November 08, 2005

O, but we do hold our sacred cows to be sacred indeed. What point, else?

Above all we must never Never NEVER entertain, even in the potential, even in the abstract, the least possibility that what we observe and study in others might possibly apply to ourselves as well: and if any source even suggests otherwise we must deliberately close our eyes lest we see something which challenges our identity-linked truths -- and do our utmost to undermine their credibility as well, lest another, less knowledgeable than us, accidentally encounter them and form a wrong opinion.

Which, of course, is how history repeats.

The stages of genocide, perhaps inextricably linked with religion, nationality, and economics (especially where a reasonably comfortable and established socioeconomic class has been displaced or otherwise eroded and its circumstances worsened), are commonly considered to be:
  1. Classification: in which people are separated into groups classified by some key trait (race, religion, nationality ...): specifying and then exclusively focussing on the key difference, and thus introducing and promoting an "us vs. them" attitude.
  2. Symbolisation: in which the difference used to identify "them" is linked to a symbol or cataloguing system.
  3. Dehumanisation: in which members of one group are likened to animals, vermin or disease; and commonly mythologies or distorted truths are spread about them as well.
  4. Organisation: in which newspapers and radios begin spreading these dehumanising messages, hate groups are organised, and militias are formed, trained, and armed.
  5. Polarisation: in which extremists drive the two groups apart, emphasising "us" vs. "them", "if you are not with us, you are against us"; moderates and those attempting to be neutral are increasingly denounced as unpatriotic or traitors and are actively persecuted. This is usually the point where the killing begins: and instantly the message that spreads is one of kill or be killed.
Thus far, perhaps, we might just recognise (and uncomfortably close upon our porches yet): but there are eight stages in all, and still time to step aside. Yet knowledge implies duty: and by the time we decide -- are willing even to see -- what is happening, it is over?

Why can't we see? Not our problem? Not in our backyard? (and are we so very sure about that?) Too terrifying, too unreal to contemplate? Look in the mirror, at the wolf lurking closely behind your eyes -- and then look closely at what is happening all around you. Why should we think that we, uniquely, are somehow exempt?

But perhaps, just this once, the next two stages we won't have to learn about except in textbooks of ancient history -- leaving us finally free of the need to Deny.

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