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How to Recognize the Warning Signs of Genocide

Genocide is defined by the UN Genocide Convention as “any acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.The word genocide didn’t exist before 1944 until Polish-Jewish lawyer Raphael Lemkin coined the term to describe the systematic mass murder of European Jews at the hands of the Nazis between the years of 1933 and 1945—a genocide that is known today as the Holocaust.Today, it is a common notion for many to think of genocide as something that is no longer possible in modern times as many do not believe such an atrocity could happen in their own country or region. But in reality, there are genocides taking place right now and they happen in both democracies and dictatorships alike.Gregory H. Stanton, a Research Professor in Genocide Studies and Prevention at George Mason University, has identified 10 stages that play a critical role in every genocide. By learning these stages and following these steps, you can recognize the ten early warning signs of genocide and help stop it before it happens.

Steps

  1. Identify the signs of classification.All societies and cultures tend to divide people into different groups by various categories such as ethnicity, race, religion, nationality, and so on. The more disparity these groups have and the greater differences these classifications highlight, the higher the chances for animosity to form between these groups. Bipolar societies which have mainly two categories of classification, such as Rwanda, lack the variety of mixed or complex classifications and are at especially high risk.
    • Listen for “Us and Them” thinking. All groups are susceptible to groupthink and will often identify in terms of “ingroup” and “outgroup” classifications.These groups often only see the ingroup (characterized by the terms “us” or “we”) as right, and the outgroup (characterized by the terms “them” or “others”) as wrong.
    • Take note of groups that discourage individual thinking in favor of conformity to the group. This can be particularly observable when groups interact online using social media platforms and forums. This is sometimes referred to as “hive mind” thinking.
    • Classification is the primary factor in dividing a society and creating a power struggle between groups.
  2. Recognize the signs of symbolization.Groups will give symbols or names to the classifications, either to their own group, opposing groups, or both. This alone does not lead to genocide but is a marker of further division among classifications and reinforces behavior which can lead to discrimination. These visual and language-based identifiers are used to make it easier for groups to reinforce their own biases by pointing out differences while reducing the ability to observe people apart from their classifications.
    • Pay attention to the names that groups give to classifications. These names usually highlight a point of division and divergence. For example, German vs. Jew: non-Jewish Germans called themselves Germans but referred to Jewish Germans only as Jews. This language reinforced the negative idea that Jewish people were not a part of the German identity even though they lived in Germany and were legal citizens.
    • Often the names used are informal, shortened, disingenuous, and stigmatizing in ways intended to show disrespect, hatred, or cause offence (for example, slurs such as Jap, Gypsy, or Kaffir).
    • Take notice when groups identify themselves by their colors or dress. This often manifests as self-adopted uniforms, clothing styles, tattoos, or tribal scarring which are intended to distinguish their group apart visually in public spaces.
    • Symbols are often adopted and used to represent group superiority, pride, or dominance, much like the swastika, while other symbols can be forced upon members of pariah groups to denote inferiority, much like the yellow star forced upon Jews living under Nazi rule.
  3. Identify the signs of discrimination.The dominant group will use laws, customs, or political power to deny the rights of other groups. This is often accomplished legally under the existing state’s political framework by either adding, dismantling, or altering existing laws. When political unrest is high, exploiting special circumstantial or temporary scenarios of power and rule, such as martial law or declaring a state of emergency, are often used to deny rights to the victim groups despite public disapproval. Countries and governments that do not have preexisting laws banning discrimination of any kind or laws ensuring citizens the right to sue or challenge their own government’s laws are at particularly high risk. Common actions of discrimination are:
    • Boycotting businesses owned by the victim group.
    • Segregation; separate housing, schools, transport, and eating places.
    • Prohibiting the group’s right to vote.
    • Banning the group’s right to work in certain professions or industries.
    • Requiring passes for travel.
    • Revoking citizenship.
  4. Identify the signs of dehumanization.As the powerless group’s rights are taken away and their quality of life declines rapidly as a result, the dominant group will deny the humanity of their victims. This helps the dominant group rationalize their inhumane treatment of the oppressed group and over time they will no longer come to regard them as human. Dehumanization overrides the normal human revulsion against murder and plays a large role in propaganda and hate speech.
    • Listen closely for the powerless groups being described or referred to as animals, vermin, or diseases.
    • Identify the rise of popularity in this hateful language in political rallies, speeches, radio, or TV.
    • Watch for euphemisms in ideological language as they often hide the horrible nature of their implications. Words like “purification” or “ethnic cleansing” which sound vaguely sterile or almost positive often disguise the sentiment of hate and murder that is under the surface.
  5. Identify the signs of organization.Genocide is a group crime and therefore requires planning and organization. Often the state, group elites, or the controlling regime will begin making plans to fund and train troops or special units that will eventually carry out the genocide. Plans for a ‘final solution’ to exterminate the victim group are started. Often forces are formed using third party militias so the state or controlling group can maintain deniability after the impending atrocities are later carried out. Other signs of organization to look for include:
    • Informal organization such as the gathering of armed mobs or the recruiting of youth militias led by local militants.
    • Decentralized organization such as forming terrorist groups or cells that operate independently.
  6. Identify the signs of polarization.In this stage, extremism drives the groups further apart with increased propaganda and violence. Laws are passed cementing the “us vs. them” mentality by banning many forms of association between groups, such as intermarriage or even social interaction. Hate speech is normalized and large propaganda events such as demonstrations and rallies are held.
    • Independent news sources not sponsored or run by the state or the controlling group’s propaganda campaign are either discredited, vilified, boycotted, taken over, or banned outright.
    • Moderates within the dominant group are silenced through intimidation, imprisonment, or assassination. This is because moderates of any group are not as invested in the group’s controlling ideology and are often in the best position to de-escalate extremist views and actions.
  7. Identify the signs of preparation.The controlling group leaders finalize their plans and disclose them to those who will then conduct the genocide in the language of propaganda and euphemism. The plan is framed as a final push for justice and self-defense as the only remaining “solution” to the “question” or “problem” that the targeted group poses.
    • The goals are described as “cleansing,” “purification,” or even “counter-terrorism,” to mask their true nature.
    • Propaganda is employed heavily to indoctrinate the populace to fear the victim group. “If we don’t kill them, they’ll kill us.”
    • Military production is ramped up to faster speeds while forces are built up to greater numbers. Supplies and weapons are stockpiled.
  8. Identify the signs of persecution.At this stage, Death lists are drawn up and victims of the persecuted group are separated out by their symbolic identifiers (see the step “Identify the signs of symbolization). They are forcibly removed from their homes and either made to relocate themselves or relocated using transportation.
    • Their property and possessions are seized and taken by the controlling group.
    • They are relocated to camps, ghettos, or confined to famine-struck areas where they are forced to either provide grueling labor or starve.
    • Massacres and killings during this stage can happen sporadically when members of the victim group do not cooperate and attempt to rebel or escape.
  9. Identify signs of extermination.Once relocated, the killing of the victim group begins and quickly becomes the mass killings that are legally defined as “genocide.” Once this stage starts, it can only be stopped through swift and overwhelming armed intervention by a heavily fortified third-party force.
    • It is referred to as “extermination” because the killers do not believe that their victims are fully human. Rather, they think they are “cleansing” their society of “impurities” or “enemies.” For this reason they are often tortured and killed inhumanely.
    • Most genocides are committed by governments. While funded or sponsored by the state, the armed forces carrying out a genocide often work with local militias in an attempt to hide or mask their involvement.
    • Methods to expedite and automate the killings are often employed. Mass graves are dug and the victims are forced to line up next to or inside the grave where they are shot so the bodies don’t need to be transported later. For example, the Nazis constructed large gas chambers and crematoriums to both kill large numbers and dispose of their bodies.
  10. Identify the signs of denial.Denial always happens during and after a genocide along with an effort to cover up the crimes. Mass graves are often dug up and the bodies are burned. The controlling group often attempts to rewrite the narrative through the use of continued propaganda by denying that the killings ever took place or blaming the victims for what happened.
    • Evidence is destroyed and witnesses are silenced by intimidation or assassination.
    • The controlling group will block investigations into crimes surrounding the genocide.
    • The group leaders responsible will continue to govern unless they are driven from power by force.
    • Perpetrators of genocide will only face justice if pursued by forces with strong political will. All too often, those responsible flee and hide in countries which do not recognize international courts or their jurisdiction and can evade justice.
    • If caught, those who are responsible will be brought before international tribunals or criminal courts and tried with whatever evidence can be brought against them.

