Genocide, the intentional destruction or debilitation of one group by another, has been evidenced throughout the history of humanity and is present today. It is the manifestation of an extreme negative response from the self, as a collective, toward others. This study poses the questions: What is the impetus behind genocidal responses to the external other? What are the common characteristics of genocidal events? Is it possible to bring an end to the gravest of crimes?
The myriad complexities of genocidal behavior are presented through an analysis of sociological, psychological, and mythological dynamics that have provoked past genocidal events and are attendant in current critical situations. This study probes the means whereby the victim group is identified, rendered vulnerable, dehumanized, and characterized as deserving of annihilation.
Examination of twelve genocides dating from Antiquity to the twentieth century reveals common sociological elements. A desire for expansion of power, territory, and wealth is noted as the dominant provocation of early genocides. Later genocides were provoked or facilitated by varying combinations of war, governments in transition, modernity, and economic instability. These prevailing conditions were aggravated by ideologies embodied in social and political policies, racism, ethnocentrism, classism, and religious conflicts.
These sociological dynamics that manifest at a conscious level are fostered by unconscious psychological dynamics. The contributing depth psychological processes explored include projection of shadow material, scapegoating, good battling evil, fear of death, greed, and the will to power.
Guiding both the sociological and psychological aspects of genocidal behavior are archetypal energies expressed through myth. The mythological themes discussed that are most relevant to genocidal acts are utopian visions, heroism, and violence.
Three current circumstances that are likely to provoke future genocides, if allowed to persist, are also evaluated: economic globalization, scarcity of natural resources, and the presence of nuclear weapons. The study ends with an analysis of conditions that provide hope for the future, including the arising of a new myth that will usher humanity toward a more compassionate and tolerant disposition wherein the self is recognized in the other.