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the higher cause
1) the "racists" "soldiers" and those who work for "multinationals"
presumably don't deserve any more "dehumanization" than any other full
and real human being. i presume you agree that their actions don't
delegitimize their humanity.
the real force of dehumanization seems to me ideological: when we
commit ourselves to a view of the world, one constructed in our
imaginations and moral commitments and understanding of the world and
then dedicate ourselves to bringing that virtual world about without
regard to the real persons of the real world. our commitment to "higher
causes" seems to me a concomitant commitment to "dehumanization". and
it is such ideological fervor which constructs for us a simple "us/them"
categorization, a simple "good/evil" schema, a simple vocabulary with
which to label them as "savages," as "uncivilized," as "racists," and as
"enemies". and for every Pat Buchanan on the right there is a George
Foreman on the left building an ideological storage facility in which we
can keep our hearts and minds.
the last part of this argument is that "small" injustices ought not to
be trivialized. that Cecilia Rodriguez accuses soldiers of rape is not
less important than the chemical poisoning of millions by a
multinational. we "trivialize" injustices at great risk. your argument
is problematic because it can be focussed in toto on Ms. Rodriguez:
"come on, we have a lot more important, "higher" causes to worry about
than just you getting raped. there are MULTINATIONALS out there..." it
seems to me that there is enough energy in the world so that we do not
need to accept some wrongs because there are "bigger" wrongs to worry
2) how does an honest expression of emotion, face-to-face, de-humanize?
it seems to me to do exactly the opposite.
rage, anger, hate, distress, frustration, panic, dismay, and
disappointment are necessary parts of being a full person. expressing
these emotions is as inevitable and important to being human as the
expression of love, belonging, caring, gratitude, satisfaction, and
pleasure. our emotions are a part of what we are, can, and ought to be.
i've always been of two minds about the ballet. it can produce artifacts
of action and art which are stunningly beautiful. but watching human
beings move and act and interact in a stylized and regimented way leaves
me worried and apprehensive. the ballerina may be an artist but she
seems to be a puppet, a plaything of the choreographer, moving this way
and then that to enact a dance for our pleasure: what matters is only
her body and how it moves. there is nothing "genuine" or "natural" in
these displays: her person has been suborned for the dance. that seems
to me the fundamental de-humanization: human beings acting as and being
treated as puppets.
the general case is that fundamental dehumanization is the enactment of
scripts and norms and stylized patterns and rules rather than the
actions of persons. if what we care about is not dehumanizing ourselves
and others, then it seems to me that we ought not to and ought not ask
others to suborn themselves to the scripts, norms, stylized patterns,
and rules we like. the antidote to dehumanization is being fully and
genuinely HUMAN: that includes having and expressing the full and
genuine emotions which are part of who and what we are.
perhaps we can construct a world in which we have removed the "bad"
emotions from our interactions. we will in that case have choreographed
a beautiful and inhuman dance.
Archive created by Jonathan Stanton (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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