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Equality for all
On authoritarian dictators, chauvinist pigs, and taking "objectification" beyond the basics
Words can sometimes be literally correct, yet so far removed from the meaning they represent that they fail to explain the concept. "Objectification", for instance, is a term most people have heard -- but it is often used so reflexively in conversations that it doesn't have the impact it deserves, particularly since it is so frequently applied to the specific case of sexual perceptions of women. That is certainly a major case, but the ills of objectification go much farther than that.
■ A truly exhausting number of human problems boil down to "Failure to see other people as human beings, equipped with equal self-awareness and value as myself". Literally, that's what "objectification" really is. Yet to compress the act down to a single word strips it of the real magnitude of what's being said.
■ Other people aren't objects...they're people. Always. Everywhere. Each one. If that were truly grasped and internalized as a universal concept, then in an instant, humanity would strip away many of our worst attributes. No one could commit chattel slavery if they really saw every other individual as a human being equipped with equal self-awareness, agency, and value as their own. Nor could anyone possessing even a modicum of conscience commit wartime atrocities, domestic abuse, or even non-violent acts of casual racism or sexism.
■ To be even modestly aware of one's own humanity and capable of projecting empathy for that sense of humanity onto other people renders a person incapable of most of the worst acts people commit against one another. This indictment applies equally to knuckle-dragging male chauvinists as it does to authoritarian dictators who disregard human rights. They may be different manifestations and on different scales, but they share the same root cause.
■ Everyone is endowed with a uniquely valuable human spirit. Another's value is not diminished because it isn't yours. And to actively see that equivalent humanity in every other person is a practice that depends upon childhood inculcation and self-aware practice by adults. Fortunately, it comes easily to kids. Little people tend to be very good at a frictionless understanding that every human life is of equal value.
■ The real work needs to come from adults, who must model the behavior for their young ones and actively guard their own thoughts against the encroachment of the ills of objectification. Somewhere along the path to growing up, it seems fairly commonplace -- perhaps even instinctive -- to become so absorbed in one's own consciousness that consideration for the humanity of others takes a back seat unless it's deliberately pulled to the forefront, at least from time to time. But everyone needs to make a conscious practice of really seeing the humanity in others. Without practice, it's too easy for the concept to lapse into words taken too lightly.
Faces blur, but there’s a unique spirit inside each one