The Rohingya genocide at the hands of the Burmese is bibical in its full fury and brutality. Unfortunately what is happening in Burma is not unique. Our species evolved as members living in groups. Our self-identification, culture and group membership maintains itself by the presence of outsiders. The non-group member is a threat, the ‘bad’ the ‘evil’ the ‘criminal’ always someone who is less than human, a demon to be put to the sword and house burnt down.
The implications arising from the Rohingya ethnic cleansing are disturbing and disheartening for many reasons. One implication is that we have another lesson of how difficult it is for us to think in terms of species survivor–a condition for broad-based co-operation required for climate change measures and human rights. Both are based on us being part of a universal group. One species.
Peace prizes are awarded to those few who call for universal human rights. Until the application of those principles is required at home. Then Aung San Sui Kyi retreated to her native ethnic, national group and that is a lesson not lost on others elsewhere in the world. Trump leads the nationalist retreat in America. Around the world you find leader after leader working the tribal drums against outsiders. You might say these leaders have failed us. The other side, is more troubling, these leaders reflect who we are and in shocking ways that are painful to accept.
The Rohingya are the canary in the coal mine shaft. As more agricultural land become infertile, temperature rise, extreme weather, and ocean acidification leads to mass migrations, we will bear witness to tragedies like this on a on a global scale and this will be a frequent feature of our lives. The cleansing of outsiders is increasing a big political selling point to power in many countries.
In The Marriage Tree, the story revolved around the plight of Rohingya in Thailand. That Calvino novel was published in 2014. Three years later, the Rohingya are receiving international attention as the Burmese genocidal rulers sense no push back from America. We have entered a time when leaders like Donald Trump asked for sympathy with the side doing the murder, to see the matter through eyes. In which case, I say take a close look at the photographs coming out of Burma. Ask yourself why you click on a funny video of a dog streaming on your timeline and why scroll passed a story about the Rohingya. We don’t want to look. We know but we don’t want to know.
Our group-think, group-act psychology no longer works for 7.5 billion people and lays bear our emotional wiring that is guiding us on a path toward extinction. If you could buy futures in ‘hatred’ and ‘fear’ as commodities you stand to make a killing.
Moore’s latest novel in the Vincent Calvino series is Jumpers.