There is an old saying which states, "murder becomes easier the second time".
What is meant by this is that taking another man's life becomes easier the more often you
do it. If it only becomes easier after already killing once, how does one manage to
succeed in committing that initial murder? By studying events in history, most historians,
psychologists, and criminologists believe it is through a process called dehumanization.
1Dehumanization is the psychological process of demonizing the enemy, making them
seem less than human and hence not worthy of humane treatments. In his novel Faces of
the Enemy, Sam Keens describes the different personas people use to demonize their
enemies. Keens believes that by refusing to acknowledge the enemy as a human being
and viewing them solely as "the rapist", "the savage", "the subhuman", etc., people are
able to commit murder, and other such crimes. This process is often used during war,
where soldiers are taught to dehumanize their enemies so that they may feel justified in
killing them and are free of guilt. Consequently, learning to dehumanize not only makes
it easier for soldiers to kill their enemies, but torture them. By feeling their actions are
justified, soldiers are free of remorse, and are motivated to exceed simple murder. This
eventually leads to whole armies being encouraged to commit war atrocities such as
violating the human rights of a nation, committing war crimes, and causing genocides.
An army is unable to commit war atrocities, such as these, unless some process of
dehumanization occurs. Thus, war atrocities are the result of dehumanization. This can be
examined through the genocide in Australia, the genocide of Herero and Namaqua, and
the genocide in Bangladesh.
When Britain began their settlement in Australia in 1788, they used
dehumanization to ethnically "cleanse" Australia of its Aboriginal inhabitants by viewing
them as savages, subhumans, and "the blacks". The British settlers considered themselves
to be much more civilized when compared to the Aboriginals, and thus more worthy of
the land. The British felt that since the Aboriginals only consisted of savages, they were
justified in committing war atrocities against them: 2The Aboriginals were viewed by the
settlers as primitive, savage, and unchanging
so in addition to warfare killings, water,
flour, and sugar were poisoned. By viewing the Aboriginals as savages instead of human
beings, the British were not only able to commit war atrocities against them, but felt their
actions were justified. The British settlers also viewed Aboriginals as being subhuman in
comparison to themselves. This led them to believe that because the Aboriginal race was
lesser, it was "natural law" that they be killed and replaced. 3Aboriginal destruction was
reasoned to be natural law, as shown in this comment from a settler in 1849: Nothing
can save the dying away of the Aboriginal race, which Providence has only allowed to
hold the land until replaced by a finer race'. By viewing the Aboriginals as a subhuman
race, the British settlers felt their actions were justified by natural law, or rather, the
notion that since their race is better, it is their right to replace the Aboriginals. Lastly, by
personifying the Aboriginals as "the blacks", the British settlers felt they were ethnically
"cleansing" Australia, not committing mass murder. 4In Tasmania
marshal law was
declared to solve the black problem' and every single native inhabitant was slaughtered.
Since the settlers only saw the Aboriginals as "the blacks", they felt that killing off their
race was not murder but ridding Australia of a problematic race. So, by viewing the
Aboriginals as savages, subhumans, and a black race, British settlers were able to justify
the atrocities they committed against...
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