4-Ingredient Easy Recipe for Genocide:
An excerpt on the Psychological Perspective of genocide from Adam Jones’ work, “Genocide: A Comprehensive Introduction” suggests that it’s easier to understand genocide once you understand the minds of those who commit it. He then goes on to state the four main psychological elements in understanding those who commit genocides, or génocidaires. The first element is narcissism. So, remember how teachers growing up would say bullies only say mean things because they feel insecure? Narcissism is kind of similar to that. Pathological narcissim is when someone think other people only exist to magnify themselves, and is usually rooted in the fear that they will not receive validation from others. This causes people to feel anxious, uneasy, and insecure. Greed is the second element in understanding génocidaires. It’s closely connected to the desire for power and far beyond a desire for materials, goods, and resources. The third element is fear. Jones says that “mortal terror” is a very common tactic in genocide killing. For instance, if Country A thinks that Country B has intentions to kill them, then they have to kill Country B so they can save themselves. The victims of genocide are dehumanized prior to being killed, comparing them to dogs or something of a lesser value. This dehumanization process also helps the perpetrator genuinely believe that they must exterminate a party of people before they get killed themselves. The last element is genocide and humiliation. Humiliation is almost always present in acts of war, genocide, and murder. It causes victims to feel ashamed, disgraced, and helpless. Once a victim is humiliated, it may be difficult for them to ever rebuild their self-respect.
Even with these psychological elements breaking down the minds of génocidaires, I still find it difficult to understand how a person suffering from all of these things can lead a group of people or even a nation to follow in suit with their beliefs, with the end goal of exterminating a specific group. I can empathize with hate and the desire for revenge, but I cannot fathom how someone could kill an innocent person, let alone the millions of lives lost to genocide. I don’t intend to be arrogant by stating that, but I definitely do need to take a step back and recognize that while I am feeling this frustration, I too am hating infamous figures in genocide like Hitler. At the same time, while I recognize I too can have feelings of hate, I still find it almost incomprehensible that nothing is “wrong” with some of these leaders. It would be a lot easier to understand if they all suffered from the same mental illness or all suffered similar traumatic childhoods, but that’s not always the case. Nonetheless, I fully agree with Jones in saying that understanding the minds behind genocide is a critical step in analyzing genocide.