Jeffrey Saltzman's Blog

Enhancing Organizational Performance


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Dehumanization. A reference number tattooed on an arm is a powerful method of turning a person into something less. Dehumanization when paired with and justified by vilification eases the gathering and slaughter. Dehumanization is a slippery slope and those who initiate the process count on it being that way in order to help gather and maintain their power. It takes a group and turns them into the “other”, the source of a society’s problems. It takes the causality of problems from being systemic or internally focused and moves it to a sub-group within society or an outside group that can be labeled as threatening to that society. In either case the thinking is that the group needs to be dealt with and cast out. The logic is that if only we dealt with the “other” we could go back to the good old days or the way things should be, that our lives would be improved. The good old days themselves are a fantasy that exists only in the mind of the angry and aggrieved for they were never good for most. It may start with rumor, a libel, and then proceed to claims of injury, injustice, criminality, and how the “other” receives unfair benefits at your expense. It then moves to humiliation of the “other”, the use of symbols and identification to make them better stand out, for without the symbols and identification we may not be able to tell if they are them or us. The next step may be the building of a wall to keep them out or perhaps inside a ghetto, followed by legislated de-legitimization of the “other”, taking away rights or the ability to receive fair treatment perhaps imposing penalties for being “other”. Once legislation is in place the next steps are easy, for solutions can be found, perhaps even a final solution. Conducting horrendous acts against the “other” can bind the rest of the group together more strongly and helps unite them in common purpose.

Yet, even as there are those who are ready to vilify “others” for their own gain, there are those who are willing to stand against this pattern of human behavior that has repeated itself over the millennia. It cannot be allowed to happen once again. We must remember that we are more similar than we are different, that we all potentially can succumb to human bias and prejudice and most of all we must remember that we are all human. One person who stood against this pattern of abuse has left us. He was numbered A-7713 by the Nazi’s, but his human name was Elie Wiesel. I will always remember him and I will also remember what he stood for, his dignity and desire to fight against injustice rising out of the ashes and tragedy of his childhood.

Written by Jeffrey M. Saltzman

July 2, 2016 at 6:25 pm

Posted in Ethics, Human Behavior

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3 Responses

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  1. Thank you for this article.
    As a German I am well aware of the extreme to which this dehumanization was taken during the Third Reich. I would like to add that by militarizing a whole society – by putting (almost) everyone into a uniform and drilling them to military music – the perpetrators of this heinous crime created an even greater distance between murderer and victim. Someone in uniform showing compassion with a victim not in uniform would risk the safety of the unit he belongs to. Tolstoi describes a similar phenomenon in War and Peace when the French soldiers’ initial friendliness towards the alleged Russian arsonists changes to deadly violence as soon as the French are ordered to march in formation with military music.
    Let us be alert to racism and state-run terrorism. We owe it not only to Elie Wiesel and his generation but to the future of mankind.

    Ulrich Rieger

    July 4, 2016 at 8:56 am

  2. Reblogged this on Jeffrey Saltzman's Blog and commented:

    While those of us in the USA are celebrating Thanksgiving, we must remember that, and I can’t believe this is possible here, we have people who are terrified of being rounded-up, potentially held in internment camps, families being torn apart. At this time of Thanksgiving, it is worth asking, as a people, who are we? And as a country, even though we have made mistakes, to what moral standards will we hold ourselves?

    Jeffrey M. Saltzman

    November 25, 2016 at 7:47 am

  3. […] via A-7713 […]

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