The Struggle to Identify with Genocide

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In Art Spiegelman's graphic novel Maus, Art spends the entire novel explaining his father Vladek's experience during the Holocaust. The novel itself was very eye opening and at times difficult to read due to its themes. Maus dealt with topics that revolved around genocide, discrimination, mental health, and family conflict. All these themes managed to create a raw and vivid story. Although, the reading Maus draws the attention to one very in depth and important theme. It has to do with how reader still manages to read Vladek's story about the Holocaust and is still astonished by the horrors that occur during genocide. As a society, individuals push these horrors way. It is difficult for humans to understand that evils such as genocide occur as a result of hatred or discrimination. Due to the atrocities committed throughout genocide, it is easier to ignore it as a society.

Why is it that as a society it has been accepted to not constantly bring attention to genocide and have a conversation on how we can prevent it? Why is it allowed to be brushed off while there have been recent genocides occurring all over the world such as the genocides in Rwanda and Bosnia? As a society it has been the norm to brush away these acts against humanity. It maybe be due to a lack of education given to the subject or it maybe because as human beings we cannot comprehend it psychologically. As Vladek mentions his Holocaust experience in Maus, It would take many books, my life, and no one wants anyway to hear such stories (Spiegelman 14).        

To understand why individuals neglect genocide, there needs to be an understanding to why genocide occurs in the first place. According to an article written titled Journal of Social Issues it is said that a combination of issues and characteristics create intense violence. Staub states that Individuals and groups learn by doing. They change as a result of their actions. Harmful actions are justified, making more harmful actions possible and likely. Devaluation intensifies, the victims are excluded from the moral realm societal norms and institutions change. There is not just moral disengagement, but moral transformation in the end many perpetrators seeing killing their victims as morally right, a reversal of morality. The evolution is facilitated through just world thinking (the world is just and those who suffer must be deserving of it habituation, and, very importantly, the passivity of bystanders, people who are neither the perpetrators nor the victims. Passivity, and complicity, a limited form of which is people participating in the system created by the perpetrators, is perceived by the perpetrators as acceptance or even approval of their beliefs and actions (Staub).

When bystanders allow acts of terror to happen the door that leads to genocide is left wide open. The question still remains on why this horrific problem remains and why as a society we neglect the horrors that are come across. Paul Slovic the president of Decision Research and Professor of Psychology at the University of Oregon has said that genocide is a heinous practice, carried out by human antagonists, that could in principle be stopped if only people cared to stop it (Burke). 

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The Struggle To Identify With Genocide. (2019, Dec 04). Retrieved December 1, 2023 , from

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