GAAMAC: Extraordinary to banal

Mar 3, 2014

It’s an extraordinary place of Central American beauty with extraordinary people skilled, experienced in these matters to contemplate the complexities of being human.

Genocide art installation

Though so many of our words will be about Declarations and Conventions and Protocols and Focal Points and Remedies International, Regional and National, we’re actually trying to figure out what we are as human being, where and why and how the wheels fall off into black holes of violence, giving rise, in their aftermath, to species-wide gut-wrenching wonder.

Rail cars full of people

Mass Atrocity Crimes seem exotic, out of the norm, extraordinary in their evil.   Armenians, Jews, Tutsis, millions slaughtered at the blunt end of extraordinary dehumanisation, labelled, detached, made disposable.

Yet I am struck by smaller events, recent and close, in which the same mechanisms of distancing – she, he, they are not like us, deserving of their neglect, extinguishment, expulsion – are in play as were in play in Turkey, Nazi Germany, Rwanda – and so many other places excluded from the Convention’s narrow definition of what constitutes ‘genocide’.   Grave deeds of extraordinary violence on the same continuum as every-day othering, all rendered ordinary by processes of perceived offence at the other’s otherness.

lee speaks to military officer

Yet human beings are, in reality, despite this continuum of evil, hard-wired for love, hard-wired for intra-species care, to not kill.  It is a wiring that requires a massive psychological assault to dismantle in the service of something else – war-making, ‘our own living space (Hitler)’, driven by fear, by a ‘fearsomely, word- and thought-defyingly banal (Arendt)’ and uncivil obedience.


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Sudan third party non-violence intervention