First there was the Armenian genocide that started in Turkey during World War I. Then there was the obvious genocide of the European Jew done by Hitler and the Nazis during World War II. Then in the early ’90s there was the Bosnian genocide on Bosnian Muslims committed by Bosnian Serbs. Then there was the Rwandan genocide which saw the Tutsis killed by the Hutu majority, also in the ’90s.
The term genocide is relatively new. It came about in 1944 as Jewish people struggled to say what had happened to them in Europe. And ever since the end of World War II it has taken its status as the worst kind of crime that humans could commit.
But see how common it was? The Armenian one is especially illuminating because it was swept under the rug, denied, or was thought of as just another transgression of a majority toward a minority. I’m thinking that this attitude existed in many societies over the centuries and millennia. Many attempted or successful genocides may have happened.
This might sound like a wild accusation against humanity, after all things like this became more likely in the 20th century with mass production and personal identifications.
But I’d like to go way back. How come only one type of man made it into history and all the others were lost in prehistory? There was Homo Habilis, Homo Ergaster, Homo Erectus, Homo Heidelbergensis and Homo Neanderthalis. All were wiped out by either us (Homo Sapiens) or by a species we wiped out. Genocides happened in the prehistoric world, too. That’s what 20th century history tells me about the past.
But by not developing written history our ancestors were even smarter than us at sweeping genocide under the rug. Of course our ancestors almost blew it. Homo Floresiensis was recently discovered to have lived as recently as 13 000 years ago. 8 000 years ago was the date of some of humanity’s earliest recorded writing although some cave paintings as old as 20 000 years ago are thought to be symbolic.
So humanity is an experienced pro at genocide. You may feel smug – “I’m in too large a group to be persecuted that way” you might think. But remember, there is blurriness in the Jewish Holocaust. Was the genocide because of their ethnicity or was it because of their beliefs?
Men. Wiping out other men since the genus Homo first began.