What is Dehumanization?

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“Loss of human characteristics; brutalization by either mental or physical means; stripping one of self-esteem.” —(Online Medical Dictionary)

Dehumanization is:

Taking away the rights of some that most have

This is to offer rights to most citizens, but to deny those same rights to other citizens. This is to create a hierarchy of humanity, where some are considered “human” or “normal” while others are considered “sub-normal.”

Denying human dignity in life or death

This is to cause one to be in a place of humiliation or continual shame, either physically or mentally.

Denying one’s ability to care for oneself

If one is denied food, shelter, clothing, safety, or health when these are readily available, then that one is rejected as being less than a human who has all of these basic needs.

Being controlled by other’s decisions

If one is not given the ability to be an independent unit, able to participate in one’s own care and make decisions which leads to ones own ability to provide for one’s needs, then they are denied their own self-will, which is basic to all humans.

Convincing another that they are sub-human

The process of dehumanization is complete when one personally admits that they are less than “normal” and unworthy to live with others.

Some practical aspects of dehumanization:

Limiting one’s ability to sleep

Sleep is necessary for survival. To deprive one of sleep on an ongoing basis is to deny one’s ability to function in a mentally healthy way.

Denying the right to go to the bathroom with dignity

Eliminating waste is a basic necessity for life. As a part of human society, it is also something to be done in private. For this reason there are laws for urinating or defecating in public. But should one be denied the basic privacy to go to the bathroom, then that one is dehumanized.

Denying food to another

To deny one the ability to obtain food is to deny one a basic human need.

Denying the ability to obtain fair work

Part of one’s dignity is to participate in work that gives one the ability to feel that one is contributing positively to society, even in a small way. To deny one that participation is to deny one self-respect.

Denying social connection

A human being is a social being. To deny social contact is to deny an essential aspect of what it means to be human.

Physically or mentally punishing another for not giving one proper “respect”

If we cause one to be humiliated for not giving us respect, we are stating our human superiority. Often one does not give respect because of fear or because the person demanding respect already displayed qualities that denies that one proper respect (for instance, demeaning others without cause).

Forcing one to live in denial of one’s believes and/or values

Humans are moral beings, and we must believe that what we do is done with good intentions, or on a positive moral basis or else we lose our dignity and our right to see ourselves as human. To force one to act in a personally unethical manner is to destroy one’s selfhood.

Why dehumanization?

Because some need to be punished

Society demands that some be dehumanized because they have done wrongs against society at large. This makes sense for those who are actively harming society, such as murderers, rapists or thieves. These are not safe to be with others who might be harmed, so they should be separated. However, societies will sometimes place others who do no harm to others in the same sub-human category and treat people as criminals who are simply having bad luck.

As revenge for a wrong done

Individuals often demand recompense for a wrong done. They will treat those whom they have seen as wrong-doers as less then human because they see it as a just response to the evil action. However, this only perpetuates the wrong in the world, as dehumanization is an evil done to another. Thus the person receiving sub-human treatment feel right in treating the one giving the punishment as sub-human as well. Thus, dehumanization becomes a cycle, in which everyone involved is dehumanized.

Because social situations demand it

There are certain situations that socially require dehumanization. This is seen most clearly with small children. They do not know enough to keep themselves and others safe and so they are punished with spankings and other treatments that communicate to them that they are less than the one punishing. This kind of treatment is repeated in other social situations in which an authority is attempting to control the behavior of an underling. Such as an employer to an employee, a guard to a prisoner, a soldier to a foreign civilian, a policeman to an assumed criminal, a nurse or doctor to a patient, or a social worker to a client. An authority is not required to treat an underling as a sub-human, but it is an option and commonly utilized.

To protect the rights of the ruling society

Every society has a ruling class, and it is required that the ruling class maintain their rights in order to maintain their authority. These rights are greater than the rights of others whom they rule over, whether the underlings live in their country or not. If the underlings insist upon equal rights with the ruling class, then the ruling class has the responsibility to treat the underlings as sub-human, in order to maintain the stability of society at large. This was largely the case in the Southern United States, subjugating the black slaves and later the African Americans so they would “learn their place” and society might be stable, with the whites retaining their greater rights, thus their authority to rule.

The Results of Dehumanization

Dehumanization Leads to Oppression

Also, creating a sub-human category is assuming that the group deserve to be punished because they lack the self-will or self-control that “real” humans have. This leads to punishment of the innocent, abuse of the helpless, theft from the poor and forcing the sub-humans to live in a context they can barely survive in, even though they could do better, except they are assumed to be sub-human. Should the sub-humans insist upon human rights, then they will be oppressed more with beatings, greater punishments and torture.

Dehumanization leads to Genocide

To question another’s worth of basic human needs is to dehumanize.

To dehumanize to eventually convince that one they don’t deserve to be human.

To convince one of their sub-humanity is to place a group in a sub-human category.

To make a whole group sub-human is to lower the esteem of all humanity.

To lower humanity means that the sub-human group must be separated.

If a group of humans must be separated, then they must be destroyed.

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Article Series: “Dehumanization”

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