Sublte dehumanising practices
Imagine that you lend someone R100 which they say that they will return in two days. They return the money a day late and only give you R 95 back. The dilemma is that five percent theft is big enough for you to legitimately feel that the person does not respect you. The slips are too small however for you to confront them without appearing petty or stingy. Extend this principle to someone greeting others in a group and saying a few words to each, and greeting you in a brief and perfunctory way, or laughing at everyone else’s jokes and not at yours, or making eye contact with the others and keeping you in their peripheral vision. Of course when this person needs something from you they speak to you as enthusiastically as they to the others. This has you wondering if you are not just being too sensitive or just going crazy in assuming that they discriminate against you in their manner. This same person always seems to give you the less glamorous tasks, the less career building tasks and less praise than their “in-crowd” colleagues. The dehumanising practices upon which I have been elaborating in the past few weeks appear to be about race, religion and gender. They are really about power. When abuse of power is institutionalised like in apartheid, it is easy to see, confront, resist or work around. Many tensions that occur in society today are a result of the subtle abuses of power that are strongly felt but not seen. While these abuses are unseen, they can be and are readily denied, allowing the perpetrators to continue with impunity, even privately gloating. Whatever we prefer to believe, a myriad of these practices are alive and well and living in our country. In order to build genuine trust and positive regard you to have to be really careful with your subtle slips in word and action and never to steal that metaphorical five percent.