Saturday, April 20, 2013

Another Act of "Humanicide"

I refer you to my original blog of August 26, 2004 on the subject and definition of humanicide, where I suggested:

“Humanicide is quite different from other forms of mass murder in that there is no motive other than the destruction of large numbers of human beings simply for its own sake. There is no attempt to rob the victims or steal their land or women or anything else. They were not killed because they were resisting. They were not taken prisoner, raped, tortured or otherwise abused. They were simply killed for no reason other than for some perverted idea that had nothing whatsoever to do with them…
For true humanicide you must have an innocent group of human beings for victims. The victims must have nothing in common other than being present at the time. The attackers must have no specific knowledge of who will be present. You must have a motive that has nothing whatsoever to do with those you are about to murder. It must be impersonal and involve some form of relatively modern technology.”

I suggested that the Oklahoma City bombing and the attack on the Twin Towers were examples of humanicide. It seems clear to me that the Boston Marathon bombing is yet another example of this seemingly inexplicable behavior, bizarre attacks on large numbers of human beings that have nothing whatsoever to do with the attackers and only very distant connections, if any, to their motives. The recent murders of school children in Sandy Hook, the Aurora, Colorado theatre massacres, along with the Virginia Tech case and others might also be considered also acts of humanicide, although in these cases there may have been more understandable motives involved, such as personal revenge for past slights or bullying. In any case, I believe mass murders like the Twin Towers and Boson cases are a very recent phenomenon that did not occur prior to the last of the 20th century and will quite likely become increasingly common in the 21st century. Why this is so I do not know but I should think the answer is of grave importance.

I think we may have seen the first inclinations of humanicide in the bombings of Guernica, Dresden, and Nagasaki. These were not acts of humanicide because they occurred for obvious military purposes, however terrible and misguided they might have been. Technology obviously played a role in preparing us for humanicide, as when warfare and plundering occurred previously it was mostly a matter of face-to-face fighting where the enemy was obvious, the outcome was expected, and the means of killing limited. Even bombs, if present, were relatively small and inefficient. As far as I know there were no examples of what I am now describing as humanicide. But the technology necessary to carry out attacks of humanicide need not be highly sophisticated and its existence cannot by itself explain the phenomena. It has to have something to do with human behavior itself, especially as it relates to morality and human attitudes towards each other, and importantly to the value placed on human life in general. Prior to, and during the Middle Ages, human life, as such, was obviously not regarded as terribly important, the Vikings and Mongols and others raided, plundered, and killed with impunity. They may sometimes have wiped out entire villages and killed virtually everyone there, but it was obviously for the purpose of plunder. After the Enlightenment in the 17th and 18th centuries, and up until recent times, the attitude towards human life somewhat mellowed and the previous excesses were at least partly curbed. Could it be said that we are now experiencing a return to a basic human nature that just killed, raped, and plundered at will? I don’t think so, something else seems to be involved.

Humanicide does not seem to involve much in the way of emotion. The victims are not hated (I think and hope), there is not even an element of sadism involved, empathy seems to be absent, ordinary moral strictures seem to be irrelevant, there is a quality of complete detachment involved, nothing material is to be gained, rape and robbery are not involved, no individuals or groups are targeted as people of all races, ethnic backgrounds, religions and beliefs are equally victims, and there appear to be no precedents for acts of humanicide. So why do they occur, and with apparently increasing cases?

We have not yet heard from the one remaining bomber and, if he chooses to remain silent, we may never hear from him. But what can he possibly say to explain this heinous attack that would truly explain it? It was for a “free Chechnia? It was because the U.S. is an immoral country? It was revenge for U.S. involvements in the Middle East? It was part of a Muslim jihad? None of these explanations, nor any explanation of this type, can possibly explain it. No explanation I can conceive of forgives the basic fact that large numbers of completely anonymous innocent people were destroyed. There are no political or religious beliefs that justify humanicide, even anarchists would never condone humanicide. As far as I know, no one, until recently, even conceived of such mass acts of terror.

Is terror the answer? Is the purpose of such acts to strike terror in the minds of all? We might say that, but does it make sense? What, after all, is the purpose of terror? Terrorizing a population does not destroy it, and, indeed, might well strengthen it. And you probably cannot effectively terrorize millions, even billions of people. Terror as a tactic can never work as the terrorized are still going to live and defend themselves. I doubt that even the perpetrators of humanicide can adequately explain their senseless acts. I do not know the answer to the fact of humanicide as a recent human phenomenon. It may have something to do with the dehumanization that has come with technology, the evolution of culture and its effects on aspects of human nature such as basic emotional features like empathy, shame, guilt, beliefs about the sanctity of life, and so forth.

If you ask someone who has just destroyed hundreds of fellow human beings why he did it, and he replies he did it to save the world, protect the children, bring democracy, or free Chechnia, or some other group, don’t believe it. I want the perpetrators of humanicide to explain precisely and in serious detail their justification for what they have done, simple political or religious explanations are not enough, unless, perhaps they are so stupid and vile they really do not know better.    

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