Friday, April 06, 2007

Genocide starts with bullying, Coloroso says

April 5, 2007
Canadian Jewish News

TORONTO - Ask parenting expert Barbara Coloroso if writing a book about genocide is a giant leap for her, and she’ll immediately say “no.”

Speaking about her new book, Extraordinary Evil: A Brief History of Genocide, Coloroso, author of such books as Kids are Worth It, Parenting Through Crisis, and The Bully, the Bullied and the Bystander, said it’s “actually a short walk from bullying to hate crimes to genocide.”

A former Franciscan nun, and mother of three, Coloroso, 58, will speak about her new book on April 17 at Beth Tzedec Congregation at an evening sponsored by the Anne and Max Tanenbaum Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto’s parent association.

Other sponsors include Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, Hillel of Greater Toronto, UJA Federation of Greater Toronto’s Holocaust Centre of Toronto, and federation’s Latner Centre for Jewish Knowledge and Heritage.

In a phone interview from her home in Colorado, Coloroso said that she began examining the Holocaust, as well as the Armenian and Rwandan genocides, after seeing Elie Wiesel’s book Night while walking through an airport.

“I had never studied the subject, and he brought it to the fore for me. I began to realize how much I didn’t know.”

She found a parallel between behaviours exhibited in bullying and those exhibited in genocide.

“They both share the dehumanization of the victims and a routinization of cruelty. The premise I take on bullying is that it is not about conflict or anger, it is about contempt for another human being,” Coloroso said.

“Once you make another person a cockroach or a rat, you can do anything to them without shame or compassion. Bullying is a hostile act that is intended to harm. When one group determines that another group is ‘it,’ they can do or say anything.”

Conflict, she noted, is often used to mask genocide.

“The United States and Canada got involved in World War II to stop the war, not to stop the genocide. They didn’t see the genocide through the fog of war,” she said.

“If there is a war going, genocide can be diverted. Hitler needed war to complete his genocide.”

Coloroso, who has visited Rwanda three times to work with orphans and to lecture at the university there, said that “[genocide] is a very short walk from anyone saying ‘You’re less than me.’ When a student calls another student a name, that is step one.

“Boys and girls do verbal bullying very well, and other kids laugh.”

What they’re showing, she said, is that the person who is bullied is not worthy of being treated with dignity and regard. “He’s a loner and a loser.”

Every bully incident has a bully and a bystander, Coloroso said, “and there are no innocent bystanders. You could not have not the Holocaust without Hitler, but you also would not have it without the bystanders. The bully needs support, and cheering on. Bystanders get pleasure from seeing the pain of others.”

The challenge is to raise kids with a sense of “I am unique, you are unique, and together we can create ‘we,’” she said.

“Deep caring is as much caught as it is taught, so kids have to see you behave with deep caring. Let them see what you do when you hear a racist joke, let them see how you treat hired help, and let them see you act with compassion and loving kindness.”

Coloroso said she is “tragically optimistic” in that “I recognize what is going on, and I’m not wearing rose-coloured glasses.

“However, we can make a difference. We can get a group of people to step in and do the right thing. Deep caring always out-trumps dogma. [The challenge] is not to cut people out of the circle of concern.”

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.



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