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On the Dark Side

Updated on March 4, 2015
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Jamal is a graduate from Northeastern Seminary but writes on a broad range of topics. His writings are based on other points of view.

You could write several books on how World War Two changed the world. I am focusing on one in particular and how it plays out now-if it does at all. That aspect that sets that conflict apart from all previous ones is the systematic and deliberate attempt to wipe out a people and culture.

The tracks leading up to Birkenau gate at the Auschwitz concentration camp emphasizes how industrial mass killing had become by the mid 20th century
The tracks leading up to Birkenau gate at the Auschwitz concentration camp emphasizes how industrial mass killing had become by the mid 20th century
Baghdad was sacked by the mongols in 1258.  Most of the inhabitants were killed.
Baghdad was sacked by the mongols in 1258. Most of the inhabitants were killed.

Running in Circles

Historically it seems like nothing new. There have always been human relations where one side had such a blatant and intense disregard for the other that they felt the need to expunge it. The most notable proponents that come to mind are the Mongols. When an ally, Western Xia, refused to join him in a campaign into central Asia in 1221, Genghis Khan ordered the annihilation of all cities establishments throughout the country, effectively wiping out their entire culture.

Large scale massacres such as these are nothing new, but they weren’t systematically driven to wipeout an entire race. When the world was introduced to the level of violence we could bring to bear on each other in 1945, a resolve was created to not repeat this.

And yet it has. In Bosnia and Rawanda during the 1990’s, well documented attempts were made to kill entire populations of people, and now recently in Syria and Iraq with the Islamic State either killing or forcibly converting others religious and cultural minorities or driving them as refuges. It almost seems as if the lesson from 1945, while not forgotten has become impotent.

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Senator John McCain has come under fire recently as a warhawk because of 'shame' at US inaction in the Ukraine
Senator John McCain has come under fire recently as a warhawk because of 'shame' at US inaction in the Ukraine | Source

Maintaining Bliss

Right now I am sitting in a Starbucks writing this. No one is arguing or fighting here and it is filled with all different types of people. If I step outside it is more of the same. We can think whatever we want and not worry about consequences. It would be easy to be lulled into a belief that our darker human tendencies are behind us, distant nightmares we sooner forget than dwell upon. Yet the last decade has served up reminders that there are still people in this world who embrace this darkness, and that rather than step in to attempt to stop, or even go to war to prevent these atrocities, many of us would rather sit back.

We watch it on television, maybe turn the channel to avoid or distract ourselves with another activity, or just surrender to the inevitability that there’s nothing we can do about it anyway. Certainly helps that these events happen overseas.

And to be sure, going to war isn’t as simple as it sounds either. Many Western nations are still trying to recover from and still fight the war with terrorists and extremists that have been going on since 2001. Entire national populaces are worn out, sick of war and national economies are strained as it is, never mind the fact of the unpredictability of war, where there is always an element of the unknown and unforeseeable consequences.

These are legitimate concerns and just the tip of the iceberg, but I can’t help but wonder; if this were back in 1939 or 1942, and governments were aware that an entire population was in danger of becoming extinct, would we behave differently?

My Reflection

Or, to take it the thought to its darkest point, if a genocide of an entire people had taken place in our time now. Could we still look at ourselves in the mirror in the morning and call ourselves civilized or descent people? Could our governments still speak on TV about how sorry they are about the historic tragedy and pledge meetings and sanctions to ‘punish’ those responsible? Would we be indifferent to it and simply not care?

Could I still sit here in Starbucks and look at myself, my society, and my species in general in a positive light again?

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    • KDLadage profile image

      K David Ladage 2 years ago from Cedar Rapids, IA

      You speak of the most recent attempts at genocide (e.g., Rowanda) -- there are many others. Yet you ask "if a genocide of an entire people had taken place in our time now. Could we still look at ourselves in the mirror in the morning and call ourselves civilized or descent people?"

      The 'if' in that question is moot: it has happened in our time now. It will happen many more times. And yes, we manage to look in the mirror and call ourselves civilized and decent people.

      Doesn't make it right. Happens just the same.

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