“Not all..”

It’s been scratching at the back of my mind, this thing where we’re never allowed to say “Not all…” in response to any blanket statement about men, women, politics – anything involving people.

Aside from an obvious allergy to stereotyping (developed growing up under apartheid when all you heard was “all blacks etc etc”), there was a deeper unease that I couldn’t frame, but now I know what it is.

The two most important weapons used to build a fascist (or any totalitarian) regime are fear and loathing.  The problem? It’s not as easy as you think.

Part of human strength/frailty (depending on how you look at it) is that we connect – we talk, we sympathise, we help, we defend and generally respond to one another. The trick to getting us to cut out an entire sector of humanity is to get us to stop see that sector as human. Dehumanisation.

We have to get to the place where we can’t connect, their body language, their concerns become alien. It takes a lot of work and the foundation is to stop them from speaking – words are lethal because if we can hear them, we’ll connect.

One they’re muted, it get easier. A constant barrage of images, stories, testimonies, cartoons, films, rumours and slogans are a time-tested method of ostracisation – by now, any effort to prove that the majority of said group are not evil incarnate only has the opposite effect: it’s a guy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest trying to tell Nurse Ratchett that it’s all a mistake, he’s actually sane.

The next step is the hideous one: it’s where we’ve mob-minded and zombified ourselves enough to descend into our own inhumanity, and it’s pretty textbook. Whether this is the moment that we, as paparazzi, watch someone drive into a wall so we can get great pictures, we take one night to kill a million of our neighbours with machetes, or we start to round people up into cattle trucks, it’s all the same thing: we can cull because these are no longer people, they’re vermin.

So, that’s why it bothers me:  “not all” is exactly what’s required to stop us dehumanising any group of people, even if it cuts a few percentage points off the slogan’s punch.


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