Mar 172013

Stop Dehumanization of People to Stop Wars

by Katherine Vinluan-Arellano



The concept of dehumanization first appeared in 1818.  It means depriving one of human qualities, personality or spirit.  It’s also the process by which humans are made to be less than human or given uncomplimentary animal traits.  Humans are referred to as insects or reptiles — depicting them as spiders or snakes are the most common.  Depicting people as more than human, such as a demonic tribe of people, is another albeit less popular form of dehumanization.


In peace time, dehumanization has led to the acceptance of abortion, infanticide, euthanasia or mercy killing of the old and sick, the legalization of the “right to die,” prostitution, and human cloning.


In war time, dehumanization is a key element in propaganda and brainwashing.  By portraying the enemy as less than human, it is much easier to motivate your troops to rape, torture or kill.  Ethnic cleansing or genocide would always be perceived as a crime against humanity if human beings belonging to another race or religion are not dehumanized.


Throughout history, groups or races of human beings have been dehumanized.  Slaves, Negroes, Jews, and now, Muslims.  Up to now, women are dehumanized in many societies — they are made sexual objects, treated as second-class human beings.  The proliferation of the sex trade are indications of the prevailing, successful dehumanization of women, worldwide.  During wars, mass rape of women is common.


There are many things that make dehumanization triumphant.


A society where human contact, affection and care is withdrawn breeds people who could easily adopt the attitude and practice of dehumanization.  Children growing up orphaned or abandoned.  Adults so involved in the “rat race” or “dog-eat-dog” world of high competition.  Human beings living in isolation from other human beings.


Societies that raise their children overly exposed to toy soldiers, toy guns, computer war games and violent movies have become used to some form of inhuman, imaginary enemy in their daily lives that dehumanizing a real enemy becomes just another small step to take.  This is evidenced by soldiers happily marching off to wars, as though merely participating in some adventure game, eager to try their war weapons on live targets.  I’d like to believe that many of them won’t be marching off to war if only their live targets have not been dehumanized in their minds.


Clearly, if we must stop wars and promote peace in the world, everyone should have, develop or re-discover respect for life.  Thus, education that includes values formation and even, perhaps, faith or religion should be made part of classroom lessons and school curriculums again.  Humanities and studies of various cultures with an emphasis on the interesting, rich differences among the various cultures rather than on the superiority of one over another would help build greater tolerance, open-mindedness and respect for other peoples.


Education that goes beyond the classrooms, where the youth follows the example of their elders also plays a critical role in the positive transformation of the world.  In order to bring into effect a world of peaceful co-existence, solidarity, interdependence and real progress, we must not only believe in and preach but practice respect for life -– this is key to re-building the moral fiber of our society and the character of our people.


Martin Luther King on the purpose of education:


“It seems to me that education has a two-fold function to perform in the life of man and in society: the one is utility and the other is culture. Education must enable a man to become more efficient, to achieve with increasing facility the legitimate goals of his life…   The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason, but with no morals…  We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character — that is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate. The broad education will, therefore, transmit to one not only the accumulated knowledge of the race but also the accumulated experience of social living.”


Unfortunately, health and education are often two of the first items to be sacrificed when budgets are re-allocated for military or war purposes.


We are all human beings.  Let us stop the dehumanization of mankind so we can effectively prevent wars and enjoy peace.


The date posted here is due to our website rebuild, it does not reflect the original date this article was posted. This article was originally posted in Yonip on Mar 22nd 2003




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