It’s Been a Long Two Weeks
Struggling is a normal part of college. It is tough, but these struggles help give us clarity, and shed light on what's important to us. I realize over and over again that I put way too much food on my plate (I wish I was saying this literally), and there always comes a bumpy time during the semester when it all catches up to me. It is happening right now, and I have been struggling for the past two weeks with it. Although I would love to say that college is jolly good all the time, I don't want to lie to you. We all have our internal battles, things we keep to ourselves, things that we just don't know how to talk about to other people, because we can barely understand it ourselves. This can pertain to our personal lives, our academics, extracurriculars, or a combination of it all. This may sounds odd, but I've been learning about some heavy topics in my Economics of Genocide class, which has contributed to my struggles.
I am an economics minor, and when I was registering for classes last semester, this course stood out to me and I had to take it. I had my eyes on Economics of Genocide as a freshman, and couldn't wait for it to be offered again. What I love about this class is that we are examining genocides from a different point of view. We aren't historians, or politicians in this class, we are economists. We analyze governments and their economies pre-genocide, and during the genocide. Are there signs that a country will be genocidal? The answer is yes, and anything from economic discrimination, low rates of imports and exports, an increase in GDP, low wages, and/or economic growth v. economic development can signal that a genocide will occur. In Nazi Germany, from 1933-1936, the German work programs showed all these signs because the state was economically discriminating those whom they considered to be unfit (such as the Jews, socialists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Roma people, labor unionists, and mentally/physically disabled people) by firing them and taking away any opportunities to succeed in life. In their place, several unskilled laborers were hired for Depression-level wages, creating the illusion that the economy was developing, but it was only expanding to hire more people who did not even have living wages.
In Rwanda, the separation between the Hutus and Tutsis was created by the Belgians early on when they were colonized, and when the genocide happened (1990s), the economy did not reflect the occurrence. What is interested about Rwanda is that the economy did not signal that it was pre-genocidal, yet 1 million people were killed in 100 days- which means that more Rwandans died every day in those 100 days than Nazi Germany ever killed during the Holocaust in one day.
In Turkey, there are barely any numbers to back up the genocide of the Armenians. Economic discrimination was present, but in the form of tax, which the Armenians paid while living under the Ottoman Empire. Outside of that, the genocide happened under the cover of war, and there was little attention paid to the 1.5 million Armenians who were killed. There are a couple of things that separate the Armenian Genocide from others (a) Turkey holds to this day that they did not commit a genocide, and it was mere guerrilla warfare, (b) the break of the Ottoman Empire was a result of the lack of modernization, meaning that there is a lack of economic policy to help strengthen the argument of genocide.
Why is it important to learn about these genocides? Because they keep on happening. Hitler himself said "Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?", because there was a lack of education on it. In the same way, we have highlighted the Holocaust as our one example of genocide, but it is only one of many genocides, and there are so many that we lack education on. As college students, it is so vital to understand the cruelty of human beings, so that we may go out into the world and not allow our souls and hearts to be hardened. We learn about genocide so that we can see the effects of "othering" people who are different from us, and take responsibility for our words and actions. Historically, we have had the genocides that I have talked about here, but we also have the Bosnian genocide, the Great Leap Forward, the Cambodian genocide, the Palestinian genocide, and the Burmese genocide which lack the attention that they need. More than that, to learn about genocide through the lens of economics has been even more interesting because I get to understand the effects of economics on people, and the actions they are willing to commit under such a strain. The phrase "desperate times call for desperate measures," is not an exaggeration- yes, the mass executions of people is ordered by the head of state, but it is ordinary people like you and I that actually do the ground work and commit these atrocities, and that is absolutely terrifying to me.
What I have taken away from this class is that little actions mean something. Calling people slurs by what they identify as racially, sexually, religiously etc. is just a start, because you are negatively highlighting your differences. I don't want to go to the extent of saying that this is how genocides happen, but this is what builds tensions between groups that lead to violence and unrest. It is on us, day-today human beings, to stand up for what is just and right, because we need to be held accountable for our actions.
To conclude, I will leave you with these extremely powerful, touching words that I found plastered on a wall at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum: