Last night I watched the movie “Hotel Rwanda,” which highlighted the human toll of genocide brought on by one part of a population considering another part as less than human. In “The Root of All Evil,” I discussed how this could happen from an objective viewpoint (effectively treating all people as objects to get the point across): When we value other people less than we do ourselves, we become psychologically enabled to commit acts of great evil.
I was personally shamed by the movie. Though I have spent a lot of time studying “population loss” and financially supported groups trying to alleviate suffering in places like Darfur, my perspective has been far too abstract. There are real people dying, families being torn apart, and physical and emotional torture occurring on an unimaginable scale. “Population loss” is unmitigated, personal disaster for those involved, and we in the West are far closer to experiencing it than we would care to admit.
Any time someone suggests that a group of people should be killed to get them out of our way, or that another culture should be destroyed because it is an evolutionary dead end, we should have an immediate gagging reflex and then let that person know just how disgusting and vile the suggestion is. We should remind ourselves and our neighbors every day that tolerance is critical to our moral and physical survival.
There may be a fraction of any population that will always favor the destruction of others so they can “come out on top.” It seems to be a perpetual struggle to keep them from doing too much damage. But the rest of us can not think of them or treat them as any less human because of it, because then we will be emulating them. We must focus on limiting ACTIONS, because it is the actions, not the people, who are evil. The rule of law, not of people, is what keeps our destructive impulses from wreaking havoc, and we must rededicate ourselves to strengthening, rather than weakening systems that limit the damage we can do to other people.