Mike Cope's blog

Thursday, July 29, 2004

  You just get used to it.   How have people permitted great acts of violence in places like Nazi Germany, Stalin’s Russia, Cambodia, and Rwanda?  They just got used to it.  “To tell the truth, one did become used to it,” explained Franz Stangel, a Nazi commandant of the death camps of Sobibor and Treblinka. Part of how the terrorist functionaries get used to it is that they often have some slight distance between themselves and those being maimed and murdered.  As Dr. Johann Kremer, one SS physician explained (about his preference for doing pathology research on fresh human tissue):  “When I had collected my information the orderly approached the patient and killed him with an injection in the vicinity of the heart. . . . I myself never made any lethal injections.”   I’m reading a wonderful book called King Leopold’s Ghost about the Belgian conquest of the Congo.  King Leopold II tried to appear like a great humanitarian (appealing to racist notions in Europe) but was a greedy, land-hungry despot.  His Belgian officials in the Congo inflicted unimaginable torture to people whom they were ostensibly trying to “help.”  Often Africans (including children) were beated with a chicotte, “a whip of raw, sun-dried hippopotamus hide, cut into a long sharp-edged corkscrew strip.  Usually the chicotte was applied to the victim’s bare buttocks.  Its blows would leave permanent scars; more than twenty-five strokes could mean unconsciousness; and a hundred or more—not an uncommon punishment—were often fatal.” But usually the Belgians required other Africans (who were promoted to “foremen”) to inflict the punishment.  That was the sliver of distance that allowed them to just get used to it. There have been some monsters in the world’s history.  But each of them has had thousands of functionaries who carried out their inhumane insanity.  How could those thousands do it?  They just got used to it. And now, I’m wondering about the things I’ve just gotten used to.   The inhumane treatment of fellow human beings comes in many forms.


  • Tragic when people get used to the abuse of a fellow human being. If we can put distance between us and the abuse, or if we can somehow "dehumanize" the person or group receiving the treatment, it becomes "easier" to tolerate and thus perpetuate.

    Tragic also when a man, woman or child "gets used to" being abused -- as if it were their birthright. They grew up in abusive patterns, and even though it hurts, they accept it as normal.

    I still cringe when I think of the young adolescent girls I have counseled who have been sexually violated by a family member with a grandmother or mother just a few feet away. In one case, after the child was removed from the perpetrator and when I explored the situation with the young lady and later her mother and grandmother, the common words that surfaced were, "Honey, you just have to let 'em. Not a thing you can do about it."

    By Blogger Serena Voss, at 7/29/2004 09:36:00 AM  

  • Learning to adapt, to become used to these things makes it also easier to justify passing that abuse on. So often the abused becomes the abuser, globally, locally, personally.

    It's a startling thing when God begins to answer the prayer, "open my eyes, Lord."

    By Blogger Q, at 7/29/2004 11:29:00 AM  

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    By Blogger SG, at 7/29/2004 11:37:00 AM  

  • I am continually amazed how funtionaries, when confronted with their inhumanities, merely say "I was just following orders;" as though this were a sufficient excuse. Generations of people "just following orders" have produced snapshots of hell on earth. Meanwhile, we often still buckle under the strain of following Jesus. While following Jesus has not, is not, will not be easy, our love in response to God's pursuit of us has to be a better impetus to showing love to the world than does any reason for carrying out acts of hate. Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

    By Blogger Val, at 7/29/2004 02:09:00 PM  

  • Wouldn't it be great if Christians brought about peace with the same excuse? "Why didn't you fight back?" "Why walk that extra mile?" "What's with this turning the other cheek stuff?"

    Answer: "I was just following orders."

    By Blogger chrismith, at 7/30/2004 01:07:00 PM  

  • The just getting used to it is Satan's goal for sin in our own lives, whether it be abusing our fellow man, looking lustfully at someone other than our spouses, greed, or any other manifestation of evil (sin). May we have all have soft hearts for God and make sure there is no "plank in our own eye." God Bless

    By Blogger Ed Harrell, at 8/01/2004 09:10:00 PM  

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