Tribalism, jealousy, and rejection of some groups as somehow less important than others is rife today. It is one step from that to seeing them as less deserving of protection or help and support. And one step from that is allowing them to die by our neglect such as not ensuring they have food or water, or not funding health care for them. Only one step further is to actively kill those in groups we count as less worthy than ourselves. Today is holocaust Memorial Day, and somehow such efforts at genocide don’t feel like a distant unimaginable prospect right now.
If you haven’t seen it already I strongly recommend Anthony Hopkins’ new film about saving children from the holocaust.
I understand that the holocaust was the most serious and extreme event in human history and its causes are complex. But it is abundantly clear that a step wise dehumanisation of certain groups was essential to it. Interestingly some groups were despised because they were considered inferior, whilst others were despised precisely because they were perceive as being successful, or intellectual. Central to much anti-semitism is the idea that many Jewish people are wealthy and influential, and from that stemmed a desire to expel all Jewish people from their place in society, and ultimately to kill them.
This mixture of despising a group we consider “other” but also are jealous of is rampant today. It is concerning that many would deny the Jewish people today the right to protect themselves from murder and kidnapping sprees. It is also concerning that many do not seem to care about the plight of the people who suffer under Hamas in the West Bank and who are now suffering under Israeli attacks and blockades. It was unfortunate indeed that there was talk about cutting off all food water and fuel from the occupied territory. The truth is there is incredible suffering on both sides, and demonising one side of the conflict to the point we dont care if they live or die is not the answer.
In many Western countries and between national governments this latest conflict has led to a huge split. It seems we think you must be either entirely pro Hamas or entirely pro-Israel. Many completely dismiss the terror that was inflicted on the Jews and to which they are responding. In some cases crowds in democracies chant slogans calling for Israel to be obliterated. It is shameful that many today are happy to suggest Israelis somehow deserve to be murdered. It is no accident that many Jewish people feel that what led to the recent conflict was an attempt to complete the work of holocaust against them. But equally we should not want the Palestinian people to be eliminated either.
But you do not have to think about international politics and conflict to see this tendency. Closer to home it’s often seen for example in the extreme hatred shown towards those accused of various forms of abuse. Since #meto some even say all men are capable of rape or other forms of abuse. It is now seen as virtue signalling to cancel and hound the accused out of their jobs before any due legal process has happened.
Many are presumed guilty far too hastily and are not even given the chance to prove themeless innocent. This turns on its head hundreds of years of legal tradition which for good reason promoted the doctrine that that it was better to make the mistake of finding a guilty person innocent than to instead pronounce an innocent person guilty.
And yet today even if someone is declared innocent in court this doesn’t repair reputations damaged by the angry initial reactions which spread like a virus across social media.
If an alleged abuser is also wealthy and a celebrity then that toxic combination of despising people who we also envy takes root readily.
Political divisions are also widening in an alarming way, especially in the USA. Whatever you call the events of Jan 6 2001. anger and alienation run deeper than ever as a result. As an observer it even seems possible the USA might descend into civil war such is the level of hatred observed between many republicans and many democrats.
We must also beware of policies that create a underclass who themselves feel alienated from society and without hope or prospects to better themselves. Extremists find it easy to recruit from such a group. Thanks directly to the disdain shown by many politicians to the poor and needy in our nations or overseas we have already created such groups that feel everyone outside their own group is their enemy.
Some churches feel disconnected from society also, believing that the State wants to persecute them, and feel increasingly cut off and isolated from outsiders. Isolation in our own tribes is the way to war, not peace and understanding.
This holocaust day lets understand that many of the drivers which led to this horrific unique event are growing all too rapidly, fuelled in part by social media. Let’s reach out across the barriers and make friends with people who are different from ourselves. Let’s build understanding, and demand our politicians do the same. Lets pray for the peace not just of Jerusalem, but of Gaza, the Ukraine, and our own nations.