A little shout out to the man this morning who greeted the Tim Horton's server by name in the line in front of me, asked about her day, then went on his way with a shared smile. It was a telling micro-interaction, I felt, not least because it felt so different from the usual state of things. It was almost counter-cultural in fact.
Personally, I've come to dislike the word "objectification" - it doesn't address the problem accurately, not least because we are all objects in the world. As an inverse, perhaps "subjectification" holds more validity. The man in the Tim Horton's line made the person behind the counter, quite intentionally, into an individual subject.
No big deal, you might say, but of course, perhaps it isa big deal. Human beings are quite incredibly good at denying one another's subjectivity (often an "unknown"), and filling the resulting hole with projections. "Server" can very easily slip unconsciously to "that which brings me coffee" or the "coffee-thing". In the same way a man or woman can be reduced to a "threat-thing", or an "opportunity-thing" based on their biology, and unacknowledged complexity.
In a world seemly dominated by identity politics on both sides of the political divide, mass society, and (perhaps not coincidentally) problematic online environments, respect for each individual we come across has become increasingly rare. It's as if we meet abstract ideas much of the time, rather than people; something which is dangerous, as well as superficial.
Human beings have a terrible history of encountering one another as abstractions. Since an abstraction is not a true encounter, but an encounter of personally held and projected ideas, it is the breeding ground for all manner of monstrosity, allowing as it does for a reduction of one another to our own prejudice and desire.
As a mechanism, projection and the denial of the individual other are both based upon expressions of self, rather than actual encounters. For this reason, the man in the Tim Horton's line was challenging the most destructive elements of narcissism in society, which are at risk of running amok. I hope this goes without saying: in therapy, we work with individuals!
Psychotherapist, working in private practice in the Annex, Toronto.