Transcript: On Inhumanity with David Livingstone Smith

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Turi: Today, thrilled to be talking to David Livingston Smith. David’s a professor of philosophy at the university of new England. He did his PhD at King’s college, London on the philosophy of psychology and his work focus focuses on dehumanization self-deception human nature and moral psychology.

He’s written close to a dozen books, including on in humanity, which we’ll be discussing today in which we’ll link to in the show notes and has spoken at the G 20 on dehumanization. David. It’s a huge pleasure to have us have you with us.

David: Thank you. Oh, thank you. It’s uh, it’s, it’s a mutual mutual.

Turi: Um, I should start here, I think with a very, yeah. Trigger warning, unfortunately, which is that, um, the history and the stories that you describe in your book are ones of almost inconceivable cruelty. Um, we’ll touch on some of them. Um, but our capacity to hurt each other, our blood last, the inventiveness of other islands is boundless. How are we able to be so inhumane? What is it? What, what is this inhumanity?

David: Yeah. So that’s actually a very good question to start with. And I like how you, you put it, how are we able to be? Because that implies that it’s not just a question of how we are. It’s not just a question of invoking human nature and saying, well, we are violent, uh, blood lustful creatures.

Um, and it isn’t. In fact, what I think comes more readily to us is difficulty performing acts of violence to one another. Uh, there are powerful inhibitions that almost all people have. Against acts of lethal and sub lethal violence. Now, two questions arise from that one would be well, how can you say that David given that you know, that history is littered with corpses, given the stuff that you write about in your books, that’s one and the other is Y what grounds you make this client? Well, let’s start with the second one question. And the first one will answer itself. Here’s a fact about human beings. We are what biologists call ultra social animals. We live in large cooperative groups. We’ve engaged in cooperative social life. Well, when I say wait before the evolution of our species, No, there was cooperative hunting and group living and so on.

And the degree of our sociology far exceeds that of any other primate, any other mammal. In fact, you have to look to animals like ants and bees to get anywhere near the intense sociality that for human beings is just a matter of course now, social animals must have inhibitions against acts of violence within their communities. For obvious reasons, you can’t maintain a social life if you’re ripping each other’s throats out. And so this is very, very common. When you have social animals, there are mechanisms that limit violence, they don’t limit a perfectly things. Get out of hand on occasion, but generally speaking, it’s limited. We humans being ultra social have to have extraordinarily powerful inhibitions against violence, directed at one another. And they extend beyond our immediate communities because our social exchanges extend beyond our meeting, immediate communities. So long distance trade for instance, has been around since the stone age. Now, what that means is that we are disposed to have difficulty harming one another. Now, especially in importantly, when it’s up close and personal, and there’s a lot of research which supports this, it’s extraordinarily difficult to say plunge of blade into someone’s guts while you’re looking into their eyes and people who do that, unless they happen to be sociopathic. Are often haunted by the experience for a lifetime. It, it drives people nuts.

So we have that, but on the other hand, we are creatures with these great big brains and we’re able to think instrumentally, and we’re able to recognize that it may be advantageous to perform acts of terrible violence, uh, on our neighbors. We can think, oh, those people over there, you know, wouldn’t it be great for us if we could enslave them, if we could kill them and exploit their resources and so on and so forth. So just thinking up to this point, there are two contradictory impulses, right. And being the relentlessly inventive. Creatures that we are. We found ways of selectively disabling our violent impulse. Now there’s a number of ways that we do this. And, and when I say we, I mean, human beings, generally we can see this across cultures.

One is through the use of intoxicants from alcohol to opiates to, uh, to even to hallucinogens. If we look at that the history of, of drug use in cannabis, um, another are mind altering ritual practices. People get themselves worked up before going out to slaughter their neighbors. There are certain religious ideologies and spiritual ideologies, which assist in this process.

