Monday, 7 February 2011

The Butterfly Effect and the (Re)Emergence of Passion

Or.. on how we need people to combat the rise of the right and genocide and why I am the person to do it.

Image Source

A long, long time ago I was a bright-eyed university student who thought I wanted to be a psychologist when in fact, I was more interested in politics, sociology, history and international relations. Like many psychology students in my country, I reached a stage where I could go no further as I finished my Honours degree and did not find a place on a Masters programme. (In South Africa, the route to becoming a psychologist used to be Bachelors degree -> Honours degree -> Masters degree). I suddenly found myself in a position where I couldn’t study further and without the benefit of funding, I needed to find a job quickly. Luckily for me, I had been working part-time in a bank and they were more than happy to take me on a full-time basis. Happy to have a graduate on their staff who just happened to be trained in their systems and procedures (did I mention I was lucky?), the bank swiftly promoted me to a junior management position and from there I moved into junior accounting roles in the property industry. Considering the large number of unemployed graduates, I do consider myself fortunate to have landed in a new career and am slowly working my way up the ranks towards becoming a fully qualified accountant.

But that passion never diminished and in fact, it has become stronger and stronger each year. I began this blog back in 2006 (although it was on a different domain back in those days) and my aim was to continue learning and to fuel my passion to understand. I always considered myself to be an absolute beginner and wrote accordingly but I have since come to realise that I’ve been somewhat selling myself short. I have studied sociology to third-year level and social psychology to Honours level. The time has come to apply that knowledge and to really begin challenging myself. But now I am getting ahead of myself.

Let’s take a step backwards…

The Horror

At the end of last year, I engaged in a bit of a tirade on Twitter and Facebook. See, there is a video online of a speech by a conservative Jewish woman where she speaks against the secession of Kosovo. Secession is always a controversial issue and on the surface of it, one can agree that it is not a good idea for every under-represented group to go ahead and secede from government. I won’t go too deeply into the Kosovo situation here but what ignited my ire with that video was what the woman had to say about the Srebrenica genocide.

The Srebrenica genocide is not a matter of opinion. In the words of the Srebrenica Genocide Blog:

Srebrenica genocide is not a matter of anybody's opinion; it's a judicial fact recognized first by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and subsequently by the International Court of Justice.

In the aforementioned video, the woman denied the occurrence of genocide in Srebrenica. As “proof” she stated that media reports of the actual amount of dead had varied greatly in the time following the event. Anyone who was glued to their televisions in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami and the 2001 World Trade Centre attacks will recall a similar fluctuation in numbers. In the case of the former, you will recall that the numbers crept up from tens of thousands to hundred sof thousands, peaking at 300,000 before finally settling back down to 230,000 dead. In the case of the 9/11 attacks, initial reports stated up to 15,000 dead which reduced to about 5,000 and finally settled at 2,996. Just because we did not know, just because we could not measure it, does not mean that the events did not occur. For the record, 8,373 people were reported missing from Srebrenica and as of May 2010, the remains of 6,557 people had been identified through DNA analysis of the remains of individuals found in mass graves.

My biggest problem with this video was that the woman attributed what she saw as an inflation of numbers of the dead to the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the area. She stated that there was no genocide and there were no crimes against humanity committed against Kosovan Albanians by the Serbs and that Bosnian Muslims and Kosovan Albanians were merely a bunch of trouble-making Islamic fundamentalists intent on taking over the world.

From the text below the above video link:

Julia Gorin, author, pundit, and comedian has been studying and writing about this issue for some time. She commented years ago that the next wave of Jihadist Muslims would be "White al Qaeda" from Bosnia Whether or not this proves to be true, we had a great opportunity to hear this fascinating speaker defend her point of view.
Kosovo, Albania, Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia, Yugoslavia – the whole Balkans goulash. Do you know the differences among them? We’ve all heard that the Serbians were the villains in the Balkan wars, but is it true?
• Do you think the case against ethnic cleansing has been made against only the Serbs?
• Do you know that the largest ethnic cleansing of the entire Balkan war was committed in a savage attack by Croatia against the Serbs who had inhabited one of its regions (Krajina) for 500 years?
• Are you aware that the historical links to the pro-Hitler Grand Mufti of Jerusalem are still echoed today through pro-Nazi groups in Croatia?
• Do you realize that a number of "Palestinians" are actually Bosnians who fled Europe after WWII's "final solution" didn't succeed?
• Is the naming of an independent Kosovo a compassionate and just idea, or the creation of another, perhaps aggressive, Muslim state in Europe?

From Horror to Paralysis

I was so upset by this concept that I almost gave it all up. I almost gave up this blog and my studies as I felt a sense of hopelessness and futility that I had never encountered before. I was devastated and this was the very reason I did not post on this blog for so long. A seed that began to grow in my mind was the rise of the right and growing Islamophobia in Europe and Great Britain. Surely we have been here before? Surely this is what it felt like in the mid-1930s just before the Holocaust?

islamophobia Image Source

I have never been fond of marginalised groups being racist and intolerant of others. In my naïve little world, I think that if you’ve been the victim of racism, sexism, discrimination, anti-Semitism or persecution, then the very last thing you should be is racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, etc.

That’s why I felt so heartened when I recently came to the end of Sharon Dogar’s novel Annexed to discover that The Anne Frank Foundation in Holland is undertaking work in combating Islamophobia in Europe. It all just clicked into place then.

The Emergence From the Cocoon

I realised that we need people to combat genocide and persecution and that of all the people I know, I am most qualified to do that work. The year 2011 began with me making a decision to study further in this field. The course I really want to do is the Masters in Human Rights and Genocide Studies through Kingston University in London. The problem is that this is an 18-month course and I am not of independent means which basically means I won’t eat if I take 1.5 years off work! I’ve begun the process of looking for undergraduate courses to study in the field in the meantime and have not found anything local, online or through the distance-learning medium. It seems that I have reached an impasse. I have all of this passion and fury and nothing to do with it.

With this in mind, I’ve made the decision to self-study for the rest of the year. I have come up with a broad programme of subjects to cover and will set aside time to study in the weeks when I don’t have accounting classes. I will be putting everything I learn in this blog as I hope it can become both a resource for others and a portfolio of sorts. I am not concerned with copyright or intellectual property; this is information that needs to be out there for everybody to access. It is frightening, more so because the dream I had a month ago of studying a master’s programme seems to have been dashed by the cold light of reality.

What I hope most of all is to never again neglect my blog because of fear, hopelessness and despair. Being too busy, living my life, travelling, and spending time with family are all great reasons for neglecting a blog but what I experienced ain the past two months does not fall into that category. It seems likely that the majority of posts on this blog will be related to genocide in the future and focus on past events and history as opposed to current affairs. I hope that readers continue to find this interesting but will understand if you don’t.

Yours in solidarity and determination.



  1. Please go on writing. I will soon set sail to African continent for a period of 6 months. While working there, I am very much interested in learning about its past. You blog is a great starting point. Thank you.
    You might find this interesting about the soviet genocides:

  2. @ Anonymous: Thank you for the link. I was just learning about these items today and especially how Churchill covered up the massacres of the Polish army by the Soviets.

    Let me know if you'd like me to write up anything for you or recommend any books. Where are you going??


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