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?