My last article – What Is Happening with Healthcare in America?1 – revealed the undercurrent of what is really going on with healthcare in America: Willfulness. Attempting to do or doing something, the consequences be damned. I explained about willfulness and its roots and its occurring beneath many guises.
Now we need to go deeper. To the deeper current beneath the willfulness we’re experiencing in our country and in our world. The current of dehumanization. Layers and layers of dehumanization that have not really been dealt with … because we blame others for dehumanization and try to punish them, while neglecting to find the layers of dehumanization within ourselves, and while refusing to focus on the healing of dehumanization – both within ourselves and others.
Come explore with me …
Decades ago, in the first book I read as part of my training to become a psychotherapist, the author spoke about the fascist within us, within every one of us. I had never heard anyone acknowledge this before. I was so glad to know that somebody else knew this truth and was teaching this truth to everyone who read his book.
The “Little Fascist” Dehumanizes
Eric Berne, in his book, What Do You Say After You Say Hello?2 wrote about the “little fascist” in all of us. The part of us that is “a little torturer who probes for and enjoys the weakness of his victims.” The part of us that is vulnerable to those who call it into action – like a Hitler, an Osama bin Laden, a Putin, or even a president of the US, or many of the current leaders in our societies today. Some of us are so vulnerable to being called out into action, that we will respond in kind. Then there is not just a leader dehumanizing, but also many of the lower level leaders and many of the citizens. And some of us are vulnerable to the calling out in a different way. We hide our “little fascist,” our dehumanizer, from others and often even from ourselves. This also feeds the dehumanization – actually just as much as the acting out version – because the “little fascist” unclaimed, unacknowledged, unhealed, colludes in secret with the “little fascist” being acted out.
There is a lot of goodness in people. But there is destructiveness, too. And if we try to claim our goodness but hide our destructiveness, we leave a clear pathway for our destructiveness to play itself out in the world … directly by our own hands or seemingly indirectly through the hands of others. Both are happening in our world today. And both are happening in the US today.
Dehumanization Under Sanctuary of the Law
In her book, How Do Hurricane Katrina’s Winds Blow?,3 Liza Lugo writes:
“What we are now witnessing in the 21st century is the fracture
or complete breakdown of families, societies, and governments
as a result of centuries of dehumanization that have taken a toll.
More natural disasters (tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados, etc.)
merely uncover the reality
of the national disasters we have created
by granting sanctuary to dehumanization via the law.”
Ms. Lugo understands and speaks what I am saying here … that the dehumanization we are seeing now is longstanding. It is not just occurring for the first time now. The reality of dehumanization is being uncovered from a long-time existence under the protection of normalizing cultures, leaders and citizens in denial, and under the “sanctuary,” as she puts it, of the law.
It’s one thing to have a “little fascist” within yourself. It’s one thing to have a “little fascist” within acting out in our world. It is yet another step deeper to have that dehumanizing part of ourselves exist and acting out under “sanctuary” of the law. This, of course, has occurred limitless times in the life of our world. To name a few …
Examples of Dehumanization Under Sanctuary of the Law
Racism and slavery all over our world, including in two supposedly civilized countries, Great Britain and the United States, where it has definitely existed under the sanctuary of law. And where the after-effects of that sanctuary include the repeated transmission of dehumanization from generation to generation, whether the law remains as sanctuary or not.
According to Berne,4 the prejudice against darker people is one of the ‘genocidal’ “aspects of human nature that have remained unchanged during the past five thousand years regardless of any genetic evolution which has taken place during this period; they also remain immune to environmental and social influences.”
Berne is acknowledging that we cannot change the aspects within us that dehumanize people … from the outside. If you read him closely and take in what he is saying, you realize: We cannot “teach” the end of dehumanization. We cannot legislate the end of it either. And we cannot pray away dehumanization. It is clear, as you read, that the changes need to come from ending the transmission of dehumanization from generation to generation in action, thought, and feeling through inner healing, from the inside out.
