Classrooms are not exempt of the many social problems that ravage our humanity. Today I am going to talk a little bit about one of those social problems: toxic dehumanization. What is toxic dehumanization? For explaining this I need to explain some details further.
It all began when someone told me he wanted to “eradicate toxic masculinity”. I had no idea of what that term meant. I do know what “machismo” is, but at that moment I had no idea that “toxic masculinity” is basically its synonym. The person then explained me that it was a term that was just created as a psychological disorder by APA…
Then the next day the famous Gillete ad came, and suddenly the term “toxic masculinity” was everywhere.
Well, as I see it, the true problem is not “toxic masculinity”. I am not saying that I agree with “toxic masculinity”, I do agree that it is a social problem. What I say is that “toxic masculinity” is a symptom of another disorder, instead of being a disorder by itself.
As I see it, the disorder behind “toxic masculinity” and many other “social disorders” is “toxic dehumanization”: practices that legitimizes a powerful ideological dominant position in society and justifies the subordination of the human common good and human personal formation to an ideology.
Let’s use the Gillete ad example. If this ad was truly meant to “eradicate toxic masculinity”, it would have not been used precisely to promote the use of psychological aggression (aka: violence) as an indicator of power, something that “toxic masculinity” promotes.
We can’t only promote “the best man can be”. We must promote “the best human being can be”. There is a slight different in seeking to promote only what can be good only to some and what can be good to all. Promoting only the growth of some is violence, if violence is defined as anything that violates human rights.
Something that is very commonly related to “toxic dehumanization” is doing everything just as an opposition to something or someone. Instead of affirming their being according who they truly are, they will affirm who they are according to who or what they oppose, because an ideology can’t be affirmed by itself, so it must be affirmed as an opposition to someone or something. Said in other forms: toxic dehumanization promotes the growth of human being as a process of opposition to who we are (a process of dehumanization, a process of ideological opposition to the human being), instead of being a process of affirmation of who we are (a process of humanization, a process of personal affirmation of the human being), as it should be. If you choose not to affirm what it is (the being), the only way you can affirm yourself is in opposition to the being. This applies one the almost–forgotten–by–everyone ontological properties of all beings: no being can be and not be at the same time.
Instead of affirming the truth (“this is dehumanization”), toxic dehumanizers will say “this is humanization” but only to promote the best personal formation possible of some: of those who are convenient to their “ideological dominant position”. All others who do not “comply” with that position will be seen as “opposition” to them. All others who are not convenient or important according to that position will be simply dehumanized.
If you have eyes to see and ears to hear, you will realize that this is happening today way too often and that toxic dehumanization ––a disorder that switches the social order from promoting the best growth of everyone to promoting the “ideological dominant position”–– is a very serious problem of our society, a disorder with many symptoms, like toxic masculinity. You can see toxic dehumanization in the poor people that die of hunger because there are not important as human beings to those who are only interested in promoting the ideological dominant position. You can see it in the so many children that instead of getting an education that is ordered to promote the best growth possible for everyone and making possible that everyone can be the best they can be, it is ordered to promote the ideological dominant position, leaving those who are not convenient to the ideological dominant position behind. You can see it in the many disabled, vulnerable and elderly people that are helped only if they comply with the dominant ideological position, of that are helped only in the way that it is convenient to the ideological dominant position, instead of being helped in the way that helps them grow as the best person they can be… so on, so on, there are many ways to see how toxic dehumanization ravages our society as a process of ideological opposition that happens inside out.
The only solution to toxic dehumanization is igniting personal humanization processes, igniting an integractive humanism, a new humanization: practices that legitimizes a human personal inclusive position in society, centering society in the human common good and promoting the best personal formation possible of everyone. There are so many ways to do this! Just be creative.
So, how to do this in the classroom? How to promote the human common good and the best personal formation possible of everyone in the classroom?
For me, the answer is: helping to grow unconditionally, contemplating everyone not only as a student –or a teacher, or a boss, or a director, or an administrator, or a janitor…–– but also as a human being that is in the middle of a growth process where mistakes are allowed and part of the process.
As a Christian, contemplating everyone as a human being is rooted in a very beautiful God-given giftedness: contemplating unconditionally in everyone the light of human dignity that God has given to every person, to every son and daughter of the Creator. No matter how a person behaves, he or she is not defined by his or her behavior. Every person must be defined primarily as God defines him or her: as a human being with a God-given dignity that must be respected unconditionally.
So, think for a moment: how can you start humanization processes exactly where you are? Whatever the answer is, dare to plan it and to execute it. Eradicating toxic humanization and promoting humanization processes everywhere is a duty not only of a teacher, but of everyone citizen interested in serving the common good, interested in creating a more human culture, a more human nation, a more human humanity… a better world for all, where anyone ––not only men, or not only those convenient to the “dominant ideological position”–– can choose to become the best they can be.