Less Than Human

There is a Netflix show, Black Mirror, with a dystopian futuristic theme to it, each episode is a standalone mini movie and the episodes are not directly connected. There is one episode titled Men Against Fire that sincerely fits the overarching theme found in the last few posts.** SPOILERS AHAED** so if you would like take a pause and give it a watch feel free, just remember to swing back around afterwards.  In this particular episode there is a war raging between the humans and what they called cockroaches. You are led to believe that they are humans with genetic diseases that have caused physical deformities that could infect others and they lack the ability to speak. It is only after one of the soldiers has a green light from a deactivation tool shined in his eyes that he realizes that they are just normal people. The soldiers all have a high-tech implant in their brain and the government can manipulate their senses. They can control what they see, hear, smell, and even dream about. They chose to use this as a tool to control soldiers’ ability to kill the enemy with no residual side effects. No PTSD or mental issues or nightmares about murdering babies. The idea is that, it is easy to kill when you don’t believe the object of your aggression is human. This is a key requirement for hate and hateful acts of aggression.

In the show the psychologist states that deep-down average humans don’t want to kill one another, and I agree 100% this is why the dehumanization of people and groups in a requirement. Seeing other people as not fully human, evil, deviant criminals that are deserving  of any violence and punishment they receive is required. Once the object of hate has been successfully dehumanized the violence delivered upon them is excused and justifications for why they deserved it are generated no matter how insignificant the transgression. Things get worse when entire groups of people are dehumanized (they are not like us), homogenized (they are all the same), and demonized (they are a threat).  They become recognized only as the ultimate evil and receive no compassion or empathy. Peace can only be achieved when they have all been eliminated killing or hurting them is more than just ok or acceptable it is necessary for OUR safety. Even if we strike first, even if they didn’t actually do anything because the group becomes so enemy focused that all we can see is the wrongs in others.

I have painted a pretty grim picture, that no one wants to look at, and that most want to pretend doesn’t exist. This ugliness is a form of complicit terrorism because the behaviors become normalized by the cooperation of citizens, law enforcement, elected officials, corporations, systems, and even religions. Looking into the eyes of this beast one could easily give in to the overwhelming despair that is the task of changing something so deeply entrenched into the human social structure. How can we begin to fix systems or cultures when there are people who will see more humanity in a dog or a cat than in an actual human from a different group? The short answer is empathy and compassion, spoiler alert empathy and compassion is the long answer too.  No this is not a quick fix and people don’t just magically give up the deep-rooted hate this would require a full-blown empathy pandemic of epic proportions.

Sounds nice but is it actually possible

Empathy and compassion are the key, but how do we generate empathy and compassion on a scale of this magnitude? Negative reinforcement for this type of behavior simply will not work. Guilt, shame, or forms of punishment only have social change value when we can empathize with the person or group. As long as we fail to see ourselves in others, we will never accept them as fully human. We have to see individuals and groups as they are and not the evil fiction that we created.  If no empathy or compassion is created any punishments doled out will only serve to strengthen the distance between groups. Giving a consequence to someone in response to some act of hateful aggression will usually make the aggressor feel further victimized and possibly intensify the hatred they feel. In situations where hate erupts into violence it must be countered with a consequence of equal proportions but there must also be some efforts to instill empathy and compassion for the other group. If some measure of compassion is not created the punishment will do nothing to prevent future acts of hate. The punishment in some cases only serves to intensify hate. While empathy is simple to say in a meme or in a conversation with friends what does it truly mean to be compassionate or empathetic. How can we actually accomplish the task of creating a more empathetic and compassionate society?

I’m BACK!

I don’t know if you noticed (of course you did! How cold you not) but I took a little hiatus. I did not intend for it to last longer that a week or two but during that time some life decided to happen and my week or two was extended to just over a month! So much has happened in our collective lives in the last year that sometimes we need to take a mental health break and reboot. I have missed the mental challenge of writing, posting consistently, and this break has definitely solidified my resolve and drive for writing. I don’t have a grand goal to some, but it is quite grand to me. Simply put my purpose or goal here is to improve at the craft of writing, to share things I am passionate about, and hopefully to inspire others to do the same. Now on with the show… HATE

This article is a part of a series focused on the analysis and origins of hate: 

1. What Is Hate? Published 01.14.20217. Us vs. Them Published 03.11.21
2. So, What’s The Plan? Published 01.21.20218.Love Published 03.18.21
3. How to Make Mutant Published 01.28.20219. The exaggeration of SELF published 03.25.21
4. Don’t Take it Personal Published 02.04.2110. Respect Published 04.01.21
5. Social Darwinism Published 02.25.2111. How it Should Be Published 04.15.21
6. Selective Breeding Published 03.04.2112. Retaliation Published 04.22.21

Citations

  1. Beck, A. T. (2000). Prisoners of Hate: The Cognitive Basis of Anger, Hostility, and Violence (1st ed.). Harper Perennial.
  2. Christakis, N. A. (2020). Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society (Reprint ed.). Little, Brown Spark.
  3. Harari, Y. N. (2018). Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (Reprint ed.). Harper Perennial.

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