Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Genocide and Bystading in the 21st Century

Genocide is made up of the greek word genos which literally means race, and the Latin word cide which means killer or act of killing. Together they mean Race Killing. 

            When thinking about genocide and mass murder, everyone’s mind immediately fluctuates to Hitler and the extermination of Jews.  What Hitler did to the Jews was horrific and terrifying, but little do we all know about all the other genocides that happened worldwide and that even now, in the 21st Century, we are still surrounded by such crimes. The term genocide hasn't been around for much, it was only truly established in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide."This convention established "genocide" as an international crime, which signatory nations "undertake to prevent and punish". " (USHMM)  This convention defines Genocide as:

[G]enocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
a)   Killing members of the group;b)    Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;c)    Deliberately inflicting on the group condition of life calculate to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
d)    Imposing measures intended to prevent birth within the group;
e)    Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

As a consequence to the lack of actions taken by me throughout my life, I can be labeled today as a bystander. According to dictionary.com, a bystander is a person who is “present but not involved”. Unfortunately, this describes my situation perfectly. I am a well educated student who is aware of the crimes against humanity that are being committed worldwide, yet I stand by, observe and take no concrete action. Of course, I dream of the future, where I am a diplomat at the United Nations and manage to end the P5 dominance of the Security Council and prevent the horrors that will come if the world continues on this same path. But dreaming of the future isn’t enough. Today, now, actions need to be taken. During our history class our teacher taught us about a phenomena called “Bystander Effect”. I truly believe that we are currently undergoing this event in a global scale. We all talk about how terrible all the crimes around us are, yet, we are very much capable of standing and trusting that someone else will end the horrors, other than ourselves.

After this much needed lesson, I decided that I no longer want to be a bystander. So I told myself, I need to do something. There is a problem though, something that devastates me tremendously. When asked what is it that I am going to do, I fail to think of measures that I can take. Now of course, I can do something like flying over to Darfur and trying to do something to stop the genocide, but this of course will not be of any value.  Consequently, I did some research and looked up what organizations want average citizens like me to do.
After some research, I came across the “UnitedStates Holocaust Memorial Museum” site where they tell us “What Can We Do?”. Number 1 says, Learn More, and so I did. According to Genocide Watch, nowadays, in our world, NINE COUNTRIES are in the “extermination” stage (Stage 7/8) of genocide. This shocked me. I wasn’t even aware of the horrific situation of some of the countries that were found on the list. I truly do hear a lot more of the bombing in Boston than about the government opponents being killed in Ethiopia. Number 2-6 on the USHMM all talked along the same lines, which involve raising awareness, contacting the media and communicating other members of society.  
In my head, I try and grasp a solution in which I won’t be bystanding, where I will be offering help- even if just minimal- to the problem. I found that a possible solution could be gathering my class mates in order to draft a letter which would be sent, either to the USA government or to the Brazilian government, pledging for their attention in terms of these genocide threats. Really, what we want to achieve is the recognition such crimes; because, once something is coined as genocide, nations worldwide, along with the United Nations, are forced to take action.

There seems to be a terrible misunderstanding on the part of a great many people to the effect that when you cease to believe you may cease to behave
-Louis Kronenberger 

Following the mind set in the quote above, I am choosing to believe that there is something I can do, even if minimal, to contribute to the end of such horrific crimes. I truly agree that if I everyone stops believing, everyone will stop behaving. This would only worsen the Global Bystander Effect by putting the lives of people in the countries were genocides are occurring in even more horrible situations. 

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