Fr. Mathew Cherian cmi
The twentieth century (1900-2000) witnessed two world-renowned figures who were also contemporaries. Both had a powerful influence upon the world. But the means they adopted to influence the world were entirely opposite. Indeed, the philosophy of life they proclaimed was such that the course of history chronicled a number of offspring to their ideologies. The first one was Adolf Hitler (1889-1945). To mount the stairs of power, he literally followed the way of terror and might. The net result of his thought-pattern gave birth to a notorious event in the twentieth century described as World War II (1939-1945). He followed his philosophy to the hilt, which resulted in nothing but the blood and tears of millions of human beings. Diluted in the culture of assassination and mixed in the flavors of hatred and chaos, Hitler dreamed of a world of vain-glory by making humans as enemies to each other and degrading them to a level of mere means or targets. The second figure was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, fondly called Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948). He too had a philosophy of life but blended with the jewels of truth (satya) and non-violence (ahimsa). He had an uncompromising attitude to his principles and the corresponding result was that of a bloodless struggle for the freedom of a nation, and of love, peace and everlasting joy in the hearts of millions and millions of humans. Uplift of the human dignity was his sole aim. Sarvodaya (welfare of all) was his secret and sacred mantra for glory and success. He believed in the culture of inter-human and intra-human relationship and love was the powerful weapon he used. According to Abdul Quddus, “Hitler worshipped power: Gandhi believed in Truth and Love. The conflict between these two ideas is as old as history. Here, the world conquerors stand on one side, the apostles of human brotherhood on the other and it still continues to be so with no reconciliation in sight.” The greatest technology the world has ever seen is the advance of human life creatively and purposefully. Ignoring this fact is as ignoring the very life of oneself. Therefore, any venture to depersonalize a human being, at the cost of lifeless means, is like a global fatal ‘kidney failure’ spreading fast, challenging all human institutions and technologies. Are we ready to undergo a dialysis of human nature?
2. Historical Recordings of Dehumanization Process
History of humans is also a history of dehumanization. Most of the religions place humans immediately after the deities and as collaborators or the beneficiaries of their works. Thinkers in general have no difficulty in accepting humans as rational and relational beings. Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) placed humans in the kingdom of ends. “He who contemplates suicide should ask himself whether his actions can be consistent with the idea of humanity as an end in itself.” Strange to say, there has been an exploitation of the rationality and the relationality of the humans not from without but from within and there have been some unfortunate events in human history, through which humans were treated as mere means. To begin, let us first clear the concept of dehumanization. It is an evil mode of treating humans in a manner less than their status as a person. In a wider sense, getting angry with another, not giving other’s due, calumny etc. come under dehumanization. In a strict sense, dehumanization happens due to the manipulation or wrong interpretation of certain ideologies and beliefs. Hindu caste system in ancient India is the best example for dehumanizing a section of people who were labeled as untouchables. Birth was the sole determining factor to decide one’s personal as well as social fate. Similarly, slavery was yet another method humans have used to dehumanize themselves. Wealth was the determining factor between a slave and a master; so much so, that...