How Does One Define Genocide?

How would you like to be murdered simply because you were different in some way from the majority around you, whether it be the color of your skin, your religion, your age, your nationality or race, or any other of many possiblities?  That happens to people every day somewhere in the world.  Most of the worst atrocities happening today are in Africa, where old enmities and racial divisions constantly foment unrest, but it is happening today as we speak in Kosovo, where Caucasian Moslems are murdering Caucasian Christians.  It can happen anywhere.  Germany, in the 30's, was considered to be one of the most civilized nations on Earth, yet the "Jewish question" was solved by mass murder. It is worth noting that homosexuals and gypsies were also wiped out. Most bigots hate more than one group because bigotry is a disease of the soul, and it foments more hatred.  Just a decade or so ago, Serbian Christians were commiting genocide against Moslems in Kosovo and in Bosnia and Hutus were killing Tutsis in Rwanda.   The truth is that bigotry and hatred are as old as the human race.  That does not mean that we should sit idly by while these atrocities are commited.  I have a website dedicated to opposing genocide in all its varied forms, and many poets from all over the world have donated the use of poems against genocide, many of which they have written specifically for this website, and I would like to thank them again for donating the use of their poems and for their help in opposing genocide. 

The key question, of course, is, what exactly is genocide?  Now I can tell you that anything which comes close to the definition is not a good thing either, but for the sake of veracity and reality, it is good to have a definitive definition. 

Genocide is sometimes called ethnic cleansing, but ethnic cleansing is only one aspect of genocide.  Whenever any group of people sets out to systematically eradicate any other group, that is genocide.  The methods used are immaterial.  They can be anything that eventuates in the removal of the victim from this world, but they can’t be singular instances of one person killing another person unless that act is a result of a group mentality fomented by the killer’s society.   Genocide involves large numbers of people who are systematically murdered whether it be with a gun, knife, or a mental weapon such as constant persecution and mistreatment.  Those who say abortion is genocide are wrong, because genocide involves a large group of people banding together to wipe out another group of people.  Distraught and unhappy women seeking abortion are doing it on their own.  They are not a part of a larger group systematically deciding to kill babies.  However, Chinese peasants who murder girl babies are committing genocide because they are acting as part of a group mentality which has the end result of removing many girl babies from the world.  That particular perversion may have far reaching consequences since there will be far more males in the Chinese population than females and it might eventually cut down on their population.  However, it could also foment wars since those unattached males will have a lot of repressed (and maybe not so repressed) anger to take out on the world.  In addition, religious persecution of gay males among fundamentalists could be termed genocide since it constitutes a large group of people acting in concert to remove a particular group of people, often by forcing them to suicide.  Many will disagree on that because they are conditioned to do so by their religions, but persecution and abuse that systematically eliminates a particular group is genocide.   Genocide is nearly always the result of genetic differences between groups of people, with the sole exception being religious divisions.  

The Arab Moslems who are murdering ethnic blacks in Darfur are doing a double genocide since the blacks are also Christian.   It appears that Christians are no less likely to commit genocide, however, since the Christian Serbs were committing genocide against Moslems in Bosnia and in Kosovo only a decade ago, and we have the infamous example of Aryan and mostly Christian Germans massacring an entire people during the Second World War.  The thing to keep in mind when dealing with genocide is that nobody is ever entirely safe – as both Chistians and Moslems have discovered in the last hundred years.  Any government can commit genocide and cover it up or lie about it.  The U.S. and Canada both committed genocide against the American Indian, as did the Spanish Conquistadores.  Actually, any time you are in a minority anywhere you are possibly in danger.  Isn’t that a comforting thing to know? 

Until the time comes that the human race comes to grips with prejudice and bigotry and eradicates them permanently from the human psyche, there will be genocides.  That doesn’t mean that we should not oppose them.  As a matter of fact, the way in which we do that will ultimately define our civilizations and how history sees them.

Jim Dunlap

Previously published here:

This is an opinion piece and some of the opinions expressed may not jibe with your own intrinsic belief systems.  That does not mean you are wrong or I am right.   It means that our worldviews have been shaped by different forces and  that we see life through different lenses.  

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