I’ve contemplated this follow-up post for a week or more now. My visit to Berlin has me wondering how to think about the massive numbers of war dead between 1915 and 1945. Finally, I decided to put it into perspective, so began exploring other intentional mass death events.
Lamentably, I gave up. There are too many: Biblical slaughter, Mongol invasions, the Crusades, the Protestant-Catholic wars, Europeans in the New World, the slave trade to the Americas, the Belgians in the Congo, the Irish potato famine, Armenian genocide by the Ottoman Empire, Stalinist purges, Spain under Franco, politically-induced famine in Africa and China and North Korea, Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, political coups in Chile and Argentina, Serbian atrocities in Bosnia, Rwandan genocide, ethnic cleansing in Darfur and the Sudan, dictatorship and war throughout the Middle East, the ongoing spectacle in Syria…for a start.
I finally decided that, in the context of the human species, this is all just business as usual. We want to tag such atrocities as inhuman, but the problem is, they are not. They are exactly the opposite. It’s not that mass killing isn’t wrong. In the context of our culture, it certainly is. But in the context of our biology, it seems to be inevitable.
Death in whatever form is the ultimate consequence of life, the price we pay for participating. The ugliness is in the varied forms it takes, and more so in the suffering and tragedy we humans seem so inclined to inflict on one another. Maybe if we began thinking this way, confronting the reality of our nature instead proclaiming the idealism of our culture, we might change our interpretation of such events and maybe our approaches to finding solutions.