Q10: How Can We Deal with the Dehumanizing Aspect in Ourselves?

10) In an interview that you gave in Auschwitz you said: “There is a part of us that allows us to dehumanize people. It’s an aspect of ourselves that we don’t want to touch. Auschwitz is the world-monument of that aspect of ourselves.” How can we deal with this aspect in us so that it doesn’t cause so much harm in the world?

The first way to deal with this aspect is to remember.  “Re-membering” as the opposite of dismembering – putting back together what’s been taken apart.  After the 8th year of remembering victims, Heinz-Jürgen Metzger, the coordinator of Peacemaker work in Europe said it was time to start remembering the perpetrators.  Heinz’s uncle was castrated because he wouldn’t do the work of the SS.  Heinz didn’t learn about this for 25 years because his family was disgraced because his uncle wouldn’t comply.  When Heinz proposed remembering the perpetrators, about half the participants were ready to leave.

I brought up the issue of remembering and honoring the perpetrators at a later retreat, which was very difficult.  Honor means we site their name, like we do for those who died there.  The goal was to change from just blaming and hating the perpetrators to get into what was going on- to change the mode.  So we did a ceremony in guards tower, where each person honors a time when they were a perpetrator or someone was a perpetrator to them.   How far can you go in this remembering?  If this is one world, and the point is to re-member the whole world, where do you stop?  That’s where your practice has to be. To go into the spaces of what the perpetrators went to and what happened after- many committed suicide.

Another way is to recognize who we exclude and invite them in.  The most common way of dealing with outsiders to our club is to avoid them.  At the worst, there is Auschwitz, war, lynching, imprisonment, gay bashing.

I’m a Democrat.  I’ve never voted Republican.  I will talk with Republicans and invite them to my house.  I can’t get angry at people outside my club.  I don’t like their viewpoint, but I’m not going to be angry at the guy for having it.  In conflict resolution work, whatever faction you don’t invite to the table, that’s where the process will break down- Achilles Heel.

Take the red clown’s nose.  Visualize it on the person you hate.  Imagine Bush.  You won’t hate him.  You’ll say- That’s ridiculous!  He’s a clown.  We’re all clowns!

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