The V the version of a disabling mechanism. That concerns me is dehumanization. So if we can bring ourselves to regard those who are out to harm as less than human creatures and in particularly as dangerous unclean monsters or demonic creatures, and this does two things, it deliberates aggression by creating a kind of moral distance from the, and it also motivates violence. You know, you exterminate the cockroaches, uh, you drive a stake through the heart of the, of the monsters. Right. So I think there are sort of cultural technologies at play that greatly assist us in performing terrible acts of violence against other human beings.

Turi: What a terrible term cultural technologies they feel. They talk, they echo of Mengali. They echo of so many of the atrocities that we have seen rationalized.

That’s, that’s very powerfully anchored into our evolutionary cells. There is, as you describe it, a sort of social political element to the humanization, and there’s also a psychological one. There are certain traits that we have internally as individuals, which aid in the process, essentially visitation. Shortcut sharistics stereotyping. Can we talk a little bit to those key pieces? We’ve got the broad evolutionary group. What about the individual?

David: Sure. Well, evolution is going to only come into the picture in, in two respects. One is that well, actually in three, so our evolution has been such that we are hyper social animals and therefore have inhibitions against active violence against our own kind. Our evolution has been such that we have great big brains that enable us to think instrumentally and third, we have certain psychological dispositions. Which are easily exploited by people in positions of authority who have an investment in getting us to do awful things to one another. I look at dehumanization as a psychological response to political forces. Do you want me to say shin is not in any sense and innate disposition rather. It’s a, a product of such dispositions interacting with political forces. So let’s look at the psychological tendencies first. And then let me explain how the political dimension plays into this. So suppose that you, the listener are, um, a Nazi. Suppose you’re a committed S S math. And I suppose, as is in fact true, I’m a Jew despite my very Christian sounding name. Um, well, you would regard me as an under mench as a subhuman, as a less than human being.

Now, this is really puzzling on the face of it. It’s puzzling because in all I word respects, I’m indistinguishable from anyone that you would regard as a human being. I’m bipedal. I wear clothes, I speak your language. I read the newspaper. I love my children. So how can you possibly regard me as a subhuman creature? Well, I think the answer to this question comes from body of psychological research into what’s called psychological essential ism. What psychological essential ism is, is our tendency to do two things, to divide the world up into what we philosophers, call natural kinds, things like biological species and chemical elements, kinds of things that are out there, objectives, objective kinds of things that are not creations of our classificatory practices.

That’s the first bit, the second bit is the crucial, according to the essentialist mindset. What makes any individual belong to one of these kinds is the possession of some deep and unobservable property. Some in some strange sense inside of them and psychologists call this the essence. So essences are often imagined to be in the blood or nowadays in the genome. They are, they can’t be observed, but they’re causally responsible for the outward characteristics, which are observable. So put crudely what makes a dog, a dog is not fat. It wags its tail and goes Wolf Wolf. Those are merely symptomatic. According to this way of thinking of the dog, essence, something that all and only dogs share, which makes them dogs. And this applies to all these natural kinds. Like human beings. What makes a human, being a human being on this way of thinking, which I want to insist becomes comes very easily and naturally to us, it’s not the appearance. The appearance is merely symptomatic. It’s something supposed to be something deeper. Part of the logic of essentialistic thinking is that the appearance can belie the essence that is it’s possible to appear to be one kind of be, but actually be another kind of be within that mindset.

Now we can return to RSS man looking at me, the Jew. Well, what he sees me is having the external appearance of a human being for sure. But inside I’m something different. I’m something more, more, uh, lower on the scale of creation and more dangerous and destructive than any human being. Now I’ve noticed I imported something they’re lower on the scale. This is the second psychological component, which is hierarchical thinking the idea of the world of, of living things as arranged as a hierarchy with the most perfect at the top and the least perfect at the bottom. Unlike essential ism, this has simply not been studied by psychologists, which is immensely frustrating for someone like me, who writes about these matters. Uh, traditionally, um, historians of ideas have called this the great chain of being the idea of the great chain of being there’s precisely one book on this called the great chain of being written in the thirties by a philosopher named Arthur Lovejoy and love. Joy says, well, this hierarchical notion.

