Thursday, July 28, 2005

Dehumanization and the Oppressed

Dehumanization is a term that is used to denote a psychological process where one’s opponent is viewed as less than human and not deserving of moral and legal consideration. This activity results in strained relationships between the two parties with hatred and alienation towards conflict.

Psychology describes the formation of this enemy image. This is the use of the stereotype. The need for group identity is often an unmet need in the formation of these images. There is an exclusive disjunctive contrast in the formation of enemy images. Concrete actions of opponents are thought to reflect fundamentally evil traits or motives. Communication between the two parties becomes problematic or non-existent lacking in commonality. Circuitous thinking and irrational loops of thought are used to handicap thinking that supports obtaining victory at all costs to punish or destroy the enemy (Pruitt & Rubin 1994).

One of the consequences of the axiology of dehumanization is that the oppressed must learn not to become the oppressors. In the connection the tactics used by oppressors to create the lesser of two evils to justify a replication of their psychopathy will not be directly addressed here. Paulo Freire has philosophically pursued the axiological and historical context of dehumanization (Freire 1993):

Because it is a distortion of being more fully human, sooner or later being less human leads the oppressed to struggle against those who made them so. In order for this struggle to have meaning, the oppressed must not, in seeking to regain their humanity (which is a way to create it), become in turn oppressors of the oppressors, but rather restorers of the humanity of both.

Freire discusses a great humanistic task of the oppressed to liberate themselves and their oppressors. The oppressors “cannot find the power the strength to liberate the oppressed or themselves”. The false charity of the oppressors is only used to continue the oppression. The unjust social order that arises manifests itself as the dispensers of false generosity “become desperate at the slightest threat to its source”. Freire also give an assessment that “They will not gain this liberation by chance but through the praxis of their quest for it, through their recognition of the necessity to fight for it.” (Freire 1993).

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