EXTRAORDINARY EVIL by Barbara Coloroso


Why Genocide Happens
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Or, when bad things happen to good peoples: an educator’s explanation, predictably oversimplified, of what causes one ethnic group to massacre another one.

If you want to know why people do such things, look at a schoolyard, where, Coloroso (The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander, 2004, etc.) suggests, it’s easy to find the precursors of genocide. That is to say, genocide is “the most extreme form of bullying—a far too common behavior that is learned in childhood and rooted in contempt for another human being who has been deemed to be, by the bully and his or her accomplices, worthless, inferior, and undeserving of respect.” The historical literature is unrevealing as to whether, say, Adolf Hitler beat up his schoolmates at recess, but, Coloroso notes, the Turks slaughtered the Armenians because, among other things, they were sure they could get away with it; Hitler emulated the Turks in slaughtering the Jews, saying, “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”; and the Hutus of Rwanda emulated Hitler in slaughtering the Tutsi, modeling their campaign on the Nuremburg Laws and carefully citing the speeches of the Nazi leader. The chain suggests that the perpetrators of genocide have a greater sense of history and of historical amnesia than do most people, but Coloroso chalks such terrible acts up to a grown-up reflex of what she deems the “schoolyard bullying circle,” something that, she writes, she uses “when speaking to educators…to demonstrate in graphic form the manner in which the three characters (bully, bullied and bystander) act in relation to one another and play a part in bullying.” And so the book continues, adding up to a PowerPoint presentation for a guidance counselors’ convention.

For a vastly more substantial approach, see Samantha Power’s “A Problem from Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide (2002).

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2007
ISBN: 978-1-56858-371-6
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Nation Books
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2007