"The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant." ~ John Stuart Mill
Dehumanizing People is Fun
Column by Paul Bonneau.
Exclusive to STR
It is clearly fun to make fun of people. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be such a popular pastime.
One can imagine why we are prone to this kind of behavior. For example, in the old days, if you wanted to slaughter another tribe and steal their women and take all their stuff, dehumanizing them first was eminently sensible. It erases all inhibitions when it’s time to get down and bloody. And guess which tribe gets to pass on its genes? The one that performed these tasks most efficiently, of course. So, there is a very good evolutionary reason why we do this sort of thing, even if most of the time these days it is funneled into “safe” channels like booing the other sports team.
But knowing why we do it (if my guess is accurate) is the first step to getting a bit of control over it, which might be a good idea when we start to suspect that it might not always work in our interests all the time, or that it might even be harnessed by our real enemies for their own interests.
“OK, what is Bonneau blathering on about now? What’s it got to do with us enlightened anarchists?”
Well, today someone made one of those posters on Facebook that said, “Religion: disconnecting people,” just one in a series of similar examples I had seen there. I commented on it, “So . . . criticizing religion connects people?” If I had a nickel for every time I heard or saw libertarians taking a whack at religion, I’d be a rich man. Hell, some, like Molyneux, spend half their time doing it (when he’s not going on about how the family is the origin of the state, that is).
Now, I really get it, how fun it is to make fun of others. Nothing like pissing on someone else to build oneself up. But is it the rational thing to do?
See, this is the heart of the libertarian criticism of religion, that it supposedly is not rational. And libertarians are nothing, if not rational, right?
Excuse me while I have a little chuckle.
How rational is it to criticize religion, to make fun of the faithful?
Look, we all want to achieve liberty some day, right? Then the first order of business is to look at our own behavior, and do the things that move us closer to freedom, and stop doing things that move us away from it. It’s irrational to do otherwise.
First, is it any of our business if some people like to think there is some big guy up in the clouds with a white beard and hair, wearing a flowing robe and sandals? No, it’s not our business. Seems to me one of the big causes for the loss of liberty is other people (e.g., bureaucrats and cops) sticking their noses in our business; yet here we are, doing the same thing.
Now, someone will whine, “It becomes my business when they force me to conform to their mores.” Oh yeah? When did that ever happen? Don’t start talking about them using government as a tool to force you. That’s like saying capitalism is inherently bad, like some Occupy folks do. Libertarians patiently explain to them that it’s not rich people or capitalism that is bad, but only those people who harness government to their ends that are bad. And therefore it’s government that’s bad, not capitalism. Well if that is so, the same argument applies to religious people: only those who harness government are bad. If you can’t make the distinction there, you’re just like those “Eat the Rich” Occupy folks.
We’re not living in Puritan Massachusetts any more; perhaps you hadn’t noticed? By the way, one of the main things that brought down that theocracy was Quaker proselytizing. Yes, a theocracy was brought down by a group every bit as religious as the Puritans themselves. Gandhi himself may have learned from their nonviolent tactics. Far from always inhibiting liberty, in the past, religion has also enhanced it. Proto-libertarian early Rhode Island was populated largely by Quakers.
Here’s another irrational aspect to making fun of the faithful: How many of them are there? According to Wikipedia, a staggering 83% of Americans identify with a religious denomination. Do we rationally pursue liberty by turning 5/6 of the population into our enemies?
The rational way to split society is between the rulers (along with some but not all of their minions) and the rest of us, the “mundanes.” That’s still hard, but at least we have numbers on our side with that split. It's madness to do it otherwise.
Now, some who ridicule religion may say they are only making a case to convince the religious to abandon error. Well, sure. I mean, how often have you been convinced to change your most firmly held convictions via ridicule? Happens all the time, right?
Maybe someone needs to read Andrew Carnegie or B. Liddell Hart. But in the meantime, I’d advise severely limiting this tactic, if used at all, to friendly personal discussions with college kids (who tend to be a little more open-minded). Not to open Internet forums and Facebook, sheesh. Talk about being irrational, using a tactic bound to fail . . . .
Next up, how does dehumanizing the faithful look? It looks bad. It looks juvenile, puerile. It looks smug and self-righteous (the very features we claim the faithful display).
When I was a teenager, I knew how the world worked. I had great confidence in my grip on reality, and great disdain for those who did not share my opinions. The older I got, the more I discovered I was simply wrong in many of those opinions, and the humbler I got. I'm sure by the day I die, I won't know anything at all. But in the meantime, I'm pretty happy that I've (for the most part) given up on smug self-righteousness. I'm a lot easier to get along with, and that's a good thing. Doesn't mean I don't have principles, but it does mean I represent those principles in a more effective fashion.
Folks, let's dehumanize those people it makes sense to dehumanize, people who deserve to be dehumanized--our actual enemies, the ruling class. Make all the fun you want of Obama or Romney or Santorum, and the rest of the lizard people running Washington, D.C. Ridicule is a great weapon. Let's point this big cannon of ours with precision, and with an eye toward our ends, rather than just shooting it into the sky for mindless amusement.