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.
- In Rwanda in 1994, Hutus enthusiastically murdered 70% of Tutsis.
- Extremely high levels of inter-tribal violence have been documented among the Yanomami tribe and tribes in Papua New Guinea.
- During World War II, Nazis killed off 6 million of some 17 million Jews in Europe.
- During and after World War I, Turks massacred around 1.5 million Armenians.
- From 1885 to 1908, King Leopold of Belgium is estimated to have worked to death 8 to 10 million inhabitants of the Congo Free State, or around 50% of them. Today, tourists in Belgium buy charming little confections of chocolate in the shape of a severed hand. We delight in them. Rather should we weep. For chopping off hands was a common means by which ordinary Belgians forced people to work.
- From 1780 to 1930, Australians of British provenance often shot Aboriginals, seeing them as inconvenient vermin.
- 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.
- 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.