I've just read* an interesting letter by Professor GS Solt to The Times (April 9 2011) commenting on the current exposé of the British conflict with the Mau Mau in Kenya in the 1950's. Drawing on his experiences of that and of the Nazis in Austria in the 1930's he declares that:
“When a govenment declares that a section of its subjects is inferior, and the law gives them inferior rights, the message soon becomes that they are not quite human. This is how some (apparently decent) people can knock off work at the concentration camp and go home for tea with a clear conscience. Even the British.”
He is generalising to draw what seems to me to be a valid conclusion about the way in which whole countries are able to move in the direction of genocide. It seems obvious, when thought about, that governments have an equal duty to all their subjects and should not be considering one group to be inferior. However there seem to be a lot of places in the world where particular groups are considered inferior for many reasons, including race, religion, upbringing, and intelligence. His writing makes me feel the edge of the precipice over which we can so easily fall.
* in The Week 16th April 2011.