BOOKS: by Joseph PoprzecznyNews Weekly
GENOCIDE: A History, by William D. Rubinstein
, January 20, 2007
Man's inhumanity to manGENOCIDE: A History
by William D. Rubinstein
(London: Pearson Longman)
Hardcover: 336 pages
Rec. price: AUD$59.95The now familiar word, "genocide", was coined during World War II by Polish-Jewish legal expert, Raphael Lemkin (1900-59), who had earlier investigated barbarities inflicted upon two Middle Eastern Christian minorities: the Turkish massacre of the Armenians during World War I, and Iraq's massacre of Assyrians in 1933.
Professor William D. Rubinstein's survey of genocide is valuable for many reasons, not least because he presents a long overview of what is now categorised as a crime rather than focusing solely upon last century's well-known mass exterminations under Hitler, Stalin and Mao.
"Mass murder is probably as old as the human race, but only in the 20th century has it become so significant a part of the world scene as to become an issue of world-wide importance, or, indeed, to have been given a name," Rubinstein says.Massacres
Although the word genocide is therefore relatively young, the practice has long been witnessed. Documented accounts of massacres, cannibalism, human sacrifice, infanticide and an array of other murderous customs abound in pre-literate societies.
For instance, 19th-century Zulu warlord, Shaka, with a 50,000-strong army, destroyed the 40,000-strong Ndwandwe tribe - twice the number of British soldiers killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme in 1916.
Shaka never hesitated killing women and children ("They can propagate and bring children, who may become my enemies") - a stance shared with the Nazis who saw Jewish women as more dangerous than males because they could propagate.
Rubinstein writes: "In a great Aztec battle fought in 1478, 87.1 per cent of 24,000 combatants were killed, while 100 per cent of combatants were killed during the Blackfoot Indian raid which annihilated the Assiniboins in 1849.
"These figures compare with the fact that only four per cent of 65,000 Confederate soldiers engaged at Gettysburg in 1863 died."
At Crow Foot, South Dakota, archeological findings in a mass grave from 1325 AD revealed over 500 men, women and children killed, scalped and mutilated in one village attack.
Politically correct, guilt-ridden, leftward-oriented individuals will be tormented when reading Rubinstein's many other equally horrific documented killings by pre-colonial era tribes across North America (including Inuits), Australia and the Pacific basin, including New Zealand.
Indigenous tribal warfare was common and ongoing in pre-colonial and colonial times in North America and Australia.
Rubinstein critically assesses demographic sources of disparate peoples up to the arrival of Europeans and concludes that although aggregates fell, sometimes quite dramatically, following colonisation, this was generally owing to the unintended introduction of virulent recurring diseases, not to ongoing massacres, as is so often alleged by Hollywood scriptwriters, and anti-Western proselytisers.
Notwithstanding this, many academics, Australian ones included, have built comfortable taxpayer-funded careers upon wild exaggeration.
Also not widely recognised is the fact that, upon the arrival of Europeans, tribal internecine warfare and local genocides continued. This meant that not all such population losses were owing to white colonialism.
In India, for instance, it took the British several decades to crush the murderous indigenous Thuggees.
Recognition is also given to colonists who vigorously supported possibly threatened indigenous peoples.
Referring to Australia Rubinstein writes: "As elsewhere in the Western world, there emerged a steady stream of pro-Aboriginal white Christians, liberals, crusading editors, radical activists and metropolitan bureaucrats keen to ensure justice, who constantly campaigned on behalf of Aborigines and against their mistreatment."
Also recognised is the pathbreaking study by Perth journalist, Rod Moran, Massacre Myth: An investigation into the alleged mass murder of Aborigines in Forest River, 1926
(1999), in which Moran argued that this particular reported massacre was completely fabricated by the activist head of a local mission.
Following Moran, Sydney scholar Keith Windschuttle embarked upon broader-ranging investigations with similar outcomes, but without denying killings when supported by evidence.
Those interested in the relationship of Europeans and the members of North America's and Australia's many tribes will be indebted to Rubinstein for publicising the pioneering statistical work of long-forgotten Polish ethnographer, Ludwik Krzywicki (1859-1941).
