Jerry Fowler, senior analyst for the Open Society Policy Center and Founding Director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, on the need for mass empathy to trump mass atrocity.
"We know from history that human beings are capable of mass murder.
It’s not a new thing. Rafael Limpkin put a new name to it when he created the word “genocide”, but the practice of mass murder extends back through history. It’s something that seems to be wired into our existence. It’s not one culture, it’s not one society-- it’s human beings who are capable of mass murder.
But the other thing we know about human beings, that is deep within their souls, is that they are capable of empathy. They’re capable of responding to the suffering of others.
We see that in terms of humanitarian aid; humanitarian aid in response to natural disasters, and humanitarian aid in response to massive crimes. I think when it comes to those crimes, crimes against humanity, we’ve begun very carefully-- very slowly-- to take the next step which is the political step.
It’s not enough just to send Band-Aids and food to victims of crime because that doesn’t address the underlying dynamic. That means organizing, that means bringing to people in countries like the United States, in Europe, in Africa, all over the world. This is not going to be limited. It cannot be limited to one country-- bringing to them the plight of others and idea of what they can do to respond to it.
It’s difficult, it’s complicated, there aren’t easy solutions; but the very fact that Sudan has been on the international agenda in the way that it has, has been a consequence of a popular movement that’s insisted on it.
Our over-arching goal is to nurture, and to sustain, and to encourage, and to mobilize that sense of mass empathy with the view to confronting mass murder when it happens, and ultimately making mass murder unacceptable."