Critical Dharma for Thinking Minds
No, You Don’t Know What Genocide (Really) Is. But You Should.
Putting little kids in camps. Kids of a certain kind, in camps of a certain kind. Where they are not allowed to hug or be hugged. Where the lights stay on 24 hours a day. Where their diapers aren’t changed. Where they are separated from their siblings and parents. Where soothing these damaged kids has itself become a crime.
Hold on , let’s start over.
Putting little kids in camps where they are, for all intents and purposes, by any reasonable definition of the word, being tortured. If to be tortured is to be left severely traumatized by abuse, then the bar has been met.
Now I am going to make your blood run cold, and your eyes weep. I don’t say that to boast. I say it because at times like these, anything less is indecent, inhuman, and empty. These are self-evidently among the lowest and most debased things that a people can do. But what do the acts above mean — to history, to the world, to the future, and to our better selves? What is the exact word we would use to describe them? What word contains them?
“In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
a Killing members of the group;
b Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
c Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
d Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”
Hold on — isn’t that exactly what we’re doing?
I told you I’d make your blood run cold, didn’t I? Now I am going to make you weep. Let me ask you four questions.
I’d bet that at this precise instant, your mind is going into a panic, trying to pick holes in all this. Something in you is shouting: “No! We can’t be! Genocide? Are you crazy? You’re wrong!” In other words, you are trying to deny it. Why?
Let’s take your first objection. “But we’re not putting all the kids of that group in camps — just some! That’s not enough for genocide!! Is it?” Let’s go back to the definition. It reads: “in whole or in part.” We aren’t putting every Latino or Hispanic kid in the world in a camp — but genocide only means at its outermost extreme exterminating every single member of a group. It’s enough to say that a society is trying to rid itself of a group, forcibly, to meet the definition of genocide. Hence, “in whole or in part” — a criterion most certainly being met today. Go ahead and work your way through all your objections — better minds than you or I have defined the statute above, and it is logically bulletproof. You’re perfectly right to say that we don’t satisfy the definition 100%. That would be unspeakable. But isn’t it self-evident that we meet the minimum bar, now? So the fact is that we are at least dipping a toe into, if not standing ankle-deep in, the dark and bottomless ocean of genocide.
So. The real question is: why are you trying to deny it? Let’s ask that another way. What is it in us that rises, disgusted, repelled, ashamed, and indignant, against this — at least those of us who are still civilized people? We know that putting kids in camps is among the lowest acts that a people can commit. But precisely why?
Our moral minds, which we are all born with, and keep, unless we are badly damaged ourselves, know that hurting another is wrong. The functioning adult in us, which is present if we have been allowed to mature emotionally, knows that hurting a little child is a terrible and shameful thing. But there’s something else, too. In the civilized and educated person in us, the one who has been taught history and reason, an unconscious thought arises, which is quickly batted away. Our defense mechanisms kick in. A thought we don’t allow ourselves to hold at all, because it is too painful to think.
That thought is this. Torturing little children is the a way to begin exterminating a people. We know it, implicitly, because the lessons of the last century are obvious. Still, we don’t really know it, precisely, technically — what is a “genocide”, anyways? — and that is why the mental tension arises, why we hope to deny it.
So here is my second question. Why don’t you know what a genocide really is? The basic legal definition of it? Well, it’s because it’s not taught to you in college or in school — probably not even in law school. But don’t you think that it should be? Let’s just think about it simply.
If we really wanted to exterminate a people, where would we begin? With the little children, of course. That way, we would ensure that such people never grew, reproduced, expanded in number. Wiping out the adults would not help us much towards our cause, only a little bit. That is why the Nazis were so intent on wiping out children — not just adults that they deliberately targeting them separately.
So here is my third question. If it’s self-evident that we are beginning, at least, to commit genocide, then: why don’t our thinkers and pundits, our intellectuals and wise men, discuss it? Admit it? Even understand it? Why don’t they seem to have the mental equipment to grasp any of the above?
Today, I saw Ezra Klein, who has been exactly wrong about every single major event in the last decade, stagnation, implosion, authoritarianism, say: “I don’t think Nazi analogies are helpful.” LOL. Here we see the game of denial above played out in public — as well as profound ignorance of what genocide is. But what kinds of people commit genocide? Isn’t even the beginning of a genocide enough to say: “There is true fascism at work here?” If it isn’t — then what bar would we need to meet? Have we learned anything from history at all? Or have America’s wise men become history’s fools, incapable of learning at all, to begin with?
So here is my fourth question.
What kind of people do all that? 1) Begin to commit the legal definition of genocide 2) Don’t understand or know what genocide is 2) Deny it 3) Hope to protect themselves from the unbearable reality of it, by never talking about? Go ahead and judge for yourself. I won’t put any words in your mouth. I will just ask this. Is that the kind of people we are becoming? Can you let your defense mechanisms stop protecting you from these thoughts — and hold them for just a second, even though they are painful to think? Because, my friends, the reality couldn’t be any clearer.
What happens to such people — people who deny that they are doing the very things that they are doing? They have no power over their own actions. They become what they fear most. Monsters, that come for each others’ children, in the darkest of night.