You Are Dangerous. And Genocidal

We like to think of human beings as decent people, with genocidal killers such as the Nazis as abnormal.

This is wrong. Most of us are capable of massacring others. All we need is to see our victims as somehow sub-human. This is not hard if they look different, or speak a different language, or have a different religion (doctrinal differences can be tiny), or if blood has been spilled and we seek revenge.

Examples abound:

A charming confection of chocolate shaped like chopped-off hands? A sinister invocation of forced labor and genocide by ordinary Belgians
Citizens of Nevada. They got in the way and so were mostly exterminated
  • American settlers murdered indigenous Americans, also seen as vermin. Eg, around 1860, Nevadans exterminated hunter-gatherer Paiutes. Their ghosts stand, in plain sight yet unseen, before oblivious revellers at the Burning Man festival.
  • From around 1700 to 1838, British emigres in Jamaica usually worked slaves to death. They believed overall costs were less than treating the slaves less viciously so they were capable of reproducing. USA slave masters made the reverse calculation. So be wary of condemning US slavery as the very epitome of evil. It was worse elsewhere.
  • In 1582, French Catholics killed Protestants over tiny doctrinal differences in the Saint Bartholemew’s Day Massacre.
  • Estimated at around 700BC, God told his Chosen People to show no mercy towards the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. When defeated, they were to be totally killed off. See Deuteronomy 7.1–5, Deuteronomy 20.17.
Neanderthals. Our “displaced” kith and kin
  • Around 40,000 years ago, homo sapiens displaced our close cousins, the Neanderthals. They were so similar that we often interbred with them. Current evidence suggests the displacement was largely a matter of killing and forced removal.
  • Generally, it appears that prehistoric hunter-gatherer groups frequently massacred competing groups.

Where the killing is state-sponsored, you might argue that the killers were coerced and otherwise wouldn’t have been killers.

While this is sometimes the case, often it isn’t. Most guards at Nazi death camps and most Belgian hand-choppers were ordinary people. Just like you and me.


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