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Although the twentieth century will probably be remembered as one of the bloodiest, it will probably also be remembered as one of the most technologically innovative. The impact of the continuing trends of mass-violence and technological sophistication have resulted in one of the most dangerous global situations in human history. Deep questions remain about the nature of such historical events as the Holocaust and the dropping of the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

Both events took place during World War Two, but can both of these events be looked at as having has the same, or similar historical influences? Are these events, which will no doubt be remembered as infamous in the course of human history, abberations or logical outcomes of Western/European social order and political ideology? When the Holocaust is considered, the first question that generally leaps to an individual’s mind, when they have been informed about the sheer magnitude and brutality of the historical events is: how could this have happened?

The answer to that question is very complex and would exceed the limits of this paper, but certain historically relevant facts should be brought up to better frame the question of how could the Holocaust have happened. The first relevant historical fact is that of universal and historical ubiquitous tribalism, racism, and nationalism. In other words, the kind of antisemitism which brought about the Nazi-sponsored Holocaust was anything but new or novel at the time the Nazis rose to power and created a state capable of carrying out the most organized and inhuman mass-murder in historical memory.

Rather than creating an abomination from scratch, so to speak, the Nazi state and its Dictator, Adolph Hitler, simply exploited the preexisting racial prejudices nd will toward racially based genocide and oppression which had marked Western civilization from pre-history. As the historian Mennell points out: “In struggles between members of different “survival units” (tribes or, later, states) there is, historically speaking, nothing very unusual about the mass murder of defeated enemies, or about pogroms of outsider groups.

They were long taken for granted” (Mennell, 1996, p. 110); what was so astonishing about the Holocaust was its scope and methodology. In point of fact, “Modern social organization vastly multiplied the technical capacity to kill” (Mennell, 1996, p. 109) and the Nazi regime demonstrated this without any room for doubt. The combination of archaic racially-based prejudices coupled with the modern political state, modern weaponry, and modern methods of logistics and extermination allowed for the Nazi Holocaust to eclipse the pogroms and slaughters of antiquity.

There certainly seems to be sufficient evidence to suggest that the Holocaust was more a logical conclusion of pre-existing cultural beliefs and political ideas coupled with advances in technology and logistics than it was an abberation of humanity or an exception to what humanity is capable of given the conquering and warlike eons which existed through history long before the Nazis ever hoisted a swastika. In fact, “The grim paradox is that it was the return to a highly effective state monopolization of the means of violence[… ] under Hitler[…

] that permitted the Holocaust to be so effectively organized” (Mennell, 1996, p. 112) and it was the same technological nd political “modernizations” which led to the severity and catastrophic casualties of World War Two. Although the atomic-bombing of Hiroshima by America at the close of World War two is often viewed as the unfortunate result of a bitterly contested war where two almost evenly matched sides remained locked in a stalemate, the truth of the matter is much less heroic. By the time of the atomic attack on Hiroshima, Japan’s capacity to wage offensive war was almost nil.

Even at the outbreak of the war, Japanese assets were frozen in America, and “the consequent cessation of shipment of oil, scrap iron, and other goods from the United States, Japan’s economy was in most severe straits and her power to wage war directly threatened” (Russett, 1997, p. 46) and her ability to make war was becoming severely threatened by the ongoing embargoes against her. Japanese military planners estimated that “reserves of oil, painfully accumulated in the late 1930s when the risk of just such a squeeze became evident, would last at most two years” (Russett, 1997, p.

46) by which time it would be far too late to make a stand, militarily, against the United States in China or elsewhere. Somehow, Japan had found its way to a “no good choices” (Russett, 1997, p. 46) scenario, with acquiescence to American demands dooming Japan to a less than coequal status with the world’s dominant powers, or war with the United States — sooner than later — before supplies dwindled below practical abilities to make war. The conclusion that it was inevitable that the atomic bomb be dropped on Japan then seems more a product of prejudicial beliefs and aggressive war-making than on logistics or necessity.

The defining beliefs of the conqueror is to conquer completely. In the traditional mind-set of Western-European politics “might makes right” and no military achievement has so inspired a nation to embrace this philosophy than the invention of the atomic bomb. In conclusion, rather than examples of tragic deviance from basic human nature, the Holocaust and the bombing of Hiroshima represent outcomes of historically evident social beliefs and political philosophies which have been a part of Western culture for many centuries.

While the events may not be indicative of the basic nature of individual human beings, the events are indicative of trends which have persisted through human cultures and human societies. Speaking in the most basic terms: the will to conquer and destroy one’s perceived enemies has not evolved to a state of harmlessness in humanity while simultaneously, humanity has made technical advances which allow for a more lethal and abhorrent demonstration of already-existing behaviors.

Obviously, if the trend persists, the possibility of catastrophic war, or even global annihilation would seem to be a potential outgrowth of these persistent cultural and technological evolutions.

References

Mennell, S. (1996). Chapter 6 Civilizing and Decivilizing Processes. In The Course of Human History: Economic Growth, Social Process, and Civilization (pp. 101-114). Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe. Russett, B. M. (1997). No Clear and Present Danger: A Skeptical View of the United States Entry into World War II. Boulder,Colo. : Westview Press.

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