>When did genocide become ‘wrong’?

>Genocide has been a fairly common feature of human history, with some form of it in almost every country’s history. To give a few examples:

  1. Ben Kiernan, a Yale scholar, has labelled the destruction of Carthage at the end of the Third Punic War (149-146BC) as the first genocide in history.
  2. Charlemagne, who is credited for starting the process of nationalisation and the creation of ethno-homogenous societies in Europe, did so partly through genocidal actions. 
  3. Hundreds of scholars label some of the Mongol conquests, particularly in the 13th century, as genocidal. Despite the positive light in which Mongols see Genghis Khan, people throughout China and the eastern Middle East still see him as a genocidal mad man to this day.
  4. David Stannard argued that the destruction of the aboriginal peoples of America was in fact more than just disease as we commonly think today. He says that there were “a string of genocidal campaigns”.
  5. Starting in the reformation there have been frequent genocides by Catholic and Protestant forces intent on creating religious unity within European states. The Cromwellian conquest of Catholic Ireland is often referred to as a genocide. After the Battle of Culloden in 1746 the British government undertook a ‘pacification’ of the predominantly Catholic Scottish highlands, which wiped out a culture.
  6. Reynald Secher argued that the actions of the French government during the revolt in the Vendée (1793–1796) was the first modern genocide.

This last week the Serbian parliament formally apologised for the 1995 Srebrenica Massacre in which 8000 Bosnian Muslims were killed, and labelled it genocide. Many countries around the world still seek to create ethno-homogenous societies through violent means in emulation of Europe. But now we have almost universal agreement that this would be wrong. Why? What’s changed? And when did it happen?

2 comments

  • >possibly;1. Ideas have become more widespread due to advances in communication and transportation. This means 'good' ideas (or ideas that people like) get the chance to travel. In theory (and in democratic countires) bad ideas (well, seemingly bad ideas) are rejected. Robin2. Perhaps more democratic soxcieties have something to do with it – genocides tend (not always) but tend to be dictatorship (will not mention H or S). So democracy has changed perhaps.

  • >Perhaps. But if that is true then why hasn't Turkey recognised and apologised for the Armenian genocide? It's a democracy after all, and a very powerful and rich country.And how much development is needed? President Habyarimana of Rwanda announced intentions to reform Rwanda into a multi-party democracy in 1990. So democratization does not seem to be enough to prevent hostilities. Yet if the country in question has to have been democratized for some time it sounds like a cultural argument. I'm aware Germany wasn't a democracy for long, but they were a democracy nonetheless before Hitler came to power (from 1919 to 1933, enough time to influence people's thought), and indeed Germany has a long democratic history at the local level and in academic circles.Lastly, if a long democracy, and an advanced economy, is necessary to avoid genocide then do you think we will be seeing more in the future? Do you think that genocide isn't seen in as bad a light in less wealthy and less democratic countries?

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