Community Q&A

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  • Question
    Is it genocide if they don't die, just suffer?
    Top Answerer
    Although the suffix "cide" means "killing," genocide is sometimes defined as torture and dislocation, as opposed to murder only.
    Thanks!
  • Question
    Does white genocide count as genocide?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    "Genocide" means killing a large group of people, such as the genocide of Native Americans in the USA, or the Armenian genocide. White people are not being routinely targeted for massacre in the western world. That being said, white genocide is possible, and would absolutely count as genocide, but it is not currently occurring in the western world.
    Thanks!
  • Question
    What are some genocides that have happened in our history?
    Top Answerer
    There have been many. Among the most recent: Armenia, 1915; Germany, 1933; Cambodia, 1975; Rwanda, 1990; Bosnia, 1995; and Darfur, 2003.
    Thanks!
  • Question
    Why would a couple of friends bullying someone be genocide?
    Top Answerer
    It wouldn't. "Genocide" refers to bullying (or killing) a very large group of people. However, an instance of individual bullying might be seen as a warning sign of future genocide.
    Thanks!
  • Question
    What do I do if I suspect genocide?
    Top Answerer
    A case of actual genocide would be witnessed by many people simultaneously. Raise the issue with other witnesses, and report what you know to police or government authorities.
    Thanks!
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Date: 08.12.2018, 21:59 / Views: 91143