Was, uh, European creation, uh, putting together elements of platonic and Aristotelian thought and late antiquity. And it had its intellectual career throughout the middle ages and then died out in the 19th century that I think is utterly it’s. Uh, it’s the book is a wonderful piece of scholarship. It really is very impressive, but I think those two claims are false. They’re false because we find this pattern of thinking all over the world, including pre cultures, pre contact with Europeans, like the S and it hasn’t died out. Right. We still operate with this way of thinking. You know, if you know, I’m speaking to you and suppose to fly as buzzing around your room, and you grab a magazine, you SWAT that fly. If I were to say, how could you do that? How could you take the life of that fly? Well, your response is going to be something of the order. Appliques, just a fly. In other words, it’s lower in the scheme of things. So essential ism gives us human appearance. Non-human essence, and therefore really not human hierarchical thinking gives us subunit.

Now, given that we are powerfully disposed to both ways of thinking, these are psychological proclivities that others can play on two very destructive hands. Now, if you look at the history of dehumanization, dehumanisation doesn’t arise spontaneously the typical scenario for dehumanization is that there’s an entrenched ideology. And I have a whole theory of ideology in my work to explain how this operates. So it’s, they’re kind of simmering away for instance, a European antisemitism, right. Which really gets a grip in the late middle ages.

And then, you know, it has its stay and, you know, by the 20th century, it’s there, but it’s not as blatant. And then a skillful propagandist who sort of activates that latent ideology. So if you look at the rise of, of Nazi-ism in Germany, we find precisely that we have the deep and to some medic traditions, but, you know, In the, in the twenties and thirties, Jews were more integrated into German life than anywhere. Um, and then you have skillful propagandists, Hitler, and Goebels among others who didn’t quite make it, uh, are able to activate this. They changed the social ecology and they activate this relatively latent tendency . Dehumanisation typically it comes from the outside, in the mouth of a Hitler. Or a right-wing radio host or it can be distributed through a whole community where everyone in positions of authority just buys into a particular view is common sense. And, you know, everyone then brought up in that atmosphere has been given the message that these other, these others are not really human they’re counterfeit human beings.

Turi: So there is, we’ve got profound, psychological proclivities, which can be triggered. There are political contexts, which make the humanization more likely or more, more useful or valuable. You talk in your book to a whole series of other functions that dehumanization for forms and they range from a response to what you call metaphysical threat through to disgust. Um, you’ve described the process, the rituals of dehumanization as, as almost sacrificial, as ritualistic as religious. Can we walk through some of the other functions that dehumanization performs?

David: Well, the thing is, dehumanisation has kind of layered and, um, As soon as a group of people is dehumanized or at least dehumanized in the most dangerous and toxic way, there are psychological after effects, which make it even worse. So let me explain. Yes, let’s go back to human beings as ultra social animals. One consequence of this one consequences of, of our nature as ultra social primates is works. Coincidentally sensitive to indications of commonality of humanness.

And this is particularly in response to side of a human face. And even more particularly to the side of human eyes. So we know from neuro-psychology that faces are processed by the brain in a totally different way, from everything else. There’s faces are very, very, very special to us. And this is true from immediately after birth infants are attracted to human faces. The face is sort of the icon of, of, of humanness. Um, so when we counter another human being. My view is we cannot help, but see human. It’s a gut reaction. It’s modular. It’s bull. What? So to go back to our little horror story there, you Nazi SS, man, when you look at me, you can’t help it see human in Auschwitz. By the way, there was a kind of a, an informer rule that the guards shouldn’t meet the prisoners gays, because that’s humanizing. Um, so you can’t help, but see me as human, but you also accept on the authority of say Henry Himmler or the, or the, the Nazi race scientists or Yosef gerbils, or autos Hitler himself. That I’m subhuman. You differ, you differ hysterically. To the experts, those who are supposed to know now it’s totally reasonable for us to do that. Just generally, we couldn’t have human culture. If we didn’t do that. Uh, now, unfortunately we invest this sort of epistemic authority in people who don’t really Meredith. And this inevitably happens, you know, and the United States and say the 1850s, the most distinguished scholars and scientists were scientific racists. They told us that that black people were members of a different species.

