ARE WE HUMAN?
to begin with a quote:
“The world capital of rape is eastern Congo. Militias have discovered that the most cost-effective way to terrorize civilian populations is to conduct rapes of stunning brutality. Dina was 17 years old, one of six children living with her parents in the town of Kindu. One day, Dina cut short her work in the bean field and headed back to town well before sunset. As she was walking home, five Hutu militia members surrounded her with guns and knives, and forced her to the ground. One was carrying a stick. They all raped her, then held her down as someone drove the stick inside her. Her family came looking for her and found her half-dead in the grass. A foreign-funded hospital that could cure her was hundreds of miles away…”(source: http://www.halftheskymovement.org/stories , Half the Sky)
So this is the kind of event that I try and keep in mind when I read for example Judith Butler’s article in Hanna Arendt and the Banality of evil. I try and think of the above example or any of the millions just like it to try and keep a perspective of REALITY to what I am trying to follow and understand philosophically, conceptually. It is hard enough to read a text and understand what it means, follow each sentence and understand enough to be alert to the moments when I should have an opinion, not missing the opportunities to affirm, agree or disagree. But if I am not careful I can easily get drawn into a very soft understanding rather than the understanding that goes deeper and hits reality on the head. The reality written about, thought about, which is cruel, brutal and disturbs the image one has of being human.
Judith Butler’s article: http://www.thenewsignificance.com/2011/08/31/judith-butler-hannah-arendts-challenge-to-adolf-eichmann/
below some passages chosen because I related, or felt I understood something:
I had thought of notion of dehumanizing primarily in relation to direct and visible violence, a conversation with a friend just reminded me that of course principally dehumanization is a tool to control and to make people compliant. This in Japan expresses itself in the docile, uniform wearing daily routine of uniform life. She observes that Japan this dehumanized compliance of the population means that people do not demonstrate against nuclear power-stations and for their radioactive free environment when they should.
Dehumanizing is not just the experience of being a recipient of welfare benefits but also being the office clerk, cog in the wheel, with no real expertise, real say, real authority or autonomy to make a decision. The decade of ‘I am not responsible, someone else is’ is sucking the voice out of people, sucking the thinking out of them. The more cloned, uniform and compliant the better. So much so that this appears to have become an engrained culture of non-responsibility, of unquestioning acceptance of the statements made by the propaganda/media/government oracles.
I am not sure I am writing in the ‘right’ way, I think I may be writing more of an option piece than an academic article, but maybe it’s a necessary rant about the state of things that I know from experience to be my truth and I think everyone would not just talk about but yell at the top of their voices just like the soap box preachers do as they announce the will of god (although my personal interpretation of god would not go down very well with any of them and I do think if there was a god as they imagine then that god might do a good service to the remaining members of society to give the soap-box preachers a sore throat and some loss of voice to experience the truly divine bliss of silence…).. Instead people who should speak and yell ARE silent listening to the wrong soap boxes, primarily the ones placed by their sofas, defending this ‘right of proximity to the soap box’ with more adamance than any common sense should allow. But then it is exactly this common sense that I am worried about.
The common sense that would be free thinking and that would prevent the ‘uniformizing’, the dehumanizing of swathes of societies..
It’s when we lose the fully human that is not a natural right but a right earned that we really should worry. What worries me is that the common sense is missing that would allow people to see their loss and respond accordingly. Instead life becomes a kind of farce, at times comical in it’s ridiculousness at other times distressing and ranging to the cruel and brutal. I realize that much more rigorous thought here would be appropriate, but I’ll continue my train of thought for now:
The absence of common sense is the gateway to human disaster. Nothing less than that. Referring to Hannah Arendt as written about by Judith Butler I am quoting from the web article by Judith Butler: ”
So if a crime against humanity had become in some sense “banal” it was precisely because it was committed in a daily way, systematically, without being adequately named and opposed.
….What had become banal – and astonishingly so – was the failure to think
….Indeed, her indictment of Eichmann reached beyond the man to the historical world in which true thinking was vanishing and, as a result, crimes against humanity became increasingly “thinkable”. The degradation of thinking worked hand in hand with the systematic destruction of populations.
…./..but for Arendt the consequence of non-thinking is genocidal, or certainly can be.
….Kant (…) to him every man was a legislator the moment he started to act; by using his ‘practical reason’ man found the principles that could and should be the principles of law.”
It is hard forming an understanding of the world and the many issues that we face when “we have moved from a solid to a fluid phase of modernity, in which nothing keeps its shape, and social forms are constantly changing at great speed, radically transforming the experience of being human.” (Zygmunt Bauman’s thesis in Liquid Modernity) [http://www.culturewars.org.uk/2004-02/identity.htm] The motions of dehumanization might be easier described initially as devaluation of humans. In a similar sense to how a woman is not fully human (quote all the big thinkers from my notes) and may need her womb coaxing into place to calm her, in a similar way as ‘Others’ are not fully human, Others have always been also those of the lower classes, the lower the less fully realized human. Today broad swathes of society fall off the wagon (as Zygmunt Bauman) says, and as ‘progess’ increases speed, jumping back on becomes night impossible. People once unemployed are easily rendered redundant in the full meaning of the word that resigns them to the same heap of Waste as our collective consumer goods packaging and half eating weekly grocery purchases.. (pick a corresponding quote from Wasted Lives, Zygmunt Bauman)