This blog deals with issues of genocide with a focus on those perpetrated by developed states. More narrowly the focus is on those of those perpetrated by the US and even more specifically those occurring in the post-WWII era. The key area of enquiry is the strategic logic which impels these genocides.
The term ‘genocide’ was coined by Raphael Lemkin as a term with an embedded strategic logic, and though he was concerned primarily with German occupation policies, he was clear that this was a modern form of an ancient ill. The chronological scope of enquiry, therefore, is wide; extending as far back as pre-agrarian times.
The disciplinary scope is also wide. Lemkin defined genocide as ‘manifold’, by which he meant that genocide is perpetrated by multiple concurrent means. Likewise the motives behind genocides are manifold. A people (genos) is attacked as such for reasons which combine economic, geopolitical, demographic and militarily strategic concerns. It would appear historically that ideology, which receives so much attention in orthodox discourse, is of secondary importance. There is no case of genocide whatsoever where ideology cannot be interpreted as a tool utilised by perpetrators, rather than a motive in and of itself.
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I like your blog presentation, and your compassionate analytics.
It seems, however, that the West is an easy target, an over-broad, and vulnerable subject, which can lead to a disconnect when dealing with members of the West, a distinct and unique organism which, also, is under attack by forces, which seek the extermination of this unique People.
In short, the subject of ‘white genocide’ should also be counted as a viable topic of interest.
Looking forward to more of your informative work.
I agree that the term “the West” is highly problematic. What I am really wanting to refer to is an imperial polity which concentrates power in the hands of a narrow elite. This elite is actually global in nature, but predominantly “Western” and with a distinct odour of Washington D.C. Admittedly that is not the only valid way of conceiving political power in world events, but it is the most relevant to my topic. I use the term “West” as a kind of shorthand because it carries notions of culture as well as wealth.
As to “White genocide”, I must admit that, ironically, I do not link genocide to genetics or “race”. Genocide attacks the group identity which is formed when a child is brought up in a community by a family which shares a sense of collective membership. Lemkin referred to “biological interconnection”, but I think that his own logic means that this must be taken as referring to familial connections. After all, both Lemkin and the UN convention on genocide recognise that transferring children from the victim population to the perpetrator population is an act of genocide. That means that genocide does not really comply with notions of “race” then or now, and is not about genetics. This is an important aspect of genocide which genocide scholars have yet to come to grips with.
The very idea of human “white”ness is not, for me, one of fundamental identification. I can’t deny being Caucasian, which is a way describing the way my genes are expressed in skin pigmentation. This is an aspect of what is known as phenotype – the way in which my genetic material manifests itself bodily. Historically, identity has not been determined by phenotypical characteristics. We think that it is natural that skin colour is taken as an indication of our group identity, but if you think about it we don’t impose that sort of extrapolated sense of identity on people of a certain height, or sex, or with curly hair, or with big noses. Up until quite recently, people’s national/ethnic/tribal identity was primarily determined by native language, with other cultural elements like religion and social mores also being important. For example, the Greeks called people “barbarians” on the basis of not speaking Greek – which sounded like “barbarbar” – but one the Romans had adopted Greek cultural institutions they were not considered barbarians despite not speaking Greek.
I know that it is a little counter-intuitive, but skin colour for most of human history has been simply a personal characteristic. The Spanish Empire sowed the seeds of racial thinking in ways I won’t go into here, but the modern concept of race really came about with the British Empire. In the American colonies the landowning elites faced the fact that the indentured Europeans servants and landless poor were apt to mingle with and make common cause with the African chattel slaves. In India they faced what was called the “agency problem”, where colonial employees would marry locally, start speaking the lingo, and end up being more loyal to their Indian family and friends than to the East India Company. In India they started shipping out white women, and built white’s only clubs and so forth. They created an entirely separate social sphere, hermetically sealed from penetration by anyone of colour no matter what their social status. In the American colonies they banned miscegenation and strengthened divisions between those of European and African descent. The crucial thing to remember is that they didn’t ban reproduction between races. What they did was make it illegal for intermarriage and for white men to recognise their “mixed-race” offspring. They didn’t actually care about racial impurity, they wanted to maintain the distinct social cohesiveness which allowed the elite to control the masses by dividing them into two strata. They wanted to prevent the emergence of a single genos of mixed ancestry.
