August 13, 2021   ·   0 Comments



Just saying the word sends a terrifying chill through your body. It’s the epitome of human evil, and our violent ability to destroy ourselves. 

Though defined as the intentional action to destroy an ethnic, racial, national, or religious group, it’s more than that. It’s not so simple.

Since the word was coined by Raphael Lemkin in 1944, and with the establishment of the United Nations Genocide Convention, the word has been tossed around frequently, either in agreeance or debate if it happened.

It’s very easy to see The Holocaust and the Nazi persecution of Jews and other “un-desirable sub-humans.” It evolved from Einsatzgruppen death squads to Auschwitz. The Final Solution provided the detailed framework and planning, from transportation and deliverance, to liquidation and removal. Everything was thought out. It was calculated, and documented. You see the camps, the gas chambers, and ovens. 

Genocide is more than just killing. Those targeted are to be wiped away from time and history. To simply disappear from Earth. 

It’s also easy to look at the Rwandan Genocide and agree. Or the killing fields from the Cambodian Genocide. The Darfur Genocide. Though they weren’t meticulously carried out like The Holocaust, the intent was the same. The goals are the same. How they’re achieved though, that is what’s different. 

Goals are easy to see, methods are a little more difficult, which is what’s most important when determining genocide. 

At what point does a mass killing or a massacre become genocide? What is the magic number?

As I said, how genocide is carried out varies. 

Most recently, recognition of the Armenian Genocide has increased, but is still a hotly debated topic. 

During World War One, Ottoman Turkey deported its mostly Christian Armenian population from its empire in Anatolia to Syria and Iraq. This led to a death march in the desert, with inadequate supplies for the population. Malnutrition, starvation, diseases, thirst, and hardship all followed. Around an estimated one-million Armenians perished. There were no ghettos, no gas chambers, or killing fields. Just people left to fend for themselves inadequately, in a hostile environment.

It’s unknown how many were actually killed by the Ottoman Turks, but the intent was there. To remove a certain ethnic, religious group, and ensure they never return. They may not have actually pulled the trigger, but they certainly loaded and cocked the gun. 

That’s the big issue to understand. The inhumane conditions imposed on the Armenian people makes it easy to see that they couldn’t survive, and those who ordered this deportation knew it. They (mostly) remained on the sidelines, ensuring those conditions never improved. 

Genocide wasn’t a word at the time, but it falls under the requirements. Just because something happened before the word was coined doesn’t mean it doesn’t count.

Look at the mass unmarked graves of Indigenous children discovered in Canada throughout this summer. Located on former sites of Canadian Indian Residential Schools, one can make an argument this was definitely cultural genocide, if not genocide out right.

The system was designed and thoroughly planned out, but with the intent to destroy the Indigenous’ culture, and way of life, to convert and assimilate them to Canadian culture. Though not planned and carried out like the Final Solution, the intent was still to destroy an ethnic, religious group, one way or the other. The mass graves are the result of poor living conditions, neglect, disregard for basic needs, and most likely abuse.

We shouldn’t be surprised with these findings. The treatment of Indigenous Peoples from European settlers must constitute a form of genocide. Massacres may not have been planned or sanctioned, but throughout the centuries in the Americas, how many Indigenous directly or indirectly died because of colonization? From random killings and violence, forceful taking of land, to spreading smallpox and other diseases, to the extinction of several Indigenous groups like the Beothuk. A slower method, but same results. 

It may be different from The Holocaust, and wasn’t quick like in Rwanda, but it should fall under genocide.

You can destroy a certain group just by changing how they look, talk, dress, and behave. Soon enough, it would be very difficult to believe they were actually of a different group of people. 

Looking back on history, how many more acts of genocide were committed? 

It’s a word not to be taken lightly, with a definition not so rigid. One must look at not only the intent, but the means of achieving it. 

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