restricted access 1 Theoretical Foundations
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1 What are the circumstances by which large proportions of a community , be it a neighborhood or a nation, come to see others as so dangerous that they will attack them with genocidal intent? How is it that people who have never met or even seen anyone of a specified different group can be brought to hate those individuals? Why is it that we can be brought to see other people’s values as not only strange but also polluting? Historically, these situations have occurred repeatedly and continue to manifest themselves today. There is no reason to believe that they are not also waiting in our future. This chapter will offer a theoretical context for answering these questions. In doing so, it will lay the basis for an understanding of another, under-recognized and under-studied, phenomenon: cultural genocide. When we speak of cultural genocide we are not referring to the global nature of the fast-food industry, the homogenizing of clothing styles along Western lines, or the apparent persistent desire of millions of people of non-European backgrounds to migrate to the United States or the European Union. Rather we are interested in purposeful destructive targeting of out-group cultures so as to destroy or weaken them in the process of conquest or domination. Theoretical Foundations 1 2 Much of this book will look at case studies of such occurrences. Cultural genocide, too, has long been with us and continues into the present. However, unlike its more recognized and bloodier counterpart , physical genocide, it is not yet illegal under international law. The book will close with an effort to answer the question of why this is so. But first things first. How is it that communities can be brought to acquiesce in the cultural genocide of others? The answer has a lot to do with a phenomenon this author has called natural localness. Natural Localness The modern assumption is that we live in a global age. This proposition was most famously stated by Marshall McLuhan in a series of books and articles written in the early 1960s. Using an anatomical metaphor, McLuhan tells us in the introduction to Understanding Media that “after more than a century of electric [sic] technology, we have extended our central nervous system in a global embrace” (McLuhan 1964, 3). To use a more modern vernacular, McLuhan is asserting that the whole world is “wired” and that makes us all citizens of a “global village” within which communication “time has ceased” and “space has vanished.” This, in turn, allows us to exchange information across the planet in the same fashion and speed as we would across town (McLuhan 1967, 63). There is no doubt that this wiring process is proceeding, though it certainly has not yet covered the entire planet. The World Wide Web represents a growing link to a world of information. However, the conclusion that McLuhan draws from this ongoing process is questionable. There is a difference between the technology of communication and the extent and nature of its use. There is a difference between the existence of the World Wide Web and the purpose to which it is put by a majority of its users. Both usage and cultural genocide 2 content often remain local in nature. For instance, according to a recent Stanford University study, most Americans with access to the Web are using it to e-mail friends and to shop (“The Internet Study: More Detail” 2000). That is, the Web serves them as an expedited mail and catalog service. These pursuits suggest that the dominant popular interest of even the most global of technologies is provincial and personal. This calls into serious doubt the assumption that globalism, at least as it pertains to the daily life of ordinary people, has qualitatively broadened interests or perspectives. More likely, today as in the past, the natural preference of most human beings is to orient their lives locally. Suggestive evidence for this orientation comes from a recent study tracking cell phone use for six months among one hundred thousand randomly selected non-Americans. The study revealed that human movement has “a high degree of temporal and spatial regularity, each individual being characterized by a timeindependent characteristic travel distance and a significant probability to return to a few frequented locations.” As a consequence, daily travel for most people seems to take place within a roughly twenty-mile radius (Gonzalez, Hidalgo, and Barabasi 2008, 779). There is also the fact that on...


Subject Headings

  • Jews -- Russia -- Social conditions -- 19th century.
  • Palestinian Arabs -- Israel -- Social conditions -- 20th century
  • Tibet Autonomous Region (China) -- Social conditions.
  • Assimilation (Sociology).
  • Indians, Treatment of -- North America -- History.
  • Ethnic conflict.
  • Persecution -- Social aspects.
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