From civicintelligence
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Description of the pattern

One of the best ways to exploit and mistreat a population is to distance oneself from them as much as possible. We can justify our actions against others by portraying our enemies as sub-human monsters that deserve less that ethical treatment. By creating rigid us/them boundaries we can effectively establish that "we" are in the right, and "they" are dead wrong.

Why the pattern is good (i.e. bad)

Dehumanization is an effective method of controlling the populace. The target group will suffer psychologically and become accustomed to the maltreatment, and the conformist population will have an enemy that is easy to hate and blame problems on.

How it Works

By continually treating and portraying subsets of people who aren't in line with the goals of the state as less than human, that representation will eventually permeate the minds of the rest of the population. As the rest of the population adopts the dehumanizing attitude, they will naturally treat the target peoples with malice. This will serve to reinforce the aims of the state and will create an institutionalized oppression.


Japanese interment camps during WWII

"Shock, fear, and worry were common initial psychological reactions as Japanese Americans were forced to deal with the stress of enforced dislocation and the abandonment of their homes, possessions, and businesses. Without information about where they were being taken, how they would be treated by the government, or how long they would be gone, uncertainty about their future loomed large. Added to these concerns was the larger psychological burden of being stripped of their civil rights and the unjust ethnic denigration of being suspected of disloyalty based only on their Japanese heritage.

Within the camps, Japanese Americans endured dehumanizing conditions including poor housing and food, a lack of privacy, inadequate medical care, and substandard education. Feelings of helplessness emerged under the racially segregated colonial conditions where white administrators wielded power and set policy, and where Japanese Americans were treated more like prison inmates than individuals."

Native Americans

"The history of the Government’s connection with the Indians is a shameful record of broken treaties and unfulfilled promises. The history of the white man’s connection with the Indians is a sickening record of murder, outrage, robbery and wrongs; taught by the Government that they had rights entitled to be respect, when those rights have been assailed by the rapacity of the white man, the arm which should have been raised to protect the Indians has never been ready to sustain the aggressor.

All of Ms. Jackson’s adjectives point to acts of dehumanization and domination. As Hoopes wrote: “The federal and state governments faltered and succumbed to a selfish, popular opinion that refused to accept reservations stipulated in the eighteen treaties, reservations known to contain valuable mineral, timber, and agricultural lands for which the ‘savages’ had little use.”

Use of the term "savages" is an example of categorizing the original human beings of the geographical area known as California in a manner that regards them as less than human, and attempts to justify treating them as less than human. Historical narratives written from a European viewpoint are inherently dehumanizing, and privilege those who referred to themselves as fully human because they were historically “white” and “Christian.”

Such narratives tend to be written in terms of a collective white “we” (or “us”) to the exclusion of the humans categorized as “Indians,” who are conceived of as a collective non-white “them.” Such language is well-illustrated by the following quote found on page one of Hoopes book: “The policy of removal, except under peculiar circumstances, must necessarily be abandoned. And the only alternative left is to civilize or exterminate them. We must adopt one or the other.” (Emphasis added.)

There is something never noticed with regard to the above mentioned choice: “To civilize them,” means “to dominate them.” This is revealed in the dictionary definition of the word “civilization” (Webster’s Third New International Dictionary): “The act of civilizing, esp. the forcing of a particular cultural pattern on a population to whom it is foreign.” (Emphasis added.) Forcing a cultural pattern on another population or people is a form of domination, especially when the cultural pattern forced on them is one of domination and dehumanization.

Instead of recognizing that Indian nations and peoples were perfectly entitled to live their own cultural way of life within their own traditional territories, unhindered and undisturbed, the whites viewed themselves as destined to overtake for their own benefit and enrichment the vast lands and resources of the Indians. In order to accomplish this, the whites were able to use their concepts and their categories to construct a reality to envelop and enclose the original nations and peoples and all that rightfully belonged to them based on their original free existence."

Links (to other anti-patterns)

Cultural imperialism, Criminalizing Poverty, Racism, Silenced Voices, Xenophobia

Notes and Suggestions