I was recently at a company and I passed a sign, Human Resources, which was in bold
black letters. The sign was posted above a hallway, which most likely led to another section inside the more prodigious general business offices.
This is nothing new. I've heard that name -
human resources - many times. I'm sure you have to, and further explanations are not even necessary.
I don't need to search a dictionary definition
of what it denotes, since both you and I have a good idea of what Human Resources is all about. This is the department that
takes care of the company's employees. Most importantly, this little corner of
the concern manages the hiring and firing of workers.
Somewhere down that hallway, inside that office, is a filing cabinet, most likely, and every worker has a manila folder with his or her name on it, along with the application they filled out and signed before they even began working here. And clipped to the application may be the interviewer's notes - maybe the interview was conducted by the director of H.R. or a department foreman who this new hire answered to after becoming an employee here. Any disciplinary forms, or congratulatory letters, are tucked away in those folders, along with commendations for work well done, promotional notices, and work status reports. Of course, in this day and age of working toward a paperless society, there might not be any paper files on the company's workers. All this might be stored on a computer in that little cubbyhole of the business.
Then I thought of that name, human resources, and how semantics have made human beings into a commodity: like coal, oil, sugar, soybeans or pork bellies. And I considered that every folder in that department is a person - a person with a family, probably, and mouths to feed and bodies to clothe. And I'm sure if I went and asked most of the workers employed at this place why they were there working, that's exactly one of the first things they'd say - "I'm here because I have mouths to feed and a family to clothe."
To me, the sterilization of denoting company workers as human resources has taken on a connotative meaning. It's an amoral and sterilized semantic, isn't it? People cease being people when they start their work shifts at this company and instead, they become resources.
Every person employed at the company I visited probably has a
favorite band, a favorite football and / or baseball team, a nifty restaurant they
enjoy eating at, and probably even a favorite color. They have people they love and people who love them. One guy might enjoy riding his Harley-Davidson motorcycle on weekends on the open road with his friends; while the woman who works down the line from him prefers watching Lifetime movies and crocheting on Saturday nights, after perusing a farmer's market with her husband right after they have morning coffee together, and later, if this woman isn't too tired from working all week, she may enjoy doing some shopping with her daughter in the afternoon.
Such is life. And many of these workers, if they are honest, would probably admit that their lives begin after work. There are people out there on that production floor and collectively speaking, they're hardly 'human resources.' No. They're human beings. Or "people" - to use the common vernacular.
In an online audio book 'Less than Human': The Psychology of Cruelty, David Livingstone Smith speaks about an array of issues, including how dehumanization occurs with soldiers posing with dead enemies and thinking of these corpses as trophies, even thinking of these enemies like "game animals."
"When people dehumanize others, they actually conceive of them as subhuman creatures. It's only because they think of them as subhuman creatures that this process can liberate aggression and exclude the target of aggression from the moral community," Smith is quoted in an interview on this NPR book - a compelling, 30-minute interview with NPR's Neal Conan.
When Nazis categorized Jews as rats during the Holocaust, it
was not just a figurative thing. The Nazis really considered Jewish people as rodent-like vermin. Similarly, Hutus
involved in the Rwanda genocide called Tutsis "cockroaches." And during the 1700s and 1800s, white Western Europeans, who held all of the of power, money and entitlement in
this Colonial New World, considered aboriginal, First Nations people and Africans as less-than-human. Africans were shipped over and made plantation slaves and Indians were hunted like game by the white man. - So
entire races have been marginalized historically, and this type of
categorization is particularly evident during times of war, and subsequently, during periods
of genocide against other ethnic groups or races. (See ibid.
A few months ago, right-wing, teabagging Ted Nugent called American Indians "stinking, unclean vermin," which is a good example that the kind of sub-humanizing Smith talks of in his NPR audio book is very much alive and well today. Nothing's changed, actually; and this arrogant entitlement of "who is more human than who" as far as race and ethnic background are concerned, is still a political ploy utilized by someone belonging to a race who thinks of himself as more privileged and even "more human" than another race. In this case, it's an aging, eccentric, Caucasian, guitarist and singer who made a few hits during the 1970s. Of course, this kind of thinking becomes dangerous when it's accepted by an ultra-conservative, elitist fringe of political hacks, who might just decide on acting on Nugent's extreme views by taking on a persecuting role. It sounds outlandish and impossible, but it's been done already in America on innumerable occasions, so why can't it happen again? There's been no race of people, in world history, who have suffered the effects of genocide, apartheid and hegemony more than Indians have, after all.
Martin Luther King Jr. said in 1967's "Beyond Vietnam -- A Time to Break Silence: "We as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered."
Dr. King's quote is arguably more apropos today than even
during the turbulent times of the 1960s. In a day and age when people who
operate machines are delegated to being machines themselves, when money is of
more value than human life, society has become much worse than even immoral --
it has become amoral. We live in a clinically clean business, political, and
economic world in which women are objectified, abused, and even discarded in heinous sexual ways. As far as
American society is concerned, it seems to be becoming an acceptable standard. In today's world of strip
clubbing, cybersex, and "hooking up" for good times, any nubile body will do. It doesn't
matter that the soul inside the physical representation has a personality and a
character; no, it's more like: Let me see that hot body. Take off those clothes. Shake that thing. Dance for me. Dance, dance, dance.
Welcome to the flesh farm...The sin factory...The amoral and immoral department of lust, lechery and The American Wet Dream. And this is just another glaring example of sub-humanizing people.