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Wednesday, October 22 2014 @ 05:19 PM CDT

Never Again? The Semantics of “Holocaust”

Animal Rights

Yes, one of the common definitions of the word “holocaust” is “destruction or slaughter on a mass scale” and yes, I’m revisiting a topic I wrote about only three months ago.

The global animal by-products industry -- by definition -- involves packed transports, warehousing, experimentation, gassing, and the targeted mass extermination of sentient beings.

Never Again? The Semantics of “Holocaust”

Mickey Z. -- World News Trust

Yes, one of the common definitions of the word “holocaust” is “destruction or slaughter on a mass scale” and yes, I’m revisiting a topic I wrote about only three months ago.

The global animal by-products industry -- by definition -- involves packed transports, warehousing, experimentation, gassing, and the targeted mass extermination of sentient beings.

It’s been estimated that in all the wars and genocides in recorded history, a total of 619 million humans have been killed. That same number -- 619 million non-human animals -- are killed every five days for “food” by an industry that’s also the top source of human-created greenhouse gases (translation: ecocide).

In a clinical sense, it’s undoubtedly accurate to deem this a holocaust, as in “destruction or slaughter on a mass scale.”

But, I wonder, does it lessen or make light of the nightmarish experiences of humans -- does it alienate much-needed, potential allies -- if we use this word to describe the ongoing treatment of non-humans?

I ask this question because the term “holocaust” has, of course, become uniquely associated with humans of Jewish ethnicity or heritage. While the scores of communists, Roma, homosexuals, and dissidents murdered in Nazi concentration camps would obviously not concur with such limited word usage, the reality remains: Within our current culture, the word “holocaust” has a very specific, highly charged, and proprietary connotation.

And this is not an accident. Just ask Elie Wiesel…

Holocaust Denial
While Wiesel’s documentation of the Nazi Holocaust has earned him international acclaim and a Nobel Peace Prize, he is not predisposed to yielding the victim’s spotlight. In 1982, for example, a conference on genocide was held in Israel with Wiesel scheduled to be honorary chairman. The situation became complicated when the Armenians wanted in.

Here’s how Noam Chomsky described the incident: "The Israeli government put pressure upon (Wiesel) to drop the Armenian genocide. They allowed the others, but not the Armenian one. He was pressured by the government to withdraw, and being a loyal commissar as he is, he withdrew… because the Israeli government had said they didn’t want Armenian genocide brought up."

Wiesel went even further, calling up noted Israeli Holocaust historian, Yehuda Bauer, and pleading with him to also boycott the conference.

"That gives an indication of the extent to which people like Elie Wiesel were carrying out their usual function of serving Israeli state interests," Chomsky explains, "even to the extent of denying a holocaust, which he regularly does."

Why not include or welcome the Armenians, you wonder? Chalk it up to two conspicuous factors: the geopolitical reality that Turkey (the nation responsible for the Armenian genocide) was a rare and much-needed Muslim ally for Israel and the need to essentially monopolize the concept of “Holocaust.”

As a member of Israeli Knesset stated in 2008: "I find it is deeply offensive, and even blasphemous to compare the Holocaust of European Jewry during the Second World War with the mass extermination of the Armenian people during the First World War. Jews were killed because they were Jews, but Armenians provoked Turkey and should blame themselves."

(Read my article here for more on Elie Wiesel’s hypocrisy)

Correct or Effect?
"Auschwitz,” wrote sociologist Theodor Adorno, “begins wherever someone looks at a slaughterhouse and thinks: they're only animals."

To disagree with Adorno is to betray one’s speciesist bias. It is also to betray the original meaning of the word: “A holocaust is a religious animal sacrifice that is completely consumed by fire. The word derives from the Ancient Greek holocaustos.”

However, as confident as we are about our proper usage of the word holocaust, we cannot and must not ignore its impact within such a heavily-conditioned culture. Animal rights activists are already relegated to the fringes by mainstream society and demonized by the State. Unless we grow and diversify the movement, we’ll never reach a broad enough audience to fundamentally challenge speciesism. Are we speaking the right language and sending the right message to make that happen?

In a cultural vacuum, words like holocaust, concentration camps, slavery, rape, incarceration, and murder accurately and effectively describe the widespread human treatment of non-humans… but we don’t live in a cultural vacuum. Have we chosen a counterproductive battle by defying linguistic norms and clinging to such terms when we know full well how much emotional and political weight they carry?

More and more, I have witnessed anger, outrage, disbelief, and mockery from non-vegans in response to words like holocaust, concentration camps, slavery, rape, incarceration, and murder used in reference to non-humans, so I must ask:

As activists -- as advocates for the voiceless trillions -- is it more important to be semantically correct or to be effective?

What do you say?

#shifthappens

***

Mickey Z. is the author of 12 books, most recently Occupy this Book: Mickey Z. on Activism. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on a couple of obscure websites called Facebook and Twitter. Anyone wishing to support his activist efforts can do so by making a donation here.

©WorldNewsTrust.com -- Share and re-post this story. Please include this copyright notice and a link to World News Trust.

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Never Again? The Semantics of “Holocaust” | 1 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Never Again? The Semantics of “Holocaust”
Authored by: ISHI on Tuesday, August 26 2014 @ 09:19 AM CDT

 I have gradually been converting to this POV (though peer pressure is involved  -my family knows my diet but always wants me to eat meat, which i still am somewhat addicted to---so its like kicking junk, beer, k2, weed etc when everyione you know wants you to be 'happy' (pharell williams--im addicted to pop music 2 (eg que club or 'original BYB' by cackyard band DC---the wire), even if you are sick the next day, but its a customer service (with a loss leader). I am setting up a major foundation to save roaches, rats, and chickens (and relatives, the chickenhawks).   On my own, as a vegan Inspired by mickey 'z'   (i'm also known in my hood as 'gogo mickey, even though the OG Gogo mickey played w/ JYB, etc. )  and the Ghandis (india, see also DK's, holy trinity, golden 'meanie' triangle) ----my auto biography is called s/z (under pen name 'rassan roland' (captain/kir) 'bart(hes) simpson,  and film about my assination when i was in crete is called Z (i found enough moeny when hiking to get out of there---if i didnt spend it to go to india though i guess i took the wrong plane since i should have been going to NYC) contact me---for a small really free shipping and handling fee  ( (just send me you visa and number) its yours what is mine---i only eat vegans now---i like the PETA burgers, sandwiched between your SUV with a slice of suburban life . I cook them, like all couch potato anarchoprimitivts, with the  Flintsones ( a bedrock family).  I add a spice made from the Jetsons (mars dust, origin of life on earth, Fred Hoyle,   and the progeny prodcued by Dr. Dre ('derrick') Jensen (ho's a whole stable of them from uncivilized unions with salmons.) I'm stopped, but frisky, a few times recently. but i belive  the golden rule (I remember my bible study (i read old and all new testament up in my squat on yukon river in ak (has another term too)  'u f-k with me and i will f-k with u'.  (BYB DC)  decided to use them as kindling since it was -45 and i didnt want to burn my math books.  (to build a fire---jack london, james baldwin).  half a nice day (but there are other syntax and semantics (chomsky, montague)  .  eg  'read a book' (bomani, dc; or eek a penis' south park). peace , or please, (are there  in and) outs? could allus read group s/election  .