Well, they were qualified, right. People accepted it. It’s rational to accept, even though it can lead us astray. Um, so back to the assess officer, then you’ve you accept because those who are supposed to know have told you that Jews are less than human. Now, what happens then what happens then is you’ve taken this view of Jews as subhuman onboard, but you also can’t help seeing Jews as human. And this is absolutely crucial. It’s very, very important. Um, so you have two contradictory, mutually incompatible representations of the person in front of you as wholly human and as holy subhuman, it’s not like half and half wholly human and the holy subhuman now vis has a very important psychological effect. It renders the de-humanize person uncanny, disturbing and monstrous here. I’m drawing very much on drawing on the work of a many scholars going back to 1906, there was a really amazing article written by a German psychiatrist named Ernst Jentsch called on the psychology of the uncanny. My interpretation of what she’s saying in this paper is that this response of two, when Jaime sh.

which I will, for the purposes of this translation and elsewhere, my work translate as creepiness. We experienced things as creepy. Our minds are torn between assigning them to two mutually incompatible categories. He gives great illustrations. I mean his best one, I think is figures in a wax museum disturbing. Why? Because we respond. If they’re well done, we respond to them as human, but we also respond to them as lumps of wax. And as long as our minds can’t settle were creeped out. These figures, corpses is another it’s dear old dad lying there in the coffin, and it’s a slab of cold meat. There are two incompatible representations of what’s in front of us. This idea was independently discovered, um, much later, 1970 by a man named Masahiro. Mori was a roboticist who wrote a famous paper called the uncanny valley. Um, he goes exactly. He does exactly what the French did long before. Um, in the context of robotics, he says, look, as we make robots, humanoid robots, they’re more and more similar to human beings will become more and more comfortable with them until they’re almost indistinguishable, but not yet quite.

And then we drop into what he calls the uncanny valley of the Japanese word for translators. Uncanny is Kimi. Which is translatable again as creepy. So I like calling this paper, the title of it, the valley of creepiness, which sounds terribly creepy. Good. Um, you said it’s the same about prosthetic lens? He advises don’t try to make them too realistic because people will be repelled, um, four years before, um, Maury British anthropologists, Mary Douglas explored similar territory in her book, purity and danger my interpretation of Douglas is that she says this in every culture, the culture operates with systems of categories in which natural things are slotted. Lots of boxes categories, but of course, as soon as you do that nature, isn’t like that things, there are always things that don’t fit in, right? That straddle categories or seem to be interstitial. And she argues that these things are experienced as dangerous. They pleasantly because they undermine the natural order. There are unnatural things they have to be handled with. Great care. Um, so now this takes us to the final person. That’s the most important, and that’s a philosopher named Noel Carroll does aesthetics. He wrote a great book called of the philosophy of horror. And what it’s all about horror fiction. One of the questions he tries to answer is what makes a monster and on his diagnosis, what makes a monster is two fold, a monster, a horrific monster, as he says, some sort of monster refined in horror fiction has to be physically threatening.

It’s out to harm you. You know, a nice monster. Isn’t a monster. It wants to eat your brains or, or steal your soul or do something awful to you. But that’s not sufficient, obviously, because there are lots of physically threatening being some real, some imaginary that don’t count as monster serial killers, terrorists, grizzly bears, rattlesnakes, they’re all physically dangerous. The monster has to be. What he calls cognitively threatening and I call metaphysically threatening. And what that means is, and here he’s strong on Douglas. It has to be an impossible combination of different kinds of things. It has to transgress the boundaries between the categories that we regard as natural categories. So for instance, zombies are dead and they’re alive. They’re dead corpses that walk around and eat werewolves are wolves and people, and you can look for it to go right through the, you know, the horror Canon and find these categorical contradictions. Right? So that’s metaphysical threat, metaphysical, threat, greatly amplifies physical threat.