This led to an odd situation where the hegemonic culture, shared by a number of imperial nations, made itself identified with light skin colour. The irony is that, in terms of phenotype, it is the darker pigmentation which dominates. The very notion leads to funny ideas about purity and impurity. In the end, though, Caucasians actually come in quite a wide array of pinky-browny tones and there is a huge overlap with the varied skin tones of other such groupings. This does mean that our current habits of boy-meets-girl naughtiness will make some currently common phenotypical characteristics become less common over time, but that isn’t necessarily the problem. If there is a “white” identity, which you and others feel you are part of, then historically it is the product of systematically excluding others. Whiteness was defined by an imperative to ensure that those who were not Caucasian would be rendered indelibly as the “other”.
You cannot help feeling the being white is part of who you are. If you define that in skin colour then there is a long term threat, of sorts. But in the more immediate sense I would suggest that you remember that globally, people of European descent are still very privileged and disproptionately powerful. If they face a threat it is from an en elite that is becoming every more empowered over the Western and developing world. They are more likely to take your sense of being white and turn it against you by turning you against your non-white neighbour and colleague.
Time and again, especially recently, we have seen situations where global institutions of power are challenged or see opportunities for resource extraction or capital penetration and respond by a very vicious form of divide-and-conquer. The sponsor ethnocratic hierarchies and promote conflict based on the reification of racial, ethnic or religious identities. This has happened in the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Central and North Africa and more besides. It is referred to as “weaponising identity” and now the resulting conflicts are increasingly becoming insoluble permanent wars which create failed states and never ending suffering. Now, when we see popular resistance to neoliberalism, ethnic strife is fomented even up to the point of supporting reinvigorated neo-Nazi formations. At the same time, policing is becoming militarised while what we refer to as military activity is often simply a one-sided application of massive deadly force. Important weapon systems like UAVs are not even military in nature and rely totally on the ability to attack those without significant defences.
If I lived in the US I would worry more about the way that the fissures of identity could be exploited. I don’t think anyone can deny that suggestions of insecurity and potential mass violence are circulating in the US. You also have a large internal security police force – the DHS. This means that you are not a “turnkey” police state, but in an actual police state that has its velvet gloves on. Bahrain was in exactly the same situation, and people didn’t believe it until the gloves came off. If the state wants to crack down, it has all too many options in the US, but racial conflict will almost inevitably be part of the pretext.
I hope you don’t find these comments too off-putting. I’m never anything but honest about what I believe to be true – an unfortunate affliction in our times.
Hey Kieran, this is slightly better written and less informative than fatalistic Voyage..contact me one way or another – Facebook maybe, would love to hear from you man after all this time. Peace.
I am afraid there might be some confusion here. Perhaps mistaken identity? I am not nor have I ever been, and I strongly refute any inference to the contrary. I definitely do not know anything about any aphids.
I maintain a facebook page [https://www.facebook.com/pages/On-Genocide/216928245099839] but I don’t use fb as me myself or I, so if you are going to persist [despite the fact that anyone who knows me from the old days knows that I wasn’t even there at the time] please contact via email I am at krklap [at] gmail.com.
Good to hear from you.
You are quite correct in your recent posting at http://dissidentvoice.org/2016/08/us-wars-are-for-empire-not-for-profit/. I met Lemkin in the 50s, and he told me, “Never give up!” I’d like readers to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, for I have a game plan for proceeding in solidarity, as per your plea at the end of the article. Thanks, Richard Oxman