Krzywicki, who died early in the war from the effects of the September 1939 German bombing of Warsaw, wrote Primitive Society and its Vital Statistics
- his "truly remarkable but virtually unknown work first published in English in 1934" - which focused upon Australian Aboriginal and North American Indian tribal numbers.
"Krzywicki's study contains comprehensive statistics on the Australian Aboriginal tribes known to him, drawn from the original reports of the earliest settlers," says Rubinstein.
One cannot help wondering why Krzywicki's work isn’t better known across Australia and North America, especially within their academies.
If Vital Statistics
was better known, silly claims would never be published - claims such as, for instance, London-based writer Phillip Knightly's assertion that "experts" believe "50,000 [killings of Aborigines] would not be an exaggeration. It could be as high as 100,000".
Krzywicki observed: "The history of every one of these people [among the North American Indians] is a series of almost incessant struggles with neighbouring tribes."
Reality for early mankind was more as 17th-century political philosopher Thomas Hobbes contended - "nasty, brutish and short". It scarcely resembled Rousseau's mythical but mystically appealing conception of the Noble Savage, a fond belief that continues to influence so many Western history, politics and anthropology academic departments and campus-based propagandists.Individual worth
Although it's difficult to calculate accurately killing levels across pre-literate societies, Rubinstein says "all the evidence suggests that, engendered by the monotheistic religions which instilled some sense of the worth of the individual (side-by-side with religious fanaticism and fundamentalism), and of Western humanism, the most virulent outbreaks of slaughter became progressively rarer."Genocide: A History
is a wide-ranging study, one that carefully assesses all arguments before setting out reasoned conclusions on various genocides and massacres, including many that even well-informed readers are probably unaware of.
Nor are murderous ongoing horrors of the classical, medieval and post-medieval era of the Near East and Europe ignored.
There's the clash between the Israelites and Amalekites and Romans and Carthaginians, with 150,000 of Carthage's 200,000 inhabitants perishing.
There are the bloody westward drives of barbarians like the Turkic Attila the Hun (406-53), the Mongol Ghengis Khan (1167-1227), and the Islamic Tamerlane (1336-1405) across the Middle East and Central Asia.
Within Europe the high point of religious conflict and persecution from the late 11th century continued until the mid-17th, a period that saw cities being wiped out and Jewish populations dispersed and/or exterminated.
Nineteenth-century China's Taiping Rebellion saw the slaughter of some 15 million people, nearly double the eight million Great War combatant deaths.
Rubinstein's chapter, "Genocide in the Colonial Age, 1492-1914", contends the "activities of the German military authorities towards the Hereros of German South-West Africa would certainly be termed genocidal by most observers".
But he qualifies seeing contact between Europeans and indigenous New World peoples in simplistic terms and adds that "many of the worst massacres were instituted by Third World people against other people of the Third World".
His penultimate chapter, "Genocide in the Age of Totalitarianism, 1914-1979", focuses upon the gargantuan modern-day killers, such as Adolf Hitler (responsible for the Jewish Holocaust and preparation for the Germanisation of Europe and the deportation of 100-plus million Slavs into Siberia under Heinrich Himmler's top secret Generalplan Ost
); Joseph Stalin (the collectivisation terror and the great and ongoing Purge); and Mao Tse-tung (collectivisation, the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution).
He writes: "The Age of Totalitarianism was also par excellence
the Age of Genocide, comprising the most infamous examples.
"Both race and class became the instruments of mass murder, at heart because the normal evolution of Western civilisation in the direction of liberalism, law and tolerance, was derailed, in much of Europe, by the effects of the First World War.
"That this derailment did not become a permanent and fixed component of the Western world's experience was largely due to, above all, one factor, the steadfastness of the English-speaking democracies, especially the United States. …"
Here Australia's last three generations of fighting men and women can take well-deserved credit - something that's rarely, if ever, recognised within our universities that seem more interested in condemning Australia's past, and passing it off as intellectualism.