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The Horror of Human History

Friday, February 20th, 2009
Posted in Reflection by Joel Gross

History was my favorite subject in elementary and high school and I especially enjoyed learning about the major wars and medieval times.‚  I spent a lot of time reading on my own time about many subjects: laws and customs, weaponry, government structure, major events and economic systems. In all of my reading and studying though, I never really made a connection with the people and occurrences I was studying.‚  Childishly, I thought the individual stories of stupidity were funny and that the monstrous scale of atrocity was impressive rather than appalling.

As I have matured, the scale and horror of human history has finally begun to sink in.‚  Most of humans through history have led depressing and brutally short lives lived in pain and oppression.‚  Most people throughout history have lived under governments which allowed them very little freedom with leaders who were thoroughly corrupt and inbred idiots.

Even with all of my disgust with our current society and government, I am extremely grateful to not have lived anytime before now.

It’s really hard to convey the level of shock and horror I feel now when thinking about human history, but perhaps sharing a little bit of actual incidences will help you understand how bad life was and how much better off we are now.

Most everyone agrees the Nazi’s atrocities against the Jews and other minority groups were some of the worst in history, but we as victors did our fair share of horrible things too.‚  On February 14, 1942 Allied bombers were issued the following directive: “Attacks are to be focused on the enemy civilian population and in particular the industrial workers.”‚  During the following three years, Allied heavy bombers dropped over one and a half million tons of ordnance on German soil.‚  After the war was basically won in 1945, U.S. bombers firebombed the city of Dresden, killing somewhere between 24,000 and 40,000 civilians.‚  American bombers in Asia firebombed 67 cities including Tokyo, killing over half a million civilians.‚  Another 220,000 Japanese civilians were killed by American atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The numbers mentioned in the previous paragraph probably don’t mean much to you just reading them, but each number represents a human being.‚  A noncombatant civilian person.‚  Someone’s son or daughter, a neighborhood lifeguard, businessman, lover or friend.‚  It’s hard to relate to someone you have never met, but picture your mother or father being hit by one of those bombs.‚  Each one of those people had many other who cared for them.‚  Many of them died horribly from burns, shrapnel and shock.

The truly horrifying thing is that we were the nice guys.‚  American and British forces actually were far more humane than most armies have been through history.‚  Our other allies, the Russians, were so brutal and evil that at the end of the war any German who could tried to surrender to Americans so that the Russians wouldn’t get him or her.‚  When the Russians arrived in Berlin, many German civilians were hiding from the daily bombings by living in the subway system.‚  The Russian army locked the exits and flooded the subway system, killing countless people.‚  The women and children left unluckily left alive in Russian hands were raped, sadistically tortured and in many cases murdered.

The instances I recounted above are some of the tamer, less hands-on horrors of history and only the very tip of the iceberg from World War II.‚  Almost every generation of human history has been bloody, dark and evil.‚  Most humans have lived in poverty under repressive regimes that considered war, rape, murder and torture fun weekend activities.

Jonathan Swift made this point best in “Gulliver’s Travels”, when his main character visited the land of the talking horses and described “the great and fearless heroes and wars and kings and emperors of human history”… and the horse replied in disgust that humanity was the most filthy, miserable and evil creatures ever to live life.