Lessons from Human Rights Movements: A Connectionist Perspective (2)

26 Jul

In May, I announced our new series about lessons I have learned from human rights movements that will help us build our connectionist movement.  Let’s continue on with the 2nd installment, shall we?


When animal rights activists and connectionists hear talk of “dehumanizing” individuals, we often have a much different reaction than human rights exclusive folks. To talk of dehumanization, to us, implies speciesism. The idea that one of the worst things a person could be compared to is a non-human animal, the other, supports a hierarchy of worth. But we need to put these statements into context. We know that there is a strong hierarchy of power and worth embraced as the status quo, the norm. We know that this hierarchy justifies the exploitation of that which does not fit into the top level of the hierarchy, humanity. So in essence, it is true that to be dehumanized has horrible consequences for human beings. When individuals are dehumanized, they do not enjoy freedom from exploitation. To see this reality, we need only look at both past and modern-day human slavery as an example.

The Lesson:

  • Barrier 4: The speciesism of “dehumanization.”
  • Proposed Solution to Barrier 4: Put these statements into context. Avoid immediately reacting to the speciesist components of this analysis. Recognize the historical and current tactic of comparing humans to animals as a means to justify violence and oppression. Come to the discussion with an authentic understanding and acknowledgement of this reality.


For many of the reasons noted in previous barriers, a connectionist perspective makes folks angry. It challenges the comfort and privilege gained from the exploitation of other humans, non-human animals, and the environment. It causes cognitive dissonance. To hear a connectionist perspective is to analyze every choice one makes. The solution? Either acknowledge how all choices impact all beings and the planet or deny it. Denial usually comes in the form of anger, no? It’s hard to interact with anyone who comes to the table from a place of anger, but the more we can expect and understand it, the more effective we’ll be.

The Lesson:

  • Barrier 5: Anger
  • Proposed Solution to Barrier 5: Be prepared, understanding, and honest about anger. Expect anger from human rights exclusive folks, understand where it comes from, and honestly reflect it back to the person. Avoiding or ignoring it will get us nowhere. The more we can highlight anger and explore where it comes from, the more we’ll be able to bring the roots of exploitation to light. People may not appreciate the mirror we hold up right away, but it is sure to have an impact. Besides, what’s the harm? They are already angry.

Stay tuned for more!  In the meantime, what are your thoughts and experiences?  Have you come from human rights movements?


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