by Scott Hughes
Today I became an administrator of a group on Facebook about the Jewish Holocaust, which refers to when Germany’s National Socialist regime exterminated approximately 6 million European Jews. The group’s title quotes a Hebrew biblical commandment, “Lo taamod al dam reakha,” which means, “You shall not stand idly by the shedding of the blood of your fellow man.”
Of course, even as a nonreligious man, I like that commandment a lot. I hope many people follow it whether because their religion commands it or for more secular reasons.
However, standing idly by would help more than what we do now. We fund war and genocide. As the people of the world, we choose to help facilitate war and genocide as to preserve the routine of our personal lives. We not only fail to stand up for the victims and up to the victimizers, but we also help the victimizers so that they do not disrupt the relative tranquility of our day-to-day lives.
In Nazi Germany most people in Germany behaved like that. Throughout the Native American Holocaust most Americans have behaved like that. People have behaved like that during the recent Rwandan Genocide and now during the current racial conflicts in Darfur.
The vast majority of people in those regions and times behaved like the vast majority of us behave now. We let warmongers use fearmongering to get us to not only allow but also support war and genocide.
Politicians have their own corrupt, self-serving reasons for war and genocide. For the politicians, it generally comes down to money and power for themselves and their cronies–which consists broadly of the entire ruling class in any given society. Regardless, to get that profitable war, they use that fearmongering.
Fearfully, we start to view entire groups of people as simply the enemy. An entire nation’s people could become the enemy. An entire race of people could become the enemy. All the people that practice a certain religion could become the enemy.
When we view an entire group of people as simply the enemy, then we value their lives much less than we value whatever little safety we supposedly get by their destruction, defeat, or annihilation. As a result, we support the annihilation of the enemy. We allow war and genocide and we help facilitate war and genocide. We choose to fund governments that wage war on the enemy.
Countless examples exist. Many Americans cared little about the lives of the over 200,000 Japanese civilians murdered by the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki because the Americans saw the Japanese as simply the enemy. They felt the same way about the Japanese-Americans shoved in concentration camps in the United States. Many people of various Middle Eastern nations felt the same way about the thousands of American civilians murdered in the 9/11 attacks. The Nationalist Germans felt the same way about the Jews and Germany’s other “enemies” during the Second World War. Many non-Jewish Palestinians feel that way about all the Jewish Israelis, and many Jewish Israelis feel that way about about the non-Jewish Palestinians.
In contrast, the free-thinkers in any society may not fall for the oversimplifying rhetoric of the fearmongering warmongers. Additionally, those free-thinkers may recognize and dislike the brutality and inhumanity of war and genocide. However, even the free-thinkers generally behave selfishly and shortsightedly. Even the free-thinkers among us generally offer little more than idle indignation. Like most everyone else, even the free-thinkers choose to protect the tranquility of their own lives rather than the safety of the victims of war and genocide. For example, to keep the routine of their day-to-day lives, even the free-thinkers usually pay taxes to warmongering and genocidal governments.
I would love to see the day most of us, regardless of our religious beliefs, followed the commandment, lo taamod al dam reakha. But first, at the very least, we could stop supporting the bloodshed of civilians. At the very least, we could stop supporting war, terrorism, and genocide. We could stop thinking of whole groups of people as the enemy. We could try to give up fear and shortsighted selfishness, and bravely make our personal decisions based on higher ideals such as humanity, peace and love.
What do you think? Please post a comment.