Monday, July 21, 2008

Lens and Legacy: Heightened Awareness of Preconditions leading to Genocide, Persecution

Buchenwald Labor Camp, Stake and Quarry Cart, Germany

1. What can we learn.

What combination of factors led to the Holocaust that we can reasonably work to spot. Or Darfur. Or witch-burnings. Ethnic cleansings. Murders individually. Collectively genocides. Is the start as simple as defining some people in, some people out.

Get a straightforward overview of some of these concepts, as they pertained to Petr Ginz, at All flowerings have roots. The world of Petr Ginz is not just a matter of history.

2. One of the themes we watch, is a culture's designating inferiors as disposable. Mischling and Mudblood.

Corrupted power. Killing, or until it comes to that, force to further someone else's social or political or religious or other goals. Like inquisitions. Ethnic cleansing. These killed Petr Ginz, and will that ever change. Our children may not know the term "mischling," but they know its equivalent, "mudblood." Examine the parallel to "Mischlings" in the Harry Potter book series, by J.K.Rowling, in the sense that a group is there designated as disposable.

2. Petr Ginz. The power of a word: Mischling.

A key to understanding what happened is looking at the use of words to categorize and dismiss people. For Petr, he was designated a "Mischling", and so became mere fodder. Petr Ginz' sister, in her introduction to his diary, notes that she and Petr were categorized as "Mischlings," by the Nazi regime. They had parents of mixed "blood"- Roman Catholic/Aryan/ and Jewish. See post on the Nazi Mischling status at Petr Ginz as Mischling, Places of Petr Ginz. Mischling children had some privileges over those with no Aryan "blood" in that their deportation to concentration camps could be delayed, but their fate remained the same. Likely death. And while living in ghettoes, the deprivations and abuse were horrendous. See the current TV film series, PBS, Ken Burns, "The War." See See also Studying World War; and World Wars: Sites.

3. Harry Potter. The power of a word: Mudblood.

What happens in that series of books that demonstrates the same mindset: Uses of categories to dismiss and then easily dispose of people. There, not "Mischlings," but mudbloods as fodder. See "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," the most recent, by J.K. Rowling, illustrations by Mary Grandpre, Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (Britain), Scholastic Press (US), 2007. With the label firmly in place, the following follow easily: Persecutions. Purges. Ethnic cleansing.

In the "Deathly Hallows" book, the mischling-types are also mixed bloods, not Christian and Jewish mix, but mix between wizards and nonwizards, called muggles, and conflict is peaking.

Those children are called mudbloods.

Mudbloods may well have wizarding powers, just as much as other wizards, but they are still looked down upon by the purists. For more parallels to our religious and political worlds, Look at the branches of mainstream wizardry represented by the Houses at Hogwarts - purists, authoritarians in Slytherin; and those protective of all wizards, including mudbloods, and even muggles, in Gryffindor, etc. Go on: what marginalized groups are represented by the goblins and their philosophy or the squibs (nonmagical children of wizard parents), on and on.

Categories, slots, roles. Even saying the name of the one who must not be named will bring on the hunters.

Women's Cage of Disgrace, Levoca, Slovakia

4. Other categories in vogue from time to time: Women, Gays, Immigrants.

5. A common reaction: Ethnic cleansing; Inquisition.

Historical and current events. Throughout, find virtual Mishlings and virtual mudbloods, squibs, goblins and Slytherins. And ethnic/cultural/religious/political cleansings.

Here is an example from older, inquisition-era, Thirty-Years'War type Europe: Apply the category "witch," and caging and even death becomes simple.

Here is the cage in which women were put, for example as witches or ladies who did not stay home and spin, supposedly, in the seventeenth century, Levoca, Slovakia. See post at Slovakia Road Ways. Label it and you can do what you want with it.

Like our own religious/political/social history - splits and schisms, those with some characteristics clumping together to dominate.

6. Persecution themes in literature.

This recurs in the Potter book, "Deathly Hallows," see for its details.

The mudblood wizards - are being persecuted, tortured, chased, devalued, purged, by the purist wizards, and with no concern for what happens to the collateral damage of the muggles, people with no magical powers at all; or, worse, the wizard children with no magical powers. Ministries are being taken over, invaded by the purists, and dark forces take over authority and spin-manipulate the propaganda machines of the land. The hero is designated as Undesirable, and the hunt is on.

7. Parent interest. Not much, so long as the kids are entertained.

Opportunity missed. The themes are current. The point is that your children are reading about the great themes of human conflict and supremacism: How To Get Power and Keep It, in the Harry Potter series- and you thought they were just amusing themselves.

Talk to them about it all.

Now, introduce them to Petr Ginz, who was killed because of those things. He is probably their age.

5. Parent hurdles. Some adults avoid Harry Potter because of its fantasy setting; the ambiguities.

5.1 Irrelevant. If you have avoided reading these Potter books, you have company. Many think the books are for children and fanciful only and have no constructive relation to rearing children who will get ahead (and they never liked fantasy anyway).

Think again. Better yet, get back in touch as an adult with worlds down rabbit holes, or through looking glasses. Reference here: become familiar with your children's world. Go yourself to, or this fanclub-type site with lots of info at We are not talking fantasy, really. The themes are real.

5.2 Discomfort with ambiguity. Harry Potter does not fit neatly in our world. Some people find that disquieting to their other beliefs.

That is predictable. We differ in how we prefer to learn. See, for example, Some people want to know where everything is in a hierarchy or line, and what each word means, and for someone else to tell them those things so they can memorize it, and once a judgment is made, it might never change, regardless of new information. We differ.

No comments: