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Book Review: Get ‘Em All, Kill ‘Em

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With so many books available on the subject of genocide, one might ask is there room for one more? The answer is a resounding yes if that book is Get ‘Em All! Kill ‘Em All! written by Bruce Wilshire, a Philosophy Professor at Rutgers University.

This book is a must read for anyone interested in understanding the spark that ignites genocidal behavior in a population.

Wilshire resists the temptation to continue in the belief that such acts are simply due to a defect of “human nature.” He instead delves much deeper to investigate why a community not only commits genocide but what triggers the departure from peaceful coexistence between two communities to intolerable acts by one group on another. To understand genocide, Wilshire contends, one must understand the primal unconscious depths of the mind.

His fresh look at genocide takes the reader on a journey that explores how an individual is tied to their community. He finds that no single individual triggers genocidal behavior – but the community of individuals, acting as a whole body, sets genocide in motion and commits the horrendous acts together, as one.

By digging into the recesses of the human mind he finds a common thread in genocide – the quest for immortality. When the long-term survival of the community is threatened or undermined, the results are deadly. With the individual identity tied to the community to which they belong, and that community perceiving the threat of annihilation by another group, genocide is set in motion with terrifying consequences – torture, dismemberment, rape and killing of all members of the group identified as the threat, real or imagined, including women, children, men, infants and even the unborn.

One’s group can fear annihilation because of what some might call a mental incompatibility with the other group. That is, the home group cannot fathom how the other group interprets the world, how it constructs a world for itself in its experience. Yet this other group seems to get on well enough! If insecure for any reason, the home group’s whole way of having a world in its experience may be thrown into question. The meanings of things that members have counted on to last forever are undermined. The ground gives way beneath the home members’ feet. They do not experience a mere “mental incompatibility” with the other group, but a churning fear and nausea. Wilshire maintains that a genociding group is as terrified in its own way as the group to be genocided is in its.

Guilt or innocence is of little consequence once genocide is underway – simply being identified with the offending group is all that matters. Individuals who would never consider genocide as an option on their own can find themselves grwoing fearful that their community is under threat of extinction by another. Although not considered “genocide” by the group commiting the autrocities, genocide becomes a viable option for the survival of the group – eliminate the threat, the community survives. It is this “group think,” the underlying terror of annihilation of the community that accepts the annihilation of the offending group as the only option for survival and allows genocide to not only start, but continue for long periods of time.

This is an important book for the times we live in. There is a fragile balance between that sense of secuity a community requires to avoid genocide and the sudden fear of annihilation that a single act by a community of “other” can spark. One need only to remember September 11, 2001 to understand just how fragile that balance is and how quickly a sense of security can be shattered to pieces for a whole community.

Not everyone is going to agree with Wilshire’s understanding of genocide – but everyone should be familiar with it.

You can find more information about Bruce Wilshire and the other books he’s published at his website BruceWilshire.com.

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  • beadtot

    Name-use schemes can be observed to hit a raw nerve in some constituencies, and yet are fondly embraced in others. Press corps apparently feel justified to ‘pull out all the big guns’ and simply help snuff or rub out naive or other wise disinterested parties; for this reason, there should be a law which protects individuals from the attention of press corps memberships.

  • Jon

    So the thinking is that the group that commits genocide is in a state of fear just like the group they’re killing? I’m interested in understanding how this type of fear-fear situation happens and will get myself a copy of the book. It sounds like a thought-provoking thesis and a view that isn’t probed in the whole discussion about genocide. Considering the stepped-up terrorism we are experiencing in the world today, understanding the potential motivation that underlies the desire to kill us may help stop it.

  • Robert

    Sounds like an interesting read. With autrocities occuring in Sudan and continued terrorist attacks in Europe I’m hoping this book will give me some insight into what is compelling these people to kill. Thank you for bringing this work to my attention.

  • Larry

    I recently finished Get Em All Kill Em myself and agree this is a book worth reading. Wilshire writes in an engaging style and his view is compelling. I also recommend it.