I’ve heard it said that the 20th century was the most violent century on record, and if you think about it, it’s entirely plausible—the World Wars, colonialism and the subsequent liberation movements, not to mention all the civil wars, the genocides and pograms, the revolutions, etc. The revolutions. On Strictly for My N.I.G.G.A.Z, Tupac repeats the old adage that if you can’t find something to live for, you best find something to die for. Then he did, though I don’t know if it was what he intended. Long before that, Hegel said the time would come in which man would be willing to die for a cause greater than life itself. Essential dogma? At the most basic level, this rationale has been the drum beat of modern history, much of which is forgotten.
How many remember or even know that in 1920 the Brits were the first to carry out intentional and systematic aerial bombing of civilians—in Somalia and Yemen. Or that before gassing the Jews, the Germans carried out mass gassings of Russian prisoners of war in the Ukraine. When Auschwitz was functional, they gassed Communists and Russian intellectuals before turning the showers on the Jews. The reaction to these and other events of the 100-year era has typically been “never again”—that is, until we forget they even happened in the first place.
As part of a generation that didn’t experience a world war and was too young to feel the impact of the Vietnam War or understand the Cold War, it’s the genocides and terrorist acts that hit closest to horrific home. Maybe it’s because when I think about Rwanda or the Holocaust or the Cambodian killing fields, I picture every day, ordinary people with targets on their chests. The same with terrorism. For that reason, I really can’t comprehend the other kind of killing, the kind where the various sides put on uniforms and only shoot at the opposing team. It’s like some weird athletic activity, except if you lose, you lose your life. Truthfully, it seems even more warped than random acts of violence because the random factor can be considered a glitch in the machine, but the rest of it is creepy and weird and now considered collateral.