In his Worse Than War: genocide, eliminationism, and the ongoing assault on humanity Daniel Jonah Goldhagen says, “In our time virtually all manner of peoples have perpetrated mass murder against virtually all kinds of victims.”
It’s a statement surrounded by examples, of course. And “our time” seems to reach back to Genghis Khan and the Bible. I feel an unlikely optimism when horrors of such intractable and overwhelming nature are approached with reason, scholarship and compassion. Goldhagen, author also of Hitler’s Willing Executioners, a study of the ordinary Germans who joined in the extermination of the Jews, seems to think if we study mass murder, figuring out not only what sets it in motion (& who) but what keeps it in motion and what ends it, we will be better able to prevent it. It’s that attitude that gives me that little lift even when reading the horrific details of killing, hate, and indifference to suffering. I then shake my head. Really? We can get a handle on this evil? We haven’t up to now because nobody’s properly studied it?