The Dehumanisation of Humans

Humans are both beautiful and horrible. We are given both the capacity to love and hate, to act compassionately or with complete indifference. All the while wanting to be loved, included and even respected. We’re these social things, and we need each other in order to thrive the way we do- so why is it that we act like other humans don’t matter? Why do humans disrespect each other, go to fight with each other, and even kill each other?

When humans first came together as social beings, it was mostly for survival purposes. Humans in the same group would hunt together, and protect each other. The downside of this, was that they were hostile toward any outgroups. Other humans that they didn’t know, that might steal their resources or kill other members of the group were outsiders, therefore treated that way in the interest of their own.

Today, we still have that. We have this innate want to survive, and the best way to do that is with the help of other humans. Meaning our families and friends. But it’s not as hard to survive anymore. We don’t need to be hostile to people external of our ingroups. A lot of the world have all of the resources they need to live peacefully. Yet, exclusion exists, hatred exists and segregation, homophobia and xenophobia exists. People still steal from others, murder each other and cause chaos within all of the order that has been set to shape the society we’ve lived in for centuries. When did we stop treating people like people?

A classic case of human dehumanisation is failure to recognise others outside of their profession. As if they do not exist outside of that context, and it is so dangerous. Unless you have found yourself inside that social group, like the NHS, hospitality, sex work, teaching- it can almost be second nature to treat them as if they’re machines, totally devoid of any emotion that you wouldn’t routinely expect. Just because they aren’t ‘allowed’ to feel the array of human emotions that exist while they work, doesn’t mean they don’t feel them. It doesn’t mean they can’t be hurt. They have a home to go to, friends to see, and a life completely external of the job that they work, providing you a service.

I live in the UK, so I have access to the NHS- our public healthcare system. The NHS is phenomenal. Yet, people all across the UK mistreat their staff members for not having fixes, not having all of the answers. Like they forgot they were only humans too. Yes, they’re qualified- but sickness can be so complex. Not every sickness has a cure or an obvious answer. Medical staff are not machines. And it is deeply entitled to treat them as such.

Hospitality workers have it pretty hard. Waitresses forget orders, and bartenders spill drinks. But guess what? They’re humans too! People makes mistakes all of the time, and to expect them not to, is also deeply entitled.

Sex workers are also often dehumanised. I’ve read horror stories about sex workers’ clients that have stalked them, harrassed them, threatened to rape them, actually raped them. And it goes on. Sex work is a job. It is hard. The sex work industry should work the same as any other consumer based industry- yet it isn’t because so many of it’s consumers treat sex workers as if they are a product, as opposed to a person that provides them a service. Sex workers are humans, real humans. And to treat them any other way, is disgusting, and deeply entitled.

Every person you have ever came across, is living a very real, very complex life. It is so easy to get caught up in your own day to day drama, to forget to recognise that we are all living on the same planet, striving for the same big things in life, and we don’t live forever. For the very short time you will occupy this planet, so will over seven billion other humans. And every seven billion of those lives are just as real and important as yours.

So the take away is this: try your best to be kind. Humans want love and respect the same way you do, so remember that and act accordingly.

sonder. n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.

John Koenig

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