Genocide & Cruelty

Topics: Rwandan Genocide, Genocide, United Nations Pages: 5 (1738 words) Published: February 28, 2006
Genocide and Cruelty
Throughout history people have taken actions which show us that some people are cruel and participate in outrageous acts. We can go back and look at the United States and their use of slaves from Africa. In Germany, less then 100 years ago, Adolf Hitler and the Nazis orchestrated one of the most hateful and dehumanizing acts with their concentration camps with the killings of millions of Jews, Gypsies, gays and others. Following these devastating acts the United Nations said they would not let genocide like the concentration camps ever occur again. But just 11 years ago in Rwanda 800,000 people were killed in genocide with little or no intervention from the United States or any other country. Philip Hallie spoke about some of the actions and the reason behind some people and their cruelty in ÒFrom Cruelty to Goodness.Ó In the article Hallie is questioned as to whether these acts of genocide can be prevented through good or if these acts can not be stopped and are an event in history. Hallie makes a great point when he says that goodness can prevail over evil. My feelings are similar to those of Hallie as I feel that there is some good in everyone and that genocides and Rwanda can be prevented or helped through good.

The premise behind Philip HallieÕs article pretty much speaks for itself in the title, ÒFrom Cruelty to Goodness.Ó He first sets out to define cruelty. Hallie defines institutionalized cruelty as Òcruelty (what the anti-cruelty societies usually call Ôsubstantial crueltyÕ) involves the maiming of a personÕs dignity, the crushing of a personÕs self-respectÓ (Hallie, 6). Hallie goes on to say that Òpower differential is crucial to the idea of cruelty, then when that power differential is maintained, cruelty will tend to be maintained, and when the power differential is eliminated, cruelty will tend to be eliminatedÓ (Hallie, 8). He says cruelty is Òan imbalance of power wherein the stronger party becomes the victimizer and the weaker becomes the victimÓ (Hallie, 8). Philip Hallie then relates this idea of cruelty and imbalance of power to past events in which a group of people were subjected to inhuman conditions. He uses slavery and the Nazi death camps as examples or the powerful majority institutionalizing the weak minority. He talked about how the whites outnumbered the blacks and the NaziÕs overpowered the Jews. It leaves the reader wondering what can be done, can this cruelty be overcome?

This brings us to HallieÕs second part of the title, ÒFrom Cruelty to Goodness.Ó Hallie refers a small town in France where goodness overcame cruelty. This example contrasts the Jews and Gypsies in the death camps where ÒHere were the weakest of the weak. Not only were they despised minorities, but they were, as individuals, still in their non-ageÓ (Hallie, 9). Hallie recalls reading a story about Le Chambon and what it meant to him and his research on cruelty and goodness. ÒI wept at first reading about Le Chambon in those brief, inaccurate pages was that at last, I had discovered an embodiment of goodness in opposition to crueltyÓ (Hallie, 10). Le Chambon is a French Protestant village with a population of about 3,500 people. They saved the lives of over 6,000 people, mostly Jewish children whose parents had been killed in the death camps. This example of a small town saving the lives of thousands of people shows how one group was able to make a difference during a major event and as Hallie puts it, ÒI had found goodness in opposition to crueltyÓ (Hallie, 11). According to Hallie goodness differs from cruelty in that the opposite of cruelty is not kindness. ÒThe opposite of institutionalized cruelty is freedom from the cruel relationshipÓ (Hallie, 9). Hallie feels that goodness accomplishes this and is something positive. While Philip Hallie seems to make a good case of goodness overcoming cruelty it is not met without opposition. In his article Hallie talks about a...

Cited: Hallie, Philip ÒFrom Cruelty to GoodnessÓ As reprinted in Vice & Virtue in Everyday Life. Sommers, Christina and Sommers, Fred, United States, Thomson Wadsworth publishing.
ÒGhosts of RwandaÓ Frontline, PBS Home Video, videocassette
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