Too much emphasis on ethnicity kills basic instinctive humanity. How is it that as a species we become so conscious of our separate regional, religious, cultural and racial roots, that we forget the most fundamental common root-of being human?
Six million European Jews were brutally killed in the holocaust (one million of them children) by Hitler’s diseased psychotic belief in the purity of the German race. Almost simultaneously, more than a million people died during the partition of India. The destruction of the Aboriginal peoples of the Americas, in a ‘string of genocide campaigns’ by Europeans and their descendants, was the most massive act of genocide in history.
Adam Jones explains in his book ‘Genocide’ that the less a people have in common with another group, the easier it is for the aliens to be defined as ‘less than human’ and from there it is but a short step to an argument that says if they are a threat, then they should “be eliminated in order that we may live”. Then, they are termed as the ‘other’ and ‘inferior’ and made into scapegoats for all social problems.
The extreme examples of this dehumanization are when a fundamentalist could tear open a pregnant woman and take the foetus out and display it or when doctors during Hitler’s regime performed the most cruel scientific experiments on small Jewish children.
Psychologically disturbed people, who believe in ethnic cleansing, start a deliberate and conscious propaganda, where they might even employ science, genetics or religion etc., as tools to convince the general population that the ‘other’ is a constant threat. Such people create divisions, boundaries and schisms.
But it’s all a matter of perspective. Astronauts, who have seen the world from space, see it as one continuum, without divisions and boundaries. Frank Borman, an astronaut, said, “When you’re… looking back at the Earth, all these differences and nationalistic traits are pretty well going to blend and you’re going to get a concept that maybe this is really one world and why the hell can’t we learn to live together like decent people?” On the other hand, a person from UP might seem as an outsider to a Shiv Sainik in Mumbai, even while they are both Indians. We desperately need to broaden our horizons!
Part of my own ancestry came from Spain, during the Carlist wars, and settled in Lahore, western Punjab. They settled there for few generations and prospered, till the most cruel political decision of this century was made, calling for a mass exodus of Hindus and Muslims from both sides of Punjab, to form two separate nations. It took years of struggle for that generation to establish themselves in Delhi, to which they came as refugees. Many of their successors travelled and settled in different parts of the world. There are millions, everywhere in the world, who got displaced from their birthplace, because humanity lost to ethnicity and regionalism.
All refugees in the world have just one ethnicity and it’s the ethnicity of shared sorrow and suffering. Whether it’s the progeny of the Jews or the survivors of the Indian American genocide or the victims of Godhra, all of their eyes ask the same question, - “Will I ever have a place I can call home?” It’s time we throw off our stupid notions of ethnic identities and learn from the past. It just takes one moment of empathy, to reach out to another human being and it costs nothing.