Now let’s come back to dehumanization. Well, if my diagnosis is correct as I’m pretty sure it is. That when we demonize others, we end up, we end up conceiving of them as human on one hand and subhuman on the other hand and dangerous, which is often the precursor you see, the population gets that gets to humanize is typically first regarded as dangerous criminal out to get us and so on and so forth. All that’s in place. They’re transformed into monsters. Now this is sort of a, a, a non-intentional consequence of that first dehumanizing move it’s because we can’t quite shake an awareness of the humanity, paradoxically. That’s what turns them into monsters and. That’s what creates it’s our very inability to see others simply as subhuman animals that contributes to the worst accesses that dehumanization produces.

Now, you also, you talked about the rituals of humiliation. Let me give an example. It was a practice, not universal by any means, but pretty common in the American south pre-Civil war to force and slave people to eat out of animal troughs. In fact, to compete with the dogs for food. Now that just seems so gratuitous. So gratuitously, degrading, and humiliating, it’s analogous to other things. The, the emphasis on say during the Holocaust, it was not good enough just to exterminate. Jews. They had to be humiliated. They had to get down on their hands and floors and hands and knees in Vienna and clean the streets, doctors and lawyers, and so on, surrounded by laughing crowds, lynching victims, who were dressed up as Kings and dragged around town on a carnival float. Um, so there are these rituals that humiliation, I think what’s going on. There is an attempt to neutralize the threat posed by these what have become human monster, the cognitive threat, the metaphysical threat, exactly. To strip them of that monstrousness, you know, to sort of assert you’re really nothing. It’s it’s, it’s an effort of the de-humanize her to reassure themselves. Okay. Against this cognitive threat posed by the demonized.

Turi: So that, that cognitive physical threat, which is always required to elicit this kind of dehumanization.

And let’s go back a little bit and, and remind us that what we’re talking about here is not the scaled dehumanization of say. Men to women that women are considered a little bit less human or, or that, uh, children are considered less, fully human than adults, et cetera. We’re not talking about that scaled dehumanization racism, which is a form of it. But we’re talking about the way you frame it as a very particular, extremely violent sort of psychosis. And let’s be clear. You say dehumanizes, I’m quoting you dehumanizes. Aren’t just pretending. They sincerely believe that those whom they persecute are less than human. And so to your point here, going back to the cognitive and physical threat, one of the things that strikes so many of us looking at this is that for example, the Jew is both of vermin and filth and dirty and cockroach and all powerful superhuman and brilliant.

The black man is we can animalistic and all these other things, and superhumanly powerful and extraordinary super predator, the power of strength. So this very peculiar, um, sort of. What is this a dualism of personalities which reflects or mirrors what you’ve just said here, which is that they are both human and not human. That uncanniness is reflected in the descriptions of these people too.

David: Yeah. And the descriptions of them typically alternate between characterizing them as subhuman and characterizing them as human implicitly or explicitly. So some, some philosophers and psychologists are skeptical of my claims about humanization because they say, well, look, um, people are demonize others, ostensibly recognize who human this. They, for instance, they try to humiliate them. Well, you don’t, you ameliorate cockroaches. Uh, and they call them criminals. Well, the category criminal only applies to human beings. Therefore. The conclusion that these people draw it as well. The animalistic language, it’s just a way of talking. It’s, it’s a way of slurring away of degrading.

And in fact, in the less, there was recognition of the other’s humanity. That form of speech would be pointless. You don’t say to a rat, you’re just a rat. Um, now I go further with that. I say, well, it’s often explicit if you, if you find this again and again, and again and again, and there’s this example in my, my last book, uh, the, uh, it was a woman who took part in the, had any pogrom against Romani people in, in, uh, in Romania and was in 1993. And she’s interviewed by a journalist from, I believe it was the independence. And she says to him, things like. You know, gypsies aren’t human and the next sentence they’re criminal. Um, and she goes on several iterations of human sub-human human sub-human. It’s like a duck rabbit situation here. And I th I think it’s because only one of those can be held in mind, held in mind at one time.

