Last week I wrote about Our Not So Perfect Selves. This is a continuation about us as a race. It saddens me to think that with all our knowledge, skills and resources, we as a human race have not changed all that much or implemented lessons from our past.
Over a period of two weeks, I happened to see two movies, The Zookeepers Wife and The Promise. Both set in two different parts of the world, one in Warsaw, Poland and the other in Turkey. The Zookeeper’s Wife was set in Poland and dealt with the extermination/genocide of Jews who were herded like cattle in what became known as the Warsaw Ghetto, and their eventual demise at the hands of the invading force of German Nazis. The other was about the extermination/genocide of the Armenian people who existed in Turkey by the hands of their fellow countrymen.
It is known that in both cases, there were people who reached out, touched someone’s hand at the risk of their own life, to help others in difficult circumstances. They may not have even known these people but understood the horrors of what was happening and morally felt a need to act. This has happened in real life in many countries where genocide has occurred.
Relationships where people help one another are binding, especially when going through a traumatic event and someone helps or saves them. In one scene in the Zookeepers wife a young girl is raped and is so traumatised she can’t even speak. The Zookeepers wife just sits with her at a distance and calmly talks to her. Making contact without touching her, this child is like a wounded animal that gradually needs to rebuild trust. Similarly in The Promise, a young girl is one of the few survivors of a horrendous genocide of her village, where again, people are rounded up and all shot. She is fortunate that she is saved and has family & a friend of the family find her and is nurtured by them.
Genocide is the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious or national group and unfortunately there have been many throughout history. It occurred at the hands of conquering colonial armies before the 1490’s through to leaders and their forces acting to annihilate populations in their own countries.
In 1810 for example, Shaku Zulu in Africa took the lives of all men, women and children in areas he conquered. Many indigeneous people in various countries such as the diverse Indian tribes within the USA and indigenous tribes within Australia, have been at the forefront of government policies, to reduce or remove people from their homelands. Other genocides include the Haiti Massacre of the white population of French Creoles; destruction of the Pashtun and the Hazara in Afghanistan; attempted annihilation of all Serbs in Yugoslavia; the extermination of Luthuanians, Latvians, Estonians in Russia and the Hutus and Tutsi in Burundi. Additionally genocide by the Japanese of the Chinese; by the Chinese of the Tibetans; by the Indians of the Sikhs; by Pol Pot of the Cambodians; by Indonesian troops of the Papuans; by Iraqi forces of the Kurds are just some samples of what people in these countries have endured and often where our world has not acted fast enough or with any empathy to make a difference.
Why is it that we still have not learnt our lessons from the horrors of the past? Why is it that groups have such hatred of other groups? Why is it that governments often elected by the people, make such bad choices? Why is it that people cannot live in peace and enjoy their peaceful surroundings?
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a natural fear when exposed to a life-threatening events. When people experience or witness danger, the body prepares to take action with the ‘fight-or-flight’ response. If fear, anxiety or memories of the trauma persist for a long period of time and interfere with ones ability to function in life, this is the condition known as PTSD. Many people have this condition without even being aware of it, especially those who have encountered traumatic, life threatening situations. An example of this was when I was recently volunteering to teach English to a group of refugees and there was a loud noise of a car backfiring. They jumped up and looked around fearfully, even though they knew they were in Australia and safe, their memories came flooding back. Fear registered and it took a while for them to resettle back in the class.
It is frightening to think that terrorist attacks by small militant groups, happening in many European countries today aim to do the most damage they can to the safety and feelings of safety within a population. When people face these traumas in relationships with people they considered family, friends or neighbours, how do they move on to regain some normality to their lives? Relationships can be destroyed or strongly forged depending at what end of the spectrum one stands.
I don’t have the answers and I like you who are reading this piece will have your own opinions, but in the words of Diane Ross…. reach out and touch somebody’s hand, make this world a better place…… we can change things if we start giving…..
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