I recently watched this YouTube video of a TED talk given at Villanova University where Timothy Horner unpacks his idea that genocide stems from the human’s desire to create loving relationships. First, he proves with scientific studies by using infants that this need is in fact a human tendency. He claims we are “wired from birth to connect”. Easy enough. Then he makes an argument that fear is the emotion that ignites genocide. He said we fear most things that threaten our security and this is also proven scientifically because “fear memories” are stored in a different part of our brain than other memories so they are more easily accessed to keep us safe. When we feel like our safety is threatened and the people we are genetically programmed to create long lasting relationships with are in danger this fear turns into anger and we fight. This same bond that creates our life long loving relationships, when paired with fear, is the catalyst to mass murders and thousands dead.
The video does hit an upswing. When you are aware of this fear, the ability to stop it in it’s tracks increases. When feeling extreme anger, asking “what am I afraid of?” then pinpoints the root of the fear that manifests as anger when threats to those we care about are not defeated. Knowing genocide requires that we know ourselves. By studying the human reaction to fear and enduring threats, we can then better control it.
This does not solve our current problem though. In order to stop the injustice going on in our american neighborhoods or in South Sudan, we need to go back to the beginning of this speech. Reminding ourselves that we are programmed from birth to want to connect with others is essential. We need to stop seeing an “us” and “them” and desire to connect with others even if we perceive them to be different than us.