Right? So the demonize her tends to flip. Um, and I think really, if we understand that the humanization involves the symbol, Tania’s representation of the demonized, other as wholly human and holy subhuman, then that makes sense. And also the monstrousness makes sense that the uncanniness the distinctive phenomenology of dehumanization, which as you point out, and I think this is very, very important is different from. Phenomena that I would say are live next door. You know, sexism, racism, transphobia, this sort of thing. And so I’m a big fan of making distinctions rather than lumping everything together. And unfortunately, the way that the term dehumanization is used is very often as an umbrella term for a lot of, you know, toxic attitudes, but Habitudes, which are, which. Which have different dynamics from, from one another. Right.

Turi: That makes sense. So again, back to the functions of dehumanization, we’ve talked about straightforward, rape and pillage. You want that you want the land. This, this fundamental piece of trying to fix cognitive order, trying to enshrine purity, trying to deal with this sort of metaphysical threat, the Jew, the who’s doing well in Germany in the 1920s and thirties, the black person in the U S who is both human and not human in your understanding that there’s got to be some deep, latent, psychological guilt or debt to be paid in, dealing with that sort of cognitive friction of knowing somebody as both human and treating them as a slave. But one of the terrifying, awful threads that run through these acts of dehumanization that you talk to is something you’ve just touched on. It’s the extraordinary cruelty involved, dehumanizing fine, not, not quite granting full citizenship, not quite granting full human rights to X or Y race or religion or whatever it might be.

Um, I understand in the framework that you’ve, that you’ve, that you’ve described or outlined here, why. The extraordinary cruelty. Why the torture, why the violence in all of these instances, what, what is that coming from?

David: Well, part of what it’s coming from is that the monster is by definition, evil and supremely evil, right? So you don’t in the horror flick, you don’t, you feel no compassion for the monster. You know, you don’t suffer with Dracula as the steak is going through his heart. Um, so you have to understand that when you turn people into monsters and like I say, this is kind of a, a consequence of the initial step towards dehumanizing them. You make them evil and your job then becomes a highly moralistic job, right? Now, this is a very, very important dimension of all these episodes of mass violence that, you know, the, the Genesee there is saving the world from evil, right? So it becomes a moral, almost a quasi religious, or sometimes an explicit rule, late religious paradigm going on, you’re fighting the demons and anything goes and everything goes. Now, if we combine this with the threat posed by the de-humanized person, the need to belittle them, to show them their nothing, to show them their powerless, precisely because of this looming metaphysical threat, which amplifies the physical threat that, that we attribute to them. Then we have the formula for these horrible, horrible, horrible acts.

Turi: It feels like they must serve some social function, some bonding function there’s that the religious element, the ritualistic element, but the violence itself, it’s doing something.

David: Yeah. It’s, it’s probably doing, uh, it’s doing a lot of things I imagine. There’s a, there’s a great book. American racism in the 19th century called a rage for order. And I think that title sums up a lot of what’s going on here, rage for order. So if you think of the, the, the monsters created by the act of dehumanization as a fronts to order to the natural order, then the, the acts which flow from dehumanizing sensibilities can be understood as attempts to restore order.

To restore things to how they should be. So this, this is an idea of the natural order. You know, John Stuart mill wrote a great piece about the notion of naturalness and he points out that it can mean several different things. The third of his three meanings of the natural is the way things are supposed to be. Right. And what demonization or what the atrocities of the atrocities inspired by dehumanizing attitudes are aimed at is that kind of restoration the world needs to be healed of this rent in the natural order. Things need to be in their proper place. So when, when you know this, the talk of putting them in their place. Well, that’s actually quite a deep idea. It’s putting them in their metaphysical place in the hierarchy, not just their social place, which you know, and the two are related because social relations are typically legitimized by ideas about the cosmos, about the Nat, the larger natural order, you know, uh, we’re endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights. Right? So it’s the big picture, which then legitimates the smaller social political picture. So they’re, they’re rituals of order restoration for sure. They’re, they’re profoundly bonding. Um, and I’m sure there are many, many, many more functions to this.

Turi: David, you start your book with this beautiful pop breaking Jewish joke about, um, about the village idiot they did in the shtetl. And he was sent out to wait for the Messiah. Um, can I ask you to tell the joke, just cause it’s my second favorite Jewish joke. Um, but, um, and then, because it’s a very good framer for, um, for asking you my next question, which is why don’t we do about it?

