Tag Archives: Intolerance

One Doesn’t Make Peace with Objects

“Muslim extremist.” “Infidel.” “Towelhead.” “Crusader.”

Putting labels on people is gratifying: it’s an attack on their honor, reduces the respect due them as humans and, if possible, make them seem less than human, even less than animals.

Labels are chosen carefully. “Dogs” is a great cuss word by Muslims, given its internal Islamic religious denotation — one that is not shared in the same way by the targets of such insults. The label of “pigs” is a word choice guaranteed to anger even a moderate, pious Muslim. Dogs and pigs are killed as a matter of course in religious countries: their connection to filth and disease is something. That list in the first line of this post goes past animal, straight to animus.

Once we reduce a person to an object it’s harder to identify with them. You don’t automatically hate Farah when you pass her in in Wal-Mart or Marks & Spencer if she’s wearing a hijab or a chador. But if I identify that person as a “sand rat” I’d look down at her as a dirty animal, out of place in a brightly-lit store with orderly shelves.

Nazis used this technique with great success to dehumanize Jews, to make it easier for neighbors and business associates to part with Jews who had, up to that point, integrated successfully in Western Europe.

Westerners use it to isolate, vilify and attack those who look different. Fanatics of all faiths brand everyone not fitting their exacting (and sometimes ever-changing) standards. In Judaism, religious extremists slap the label apikoros (apostate) or goy (gentile) on anyone they want to exclude from their self-declared higher plane.

It’s difficult to bargain with lesser beings. One makes peace with enemies, not friends, despite all the protests against talks with Iran, North Korea, and the Afghani Taliban among others. One does not engage in anything but eradicating dirty animals.

A coda: women reduced to body part names are put into the same place. While there are no peace talks expected between men and women, reducing a woman to how she looks or what sex acts she might perform lets men afraid of their dominance feel better about their misogyny.