In Caracas, sleeping through the constant ringing of car alarms can be a challenge. It seems as though every half hour an alarm goes off and the sound bounces from the walls of the Ávila, echoing through the entire city. When you think of the sounds of Caracas, you think of the sapitos at night, and of car alarms.
But it’s the alarms coming off of the political world that are most worrying. And nothing is as alarm-worthy as Chávez’s straightforward, dehumanizing discourse against his critics.
The rich man, we’re told, is an animal in human form. It’s not just that “being rich is bad.” It goes way beyond that.
Once certain groups are stigmatized as evil, morally inferior, and not fully human, the persecution of those groups becomes more psychologically acceptable. Restraints against aggression and violence begin to disappear. Not surprisingly, dehumanization increases the likelihood of violence and may cause a conflict to escalate out of control. Once a violence breakover has occurred, it may seem even more acceptable for people to do things that they would have regarded as morally unthinkable before.
Parties may come to believe that destruction of the other side is necessary, and pursue an overwhelming victory that will cause one’s opponent to simply disappear. This sort of into-the-sea framing can cause lasting damage to relationships between the conflicting parties, making it more difficult to solve their underlying problems and leading to the loss of more innocent lives.