You Can Prevent Genocide in the World

You Can Prevent Genocide in the World

How do you prevent genocide?

With invasions, or protests? When Mohandas Gandhi was asked if civil disobedience could have stopped Hitler, he answered,

…there will be terrible loss and pain. But a satyagrahi must go on…

The quote has been the source of much discussion.

Yet in other texts, from 1938, also available at the same website, he goes on to urge the Jews to stand up and resist every oppressive measure being taken against them, even if it meant death.

Could civil disobedience have stopped a Nazi tank?

Yes. The example of the unknown Chinese man with a briefcase in Beijing stopping a whole column of tanks shows how simply saying ‘no’ and doing it in front of the world media DOES stop genocide.

Could a campaign of protests and civil disobedience have prevented the rise to power of Hitler in the 1920’s? It is entirely possible. The question is not how do you prevent genocide, but when.

When the Polish lawyer Raphael Lemkin coined the term genocide in 1944, he had made a life’s work of studying the various slaughters of mankind. The small province of Armenia in the nation of Turkey gave him the framework of this new crime against humanity.

Throughout World War I, The Ottoman rulers of Turkey massacred Armenians with modern weapons and used trains to deport whole cities of people and dump them into the desert. Such modern usage of mass transport presaged the Nazi death machine.


The New York Times and former president Theodore Roosevelt protested the horror in Turkey, but the nascent American forces were pushed to the limit just by preparing for their role in the fields of France. With inadequate arms, little contact with the outside world, and no tradition of civil resistance, the Armenians were unable to save themselves within the Turkish borders.

The isolation of a population does not prevent genocide. It encourages it. You can prevent atrocities in the same way you can change anything about your corner of the world.

Be loud.

Tell your politicians and your media outlets that you want the good old Big Brother technologies focused squarely on parts of the world at risk of developing mass murdering leaders. Tell them that you no longer consider celebrities and sports stars to be news. You no longer find it appropriate that genocides are filed under Politics instead of Crime.


In every way you can, be the man who stood in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square. If it can’t be you, it may be the neighbor you talked to over the backyard fence, who never heard of Sudan, Chechnya, or Serbia before you told them.

Let go of your underlying belief that a non-English speaking person is less valuable than an English speaking one (we all Privilege our own culture, it’s setting the bigotry aside that is the important part). Be the raindrop that begins the flood in order to prevent genocide.

Genocide is encouraged by the nearness of people you are supposed to hate. It isn’t easy to get people to hate each other enough to slaughter mercilessly, but as the song from the musical ‘South Pacific’ says, ‘You’ve got to be carefully taught.’

The condition of second-class citizenship and the status of a numerical minority virtually guarantees oppression and is fatally dangerous. Education prevents genocide. And so does courage.

Remember to always seek the truth.