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I am not a psychologist or psychiatrist. I am not even a sociologist. So my comments below are based simply on my observations as a human being.
In literature – from Arendt to Kafka, from Levi to Bulgakov, from Platonov to Solzhenitsyn, from Shalamov to Gogol, from Ionesco to Kundera, from Klima to Marquez, from Kinckaid to Coetzee, from Brodsky to Walcott, and so on – a license of power awarded to one by a title or a job, by the state or the sovereign policy, by order or diktat is commonly associated with dehumanization of the awarded. In more common media and popular studies, see https://www.npr.org/2011/03/29/134956180/criminals-see-their-victims-as-less-than-human the notion of a sadistic bureaucrat / soldier / officer / office holder is commonly associated with the license for violence promoted by the State.
With this in mind, in a case of our modern liberal democracies, when such violence / sadism does arise, the dehumanization of its victims and the dehumanization of the officials involved in these acts reinforce each other. Repeated on a rare occasion, such violence and dehuamization of its victims by the officials simply erodes our social trust. Repeated systemically, it risks dehumanizes our entire society, potentially creating systemic racism, xenophobia and debasement of core human values.
With a good part of the last two decades associated with a new – in nature, although not, necessarily in levels – degrees of violence the American society has inflicted onto other states (via numerous regime changes, direct wars, indirect/proxy wars, bombings, drone attacks, etc), and within its own borders on its own people (police violence, police shootings, snooping & spying on its own citizens, mass surveillance, state violence against whistleblowers and so on), the dehumanization of the American society has been growing at a frightening pace. As the result, xenophobia, anti-immigrant sentiments, white supremacism, ant-semitism, Russophobia, political polarization, and other forms of general incivility have been pushed from the extreme fringes of the American society toward its center. The values the Americans still espouse in verbal and propagandistic discourses – those of the freedom of speech, of family, of the land of opportunity, of social mobility, of competition, of private enterprise, and so on – are now coming under the pressure when tested against empirical reality.
And, as of late, we have entered yet another, even more worrying turn of this vicious spiral downward: the dehumanization of our security apparatus. This worries me. A lot. The brutality with which we are treating people, families, kids arriving at our borders with a legitimate claim to an asylum and a legitimate hope (subject to testing) for better lives is contrary to the basic foundations of the American society: its openness to others, its support for the family, its willingness to extend opportunity for betterment of self, its basic humanity.
Last night, this prompted a twitter thread from me that some of you asked me to reproduce in one place. Here it is:
+ The accounts from the treatment of asylum seekers, illegal migrants, and the Dreamers are – to me – one of the core pieces evidence of how America’s institutions are changing and have changed over the years from being a melting pot of colures and ethnicities, a land of +