Summary: Ch. 7 The Pathology & Prevention of Genocide

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from the Psychodynamics of International Relationships Vol II: Unofficial Diplomacy at Work,

edited by Vamik D. Volkan, Joseph Montville and Demetrios A. Julius

In this essay, Montville’s approach is influenced by two themes commonly spoken by Holocaust historian Elie Wiesel:  1) the Holocaust defies all explanation and 2) the drive to kill all European Jews is central to the event, defining its mystery and horror.  He asserts that Christians need to put an end to the Jewish fear that the Holocaust can happen again. The most effective defense to such fears is the “harsh light of clinical analysis, exposure, and relentless treatment of racial, religious, and ethnic hatred whenever and wherever it occurs.”

The goal of this essay is to dissect the anatomy of evil and to set out the broad outlines of a system to deter it.  Genocide is the most profound example of evil, so Montville starts with a review of it’s definition. It is clear that genocide results from a combination of factors: political, economic, and social break down with resultant group regression under stress; sometimes the pressure of a destructive charismatic, narcissistic, leader; and, often the existence of an ideology that rationalizes mass killing.

The next step is to develop a set of indicators that could serve as an early warning device in a program of genocide prevention. The essay cannot offer a comprehensive structure for such a system, but does offer guidelines based on efforts already underway. For example, Montville lists five general characteristics that signal the development of maladaptive dehumanization and the levels of information to be monitored in a genocide early warning system. NGO’s such as Amnesty International, Cultural Survival and International alert are doing the work to document human rights violations.