Creating monsters is not difficult. In fact, most of us do it automatically. We don’t go out of our way seeking someone to blame for what’s messed up in our world, but we certainly do fall into line when someone else proposes easy blame.
Mexicans are all rapists and drug dealers.
Feminists want to dispose of all men.
Muslims want to kill us all, because they hate our freedom.
Christians hate gays, and born babies.
When Truth Gets in the way
None of these statements are true. But they are easy. They target well, hit their mark, and encourage a highly effective, coping mechanism of displaced blame. They also have the added benefit of making the speaker, and often their audience, feel that they are superior somehow.
It is the “Others” that are screwing everything up. It is the “Others” that we must police more heavily, suspect more readily, and single out for swift justice.
The problem with such blanket statements, of course, is that they sometimes hold one tiny fragment of truth. To say Mexicans are all criminals, for example, is wrong, even though surely some of them are criminals. However, the real falsehood is in what is not said:
There are criminals in the white population, as well. Proportionately, the more privileged classes get away with both petty, and serious crimes, more often.
Let’s look at another monstrous idea. Feminists want to displace, or even, dispose of all men. The problem again is painting feminist broads with too broad a brush. Feminists are not even an ethnic ‘group’, even less, so, then Hispanic people. In fact, some of them are Hispanic people. But they are not a monolith. Some are pro-choice and still oppose abortion. Some cannot support abortion rights, and may or may not be Christian. Some feminists are men.
The never-won struggle for equality seeks to free men and women, but making feminists the monster-bitches who fuss, rave, and accuse men, is just too tempting a sound bite.
Another monster making tool is using “should.” We see what should be the case. Anti -feminists should all be on the side of demanding human rights and common sense. Or, someone might say: Muslims should love freedom. They are too strict with their religious dogma. Well, the problem is that someone, somewhere, does resent American’s freedom. Some are rigidly religious. Some are not. We only hear about the extremists, not the quiet, regular people just going to work everyday while happening to be Muslims.
Even Christians should behave better. In the case of accusing someone of Christianity, this usually means the speaker means someone is narrow minded, bigoted, against women’s human rights, and very gung-ho about fetal tissue, only. But this too, is not really an accurate depiction of most Christians.
When we use the word “should” we have to examine what we fear, and why we think less of others.
Why we create monsters instead of solutions
We went from about two million years as upright people that depended entirely upon a close-knit tribe, to being separate. Yet, culturally, and genetically, mixed people spread far and wide. We evolved to seek both authority which leads to a craving for easy answers, but, we also evolved with small communities that needed “otherism” in order to very quickly assess which stranger was a threat, and which stranger offered help.
It is all to easy to find some face-value difference of others with separate faith, food, rules, and rituals. If we cannot instantly find the right pigeon-hole in which to sort out all of these people, we tend to just feel safer emotionally, and mentally, by excluding them from our team. This is our in-group.
Stereotypes developed precisely in this very way. Although we often experience cognitive dissonance when we misplace someone’s character, often enough, just one subtle nudge from a fear-mongering leader, or passionate rhetoric from some simmering movement, will provide the impetus most people need to continue exclusion.
AOC, misogyny, and thee
Over the last couple of year, we have heard an awful lot about sexual harassment, rapists, #Metoo, rape culture, and men in leadership roles. Trump comes to mind, but also Brett Kavanaugh, (among others) who appear to be untouchable, in terms of how gropers are not gripped by Lady Justice.
A recent scandal involves billionaire, Jeffrey Epstein. These pillars of society can be looked upon as expected creations in a system where some are made into monsters, simply because traditionally, it was powerful men who make the rules.
Others, often the victims, are made out to be merely “monstrous” because — you know, bitch gonna be lyin’ — we live in a land where we are supposed to have a rule of law. People get angry with the merest suggestion against ‘innocent until proven guilty,’ allegations.
Last week, it was revealed that AOC, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, congressional representative from New York, was targeted by a Facebook group as one of those “uppity” women we hear so much about. She was upset about the brutal conditions at a Mexican border detention center. AOC, does not seem to garner respect from the border agents who work for us.
Graphic images depicting AOC sexually, the alleged ordering by some guards for women to drink from the toilet, and AOC’s recent use of the term “concentration camps” have all been assailed by her critics. But, AOC, was only pointing out that every living person has the capacity to become — to go along with — monstrous ideas.
How could we veer so off-course as a people of values that we allow such monstrosities?
In the case of rape culture, some people simply don’t know that rape means sex without consent. They don’t realize that a woman who “gives in” is a victim. Even after years of #MeToo, people don’t seem to grasp that it is usually a date, a boyfriend, a neighbor, a relative, or even a spouse, who commits rape. Women still don’t report. Women get called on this too.
In the case of sexual harassment, and everyday sexism, people create a mental map that says, again, it’s others, not me, nor thee, that is allowing such every day, destructive attitudes to prevail.
We all create monsters because of implicit bias. So, the only fix is to become aware of it.
Now that millions of people have become inured to the misdeeds of the Trump family, we look at the whole clan as monsters. We won’t call them out on their simple deplorable manners, because their shocking sins are more engrossing. Yet, daily blunders and global threats are simply dismissed away as what is to be expected. We do not automatically become Nazis, overnight. When we normalize any egregious behavior, however, it’s easy to set out on a nightmare journey that begins with a single misstep.
We become monsters slowly. When we don’t see our own personal power, or demand representation, we do it. When we don’t demand compassion for the vulnerable, we do it.
When we don’t look at the big, long historical arc of history, and our darker moments, we can hide in the shadows of our scapegoats, and become monsters ourselves.