against the inhuman

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By FERNANDO NOGUEIRA DA COSTA*

The inhuman president passenger gasped, ironically, as thousands of people breathed at an unusual rate before dying.

“Humanitarian” is someone who is dedicated to promoting the well-being of human beings and the advancement of social reforms. It is relative to ethical humanitarianism rather than exclusively theological.

“Inhuman” is someone who demonstrates a lack of humanity, he is a barbaric, cruel, soulless subject. Without empathy – ability to put yourself in the other's shoes – he is anti-human, atrocious, hard. The antonym of empathy would be indifference to the suffering of another human being other than those of his family, his clan or his barracks.

The inhuman passenger passenger gasped, ironically, as thousands of people breathed at an unusually high rate, with great effort, before dying. For him, panting is weakening... It's like having a daughter!

The process of humanization implies the evolution of the human being. The former president perfected his skills through interaction with his social and trade union environment, from which he emerged. As a true statesman, he uses his outstanding negotiation skills and tolerance by listening carefully to everything said at the table around him and presenting a synthesis with a final proposal acceptable to all participants in society.

To be empathetic is to identify with another person or with the situation experienced by them. It's knowing how to listen to others and making an effort to understand their problems, their difficulties and their emotions.

The study of beliefs about humanity is a relatively recent interest in psychology or the human sciences more generally, although it permeates many aspects of social emergence through human interactions. New theories and approaches have emerged to understand dehumanization in interpersonal relationships and the meaning of being human with all its consequences.

“Humanity” refers to the set of characteristics specific to human nature. Among others, there is the feeling of kindness, benevolence, in relation to the similar, or compassion, pity, in relation to the disadvantaged.

“Altruism” is the disinterested love of others, even with abnegation. With altruistic behavior, the antagonistic action of the natural instincts of selfishness is avoided.

Many inhumans fear evil but are not concerned with the common good. In people's general beliefs about humanity, both specific aspects of human nature stand out, such as free will, and Ethos, as modes of behavior that shape the character or identity of a collectivity.

For example, the power of arms of the military-warrior caste in uniform is used, when it interferes in civil society, with the same military logic of violence and revenge, whose exalted values ​​are courage, fame, glory, etc. It gets worse when it mixes with the parochial logic of localism and the family logic of respecting only the heritage of dynastic clans, that is, when it is supported by the regionalist oligarchy.

In contrast, the labor power of the caste of workers, organized in unions and parties, adopts the corporate logic. It defends egalitarianism and is skeptical about the free market, based on unrestricted exploitation.

For this reason, it finds it difficult to ally itself with neoliberalism. The merchant caste adopts the logic of the market: defending only competitiveness, cost/benefit efficiency and fiscal adjustment. Indifferent to social ills, it restricts itself to the defense of cutting public spending, to avoid raising taxes and the risk of insolvency on the basis of financial wealth, constituted by public debt securities.

The workers allied themselves, mainly, with the educational power of the caste of wise-educators and their civic logic of tolerance, defense of civil, social and political rights of minorities. They also receive the support of the celebrity power of the wise-creative caste with their artistic logic in defense of autonomy, self-expression, cultural liberalism, creativity, etc. This alliance has characterized social democracy since the Second World War.

Faced with the logic of specialists, based on education and academic qualifications of technicians and pragmatic managers, there was a notorious difficulty for the caste of “know-shepherds” to impose their religious logic. They manipulate conservatism in customs, moralism and the submissive discipline of believers – and threaten “infidels” even in free electoral choice.

In this sense, the conceptions of humanity are dependent on this broad ideological debate. Groups and individuals define humanity in ways that support their own ends or interests.

A premise of orthodox economic theory is the assertion that humans are only rational and self-interested. This selfishness assumption is used to build theories with the purpose of justifying a priori the opposition to public policies and government interventions, since society should aim, above all, at the good of individuals instead of the community. It stands between the market and the state.

Indeed, it is difficult to get a unified definition of humanity across all sciences. Maybe it's because we are all involved parties.

However, we can learn a lot about humanity by observing its violations. We must focus on the analysis of dehumanization processes, in intergroup contexts, for example, genocides committed by weapons, germs and viruses.

There is a heuristic bias of false optimism, when all human beings have the propensity to consider themselves above average. Against the falsification of this hypothesis, they seek an illusory validation: “I only talk to my group”, “I only trust my echo chamber”, “I live in my bubble”, “I deny any research and science”.

Seeing others as non-human allows one to morally “disengage” from them (“left-handed” or “petralhada”), justifying treating them like animals and undermining the legitimacy of their views and defended social needs. This dehumanization is not restricted only to extreme and explicit prejudices, but can occur subtly and even without awareness of the harm done to oneself and others, that is, in an idiotic way.

Infra-humanization is observed through the attribution of uniquely human characteristics, such as complex emotions such as embarrassment or optimism, more to the in-group rather than to the out-group. This denial of humanity to “others” is called animalistic dehumanization.

In contrast, the denial of human nature, pointed out in the lack of characteristics such as emotionality, cordiality, discretion and cognitive flexibility, makes these people resemble machines or robots. It has been called mechanistic dehumanization.

Greater attribution of human nature to self rather than others resembles the aforementioned “above average effect,” when people attribute more favorable traits to themselves rather than others. But self-humanization is distinctive in that it is not reducible to merely attributing more positive characteristics of humanity to the self or the in-group: seeing the ingroup positively and the outgroup negatively.

In this stereotyped content, groups without recognized competence in the labor market are especially likely to be dehumanized as “vagabonds”. Contradictorily, Inhumans have difficulty fully understanding minds other than their own – or the mental reductionism of the “bubble” and “echo chamber”.

Although the basic state is not fully recognizing the mental states of others, this can be overcome by directing people to think about the distinct mental states of another person and recognize him as a particular human being. This has the effect of humanizing her as well as himself.

Thinking of others as individuals rather than members of a certain category can moderate or even reverse processes of dehumanization. The dehumanization of other groups rests in part on the division made between humans and animals.

Reminders of our animal nature, namely that we are all creatures like any other and therefore we will inevitably die, weakens one of the defenses against this terror of death. We can be symbolically “immortal” through our human culture, shared and/or inherited.

Attributions of lesser or greater humanity to others vary depending on how valued a group is and whether or not it is seen as a threat. When we are reminded of our animal traits, we react by seeing ourselves and our groups as more uniquely human.

Just as managing terror can lead to the animalistic dehumanization of others, it can also lead to the mechanistic dehumanization of ourselves. The psychological defense against the threat of death is to see ourselves as objects, because unlike animals, objects or machines do not die. But to view ourselves (or groups) in a mechanical way is to deny the human nature of altruism.

*Fernando Nogueira da Costa He is a full professor at the Institute of Economics at Unicamp. Author, among other books, of Support and enrichment network. Available in https://fernandonogueiracosta.wordpress.com/2022/09/20/rede-de-apoio-e-enriquecimento-baixe-o-livro/

 

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