Center for World Indigenous Studies
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A Reckless Luxury

Published: May 30, 2008, Author: JayTaber

In the early years of post-communist totalitarianism in Central and Eastern Europe, brutal violence against ethnic minorities like the Roma (Gypsies) was almost commonplace. In Romania, for instance, police assisted murderous mobs — numbering in the hundreds — while they committed calculated attacks and arsons all over the country. The desire for ethnic cleansing was proudly proclaimed by many throughout the region, not just in the former Yugoslavia. As Isabel Fonseca wrote in her book Bury Me Standing, this epidemic constituted, “the violence of violated men”.

Writers like Malcolm Gladwell (Damaged) and Lloyd de Mause (The Emotional Life of Nations) have cited scholarly studies demonstrating the corrosive effects of brutality on the human mind, but the long-term consequences of the psychological cruelty of totalitarian regimes is not as widely appreciated as it is in terms of phenomena like domestic violence and child abuse. Symptoms of community trauma crop up in ethnographic reports about such atrocities as aboriginal boarding schools in Canada, Australia and the US, or in medical papers on collective punishment in Palestine, but the sadism and seething hatred undergirding the resurgence of fascism in Europe is fueled by more than religious racism; it is sociopathic.

Unfortunately, this new pandemic is not limited to the geography of former dictatorships. As Hans Magnus Enzensburger, author of Civil Wars, wrote, “Those who look at globalization in purely economic terms have not understood it. Today, nothing is left that can remain separate from it, neither religion nor science, neither culture nor technology”. As the new capitalist totalitarianism, it is proving itself no less capable of producing mindless violence.

With the loss of hopes and dreams, millions more in the so-called developed world are susceptible to mobilized resentment and scapegoating. With the loss of security and identity, they are easy prey for manipulated hatred and revenge.

Ignoring the dehumanizing effects of such colossal disempowerment of humanity is a reckless luxury; in no time at all it can become catastrophic.

(Jay Taber — recipient of the Defender of Democracy award — is an author, columnist, and research analyst at Public Good Project.)

Chief George Manuel Memorial Indigenous Library

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