“Take a bath and get a job, you dirty, lazy hippies!“
This is the language of dehumanization. It’s always language like this that is used to dehumanize and devalue other men, women and children for practical – often monetary – purposes.
It is this type of language that tries to remove popular sympathy away from those being exploited and away from those rebelling against the exploitation. Palestinians are a “made-up” people group (i.e., they’re not real). Indigenous tribes are “savages.” African descendants are “beasts.” Poor Whites are “white trash.” Murdered children during war are “collateral damage.” Immigrants are “free loaders.” The working poor are “lazy.”
And those are some of the names I can say in print. To even repeat the more derogatory names is to revisit the abuse and violence beset upon the subjects of those names.
It is this type of language that allows powerful and rich men to completely prey on less powerful with the wanton consent and even approval of the majority of Westerners. Get the common people to believe that a sub-group of common people is less human than you or they are, and you can control them both. It’s the act, the effect of the dehumanizing language that does this.
Language that imagines people groups as “monsters” turns the hearers themselves into monsters.
|Well, SOME monsters are pretty darned cute…|
Abusive language is used to justify mass removals and genocides. To eradicate and largely exterminate American Indian tribes and wipe them from their lands. To bloodily subjugate entire races of people. To sell and divide families. To bomb children. To blame women for their own rape. To bully homosexual teens to suicide.
The abortion foes know this well, which is why they refer to the pre-born as “babies” and “people” and call themselves “pro-life”. The rank-and-file believe this is true. And up until the late 1970’s, it’s arguable that they were correct that they were actually pro-life. But then they largely stopped caring for the after-born and advocated wars and the death penalty.
Because the leaders of the anti-abortion movement saw a way to mobilize the masses and make a quick buck: Demonize the opponents and tune into an American blood-lust for optimal performance.
The demonizing, dehumanizing and over-all blood lust has made it easier to ignore and ridicule the opponents of exploitation as well. Since they are removed from us, they become caricatures who only live to defile the public order. We see them as what they aren’t, nor do we hear their stories nor care for their stories. For the same reasons we do not listen to the hurt of African Americans or Latinos in the United States, we do not hear the cries of the bullied gay youth in our schools, or the protests of the protesters. They are wasteful, lazy, stinky, bums who want what everybody else has and don’t want to do anything but hang around and complain until someone gives it to them.
Of course this isn’t the truth or anything resembling the truth. But the vocabulary and the power of words create a barrier, and we agree with that barrier when we refuse to break down that barrier. In doing so, we help to build up that barrier and the dehumanizing is complete. So when the agents of the elite forces come in to do their work, we commend them for keeping us safe from the vermin. Unaware or uncaring they physical and social harm going on all around us but hidden from sight by the opaque walls of dehumanization.
So maybe we need to make it personal. How much blood needs to be shed on the other side of the wall before we begin to tear it down? How much abusive language can we take and give before we all collectively say, “Enough with your power games!”?
Consider this story from a non-violent protester at Occupy LA:
For example, I watched as the LAPD destroyed a pop-up canopy tent that, until that moment, had been serving as Occupy LA’s First Aid and Wellness tent, in which volunteer health professionals gave free medical care to absolutely anyone who requested it. As it happens, my family had personally contributed that exact canopy tent to Occupy LA, at a cost of several hundred of my family’s dollars. As I watched, the LAPD sliced that canopy tent to shreds, broke the telescoping poles into pieces and scattered the detritus across the park. Note that these were the objects described in subsequent mainstream press reports as “30 tons of garbage” that was “abandoned” by Occupy LA: personal property forcibly stolen from us, destroyed in front of our eyes and then left for maintenance workers to dispose of while we were sent to prison.
When the LAPD finally began arresting those of us interlocked around the symbolic tent, we were all ordered by the LAPD to unlink from each other (in order to facilitate the arrests). Each seated, nonviolent protester beside me who refused to cooperate by unlinking his arms had the following done to him: an LAPD officer would forcibly extend the protestor’s legs, grab his left foot, twist it all the way around and then stomp his boot on the insole, pinning the protestor’s left foot to the pavement, twisted backwards. Then the LAPD officer would grab the protestor’s right foot and twist it all the way the other direction until the non-violent protestor, in incredible agony, would shriek in pain and unlink from his neighbor. It was horrible to watch, and apparently designed to terrorize the rest of us. At least I was sufficiently terrorized. I unlinked my arms voluntarily and informed the LAPD officers that I would go peacefully and cooperatively. I stood as instructed, and then I had my arms wrenched behind my back, and an officer hyperextended my wrists into my inner arms. It was super violent, it hurt really really bad, and he was doing it on purpose. When I involuntarily recoiled from the pain, the LAPD officer threw me face-first to the pavement. He had my hands behind my back, so I landed right on my face. The officer dropped with his knee on my back and ground my face into the pavement. It really, really hurt and my face started bleeding and I was very scared. I begged for mercy and I promised that I was honestly not resisting and would not resist.
You could (and may want to) read more here.
History, of course, is filled with millions and millions of stories like that. Where the authorities come in and violently hold down the oppressed or the protester after that man or woman or child has been thoroughly monster-ized and ridiculed. Because then, no one can hear them scream, right?
No one cares if the master is raping the slave because she isn’t really human and therefore, it doesn’t count, right? Or that Irish children are starving in the streets while dining aristocrats ignore them? After all, they’re only Irish cubs… Or that two-thirds of the world live and toil in abject poverty, in shanties, with barely enough food to make it through the day, while a minute percentage of humanity hoards more money and resources than they know what to do with? Alas, the wealthy earned it…
The trick is then rising above it all, right? To call out evil for what it is without demonizing and dehumanizing those who are different from us. To re-humanize the villains and un-villainize the humans. To break down the barriers, brick-by-brick.
That would be recognizing the brother-and-sisterhood of humanity. That’s a good way of using the pen.