“The ability to dehumanise large tracts of fellow human beings..”

While there’s always been an ebb and flow in the quality and quantity of comments on Slugger over time, in recent weeks, and perhaps months, I’ve certainly got the impression that there has been an increasing tendency among some commenters to slip too-readily into sweeping, and offensive, characterisations of the other side – whichever that other side might be. At CiF today, John Lloyd picked up on the same R4 interview Mick noted yesterday, with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and drew parallels between her criticism of the fundamentalist nature of radical Islamism and other ideologically driven movements.. and highlights the tactics they share.. as well as the danger.From John Lloyd’s CiF article:

I am with Hirsi Ali on this. As I argued in a piece on Ken Loach’s film The Wind that Shakes the Barley on Cif two weeks ago, ideology – uncompromising, appealing to purity of thought and action, murderous – is required to give real or imagined wrongs a framework, a cause and both a battle cry and a battle order. You must fight for something as well as against something. And one of the most powerful of such ideologies has been, in very different forms, an appeal to oneness: oneness of nation and ethnos (Nazism); one-ness of class and party (communism) and oneness of faith, state and thought (Islamism).

The ability to dehumanise large tracts of fellow human beings, because they are non-Aryan, or bourgeois, or non-Muslim, lends great strength to the cause: strength enough to cause adherents to gladly murder, and willingly die, for it.

I looked more closely at the earlier article John Lloyd references, and drew some conclusions, here – The best we can hope for?”

And his warning on ideology being used to dehumanise large tracts of fellow human beings was, I’d suggest, a concern shared by Stephen Fry in his recent speech at the Why History Matters campaign launch, when he argued that:

“History is not the story of strangers, aliens from another realm; it is the story of us had we been born a little earlier. History is memory; we have to remember what it is like to be a Roman, or a Jacobite or a Chartist or even – if we dare, and we should dare – a Nazi. History is not abstraction, it is the enemy of abstraction.”