Dehumanization is the act and also the effect of clarifying a person or group of people of their characteristics that define them as human beings.
The 5 stages of dehumanization are a process which together constitutes a tool which has been of great help to certain power groups. throughout human history for containing many atrocities against other human beings.
Before explaining the 5 steps of dehumanization, it is worth thinking a little about what the word dehumanization really is.
What is dehumanization?
We must first ask ourselves: what does it mean to be a human being? To answer this question, we could say that a human person is a person who he has a series of rights by the simple fact of being, and they should, in theory, belong to all human beings equally.
However, the fact that all human beings should have the same rights in practice is very different. As we will see in this article, many people have been deprived of their rights throughout history, no longer being treated as human beings.
Dehumanization is a concept that it means depriving a person or a group of people of their human characteristics and also of their rights as such. In this context, it is a concept that has been widely used to explain human evil.
Throughout the history of mankind, it is striking that much of the abuse perpetrated against certain groups of people who had been treated as if they were not human beings were tortured by people. ordinary; although it is true that these abuses took place under extraordinary circumstances.
We will qualify that. It is true that at the head of these atrocities was usually a person or group of people who could be described as cruel, ruthless and many other derogatory adjectives, but it is also true that these lonely people do not could have committed these atrocities without the collaboration of others who were under his command, whether under a feeling of loyalty, under duress, being in a situation of desperation or fear.
However, even though many proper names come to mind because they have committed atrocious and despicable acts, this is not about suing anyone in particular for their actions, but the crux of the matter is reflecting on the make that in certain circumstances, a person with no intention of harming anyone could do so indirectly in a certain context or also under duress., and this was made possible by a very powerful tool through a process divided by the 5 stages of dehumanization, as we will see below.
What are the 5 stages of dehumanization?
Crimes against humanity are experts who claim that they were committed, in part, as part of a process of dehumanization, which it is divided into different phases.
The 5 stages of dehumanization pass successively forming a powerful tool that allows a power group, with a certain ideology, to coerce and condition other people, usually subordinates, to perpetrate a series of atrocities and even first but they would never believe that they would be able to do such a thing, get them to find a justification for doing it.
Rather, we will briefly review the 5 stages of dehumanization that may be part of the process behind crimes against humanity.
1. The creation of fear
The first step in this dehumanization is to get a group of people to cross ethical boundaries. instill in them fear, fear for their own life and that of their loved ones.
Instilling fear in people of what might happen to them and their families is a tool that has been widely used by dictatorial regimes throughout history in several countries. By instilling fear in their subordinates, they easily become scapegoats and thus become responsible for the crimes committed.
In this first step, an ideology would begin to form in society, which can be based on preconceived ideas of racism, homophobia, etc.
2. Soft exclusion
The second of the 5 stages of dehumanization is soft exclusion, which consists of exclude the group of subjects, who have become scapegoats, from certain sectors of society (For example, the Nazis began by excluding Jews from public functions, such as hospitals and universities).
In this second stage, the ideology of the power group would take some credit for society.
3. Documented justification for fear and exclusion
To achieve this third of the 5 stages of dehumanization, the power group uses media coverage and documented research to provide evidence and thus justify the reason for exclusion of the group of people who are meant to be excluded, such as the argument about what it is for the “good of society”.
After having taken this step, the ideology of the power group would be formally consecrated.
4. Hard exclusion
In this fourth stage of dehumanization, the goal would be hard exclusion, which is to show the rest of the population that “this group has been shown to be the cause of social problems”, they must therefore be excluded from civil society and cease to be people with rights, so that they have neither voice nor vote in society, being social pariahs.
After having carried out this fourth stage, the ideology of the power group would be strongly consolidated socially.
Upon reaching the last of the 5 stages of dehumanization, the extermination of the oppressed group would begin, so that its members would be forcibly expelled from society (to concentration camps, ghettos, prisons, etc.). to be treated as “non-human” and even to be exterminated.
If the previous 4 steps have been taken successfully, the last step will be easier because there are fewer people left to worry about defending them because they have lost their voice in the society in which they lived and, consequently, their rights. as a human. beings.
An example: the case of Dražen
To better understand the 5 stages of dehumanization, let’s look at the case of Dražen Erdemović is an example that any human being in a desperate situation could arrive where he never imagined, and that’s when he exploded. the 1992 war in Bosnia and Herzegovina (who was part of Yugoslavia), Dražen, against his will, was recruited into the Yugoslav army to fight the Croatian army. At the time, Dražen was 21 and a young man like everyone else with hopes and plans for his future, such as having a decent job or starting a family.
A year later, Dražen was able to leave the army to return to his wife, who had just given birth to their son, and thus began a new life away from the war thanks to an intermediary who had agreed with Dražen to them. provided documents that would allow him and his family to leave the country. However, the intermediary did not show any sign of life, having collected the agreed money for the assistance he was to give them, so that they could not leave the country.
At that time, the family was in a precarious and very complicated situation, as they had no housing, money or work to earn a living. So the only option Dražen had in this moment of desperation was to accept a friend’s offer to enlist in the Bosnian Serb army., for they gave him a house where he could lodge his wife and son, and also paid him a salary. The house where Dražen’s family lived belonged to a Muslim family who had been forcibly evicted by the army.
Dražen, who had accepted the post to be able to feed his family in a situation as precarious and desperate as the one they were going through, he told himself that everything he did would be temporary and that he was doing it to help his family. So one day he was sent on a mission ordered by his superiors, buses full of people began to arrive, including children, blindfolded and hands tied. Dražen’s superiors then ordered him and his comrades to shoot these people in the head.
Dražen protested to the superior who ordered him and persisted in refusing to execute these people, but he soon realized that if he did not do so, he would end up being executed. Then, to the warning and anger of his commanding officer, he stood in position, next to his comrades, and started shooting at these people.
Some time later, he could not come to terms with the facts and surrendered to the authorities, being taken to the International Criminal Court, where he confessed that, according to his estimates, he had killed around 70 people, he is so happened to. be tried and convicted of crimes against humanity as a war criminal, despite showing remorse for his actions.
Dražen’s story could be a story between millions of like-minded people, which leads us to reflect and see this in such a desperate situation as Dražen’s. any ordinary person, who has no intention of harming anyone and just wants to get on with it, could cross unsuspected boundaries.
As well as being conditioned and coerced by this 5-step dehumanization system into committing these crimes, so were Dražen’s superiors. And these atrocities did not happen overnight, but the power group, the oppressors, did perform each of the 5 stages of dehumanization, to achieve the goal of exterminating these innocent people.
- Alting, C. (2014). Human rights, history and anthropology: reorienting the debate. Hungarian review.
- Dolent, P. (2017). Evil and dehumanization. Evolution and neuroscience.
- Marín Gonzáles, J. (2003). Biogenetic “races” do not exist, but racism does exist, as an ideology. Journal of Educational Dialogue, 4 (9): pp. 107-113,