Scholar Says They Empower a World of Bystanders
Despite the international outrage they provoke, genocides have flourished since World War II, when the term was first coined.
“Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Sudan offer contemporary examples of a practice that is one of the most aberrant examples of human behavior,” says Renata Reinhart, author of In the Course of My Life (www.rexvita.com), a fact-based novel that recounts the little-known Soviet genocide of 2 million Eastern Germans in 1945.
“Many of these ethnic cleansings, including the slaughter in East Germany, don’t come to the public’s attention because they’re kept secret or denied,” she says. “In the case of East Germany, both England and the United States were complicit, so it’s not a story they’re eager to tell.
“But if history is written by the victors, then we have an obligation to get it right -- the best predictor of future genocide is denial of a past genocide.”
One phenomenon that helps perpetuate the practice is psychic numbing – a person’s inability to feel compassion for large numbers of people, Reinhart says.
“In a recent experiment, psychologists asked Americans to contribute money to a starving African orphan, and about half were willing. But when two orphans were presented, far fewer Americans were willing to contribute,” she says.
Neuroscientific research has found evidence of psychic numbing, says Reinhart, who thinks it may be the response of an overwhelmed brain.
“We can easily conceive of helping one person, but any more than that and real help can seem implausible,” she says.
However, she adds, when people are aware of trustworthy organizations making a positive impact, they’re more likely to offer their own help. She recommends these:
• Genocide Watch: Dr. Gregory Stanton, president of the charity organization aimed at preventing genocide, recently published a two-pronged approach to turn the tide of mass murder, which is occurring in several hot spots throughout the world today. One prong includes compassion and awareness from the global community, and the other is an institution or institutions to track and prevent genocide, or at least hold leaders responsible.
• Women for Women International: “The cure for poverty has a name: The empowerment of women,” said by the late world-renowned journalist and public intellect Christopher Hitchens. This charity is a humanitarian organization that provides emotional and financial support to women survivors of war. Job training and business development are just a few of the programs that assist impoverished populations, a preemptive measure against vulnerability, war and mass murder.
• CARE: This is another international group focused on women because, as its mission statement reads, “equipped with the proper resources, women have the power to help whole families and entire communities escape poverty.” The organization’s efforts includes the prevention of spreading disease, improved basic education, increased access to clean water and sanitation, and increased economic opportunity.
• Africare: The oldest and largest African-American led organization in the interest of aiding the continent; the group’s initiatives include agriculture, micro enterprise, health, environment and women’s empowerment.
• International Peace Institute: IPI is an independent, not-for-profit think tank with qualified staff representing 20 different nationalities, located near the United Nations in New York City.
“There are plenty of impactful charities that can be easily reviewed online,” Reinhart says. “The events of genocide tend to begin from a chain of prior states, especially poverty and ignorance. My message is an educational effort, and I hope I contribute to the solution.”
About Renata Reinhart
Renata Reinhart is the pen name of the author, a scholar of World War II history who spent years researching the Red Army’s march across Eastern Europe in 1945. While the book is fictionalized as a memoir, the historical elements are accurate and based on numerous documented sources.