Dehumanization: How to Avoid Your Own Guilt

One of the biggest themes in Ahmed Khaled Towfik’s Utopia is the idea of dehumanization. This idea is prevalent throughout both sides of society that are shown in Egypt at the time. The rich side of Utopia dehumanizes their own people by avoiding human connection, doing drugs, and separating themselves from virtually the rest of the world. The “others” experience dehumanization in the simplest ways of being treated as less than human by those in Utopia, by normalizing violence in their everyday lives, and by popularizing and normalizing prostitution as a viable career choice.

This act of dehumanizing the people you are surrounded by struck me as very interesting and made me curious to look further into why societies do it. What is the point? Do we do it on purpose or is it something that just happens when desperate times are upon us?

My theory is that dehumanizing a group of people (especially the ones you are trying to take control or power over) is a method used to help subconsciously relieve some guilt and avoid the harsh reality of what you’re doing. If you were to look a person in the eyes, and know their name and their whole life story, it would be pretty impossible to kill them or hurt them because of the guilt you would feel. Should you look away, it would become a bit easier. Don’t know their name or their story? Even easier. Treat them as if they are sub-human, animals, dirt, rodents? Easy peasy.

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This tactic as a way to divert from the horror of what you’re doing is what I believe leads societies to commits things like mass genocides. We can see this in the Holocaust and how Jewish people were illustrated as rats, as sub-human, to make people feel a little less guilty for the awful things that were being done. I think Towkif’s imagery of what it means to dehumanize can teach us a lot about out society and how we handle (or avoid) guilt.

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