It’s an amazing thing to be able to witness the base anger and resentment towards each other that people carry today. It appears society is getting so bitter that we can barely stand the sight of each other anymore, and for many people they will hardly admit that the other person is truly a human.
This seems to happen most in modern industrialized countries. Take a look at the average minimum wage worker. Typically a bored teenager, working for extra money or to save for school, and they face a constant stream of upset customers. Now, the business tries their best to get the worker to be enthusiastic and kind to the customers, regardless if the worker truly cares or not. The moment the person allows this to happen, his identity is that of the worker, and not the human being he actually is. The best example of this is Jean Paul Sartre’s idea of ‘Bad Faith’. He gives the example of the waiter that moves with too much precision and acts all too “waiterly” in a sense putting his role of a waiter before his role as a human being. Sartre would say that this man was in bad faith because he deceived himself about who he actually was.
But there is an obvious reversal here to be made. This is when the people around that person convince themselves that the individual is nothing more than the role he plays. A customer walks into a fast food restaurant, at the counter he does not see another human being, he simply sees the servant that is ready to take his order. This is an incredibly dangerous thing, it allows only for the dehumanization of the person right in front of you. The effects of this can be seen everywhere. We’ve all seen an irrationally angry customer yell at an employee, but do you suppose they would do the same thing if they were to magically realize the other person’s struggles and passions? I would think not, unless that customer were a truly rotten person. We live in bad faith believing that people are nothing more than the roles they play.
We especially see this during election time. Imagine a scenario in which before engaging in conversation with anyone, one person asked the other whether he is a Democrat or Republican. If the man did not give the right answer, the other man would simply walk away on the grounds that “he already knows everything important about him.” In this example the man does not see that he is talking to a human, he sees only that he is talking to a Democrat of Republican, and therefore knows all of their bad traits. Again, we are dehumanizing the other party simply because it is more convenient. And do not think that it is simply a small number of people that do this. For instance think back in the last year of how many times you’ve muttered a phrase like “damn democrats” after they made you upset. Are you not simply lumping together half the nation into this one category, and assuming they all play the same role? Is it not easier to have road rage looking at the back of a car instead of thinking about the person driving it?
We are we so willing to dehumanize the people around us? Maybe it takes the blame off ourselves, that way we can blame the other party involved and not feel bad about it since they’re subhuman. Maybe it takes too much effort to actually care about all people. Perhaps living in ‘bad faith’ to such an extreme degree has blinded us so greatly. Whatever the answer is, it is unnatural. No matter what role a person holds they are still a person. It may be the greatest tragedy of our day that man has forgotten he is man, and that society no longer sees men. It can therefore be said that one of the most honorable gifts you can give to someone is not to treat them as a title, but as the person you are.
This is not to say that if everybody understood each other there would be no more conflict, that is absurd. Many of the conflicts we face are because we brutally understand each other. What I’m saying is that we react to the dehumanized form of each other, not the people we truly are. Once we strip away those barriers then we can more appropriately deal with our problems with each other. If we are to continue to live on this planet together we must learn to get along, we must suck up our own egos and admit our mistakes. Once we admit the humanity of the people we dislike then we are simply one step further in this.