Yesterday I watched a moving special edition of The Antiques Roadshow focussed on relics of The Holocaust. One of the most chilling was a children’s board game the object of which was to be the first to roundup and deport a set number of Jews. [This was not a government propaganda exercise but a commercial product made for profit which was very successful!]
I am currently reading the works of the later Roman Stoics Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, and Seneca which contain occasional, and almost casual, references to the horrors of The Coliseum.
How do we do it? How does mankind ever allow itself to get into these positions where it can dehumanise chosen groups to such an extent? We are all fundamentally the same. Flesh and blood, hopes and fears, ups and downs.
But the problems start when we divide ourselves into good and bad, them and us. When we start telling ourselves stories about each other that demonise and dehumanise those we perceive as different from us. We then start taking these stories very seriously. Deadly seriously.
We need to be ever vigilant to avoid this tendency—in others, but most crucially in ourselves.