Saturday, January 06, 2007

Man against man

After I saw No-Man's land, I decided to look up on genocides. It's seriously depressing. Here's the list of genocides since 1915 according to the wikipedia. Mind you, by limiting it to the post-1900 period, we have knocked off all the people that the europeans took out as part of their colonialism, 'bringing the light of civilization to the illiterate races', 'spreading the word of God' and 'manifest destiny' trip around the world. Also ignored are what the islamic empires, the timurids, the mongols and other assorted world-conquerors did. This is just what happened in the 'enlightened', 'modern' age.

The wikipedia list also ignores cases like the Partition of India (atleast half a million dead, 14 million displaced). It was not a genocide by definition. If we take into account the any number of non-combatant killed in riots, disturbances, terrorism (or freedom-fighting, if you belong to the other side), state-oppression(or internal-security actions, if you belong to the other side), we come up with a huge number of non-combatants killed on a very regular basis.

Reading this list is truly mindboggling. Like the Rwandan genocide : 937000 people were killed in a 100 days, meaning that about 10000 people were killed every day. Most of these killings accomplished by machetes.

Also depressing is how few of the perpetrators actually pay the price. The bottom-line, apparently, is that if you don't lose a war, you will be ok. If you are on the 'right' side of real-politik, you will be ok. Saddam Hussein was using weapons supplied by the US, UK and European countries for his campaign against the Kurds. The Turks have never had to answer for the Armenian Genocide.

What I find most astonishing and scary is the apparent mundanity of the perpetrators. I guess it would feel better if these were some kind of alien creatures. We could disassociate our species from this behaviour. But that is not the case. It looks like while we as a species are capable of great feats, great science, arts and achievements, we are also perfectly capable of great arts of cruelty and extermination.

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