“Probing the Depths of Our Cruelty”
A review of
Less than Human:
Why we Demean, Enslave and Exterminate Others.
by David Livingstone Smith.
Review by Eric Judge.
Have you ever wondered if you could kill another person? In the right circumstances I always thought that I probably could. I assumed that my act of violence would be in defense of the life of someone that I loved, something heroic. However, David Livingston Smith’s new book Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others invites readers to look inside their own minds to examine the ways in which humans think their way into violence that is much less than heroic. Once on a high school sports trip, I overheard my coach and another adult discussing child molesters. One of them suggested that someone who sexually abuses a child should be taken out back and shot in the head. I felt he suggested this solution not only because of the heinous nature of the crime but because of the perverted nature of the offender. It was assumed that a child molester is a different kind of person than the rest of us and therefore needed to be put down, as you would a rabid dog. I can not remember what, if any, names were used to describe this hypothetical child molester, but it left me with the distinct impression this person was an animal. This memory connects quite vividly to the concept of dehumanization that Smith seeks to understand and elucidate in this well written, challenging, and accessible book.