If you want to understand the psychology of genocide, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, there is possibly no better place to start than being aware of the ‘dehumanisation’ concept. It is the process of attributing outgroups (outside of one’s own identity) with animalistic or sub-human qualities.
The Jews under Nazi Germany were described as ‘rats’; in the early stages of the Rwandan genocide, radio propaganda labelled Tutsis as ‘cockroaches’ and ‘snakes’; and Myanmar’s state media have been describing Rohingya Muslims as ‘detestable human fleas’. The European colonial empire was also justified upon a Darwinian premise of rightful subjugation of inferior beings possessing a non-human essence.
Dehumanisation coupled with obedience to authority (exemplified by the famous Milgram experiment) are the two key drivers that make crimes against humanity a genuine risk no matter how ‘enlightened’ we may perceive our society to be.
The counter-narrative as Brian Konkol so elegantly exhorts:
“We need others to be human in order to be fully human ourselves.”