screenshot of the Atlantic essay cover graphic
Screenshot of the cover graphic for the "We've Lost the Plot" essay in the Atlantic

Forgetting our Humanity

“‘The propagandist’s purpose,’ Aldous Huxley observed, ‘is to make one set of people forget that certain other sets of people are human.’”

This quotation came from an essay in the New Yorker referring to the way the far-right of our political spectrum have no regard for the humanity of their political opponents. And when I first read it, I immediately thought of all those people and institutions that forget our humanity. 

I went into critique and condemnation mode. The far-right. The far-left. Every advertisement I encounter that tries to sell me productivity and surface beauty and denies my human limits. The medical establishment that tells expectant mothers with prenatal diagnoses of Down syndrome that their children will be burdens. 

But then I wondered about me. How do I participate in forgetting other people’s humanity? 

Well, there’s the quickness with which I critique whole swaths of people, like I did upon reading this quotation. 

And there’s the relative homogeneity of my world, where I talk with and read and watch what I tend to already agree with. 

So perhaps I am the one who is in danger of succumbing to propaganda and forgetting our common humanity. Perhaps I’m the one who needs the encounters with people who have differing political and religious viewpoints than my own. 

We all can do the work, and receive the joy, of remembering one another’s humanity.

More with Amy Julia:

Embracing Our Common Humanity
People to Follow Across the Political Divides
For Those of Us Who Feel Politically Homeless

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