It’s Thanksgiving, 2010 and my family has gone to various places to eat together. Due to my voluntary poverty and the fact that my car is such a hoopty, I’m staying home. I feel very thankful today; thankful that my family is together, thankful that God loves me, and thankful that I am completely free to study and write all day.
Research on Atrocities
However, I may have made a mistake by researching Jim Jones, the Mormons, and the Nazis back-to-back. I have been trying to figure out for many years how normal human beings can do damn-fool, horrible things. Maybe if I could figure it out, I could help put a stop to it. I wish I could blame it all on the leaders; random sociopaths who rise to power and hypnotize their followers. But the hideous truth is that while some leaders probably are sociopaths, normal human beings collaborate with them.
Does this really matter? It matters very much. At Jonestown, Pastor Jim convinced over 900 people to give their babies cyanide and then drink it themselves. They were normal people who loved their babies; there are screams and wailing on the audiotape; but they still did it. Why? We all know about Hitler’s methodical extermination of six million innocent people. His list included eleven million, but he ran out of time.
Atrocities are Universal
Hitler started with killing diseased, mentally ill, and retarded people, in order to save money and purify the gene pool. Doctors supervised. Why? By comparison, the Mormons are relatively benign. But their paranoia did lead to their massacre of 120 unarmed men, women, and children, which they initially tried to cover up. This was done by hard-working religious farmers; regular people. Why?
Would We Collaborate?
And since this monotonous tendency to rise up and slaughter innocents crosses all demographics, the more disturbing personal question is: Would I have collaborated? And the disturbing answer is that I might have. The Mormon system of taking care of each other, striking out on an adventure, and setting up a city is appealing. Jim Jones’ efforts toward integration, helping the poor, and establishing a close community are appealing. If I truly believed that there was a group of people living among us who were more like cockroaches than humans, who were responsible for all the suffering and disease and failures of my nation…but no, I could never believe that one. But I might have chosen not to see, in order to stay alive myself.
Still They Continue
“Never again,” was the judgment on the Holocaust, but that carried as much weight as the “War to End All Wars.” Genocides and wars continue, atrocities continue, and they continue to be perpetrated not by alien monsters, but by regular people who collaborate either actively or passively. Why? The answer is important.
Fear Mongering: Red Flag
Meanwhile, what each individual can do is to take note of instances of fear-mongering by politicians, newscasters, and those who (usually naively) spread their messages on facebook and other social media. Is someone or some group being routinely demonized? Obama? Immigrants? What might the motive be for the demonization campaign? Are we building up to justify a war? Are we being distracted from some sleazy move by special interests? Or is it “just” the usual attempt to grab power by one political party or another? We Christians are supposed to be salt and light to the world. Take any fear message with a grain of salt and don’t repeat it until you have all the light.