Another example of dehumanization under the sanctuary of the law: Once Adolph Hitler was elected in Germany, he had free reign to dehumanize people in a holocaust he created, under cover of the laws he put into place, with the aid of those he gave license to act out their “little fascists,” and with the collusion of those who denied their own “little fascists.” It was horrifying. It was agonizing for those who experienced it and for those who witnessed it from nearby and from afar.
And yet another example still – completely blatant in the US today: In contrast to the immediate help sent to Texas after Hurricane Harvey, and to Florida after Hurricane Irma, witness the lack of immediate help after Hurricane Maria had devastated Puerto Rico. Mayor of San Juan Puerto Rico, Carmen Yulin Cruz Soto, has pleaded for help. She has told us they are dying. She has told the government “You are killing us with the inefficiency and the bureaucracy.” She has reminded us Puerto Ricans are Americans. She has appealed to our humanity. And from our President, she has received dehumanizing responses:
*”such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in
Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help.”
*”they want everything to be done for them when it should be a
community effort. 10,000 Federal workers now on Island doing a fantastic
A final example for today: The laws in the United States related to child abuse have loopholes in them, loopholes supposedly included to provide freedom to parents. Freedom to what? Use force against a minor child in their care, if:
*it is reasonable?
*it is reasonably related to the purpose of safeguarding or promoting the welfare of the minor, including the prevention or punishment of the minor’s misconduct?
* it neither causes not creates a substantial risk of causing, physical harm (beyond fleeting pain or minor, transient marks,) gross degradation, or severe mental distress?6
This is dehumanization of children under the law.
Force against a minor child is not reasonable!
Force against a minor child does not reasonably relate to safeguarding or promoting their welfare!
Force against a minor child causes physical harm!
Even force that causes fleeting pain.
Even force that leaves transient marks.
Any force against a minor child causes gross degradation!
And severe mental distress!
I work with people who experienced some or all of these as children. The impact on the child is severe, moreso if the adults in his or her life believe it is not.
Rulings like these mean that as of 2017, the US is not on the list of countries that have completely prohibited corporal punishment of children.7 Quite the contrary, according to the same document, “Corporal punishment of children by parents or other legal guardians is legal in the United States and social acceptance is generally high, through allowances made for ‘moderate physical discipline.’”8
The US is supposedly one of the most civilized countries in the world, according to Americans, the most. Yet look at us! This is dehumanization of children under the sanctuary of law! This is the “little fascist” in secret if you are in denial, yet right out in the open if you see and acknowledge the truth. This is the “little fascist” in leaders – governmental, business, and spiritual – in parents, and in everyday citizens.
The Roots of Dehumanization
and It’s Transmission to the Next Generation
And this is a perfect place to show the generation-to-generation transmission of dehumanization. If you experienced the “little fascist” in your parent(s) under some form of the guise of “for your own good,” then they dehumanized you. For a young child, dehumanization is even more unbearable than for an adult. A child doesn’t even yet know she exists. A child doesn’t even yet know he’s a person.
A child doesn’t even yet know she has dignity simply in her being. A child doesn’t even yet have words to express what is happening to him, and perhaps no one at all who will lovingly receive his expression – in words or even beneath words, in sounds, cries, movements. The child can only repress the experience and the feelings, while building defenses against it. One of those defenses inevitably will be “the little fascist” who dehumanizes … others and themselves.
He will dehumanize a younger sibling, a weaker classmate, sometimes a pet (not strict de-“humanizing,” but so close it fits). Later she may dehumanize children she babysits for, her parents, other adults like teachers. And still later, she may dehumanize her students, and he may dehumanize his employees, his spouse and his own children.
When he dehumanizes those younger than he, himself, they will respond as he did … repressing the experience, repressing the feelings, and building their own dehumanizing defense against the pain of the experience. When he dehumanizes those older than he, it is inevitable in most cases that they will be triggered by him, and respond either as they did when dehumanized as children, or by responding to him in kind … dehumanizing him in whatever form they took on as their means of expressing the “little fascist” in themselves.
