Humans breathe. Humans bleed. Humans want to belong. People like me—people like you. People. Human beings.
You in me and me in you. You are me and I am you. We are us. Listen to our hearts beat with a stethoscope. Study our anatomy, our physiology, our body. We are a combination of one egg and one sperm. We inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. Birth and death are experienced by all of us. Cut into our veins and see our red blood. Dissect our brains. What do you find? You and me.
But since the beginning of the beginning, humans have dehumanized humans.
The following Abstract is from the book, Humanness and Dehumanization (2014, Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group) edited by Paul G. Bain, Jeroen Vaes, and Jacques-Philippe Leyens.
Abstract: What does it mean to be human? Why do people dehumanize others (and sometimes themselves)? These questions have only recently begun to be investigated in earnest within psychology. This volume presents the latest thinking about these and related questions from research leaders in the field of humanness and dehumanization in social psychology and related disciplines. Contributions provide new insights into the history of dehumanization, its different types, and new theories are proposed for when and why dehumanization occurs. While people's views about what humanness is, and who has it, have long been known as important in understanding ethnic conflict, contributors demonstrate its relevance in other domains, including medical practice, policing, gender relations, and our relationship with the natural environment. Cultural differences and similarities in beliefs about humanness are explored, along with strategies to overcome dehumanization.
Self-preservation shouts, “Take my neighbor and not me!” Survival of the fittest screams, “You have to die so I can live!”
I want a life free of inhuman treatment, torture, slavery, violence, war, poverty and so do you. I want my children to grow up safe and secure and so do you. I want bacteria-free drinking water, pest-free shelter, and nutritious food sources and so do you. I want to worship the deity of my choice and so do you. I want love and to be loved and so do you. I want purpose and meaning in my life and so do you. I want to have choices and options and so do you. I want personal power over my own life and so do you.
In 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and proclaimed, “Whereas recognitions of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world.”
Take away all the guns,
Then people will kill with knives.
Take away of all the knives,
Then people will kill with hammers.
Take away all the hammers,
Then people will kill with fists.
Take away all the fists,
Then people will kill with …
Blame is assigned to national and international battles depending on the author of the history book. Skewed opinions parade as facts. Each side has their own story of injustice, unfairness, hurts and harms. We believe our ancestors cry out for retribution…but do they? How do the survivors make the wrongs right? How do we forgive but not forget atrocities? How do we heal as a nation? As a shared planet? As a global society? As a civilization? As a human family?
On an optimistic note, history also records change and progress. The Berlin Wall in Germany toppled; South Korea is a democracy; countless national, international, societal, and community grassroots (nonviolent) organizations stand for peace and human rights. Groups like Amnesty International, Seeds of Peace, KidsPeace and the list goes on and on and warms my peace-loving soul.
We have no choice but to gaze into the future with hope for humankind and to diligently strive and struggle for a better way of “being” and “doing.” To give in and to give up is not an option. Human beings are worth saving—humanity is worth saving. You are worth saving—I am worth saving. Humanity is global. We are the human family. I am in you and you are in me. We are us. Where there is you—there is me. We are humanity.
Melissa Martin, Ph.D., is an author, columnist, educator, and therapist. She lives in US.