David: Yeah. Okay. I wish I had a better, more elaborate and more definitive answer to your second question, but I’ll do my best. So this is a joke set, of course, and the, the pale of settlement, the Jewish village, a shtetl and a small village people look after each other. Everyone has a role, but there’s one guy let’s call him Shlomo Solomon, the Wiseman who is unemployable. He he’s the village idiot. He, he, he can’t hold down a job. He can’t be assigned any position of responsibility, but the rabbi finds a job for him. The rabbi says you are to sit at, at the edge of the village, stared into the distance intently and wait for the Messiah to come. Okay. He does every day. He schleps his, his chair. He sits there and he stares into the distance, waiting for the Messiah. One day a visitor comes along and asks him, what are you doing? Shlomo says, I’m doing my job. Visitor said, what’s that? He says, Shlomo says, I’m waiting for the Messiah. The hours are long.

The pay is bad, but it’s steady work. That’s right. Exactly. Turi: And so the reason I love that is because I’m asking the question, how do we fix the worst bits of human nature? Not just as individuals, but as groups, you know, what it’s steady work. So how do we fix it, David?

David: Well, just very briefly. Uh, I think there are, there are two, there are three dimensions here.

One pertains to education, but not just any kind of education, you know, do you have an ICERs have often been very well-educated people So at the Vancity conference where 15 men sat around the table planning the extermination of European Jews, seven of them had PhDs. They weren’t a stupid bunch. Uh, the sort of education, I mean is twofold. One is education into ourselves. So we have these dispositions that I described, the psychological dispositions. They’re easily manipulated. It’s very easy to get sucked in, into dehumanizing attitudes, um, not to do so requires vigilance. Vigilance requires some understanding of our own vulnerabilities, given that there’s no inoculation, um, We, we, we need to be able to track ourselves. So I think people should be, I think, should be part of education, our vulnerability to essentially mystic thinking to hierarchical thinking and, and why scientifically neither of these views holds any water at all. So that’s the education side, but there’s the outward-looking side as well. And that’s political action, you know, supporting institutions. Which offer a measure of protection. Now this is not foolproof supporting freedom of speech. Yeah. Nazis were always complaining about their freedom of speech being restricted in the twenties. You know, there are actual posters of Hitler, you know, with sort of like a, a piece of tape over his mouth, like he’s been canceled and isn’t that a terrible thing.

Uh, an independent judiciary, of course, that can be subverted to not CISM involved, a great deal of legal theory, um, Nazi legal theory, but those things can help. They can be subverted, but they can help. But finally, the people who get us to de-humanize others play on our vulnerabilities. They play on our sense of helplessness, our fears, the more basic security people have, I think. The less likely they are to uptake some of these messages. Um, so it’s really important for people to have enough to eat, you know, to have basic securities. So at least the insecurities that propagandists are trying to generate are surplus. Once it’s not that, you know, you don’t have jobs because the Jews have exploited the economy for themselves.

Right. It’s you’ve got jobs. Cool. You’re not going to be vulnerable to that kind of propaganda or as vulnerable to that kind of propaganda. So, you know, it’s, it’s an ongoing thing it’s waiting for the Messiah. Maybe the last thing, you know, I like to quote the Martin Luther king quote, the arc of history, dense towards justice. And I said, no, it doesn’t do it by itself. It’s only a we’re pushing at it and we have to keep pushing at it because if we don’t keep pushing at it’s going to spring back the other

Turi: way, David, what a way to end. I feel there’s some optimism there.

David: Um, there is well, there’s hopefulness. If I, as Cornell west says I’m not optimistic, but I’m hopeful if I wasn’t hopeful, there’d be no point right. In these

Turi: good point. Um, thank you so much for being with us. Thanks so much for walking us through these very complicated, very painful ideas, um, with such humanity. It’s been great to talk to you. Thank you.

This page was last edited on Tuesday, 8 Jun 2021 at 13:17 UTC