In 1996, research professor in Genocide Studies and Prevention at George Mason University, Gregory Stanton wrote a briefing labelled, “The 8 Stages of Genocide”. The intention of the piece was to inform the United States State Department of preventative measures that can be implemented by governments to preemptively end a race-hatred movement before it erupts into genocide. Briefly, I want to summarize the 8 stages below:
1. Classification: People are divided into “us” and “them”.
2. Symbolization: Symbols that inspire hatred are imposed upon members of the pariah group.
3. Dehumanization: One group denies the humanity of another group, who may become equated with animals, vermin, insects, or diseases.
4. Organization: Special trained army units or militias organize the mass killing of the pariah group.
5. Polarization: Propaganda is broadcast to incite hatred towards the pariah group.
6. Preparation: Victims are singled out because of their ethnic or racial identity.
7. Extermination: Killers systematically exterminate the pariah group, who has been fully dehumanized from the status of a victim.
8. Denial: The perpetrators deny they have committed any crimes.
Genocides have left those members who can behold such a macabre spectacle with mouths agape at the terrible ferocity of the human race towards its own members. Such spectacles have become so commonplace, their existence so matter-of-fact, that we have become numbed to their shock value, becoming as normalized as the air we breathe.
I go back to the first stage, Classification. What causes a species, which shares very similar hopes and dreams, who have similar aspirations for their futures, who care fundamentally most about those close relationships that are the animus of life itself, to separate itself into “us” and “them”? In itself, separation is not a horror. To say that the earth is separate from the sky is to simply state an observable fact. But what is added to this separation is a judgment of the unworthiness of the “them”. And that judgment must come from the consciousness of fear.
I have spent a considerable time in my life asking a series of questions over and over again. As I observe the human species, I see a tremendous and ever-present anxiety that pervades within each of us, a way of life in which the duality consciousness or an “us-versus-them” consciousness is the assumed way of life. As in all things on the website, I am not going to try force or vehemently push my agenda upon you, but merely ask you to consider a different perspective. These observations I have made while asking the lifelong question: Why is the human species perpetuating tremendous acts of violence towards other members of its own species?
By accepting as fact, the division of “us” from the “them”, we have implicitly accepted this belief that we must struggle against something or someone, whether it is an actual person or an inherited standard that is imposed upon us by society. This struggle against something outside of ourselves then sets the stage for conflicts to escalate from the individual into the collective, so that we as societies feel compelled to resort to violence. The acceptance of this reality then feeds the collective demon whose survival depends on our desire to war against ourselves. In our desire to protect our lives against something, our way of life against another, we must demonize, and furthermore, dehumanize the other. The Islamists, who comprise a vocal minority of Muslims, for instance, have demonized all others as threats to their way of life, and as they have defined who they are in relation to, or rather, in opposition to, all other ways of life, they war against those perceived threats from the “other” in order to protect their sense of self, which they have deemed as “worthy” and “better”. The Islamists are perhaps an extreme example, but whether we want to admit it or not, we are, as a society, in fact, all projecting this same judgment, only varying in fashion and degree, towards something outside of us. One may be warring against the concept of failure, or the concept of ugliness, or any concept that is deemed arbitrarily as less worthy by society.
As we collectively buy into this belief that we must struggle against something outside ourselves in order to protect ourselves from that threat, we put an even greater wedge among the polarities. The rich become richer and therefore even more desired, the poor become poorer and even less worthy. The standards of beauty become even more pronounced and even more difficult to attain. We must admit that this is a grave problem indeed. We have bought into a paradigm in which the human race is literally at war against and afraid of itself.
If we want to eradicate fear of any sort, to renounce it completely, be it physical, emotional, or psychological, we must renounce completely with every fiber of our being the consciousness of fear, judgment and violence. No diplomatic or economic solution will bring this about, for many have tried, for several centuries and millennia, and have yet to put together a lasting effect. The only way we can transcend this mentality is to expand our sense of who we are, to realize that before any idea or concept that can define us, we are at the very fundamental level, human beings first. This is the only way out.
My understanding of this spiritual solution came from studying particularly the life and teachings of Jesus as well as other proponents of non-violence like Gandhi, Thoreau, and Socrates. I speak, of course, not of the Jesus whose image has been unfortunately hijacked and idolized by the Catholic Church, but the Jesus, the human being, who in the supreme act of non-violence allowed himself to be crucified, who faced head-on the consciousness of fear and death, and who, while experiencing the agony of crucifixion, had compassion for his enemies and forgave them. He along with, wonderful souls like Gandhi, were willing to give up their lives in their adherence to the principles of non-violence. The Sanskit word asambhav comes to mind, which means outside the realm of possibility. It is, therefore, asambhav, for instance, for an adherent of the Christian faith, who allegedly follows the teachings of Jesus to own any agent of violence, including a gun, with the intention of inflicting violence upon another.
When the denizens of this Earth can renounce the consciousness of fear, judgment and violence to the extent that I have described, when we are even willing to give up their own lives as agents of non-violence, then we will rid this world of all fear.