I’m currently reading The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II and it is one of the most difficult books I’ve ever read.
Oh, it’s not overly footnoted or heavy on scientific terms. It’s just that I have about a 40 minute tolerance of the sheer human depravity depicted. It is perhaps more depraved than the holocaust, even though the numbers do not compare. Why is this so? It is because the depravity of the Rape of Nanking was much more personal.
It is the difference between industrial killing and experiencing first hand the spurt of blood and dying moan from each victim. The Nazis, though killing many more people, were not, for the most part, individually involved in the killing of individuals.
I do not mean to imply that assembly line killing is a lesser evil. It is, I think, the greater evil. What I am saying is that is does not involve as many killers and it is spared the grotesque experience of massive blood and guts. The resemblance lies in the requirement of the agreement of many people to acquiesce. The difference lies in the actions of those who acquiesce.
Is it less moral to herd prisoners onto a rail car not knowing for sure (though cognizant of the possibility) that are on their way to die or is it less moral to personally rape, tortue, disembowel, and kill a prisoner? Is there, in fact, a moral difference?
Does the fact that the more personal killing is based on the fact that the prisoners could not be fed therefore they must die (a painful and humiliating death) a more moral position than one that says the prisoners are inferior human beings and therefore must die to preserve a perceived genetic preference?
Why were the Germans prosecuted with the utmost zeal and the Japanese were prosecuted with negligible fervor after WWII?
Which do we rally against? Why has it been so much easier for most of humanity to rally against the industrial style? Is that because our governments are getting bigger and bigger and more controlling?
Or is it because it is simply easier to protest government actions than it is individual actions — even when those individual actions are at the behest of a government?
The bottom line to me seems that individual action is likely to kill fewer people but do so more gruesomely. State actions are much more efficient and bloodless thus more people are killed.
Which is better? Individual violence or government violence? That is one question. There are many others.