The general perception is that genocide happens in other countries, to other groups, to those less democratised. People thus tend to view genocide from a distance with a “that is so bad, but luckily it won’t happen to us” attitude. We can see this attitude filtering through in the lack of outside response to genocidal attacks over the last few decades. Dr. Charles Mironko brought a compelling message on The 8 Stages of Genocide at Vega’s Image Evening on 09 November 2011. Once we are able to identify the various stages of genocide, we can put measures in place at each stage to prevent genocide from occurring or recurring.
Image by Michael Burnett. Left to right: Dr Charles Mironko, Tsepho Moime, Gordon Cook.
The first stage of genocide is classification of humans according to groupings such as ethnicity, religion, gender and culture. This can already occur in childhood where one group bullies another. Secondly, symbolism is attached to the classifications, such as the yellow star that Jews had to wear during the holocaust. In the third stage, the victimized group becomes dehumanised when terms such as rats, cockroaches and snakes are used to describe the group. They are thus not viewed as human but rather as animals. Organisation is the fourth stage of genocide where powerful leaders and militia begin to form groups and build their supremacy. Next, polarisation follows as the dominant group begins to distance themselves from the dehumanised group. The divide between these groups thus enlarges. In the sixth stage, preparation occurs by death lists being drawn up and plans being made to kill others. This leads to the seventh stage of extermination. The last stage of genocide is denial where perpetrators justify their actions and deny any wrongdoing.
Image by Michael Burnett. Left to right: Dr Charles Mironko, Gordon Cook.
None of us are exempt from genocide if we fail to notice the various stages, which might take decades to develop. We can walk blind and mute through each stage and find ourselves at stage seven being the victims or even on the side of the perpetrators. Genocide can be prevented if the early stages are dealt with effectively.
The central message to Dr Mironko’s presentation is this: Instead of being blind and mute citizens, let’s open our eyes to circumstances around us and let’s voice our concerns and opinions. What measures can we put in place to prevent or rectify each stage of genocide?
Review by Yolande Rossouw. Presented by Dr Charles Mironko at Vega Bordeaux, 09 November 2011.