The Dehumanization of the Non-Compliant
The Dehumanization of the Non-Compliant
On a major highway here in western Montana, there’s a blinking sign like those generally used in construction zones. Usually these signs tell you to slow down or move over for a closed lane. For the last several months, however, it’s had a different message.
“Wear masks,” it blinks. “Be kind.”
The message is clear. If you do not wear a mask, you’re not being kind. And unkind people are bad people. This is part of a disturbing, dangerous trend in the US: dehumanization of the non-compliant.
Way back at the beginning of the year, in what now seems like another life and another country, we were asked to wear masks and cut down on “non-essential” travel. Maybe watch a movie at home this weekend instead of going out to the theater. Maybe do take-out instead of dining out. It’s just for a few weeks. We just need to flatten the curve a bit. It’s just to help out.
Except weeks turned into months. Businesses closed forever. Employees didn’t get paid. People feared how they’d support their family but they feared getting the virus more, and so they bought into it all…and bought everything they could get their hands on. It wasn’t just toilet paper that disappeared; any paper products, soaps, hand sanitizer, rubbing alcohol, and canned food flew off the shelves. Milk and meat were in short supply too.
As the year has wore on, the concept of “lockdown” started as a necessary evil. Putting massive numbers of people on what effectively amounts to house arrest was seen as The Right Thing To Do. But that’s the problem, isn’t it? Historically whenever a tyrannical government wants to control its people or use them for its own ends, they package their control efforts as “for your safety” or “for your own good and that of others.” The reason for this is because people are easily manipulated by social influences. Robert Cialdini wrote in 1984 about the social influences that weigh on humans. They’re fairly universal, and we see them in play everywhere right now.
Cialdini talked about the concept of social proof, or the idea that people generally look to others who are similar to themselves when making decisions, especially when the matters are important, vague, or ambiguous. In other words, when the average person is unsure about something, they’ll often do what others like them are doing. It’s the monkey see, monkey do mentality.
Another principle informing these decisions is that of liking; essentially, we are (obviously) more easily influenced by people we like. And that doesn’t just go for individuals we like. It goes for group types we like as well. If we see a group we agree with, we are more apt to agree with their actions as well — and model our own decisions after those made in the group.
Let’s look at this in terms of mask-wearing. Those who wear masks are portrayed in the media and often in regular society as kind, neighborly, responsible, good people. Many folks who wouldn’t normally want to comply with such a mandate, or who understand that it’s a control mechanism are swayed by these principles of influence, even if it’s just in the moment. They want to be seen as kind, neighborly, responsible, good people. They identify with the values, and so they go along with the actions that they are told embody those values. They might even abhor the concept of being forced to do something, but it’s easier to do it than to stand and be castigated for not being kind. The parameters of what constitutes a good person these days have already been framed: good equals compliant.
This is an extremely dangerous belief system, and one that leads to a whole lot of killing. Sounds extreme, right? But let’s take a look at the process.
The flip side of the “kind, good humans wear masks and stay home” doctrine is, of course, that the people who question the status quo are unkind. Who likes unkind people? No one. And while the conventional belief started as merely “anti-mask people are wrong,” over the months it has become something far different. Now, these are the things leveled repeatedly and loudly about the non-compliant:
See how easy that is? Poof — dehumanization. Who would want to be considered a murderer, an evil psychopath? Who wants to be shunned by their family, co-workers, or friends? Who wants to be seen as inhumane? This vilification speaks to the core need of every human being: the need to feel worth, to be seen as worthy. We are social beings, and the level of social shunning going on is literally weaponized shaming, meant to strike at the heart of what human beings need. They even get blamed for the lockdowns, the increased suicides, the defunct businesses and economic turmoil and hungry families. It’s all the fault of those nasty, bad people who won’t just do as they’re told. This would all be over if we could just get people to Do The Right Thing.
That’s not even the worst of it. To those who are secure in their beliefs and identity, or who have the emotional wherewithal to stand against such shameless psychological tactics, there are other plans for them. After all, what is to be done with these Bad People who are Unkind, Sociopathic Murderers who Kill People With Their Conduct and are the Reason For Everything Being Bad? Take a look at the comments section of any social media post on the subject and you’ll see what people want done to you if you’re disobedient.
This isn’t some third world warlord government we’re talking about. This is your neighbor, your co-worker, your cousin saying these things. These are average Americans who have bought into the idea that they are somehow Decent And Kind And Better Humans because they do as they’re told. And by default, you’re not doing it so you are a Bad Human. No one wants Bad Humans And Murderers in their friendly, kind society, right? We should remove them. That’s the next step. That’s dehumanization.
The slope is slippery, but what people don’t understand is that we are hurtling down it at breakneck speed. In less than a year, the dehumanization of the non-compliant has gone from a fringe idea spouted by radical leftists to a nearly mainstream idea, espoused by a whole lot of regular Americans — some of whom even think they believe in Constitutional rights. I know staunch conservatives who think that people who don’t wear masks are uncaring people who deserve to die of COVID. I know liberty-loving Americans who say that they don’t really want the vaccine but it’s the only way to get “back to normal.” They are caving to the narrative, to the idea that the sooner they comply, the better off we will all be.
Wearing a mask doesn’t automatically mean you’re a sheep. Not wearing one doesn’t mean you’re an evil person who deserves to be removed from society. Last I checked, anti-maskers aren’t calling for the elimination of those who wear a mask or get the vaccine, but look around; even a cursory search of social media shows an alarming number of people — even on the right — who believe that the non-compliant should be punished in varying degrees of horror.
For us, this is not a problem you can turn a blind eye to–one to be solved by small concessions. For us, it is a problem of whether our nation can ever recover its health, whether the…spirit can ever really be eradicated. Don’t be misled into thinking you can fight a disease without killing the carrier, without destroying the bacillus. Don’t think you can fight…tuberculosis without taking care to rid the nation of the carrier of that…tuberculosis. This…contamination will not subside, this poisoning of the nation will not end, until the carrier himself…has been banished from our midst.
Sounds a lot like something you’d see on social media right now about people who don’t wear masks and adhere to the control mechanisms, doesn’t it? Except that was Adolf Hitler, in a 1920 speech. The ellipses in that quote where points where he mentioned the Jews as the bacteria, the carriers, the reasons for why everything is bad. This same thought process is in play all over the nation, being espoused by regular people. They’re calling for “someone” (the government) to do these things to you right now, but it’s a small step to move to doing it themselves — or being party to it.
Make no mistake. If you aren’t obeying, this is how they see you. Your uncovered face and defiant behavior identifies you as non-compliant, as a Bad Human. And Bad Humans aren’t even fit to be called human. Just ask around.