Change your view, to change your views
Tzvetan Todorov a Bulgarian borne philosopher looked at the dehumanising of people though our language. He talked about our use of collectives as a way to do this. This happens all the time by all people and it has grave impacts. When we talk about the US and THEM the HAVES and HAVE NOT’S. When we talk about Asians or Americans, Europeans or Africans. When we talk about the homeless, drugos, criminals. This all serves to distance us from the person, see them as a collective as an adjective as a word that describes one part of a person, as if this is all we need to know.
In Australia, and I imaging many parts of the world we are very good at this and our politicians love to use this language. Politicians have been applying this with great heat to the suffering, especially refugees. Here we now take this further by calling people “illegal immigrants” and worse still “boat people”. What the hell does that mean anyway, boat people? If I drive a car to work am I part of the “car people”? What it is according to Todorov, and I agree, is a way of desensitising people,namely us and as way of dehumanising another group, in this case the poor people whom travel to us to ask for help. It is easy to offer up “solutions” including offshore processing and mandatory detention for years on end when we don’t know the person.
The photos below come from around the corner from where I live and for this post I am using them to portray how we treat refugees. I think these photos help reaffirm Todorov point, when we don’t see a person it is easy to act in a immoral way. When we don’t see the human suffering of our actions it is easy to turn a blind eye. When we just see the “figures” behind the wire we can justify what we are doing as fair, humane and right
I don’t pretend to have an answer. Is it possible to exist in a world where we don’t use the collective. I wonder what would a world look like if we were able to see beyond the US and THEM and move towards the WE? If we took the time to know people in a deeper way, to aim to fully understand a person, their story and journey, how would we treat one and another? What would it be like for people if we took the time to learn their name. Would this be the answer to all our problems, I don’t know. What I do believe is it would be vastly different to how things are now. I also know this much, I can’t intentionally hurt people I know. And if I do hurt someone I know I feel terrible about it and I want make amends. People I don’t know on the other hand would be much easier to hurt. I have no personal connection to them and in a lot of cases the unknown is viewed as a threat and I could justify hurting someone I perceive as a threat. If people are coming to our shores and are threaten the way we live then lock them up. It is so much easier when I see the implied threat to do what I now think it right and moral, which is to protect.
The closer we come to having a connection with someone the more we will feel, the more we will be driven to do what is right and the more the world will change. If the image below makes you feel something imaging what would happen if we knew that was a child with a name.