The Objectification Of Humans Is A Requirement For War
It’s hard to shoot the enemy when you can see their eyes.
When I was a young man I was told not to hate people. They told me to get to know people for who they are, not for how they look or for what other people say about them. Don’t objectify them. Know them. I understand that to be the truth today, but when I look to the mainstream media, that is not what they’re telling us to do. At least not with regard to a group of people known collectively as “Muslims”.
I bring this issue up today in response to the ISIS attacks in Paris and to raise an interesting point about war, because, if you listen to the mainstream media, they’re egging us on into another war. President Hollande of France says that the attacks were an act of war. Jeb Bush, just chomping at the bit for another war, says that “this is the war of our time”.
Whoever owns the mainstream media has a business interest in war that most of us don’t share. You know, those people who are members of the economic class known as “the 1%”. Yeah, them. Why they want to get us into another war, really, is beyond me. I’ve had enough of war and I would like some peace and quiet. That’s why I’m writing this article.
I want to draw your attention now to another article, “Propaganda and Islam: What You’re Not Being Told”. It’s an interesting account of the generalizations that have been made by people in social media about Muslims. In every case, these generalizations do not tell the truth about Muslims and objectify Muslims as being less than human. In every case, a stereotype is being cast upon the Muslim people as if all of them are this way or that.
My favorite example from that article is this one: “All or most Muslims are terrorists.” The author then proceeds to do the math to compare the number of people estimated to be in the ISIS forces to say, the forces fighting them in Iraq and then to the worldwide population of more than a billion Muslims. The number of Muslims engaged in terrorism is not even close to 1% of the total population of Muslims. But if we listen to mainstream media, we are being asked to equate Islam with terrorism.
That is how objectification works. We equate one or more humans to an object to make them less than human in our minds. Then it’s far easier to justify war. “Hey, look at that. We can control those things and we can destroy them so that we won’t be bothered with them again.”
But when we look at Muslims and see their eyes, their families, their friends, worldwide, we see that most of them want the same things we want. They want to get married, raise kids, have a good job, live in a nice place and do all of that in peace. I’ve known a few Muslims myself and have never had any sense of unease about them. I can appreciate their desire to live here in the US, in peace and to practice their religion here, in peace.
I’m curious about all the hyperventilating about Muslims because I used to participate in a form of social dancing called “Sufi Dancing”. Recent developments prompted me to do a little research where I learned that the Sufi’s were among the most peaceful Muslims in the world long before 9/11. Indeed, their dance rituals were relaxing and calming. The Sufis are still widely regarded as an order of the Muslim religion that is tolerant, humanist and non-violent.
What I see happening in the press and social media is a struggle to put a terrorist label on all Muslims when in fact, only a tiny fraction of Muslims are terrorists. I have even seen some reports saying that ISIS isn’t even Muslim at all. ThinkProgress has noted the following observation made by President Obama:
But the full context of Obama’s remark points to an important distinction between Islam and the extremist ideology that’s sweeping parts of Iraq and Syria. “No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim,” Obama said. “ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple. And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way.”
I also see moral outrage on the right, with heavy criticism of Obama for even letting this happen. The recent attacks were in Paris and Kenya (mostly forgotten in the press), beyond the direct authority and jurisdiction of the president. But there is something else I noticed.
Some Christians are particularly defensive about Christians that commit acts of terrorism. A notable example is that of Bill O’Reilly’s response to the senseless murder of 77 people by Anders Breivik, in Norway. The rules, to say the least, are not clear and are not applied consistently in the press, but they lean away from Christian and Jewish faith and towards Muslims when it comes to calling out terrorism.
In sum, the tension between a few of the major traditions of faith on the planet are readily apparent. I see this tension, mostly between three players, with the Muslims on one side and the Jewish and Christian faith on the other side. What I find most interesting about this tension is that all of them are Abrahamic faiths, going back to the same spiritual leader, Abraham. Given their lineage, the tension between them makes about as much sense as a dispute between Presbyterians and Protestants.
In order for the Jewish and the Christians to call out terrorist acts by Muslims with a straight face, they must have clean hands and they do not. Every major faith tradition on the planet has had followers that have engaged in terrorist acts, including Buddhists. And in order for a terrorist to commit an act of terrorism, he must reduce the victims to “the enemy” to find the justification needed, and then proceed with his plans.
After the act of terrorism is complete, some in the peanut gallery will try to reduce the terrorist to something other than human rather than to try to understand the motive for the act. Then they claim guilt by association for all members of the relevant faith. This name-calling encourages us to ignore the fact that all acts of terrorism are political, and that all objectification of the terrorists, including conflating the terrorist with his faith, is political as well.
Once the objectification of the enemy is complete in the minds of those who would have us go to war, they find a way to make everyone else accept war as a plausible, reasonable response to acts of terrorism. That war is usually prosecuted with our sons and daughters, fathers and mothers.
Before it is too late, we need to find common ground and do some work in our minds to isolate the terrorists from their purported faiths. Then we can ask ourselves “Is this trip really necessary?” I leave you with a relevant quote from Winston Churchill:
“Never, never, never believe any war will be smooth and easy, or that anyone who embarks on the strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter. The statesman who yields to war fever must realize that once the signal is given, he is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events.”
Originally published on my blog, The Digital Firehose, Sunday, November 15th, 2015. Updated for grammar, clarity and a turn of phrase here and there.