By Kathie Malley-Morrison
In today’s terrifying world, where unprincipled power mongers manipulate fears to enrich themselves, and cajole their frightened followers into hatred and aggression, it is a challenge to counterbalance their moral disengagement with moral engagement; however, this is a challenge that should be accepted by everyone who cares about life on this planet.
Countering racist and dehumanizing rhetoric with reasoned arguments is one response to forms of moral disengagement that threaten the lives and well-being of inhabitants of this earth ). Another approach is to humanize , and re-humanize, the scapegoats that fear mongers invoke to drive often desperate people into action against other often desperate people.
BeyondIntractability.org has identified a number of strategies for increasing the ability of people to humanize their presumptive “enemies.” These strategies include:
- Teaching about stereotypes
- Promoting empathy
- Encouraging dialogue
- Focusing on commonalities
- Facilitating cooperative projects
- Providing education on the negative effects of propaganda
- Establishing media that provide alternatives to the media that justify and promote violence, and ultimately
- Helping conflicting parties build trust, work for constructive resolution of differences, apologize, and seek reconciliation.
In three recent posts , Charles Eisenstein has done a magnificent job of sharing stories that contribute to humanizing players on both sides of the Standing Rock pipeline protest. Develop some stories of your own to share with human beings who may seem inhumane to you, or who support politicians whose views you may consider inhumane.
Being an activist is a great goal. Resist attacks on peoples and environments, resist injustice, but also be alert to any tendencies you may have or the people you admire may have to dehumanize people who have ways of thinking that seem dangerous. It is difficult for groups to come together to address the very real threats to our future when people on both “sides” consider the people on the other side to be subhuman monsters. Listen to Eisenstein. Empathisize. Humanize.
For an inspiring example of activism designed to humanize, read the article at Huffington Post . Empathy and perspective taking are essential to humanizing; kindness probably is too.