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"These are the days when the Christian is expected to praise every creed except his own." G.K.Chesterton

"You cannot grow a beard in a moment of passion." G.K.Chesterton

"As you perhaps know, I haven't always been a Christian. I didn't go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that."C. S. Lewis

"I blog, therefore I am." Anon

Sunday, January 26, 2003

The machete as a modern weapon of mass destruction

Recently I came across the following comment on a discussion board in response to what I would have thought was a fairly uncontroversial quote by one John F. Koster:

The quote:
"In Stalinist Russia in the 1920s through the 1950s, in Nazi Germany in the
1930s through the 1940s, and in Pol Pot's Cambodia in the 1970s through the 1980s, to list three of the worst examples, millions of people, including children, were murdered because their race or social class made them undesirables."

The response:
"This tired old argument again! Perhaps Koster should try to imagine what the Crusades to the Holy Land, the Albigensian Crusade, the Indian genocide in the USA, the Aboriginal genocide in Australia, the English purges of Roman Catholics by Church of England monarchs (and vice versa) would have looked like with 20th century weaponry."

Quite coincidentally, in a book I happen to be reading at the moment about the truly shocking atrocities committed in Rwanda in the mid 1990s, I was immediately struck by this assessment that puts paid to the notion that somehow modern technology or 20th century weaponry is the "real" excuse for the scale and intensity of the brutality and inhumanity of the 20th century.

"Decimation means the killing of every tenth person in a population, and in the spring and early summer of 1994 a program of massacres decimated the Republic of Rwanda. Although the killing was low-tech-performed largely by machete-it was carried out at dazzling speed: of an original population of about seven and a half million, at least eight hundred thousand people were killed in just a hundred days. Rwandans often speak of a million deaths, and they may be right. The dead of Rwanda accumulated at nearly three times the rate of Jewish dead during the Holocaust. It was the most efficient mass killing since the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki."

(from the introduction of "We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be
killed with our families: stories from Rwanda" by Philip Gourevitch, Picador, London 1998.)

"the killing was low-tech-performed largely by machete... carried out at dazzling speed"

While no one denies the horrible killing power of modern weapons, they were bequeathed to us, not by religion, but by secular science and technology. But let's not try to pin the blame on science or technology. Let me suggest that the real source of the past century's brutality and evil resides not in technology - in guns and bombs - but in the human "heart of darkness", a heart that has either forgotten God or has raised a fist in his face, while the other fist has crushed untold millions. The awful truth about the 20th century is not merely a "tired old argument".

As Gerald Prunier points out in "The Rwanda Crisis: History of a Genocide": "Genocides are a modern phenomenon--they require organization--and they are likely to become more frequent."

The mind numbing horror of 1,000,000 people killed in 100 days largely by the use of machetes... makes the tragedies of the "Crusades to the Holy Land, the Albigensian Crusade, the Indian genocide in the USA, the Aboriginal genocide in Australia, the English purges of Roman Catholics by Church of England monarchs (and vice versa)" - all conducted with more advanced technologies - seem like veritable models of restraint...

Now that God is dead and Man is King who restrains the King?

12:45:00 am