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Finding out what is genocide

Cabrini Students and faculty gathered for a presentation giving view into why genocide happens, how genocide occurs, and what the future of genocide is.

On the evening of Thursday, Jan. 30, Dr. Tim Horner, authority on genocide and professor at Villanova University, gave a talk in The Antoinette Iadarola Centers’s lecture hall.

“We have distanced ourselves from really confronting genocide as a human behavior,” Horner, who believes people often do not understand the facts of what genocide truly is, said. While people say the killing or destruction of others is inhumane, Horner disagrees.

“Because humans do it, it’s a human behavior,” Horner said. While he considers it within our nature to kill, he does acknowledge that we, as a species, because of empathy, are very uncomfortable about death.

“I think we’re helpless frankly. The human face—human contact—when we make eye contact with someone, we are helpless,” Horner said. “Thank god because without that we would destroy each other.”

We become “hopeless,” because of the hormone oxytocin, or the love and trust drug as Horner calls it because it has a tremendous effect on humans and how we deal with death. According to Horner, something as simple as eye contact with a person can induce the distribution of oxytocin in the brain, causing a human-to-human connection.

“There is something about it [death] that makes it very deeply troubling to us, which is good news,” Horner said. “The ironic, bad news is that we often cause the death in the first place.”

Horner wants to convey to people that these systematic killings aren’t inhuman attacks rooted in hate. Genocides, in his understanding, are completely the opposite. He claims that, ironically, genocide is based on love.

“One of the reasons that humans can commit such atrocities is based on how we love more deeply than any other animal,” Horner said. “The fact that we care so much about people, means that if our connections gets put in jeopardy, we are more likely to be engaged to protect the things we love.”

Horner says that hate is a secondary human emotion that is derived from fear. “Our basic human fear is invasion. The rhetoric in genocide is ‘they are coming for us,’” Horner said.

In any war, or mass-killing humans will only fight something they fear. Horner states that people agree to engage in genocides through the manipulation in propaganda aimed to capitalize on the human capacity to love. People comply with genocide because they are in a state of “low grade fear” at all times, through the tactic of “conditioning” by the leaders of the genocide.

“We as humans are capable of doing anything if we believe in the cause.”

While Horner does state that genocides will never stop, he does say that the mass genocides of the past will not happen again. “More war crimes are being done in private, which is good,” Horner said. “Now with more people being held accountable, the less genocide will happen on a grand scale.”

“You hear about so many situations on the news, whether it be Syria or Darfur, it seems like genocide is such huge topic. It’s good that we have the opportunity to learn about all of this,” Nicole Broccolino, a Spanish and criminology major who viewed the presentation, said.

While genocides may currently seem to clog news headlines, the truth is that genocides are a “perfect storm” and they do not happen all the time. “It’s a very delicate thing to pull off and its not easily done,” Horner said. “It’s attempted many times but foiled way more. The times that it has happened in history are unusual.”

Horner, who admits that he is amazed that genocide doesn’t happen more than it does, says that studies have shown that violence is in fact diminishing over the years. “We are becoming a less violent species,” Horner said. “We are becoming more intolerant to violence.”

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