In other words, the ‘little fascist” is a defense. A defense passed on and on and on through generations within families and outside families, too. In other words, if your parent(s) dehumanized you, that created the birth in you of your “little fascist” who will dehumanize others, and perhaps you, yourself.
Until you heal the early wound of dehumanization and until you heal the “little fascist” within yourself, you will continue to be part of the dehumanization that is still taking place all over our country, and all over our world. You will continue to be part of the dehumanization that is becoming more and more audible, visible, palpable all over our country, and all over our world.
Glimpses of Humanizing
There are signs of humanizing … touching ones I’ve seen in person and via media over the past few days.
Recently, on the television show, Designated Survivor, Kiefer Sutherland as President Kirkman, said to his staff:
“You have all dedicated yourselves to public service,
and you serve approximately 326 million Americans,
most of whom you’ll never meet or ever know.
It is imperative that we not become numb.
The people that we serve, they …
they have faces, families, hopes, and dreams and stories.
And they are our fellow Americans.
And by virtue of that bond alone,
they are worthy of our sacrifice our commitment and our service.”
And in the movie Nise: The Heart of Madness, in 1940’s Brazil, Dr. Nise da Silveira works in a psychiatric hospital in the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. She refuses to use the electroshock treatments that have come into use for schizophrenia. Against the violence and dehumanization, she confronts the room filled with psychiatrists after a cold, heartless demonstration of the treatments:
“He just needs to be treated like a human.”
And later she confronts a psychiatrist:
“You use your patients for your sadistic experiments.
Brute force is the only advantage you have over them.”
Bravo to Tom Kirkman and the writer who created him. Brava to Dr. Nise da Silveira and what she co-created with the people she helped.
The question is … are these signs of the humanizing sides of these people, with the dehumanizing sides still buried deep and ignored, and still at play in our world? Are these signs of the humanizing of these people, after the healing within themselves? Or are these glimpses for us of the possibility of real humanizing … after the healing takes place?
How Do We Heal Dehumanization?
Again … until you go beneath the guise …
until you go beneath the part of you who looks like the two examples above …
until you heal the early wound of dehumanization …
and until you heal the “little fascist” within yourself …
you will continue to be part of the dehumanization that is still taking place all over
our country, and all over our world. You will continue to be part of the
dehumanization that is becoming more and more audible, visible, palpable
all over our country, and all over our world.
You can’t put this on other people. They are just magnets for your own dehumanization and your own dehumanizing. They are just mirrors of your own “little fascist.” If, in truth, you do love your children … you need to heal the “little fascist” within you. If, in truth, you do love your country … you need to heal the dehumanizer that lives within you.
There is no way around this. There is no way over this.
Until we heal our own experiences of being dehumanized …
and until we heal the part in us that dehumanizes …
we will continue to be part of the escalating dehumanizing in our world.
“…Whoever is not aware of this force [the “little fascist”] in his personality has lost control of it …
He who pretends that these forces do not exist becomes their victim …
The solution is not to say, as many do, ‘It’s frightening,’ [which it is] but rather ‘What can I do about it and what can I do with it?’9
© Judith Barr, 2017
1 What Is Happening with Healthcare in America? I recommend your going back to read this article.
2 Eric Berne, What Do You Say After You Say Hello? pp 302 – 305 “The Little Fascist”, Copyright 1972, Andre Deutsch edition published 1974 in Great Britain; Corgi edition published 1975.
3 Liza Lugo, How Do Hurricane Katrina’s Winds Blow? Racism in 21st-Century New Orleans, ABC-CLIO Praeger Publishing, March 31, 2014.
4 Eric Berne, What Do You Say After You Say Hello? p 305 “The Little Fascist”, Andre Deutsch edition published 1974 in Great Britain; Corgi edition published 1975.
6 https://www.endcorporalpunishment.org/progress/country-reports/usa.html The wording I’ve used, though somewhat paraphrased, is from the link above, under the section on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court 2015 ruling.
9 Eric Berne, What Do You Say After You Say Hello? pp 302 – 305 “The Little Fascist”, Copyright 1972, Andre Deutsch edition published 1974 in Great Britain; Corgi edition published 1975.