Today’s Platform address was by Prof. Alexander Hinton who is a Professor of Anthropology at Rutgers University, Newark and an internationally recognized expert on the Cambodian Genocide. Between 1975 and 1975 the Communist Khmer Rouge regime killed over 20% of the population of Cambodia. Prof. Hinton’s talk was entitled, “What makes a man start fires’ From the Cambodian Genocide to Charlottesville”.
Prof. Hinton has written extensively on this and related topics (here is his Amazon page) and covered a lot of ground in his talk. For me, one of the most interesting things he pointed out was how the Marxist Khmer Rouge had to recast their ideology and actions to fit into traditional Cambodian Buddhism in order to get people to join the movement and be willing to commit mass killings. Using Buddhist concepts about reincarnation and dukkha (“an important Buddhist concept, commonly translated as ‘suffering, ‘pain, ‘unsatisfactoriness or ‘stress. It refers to the fundamental unsatisfactoriness and painfulness of mundane life” – see Wikepedia) and other elements it was possible for Khmer Rouge leadership to bring about this genocide.
Prof. Hinton also drew parallels from the societal origins of genocides to contempoarary events in America with special emphasis on the recent rise in white nationalist movements. He pointed out how the rhetoric of the white nationalist movements, widely available on the internet, is very similar to the rhetoric used across the globe in actual genocides.
This is a big topic and if you’d like to read more about it a good place to start is Center for the Study of Genocide and Human Rights (CGHR)