Friday, December 10, 2010

Vengeful Cruelty

“A striking feature of eliminationist assaults is that the perpetrators and the social groups they come from, represent, and in whose name they act regularly conceive themselves as reacting rather than acting. Believing that the victims have already perpetrated or intend to perpetrate great injury upon them, they understand their assault as essentially defensive, necessary to forestall further harm, rather than as offensive against an unthreatening party. Perpetrators’ and their supporters’ ease in convincing themselves they are justly giving the victims what the victims had inflicted or would inflict upon them, when it is overwhelmingly evident that this is wrong, demonstrates human beings’ great vulnerability to prejudices and ideologies positing that a disparaged, hated, or alien group poses a dire threat. This sense of victimhood, the rage it induces and the perpetrators’ self-righteousness in administering hard justice combine to produce an appetite for vengeance and pleasure in meting it out …”

The passage continues with examples from the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia, and the Soviets in their push against the retreating Germans in World War II (where vengeance rape against German women was an approved tactic).

The description of what author Daniel Goldhagen calls “Vengeful Cruelty” sounds to me an awful lot like the rhetoric of the contemporary Christian right wing in this country. The Christians bleat that they are victims. Victims! Beleagered and on the run in their own country – and threatened around the world – a vision of the world so at odds with the reality as to be truly frightening. If someone can believe something so clearly absurd, what monstrous acts do they think will be justified, will be necessary, now, while they have weapons and numbers to their advantage?

source: Worse Than War: genocide, eliminationism, and the ongoing assault on humanity by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen

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