Friday, October 25, 2013

holocaust, part 1

Can one be aware of a holocaust when it is taking place?

When Nazis boycotted Jewish businesses in 1933, banned Jews from certain professions in 1937 and in 1939, established the first ghetto in Poland, could one see where this would go? Or does one need history’s backward glance toppling events like dominos to understand a particular era’s massacre?

Although usually by fire, a holocaust is defined as destruction or slaughter on a mass scale resulting in extensive loss of life. To be sure, a holocaust or genocide doesn’t just happen. It is prepared for, consciously executed and is based on reasonably identifiable social, political and economic conditions.

What about those who weren’t direct victims or perpetrators? Did some benefit socially, politically or economically from the subjugation of others? Did people turn away in self-preservation? Did they trust their government or religious leaders to do what’s best? Was it possible that some simply didn’t care? Didn’t know?

Maybe we cannot see a holocaust as it’s happening because it evolves gradually.  Incrementally, dominant society accepts the ideation about and treatment of a targeted group. Whatever injustice occurs is conveniently executed out of sight, thereby out of consciousness. Think location of labor/death camps in relation to towns. Think Native Americans shoved onto reservations. Think plantations in rural areas. Perhaps even consider CAFOs.

Maybe too our understanding of history and human nature is shallow (the Third Reich was set in motion long before the 1930s); our imaginations fail us. We cannot fathom such nightmarish brutality, a thought common probably every age. But it continues, justified by the flimsiest of reasons-social, political, economic.

It is for these very reasons humans have decided the annihilation of natural resources serves us. We would never phrase it quite so, but that is the physical reality of our modern lives.

The extraction of coal, oil and natural gas is carried out heedless of repercussion, replenishment or who and what is destroyed in the process.  Although I myself am not directly involved in these processes, I benefit from them: the laptop I’m writing on, the temperature controlled, lit room I’m sitting in, the tea I’ve just brewed, the dishwasher churning in the background, the alarm that woke me to write this ponderous drivel.

Because we rely on systems predicated on extraction and limitless production, our choices are tacit consent to the holocaust of creation.

Of course, most of us would not advocate for destruction or injustice. We are cogs in the machine of modernity. You may chafe at being regarded a cog but who of us could live without coal, oil and natural gas?

The question then becomes how does one oppose destructive, unjust systems while dependent on them? 


  1. I think you're absolutely right - awareness of mass destruction as it is occurring may be impossible. Even if there are a few prescient people who sound alarm bells, for most of us we tend not to want to see the mass destruction. At this point, history is both an advantage and a curse. From the vantage point of history, we can see the wake of genocide under the Nazis in Germany, under the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and in Rwanda (to name just a few), but it begs the question, what if more of us had seen it sooner?

    One of the questions your post stirred in me, is trying to identify the chief perpetrator of mass destruction. I totally understand that more of us are culpable than we like to admit, but to your point, is there a principle person who prepares for and consciously executes a holocaust agenda? In Cambodia, while many in power were responsible for the Killing Fields (including the current Prime Minister of the country), it was Pol Pot who masterminded the agenda. Within the creation holocaust, does a social, political, economic analysis point to an individual or principle individuals who have engineered our current crisis? If not, that might be why we aren't more animated about the issue, because we unable to identify the perpetrators in a tangible enough way for most folks to understand.

  2. Ponderous drivel? Indeed that's hardly fitting. These are the burning questions of our day. (pun intended) But the evolution can and will become tied to profit each and every time. When we become conscionable about how we spend our dollars and are presented sustainable and even advanced options that obviously preserve and improve our planet, then the shift can happen. Having conversations like these is the seed that can grow mighty. I for one believe we are very near the tipping point on sustainable energy programs.