The main thrust of this article is to examine the spectacular or less spectacular forms of inhumanity such as political violence (state or group induced), institutional racism, social destructiveness that ‘normal’ human beings inflict on powerless others. An attempt will be made to examine the motivation behind the process of dehumanization in which one group starts feeling that they have the permission (or orders) to harm others because they start perceiving victims as less than human.
Social destructiveness does occur among people. Those who indulge in it get an overt or covert sanction from other people for their act. They do not act alone. It involves a judgment of one group by another, a negative valuation of people, and sometimes an outright denial of their humanity. Social destructiveness, if allowed to continue can greatly harm not only its immediate victims but also the society in which it occurs.
The recent hatred between the Hindus, Sikhs, Moslems and Christians of India is a case in point. The victims are people and hatred is usually a group phenomenon. Individually, this hatred stays at a tolerant level.
Hatred hurts a society as a whole. It corrupts its traditional values, produces a sense of insecurity and guilt which we try to reduce either through denial or erecting defenses.
Social destructiveness changes into violence when it gets approval of the “‘authorities.”’ Killing of innocent people in India appears to be socially sanctioned. The tragic events which led to the military attack of the Golden Temple in Amristar, the attack itself, the, assassination of Mrs. Gandhi, and killing of thousands of innocent Sikhs in eighty cities in India is a case in point. Social destructiveness and violence can be done by a mob through their collective behavior or it may be enacted by a highly disciplined group such as army or police force. The violence that took place in Golden Temple during the military attack and the violence which took place after Mrs. Ghandi’s assassination was initially a disguised, unconscious offer, a permission to act upon it. People who indulged in the above mentioned violence are now being differentially selected for trial. This selective perception of events and people itself is becoming a sanction.
Because most cultures and religions prohibit killing people, the process of defining some people subhuman is necessary in order to justify what could otherwise be considered a murder. All of a sudden ‘“‘normal’’ people get perceived as devils, monsters, germs, vermin’s, pigs, apes, robots, menaces to ‘‘national’’ unity. The recently changed perception of the Sikhs living outside Panjab, India, in the minds of the ‘‘legitimized’’ mob is a case in point. The present Indian social structure with its psychic processes is conspiring to sanction the ‘‘evils’” that have descended on the powerless people of India. A mob that has no mentality is very dangerous. But the hidden agenda of the bureaucratic imperatives, as they get reflected in the ‘‘statements of concerns,”’ is also very insightful. ‘“Going beyond the information given” through these statements, one can easily see that people who are suffering or complaining somehow are perceived to deserve less than the other people, such as those who act upon them. Because they are bad; hence they do not count. In this sense, they get dehumanized through the subtle bureaucratic sanctions. This dehumanizing process then becomes a psychological defense or simply a way of dismissing what can be construed as irrelevant complaints from the ‘“‘pampered minority.””
Visibility of social violence plays a part in our attending to it. When T.V. news in North America showed the murders of the innocent Sikhs during October 31 to November 5, 1984, everybody paid attention. But, the destructiveness which is taking place now is not getting the same attention, because it is not reported with the same vigor or it has acquired the ‘‘social invisibility’’ of “cattle prods’ or “night sticks.”
Social destructiveness has a desensitizing power. Sometimes even the direct victims of social destructiveness may fail to realize what is being done to them. Recent statements of the leaders of ‘the minority
Communities’’ of India in which they openly “blame the victims’ for the mess they are in is a disturbing example.
What is keeping Buta Singh and Zail Singh “hanging in there,’’ when they saw the open “guilt free massacre’ of the Sikhs in 80 cities of India? It might be hypothesized that they suffered a loss of humanity under the pressure and temptations of power, and that this dehumanization led them to treat their fellow Sikhs as less than human who deserved what they got!
Let me now turn to the recent genocide of Sikhs that took place in 80 cities of India and the conditions that led to this guilt free massacre. The following is the list of those conditions:
- The most general condition for a guilt free massacre is the denial of the humanity to an identified target population.
- The emergence of structurally superior group in government position can lead to the exploitation of, and oppression of the powerless minority. The case of Muslims, who are very poorly represented in government positions in India, can be cited as an example.
- Authoritarian organizations seek complete subordination. By accepting the total subordination, the mob gains protection because they did it “fin the line of duty.” The role played by Congress (I) M.P.’s in promoting violence in Delhi is an example. It is interesting that even the Marwaha Commission assigned to look into Delhi riots is reluctant to touch Congress (1) people such as Bhagat and Tytler.
- Secrecy and isolation are used to protect the “top brass’’ of the organizations. In the recent riots, it is unthinkable that Roa, Bhagat, and chief ministers of the various Hindi belt states of India were not aware of the plans. To claim total ignorance is a strategy which must be understood as a condition for a guilt free massacre.
- The last condition of the guilt free massacre is to develop and arouse motivation to conduct a massacre. All you have to do is ask a leader to say “national unity is in danger’ and then many “nationalists” will become mesmerized. Labeling a few minority members of the communities as a subversive group, fans the flame of the fire that can then be used for lynching and destroying the property of the powerless people.
Old Order Changeth
Yielding Place to New
Lest One Good Custom
Should Corrupt The World.
Article extracted from this publication >> March 1, 1985