Saturday, September 16, 2023

Stages of Genocide

We like to think we are way beyond barbarity and that the outrageously cruel acts of the past (many not in the too distant past) will never be anything we consider again. But neoliberal capitalism feeds an addiction to profits, and addicts will do anything to get a fix. 

We have unbridled climate change, harmful viruses in our schools, daycares, and in hospitals, which still won't protect people from getting a virus while they're dealing with broken bones or cancer or giving birth. In Canada now the sick are sometimes offered MAiD instead of healthcare. The hospitals are closed or overwhelmed to the point that 11,000 Ontarians died waiting for surgeries or scans in the past year. Healthcare isn't an option for too many people. 

Despite sitting on billions of dollars, Ford plans to "partner with private clinics" to address the problem instead of just re-opening the hospitals and actually paying more healthcare workers. This is the useful crisis they needed to usher in privatization. Many in private equity firms that are capitalizing on this crisis already have expensive homes and cars and all the toys. It will never feel like enough. They'll keep scheming to get more and more.

Some schools have attendance prizes to convince kids to show up even when they're sick. Part of this is due to funding rules that mean schools get less money if kids aren't physically present. In my last couple of years of teaching we started counting students as present if their feet crossed the doorway for a moment, just to get our numbers up, even if they left immediately after arriving. Attendance isn't about learning, and it's definitely not about student well-being; it's all about money.

It's the same reason we didn't get the sick days we fought for. People are being badgered and threatened to get to work even if they're clearly very ill. Some people are literally being worked to death.

We feel free because we have freedom of movement. We can walk around and travel. But we're not free to live a healthy life or a safe life. It's not just our physical health being threatened. We're all seeing the level of vitriol raised towards minorities. That's the first step towards active discrimination on Gordon Allport's scale. Stop the hate speech, and you can undercut the hatred of groups. 

But letting people scream about specific groups, using slurs in public forums without any recourse, opens the door to the next stage. We might shake our head at it all, or report posts to social media overlords who ignore our concerns, but otherwise feel impotent to stop it. We're accepting stage one of Allport's scale. It's a slippery slope that could lead to normalizing further genocidal actions.

Content Warning: Horrific image and reality.

Doug Aoki explains this image,

"A Congolese man staring at the severed hand and foot of his five-year-old daughter, 1904. According to the photographer, Alice Seeley Harris, the girl was dismembered and killed because her father hadn't made his quota for the Anglo-Belgian India Rubber Company."

There's more about it from Rare Historical Photos: His name is Nsala. His daughter's name was Boali. They killed his wife too and cannibalized them, presenting Nsala with the leftovers. More disturbing pictures at that link, including King Leopold looking so pleased with his butchery. 

We named the city of Kitchener after the man who "adopted the scorched earth policy" in the Congo at the time. He burned crops, destroyed farms, and built concentration camps, rounding up and confining refugees and citizens, and allowing 28,000 people, most of them children, to die of disease (p. 142-3). And he still had time to pose for this poster! 

We never consider a name change for our city since changing it from Berlin, though. It doesn't ever come up as we debate the names of schools and arena. Funny, that.

By honouring his name, this is part of our barbaric history too, and we have to own it. 

Hearing of parents carrying sick children into school and people going from a hospital bed straight to work, it feels unnervingly close to becoming part of our future as well. 

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