Motivation and Scarcity in Genocide

Our reading for today discussed the role that scarcity plays in the genocide, as well as many other motivations and methods for this senseless violence. There are different kinds of scarcity, with the most obvious being the lack of resources, land, and materials needed to survive. This can lead to competition between groups in order to allocate resources to survive. Resources can also be scarce due to a large growth in the population, leaving less material to go around. The solution to this problem is to increase the material resources or to decrease the population. This is when conflicts become troublesome and violence occurs, because in poor countries they lack the means to supply themselves and resort to killing each other to survive.

Scarcity can also contain a psychological component that explains why genocide occurs. It involves a situation in which desire is confused with need. When this type of society is created, it drives the developmental projects that have destroyed the lives of the indigenous people. Sometimes people will go to extreme measures when they desire to have more control over something, which can lead to destruction and violence. Difficult life conditions can increase the needs and demands for satisfaction, and pose a threat to an individual’s self-concept. Individual motives to defend one’s physical self (life and security) and one’s psychological self (self-concept and values) arise during times of poverty and squalor. People then begin to focus on fulfilling their own needs and compete with others for material goods, leading to harm and hostility.

Another type of scarcity is political scarcity, which includes both material and political deprivation. This is a situation where there are sufficient resources to meet everyone’s needs, but the allocation of resources favors certain groups. It often occurs in countries that are politically unstable and ethnically divided. When the legitimacy of the ruling group in a plural society is challenged, it is likely that the old regime will rise and resort to an authoritarian solution to gain power. This creates a “politics of identity,” which during scarce times a government can increase hardship, discrimination, and destitution. Often times the struggle for power in these nations that could be resolved by sharing responsibility, protecting basic human rights, and treating others equally.

Our reading for today also discussed the motivations and actions that lead to a genocide. It introduced the personal goal theory in order to describe how individuals and cultures select goals to actively pursue and suggests ways to determine when it is likely that they will act to fulfill them. According to the theory, the lower a motive is in an individual’s or culture’s hierarchy, the more extreme the life conditions needed to make it active and dominant. As previously mentioned, motivations for genocide can arise from difficult living conditions and a perceived threat to life, safety, and well-being. Other motivations include adopting an ideology to elevate the dominant group’s social identity while diminishing and scapegoating the other group.

There are also certain cultural and political preconditions that make a society susceptible to genocide. One is a society that is monolithic, meaning that there is limited variation in values and perspectives on life. This type of society has a strong authority or a totalitarian rule that has the power to shape people’s perceptions of the victims. It is also typical for a monolithic society to have a strong respect for authority and an inclination to be obedient to that authority. This explains why even though both Germany and France expressed Anti-Semitic ideals, only Germany persecuted Jews in an especially intense and cruel manner. Germany had a long standing authoritarian tradition, which was opposed to France’s pluralistic society that celebrated individual freedom and right.

It is important to environmental circumstances and psychological motivations that lead to a nation to genocide. If we can understand and identify the societies that exemplify these

characteristics, then we can try to prevent genocide early on before plans are mobilized.

-Ben

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