature of social beings to actually harm, kill, torture, or degrade other human beings.
Smith explains that there are very deep and natural inhibitions, which prevent us from treating other people like animals, wildlife or dangerous predators. He writes, “Dehumanization is a way to break down those inhibitions.”5
Dehumanization is a process. Michelle Maiese, President of the Department of Philosophy at Emanuel College, reasonably defines dehumanization, and I will use her words to explain the term in more detail. According to her definition, dehumanization is “a psychological process of demonizing the enemy, presenting it as less humane and therefore unworthy of human treatment.”
Dehumanization often begins with creation enemy images. When we take a side, we lose trust and become more and more angry, and not only do we strengthen the image of our enemy, but we begin to lose the ability to listen, communicate and every trace of empathy.
When we see people on the “other side” of the conflict as morally inferior and even dangerous, the conflict is formulated as good versus bad. Majeze writes, “As soon as the opposing parties formulate the conflict in this way, their positions become more rigid.
In some cases, such exclusive thinking leads the parties to believe that they must either secure their victory or face defeat. New goals are emerging to punish or destroy the enemy, and in some cases the government is taking on a more militant leadership. ”
Dehumanization has fueled countless acts of violence, human rights violations, war crimes and genocide. It opens up space for slavery, torture and human trafficking. The dehumanization of others is the process by which we begin to accept violence against human nature, against the human soul, and, in many cases, violence against the principles of our faith.
How does that come about? Majeze explains that most of us believe that basic human rights must not be violated – that crimes such as murder, rape and torture are not allowed. Successful dehumanization, however, creates moral exclusion.
Target groups with a certain identity – based on gender, ideology, skin color, nationality, religion, age – are presented as “lower-ranking” groups, criminal or even criminal.
The target group in question ultimately falls outside the scope of those who are naturally protected by our moral standards. This represents moral exclusion, and at its core lies dehumanization.
Dehumanization always begins with speech, which is often accompanied by images. We have seen that throughout the history of mankind. During the Holocaust, the Nazis called Jews inferior – in German Subhumans. They were called rats, and on pamphlets, posters and even in children’s books they were presented as rodents spreading the infection.
During the genocide in Rwanda, the Hutu people called the Tutsi people cockroaches. Indigenous peoples are often characterized as savages. Serbs called Bosniaks foreigners. Slave owners considered slaves to be animals, a lower species.
I know that it is hard to believe how we could personally find ourselves in a situation where we would exclude people from a morally equal relationship, from basic moral values, but here we are faced with biology.
It is human nature for us to believe in what we see and to add meaning to the words we hear. We cannot pretend that every citizen who participated in crimes or observed crimes against people was a violent psychopath.
That is not possible, it is not true and it misses the essence. The essence is that we are all sensitive to the easy and insidious process of dehumanization, and therefore we have a responsibility to recognize and stop it.
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