Dilemmas of Reconciliation: Cases and Concepts

By Carol A.L. Prager; Trudy Govier | Go to book overview

7
Aspects of Understanding and Judging
Massive Human Rights Abuses

Carol A.L. Prager

“He that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.”

—Ecclesiastes 1: 18


Introduction

One cannot say very much about the prospects of reconciliation without first reflecting on exactly what it is that gives rise to demands for it. What are the wellsprings of the collective perpetration of harm? Where does responsibility for it lie? What is its impact on victims and perpetrators? Under all the circumstances, can the gaps in the opposing perceptions of both groups ever be bridged? These are questions that can be explored in the context of concrete historical examples, as some of the contributors to this volume have done, or more generally, as others have done. It is this latter approach that I take here.

In recent years world leaders have been grappling with repeated atrocities which, after the Holocaust, the international community vowed would never again be tolerated. Again and again, mankind has been faced with the spectacle of as many as tens of thousands average human beings committing mayhem on as many as hundreds of thousands other ordinary human beings, including neighbours and acquaintances. One might think that by now enough had been learned to comprehend and prevent such catastrophes. But fresh outbreaks of mass violence underscore their banality while the world stands helplessly by.

Notes to chapter 7 are on pp. 216-19.

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