Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 8, No. 3, 2009
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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Mark Goldfarb
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Bernard Dubé
Sylvain Richard
David Solway
Marissa Consiglieri de Chackal
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Diane Gordon
Serge Gamache
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Marcel Dubois
Emanuel Pordes
  Past Contributors
  Noam Chomsky
Mark Kingwell
Naomi Klein
Arundhati Roy
Evelyn Lau
Stephen Lewis
Robert Fisk
Margaret Somverville
David Solway
Michael Moore
Julius Grey
Irshad Manji
Richard Rodriguez
Pico Iyer
Edward Said
Jean Baudrillard
Bill Moyers
Barbara Ehrenreich
Leon Wieseltier
Nayan Chanda
Charles Lewis
John Lavery
Tariq Ali
Michael Albert
Rochelle Gurstein
Alex Waterhouse-Hayward




from Mark Goldfarb
"Despite our practised abhorrence of all activity associated with genocide -- acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group -- its historical expression has been more frequent than granted in part because the institutions dedicated to its prevention have not sufficiently understood the workings of human nature. Without exception, when one group comes to harbour hatred of another, human nature predicts that the former will at a minimum desire the elimination of the latter. What encourages the hating group to carry out the deed – and the world to turn a blind eye -- is the biological disposition (the reward system) of the hater to be relieved of his hatred. It’s the same sequence of genes operating when Tribe A, with only enough food and water for itself, is threatened by Tribe B, for whom that same food and water is the difference between life and death. But when Tribe A wipes Tribe B off the map for all time, we don’t call it genocide but survival of the fittest."

I call the above example genocide, not survival of the fittest. Since I haven’t taken a survey of the world’s 5.8 billion people who are 15 years-of-age or older (15 being the approximate age I arbitrarily select as the time humans begin to develop critical thinking skills), I do not know what percentage of them would call it genocide or survival of the fittest or something else. I’ll venture to say neither do you.

Seeing as how you’ve got genes and genocide on the brain, let’s talk about them. Genocide is not, as you would have your reader believe, a response to a life and death situation over an absolutely essential water supply, oil supply, air supply, food supply or any other supply. Genocide is a sign of one group’s hatred of another group, one group’s greed, desire for power or need for a scapegoat. War could be, but is not necessarily genocide. A skirmish is not genocide. If my tribe kills five members of your tribe in response to your tribe having killed two of mine, that is not genocide. It is retaliation. It is ‘giving as good as we got’, or ‘giving as good as we got plus a little extra’ in order to send you the message that, when push comes to shove, we will not accept your behaviour, we are not afraid to fight back. Humans have co-existed since time immemorial in this low-grade state of warfare or friction. Putting aside for the moment the kill or be killed mentality of Social Darwinism and all its pseudo-scientific gene pool-cleaning applications, implications and justifications, I can’t think of a single historical example where a Tribe A comitted genocide against a Tribe B over a resource absolutely essential to the survival of both tribes. Please enlighten me with a case in point.

Your position that, ‘without exception, when one group comes to harbour hatred of another, human nature predicts that the former will at a minimum desire the elimination of the latter,’ and to your incontestable contention that ‘we are constituted to hate so as to eradicate the person who has raped and murdered our child, since his removal from existence is consistent with the upkeep and conservation of a healthy and thriving gene pool,’ is fallacious bordering on fictitious and easily refuted. Mohandas Ghandi, the Dalai Lama, Martin Luther King and Jesus (to name a few) maintain a following that number in the hundreds of millions. The millions of Americans as well as non-Americans who conducted teach-ins, demonstrated against the Vietnam War, and dodged the draft, represent significant examples of love transcending hate. Old Order Amish, a tribe of 225,000 that has thrived in North America for over 300 years, are an example of a people who chose love over hate, forgiveness over revenge, and whose ethos, deep as marrow, or as you would say, deep as DNA, rips holes in your ‘open and shut’ theory. Allow me to refresh your memory:

On October 2, 2006, in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, Charles Roberts walked into a school where he shot and killed five Amish children and seriously wounded five more before turning his gun on himself. On the very same day, Amish elders exhorted their members not to hate the killer or think evil of him. They forgave him immediately and completely, visited and comforted his widow and family and set up a charitable fund for them. Thirty members of the Amish community attended Charles Roberts’ funeral. Marie Roberts, his widow, was invited to the funeral of one of the children her husband had murdered. The pacifistic Amish, whose commitment to the words of Jesus is woven inextricably into their lives, responded with a recognition that vengeance does not undo a tragedy or repair a wrong, that forgiveness – the “letting go of grudges” – trumps resentment.

I agree, based on my experience, with your introductory premises: Humans would rather love than hate. It is easier to love than to hate. It is much easier for us to confront each other when we’re in loving rather than hating mode. I also agree, based on my experience, with your ending admonition: Humans would do well to examine the demagoguery and rhetoric that warp their psyches. I disagree with the weak-kneed genetic profiling you lean on that absolves humanity of any responsibility for its actions. New beginnings? I’m all for them. But the argument,“It’s not my fault, my genes made me do it,” prevents humanity from traversing the chasm that lies between your first assertion and your last.


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