The latest mass killing in the US has created quite a stir of Othering. It began with a socially outcast vengeful young man with pent-up frustration who blames others for his unhappiness. To many in the US, he was a “Nut Job”. To many people outside the US, he was another “American Nut Job”. To some anti-gun activists, he was another “Mass Murdering Gun Owner”. To some pro-gun people, he was just a “Bad Guy with a Gun”. To some women, he was a Misogynist. To other women, he was another ‘Man’ doing what men do.
Depending upon which particular agenda you would like to promote, the labeling of the killer as a ‘this’ or a ‘that’ is the beginning of a logical sounding, but essentially emotional thinking Othering based argument.
The killer used Othering to a large degree. Othering was the justification for his killing spree. They had Othered him, so now he was going to Other them in return. And assuming the news stories are correct, Othering was the tool that facillitated the killing of his three roommates. Apparently, he hit them on the back of the head with a hammer and slit their throats.
Othering is a highly effective tool for getting the job done. If your primary goal is to kill as efficiently as possible, there is no need for engaging your target as a human being with confrontation, anger, and a frontal attack. Othering offers you the ability to slaughter your dehumanized target without the interference of conscience and ethical considerations.
In terms of self-defense, it is important to realize that if you have been Othered, then it’s time to throw the rules of social conflict out the window. Most likely, your attacker isn’t going to provide you the warning signs of anger and aggression. He or she may lure you, deceive you, and attack you from behind with his or her weapon of choice.
Once you have been Othered, your practiced strategy of logically or emotionally appealing to the other person’s humanity is no longer valid. To him or her, you are no longer human. Therefore, you don’t qualify for the status of negotiation.
You now are faced with engaging in your own form of Othering – Temporary Othering for Self-Defense (TOSD). In its purest form, TOSD means that you dispatch your attacker with the same cold blooded efficiency and methods he would seek to use on you. You use deceit and overwhelming force to disrupt your attacker, foil his plan, and disengage to safety.
The key concept is Temporary. Your Othering is limited to the time necessary to get the job done. The time need for you to get away. Extended Othering is likely to get you sent to jail when you go beyond what is necessary. Othering provides tremendous power. It frees you from the bonds of conscience and the constraints of socialization and ethical issues. It allows you to perform actions that you would ordinarily never do, and therein lies its power.
Temporary Othering for Self-Defense is rational. But rationalized Othering is something else. The California killer rationalized and justified his Othering. It enabled him to kill innocent young women he had never met for simply being women. And in return, it enables the Othering and labeling of the entire male gender as misogynists by those who seek to exploit the dark power of Othering.