So, I have finished moving into my new place! I am really excited about it for so many reasons and even though I still have some unpacking and arranging to do, I feel more comfortable than I have in a long time. It doesn't look like much- it's just a small cabin, yet its so much some comfortable and I feel more free than I did in my two bedroom apartment. It's funny how having less makes some things harder, but many important things easier.
I love having land to hang out on again. I have already started imagining and planning for a small garden in the spring and I am wondering if maybe having ducks would be a possibility again- not wondering too much because I will be working so much so I wouldn't be able to enjoy them or keep them safe. I have already tried to enjoy some time sitting outside looking at the stars – feels too cold to do for long right now- but I am looking forward to it in the spring evenings. I love having wood heat again... its a more comfortable heat and while I am still getting used to the rhythm of starting and keeping the stove lit and fired up again, its wonderful. It is so much more comforting and feels more right than a thermostat does. I have to pay attention to the weather, to how I feel, to the air around me... and as such I think I get a better appreciation of it.
I love the huge amount of windows- boy the cats do as well. When I am working outside, I will see them sitting on the sills enjoying the rays of sun that come through the pains. I love that it is within the living boundaries of the church I need to attend and so I no longer have to worry about difficulties there. I love the rustic look of the place itself and even some of the problems- I find myself thinking of ways to fix or modify them. I love the size of it and how it is pretty darn cozy. How many people live in places that they really feel are great places to live for all parts of them. I suspect that not many people do as otherwise, home décor wouldn't be such a popular thing as we try to turn our homes into things that we like to look at and let others look at instead of enjoying the place for the environment it provides. (I recognize that I have over simplified that idea.) It feels like a place to be happy and to grow in.
So here is a picture. Like I said, not fancy... but perfect all the same. :)
“The aim of censoring regimes is to purge historiography in order to make it a tool of the ideology justifying the rulers' position of power”
The Holodomor is the name given to the famine in the Ukraine in 1932-1933. The name means 'Hunger Extermination' and even today, it is not lawful to use certain words when describing it inside Russia – it's very existence was denied by the Soviet Union until a few years before the collapse of the government in the late 1980's. Estimates of the numbers of dead are variable due to the suppression of information available from the Soviet government and accessible to study, but a general consensus is guessed at around three million people. Adam Ulan, the director of the Russian research center at Harvard, estimates the loss of life at 5-7 million Ukrainians while other sources suggest that up to fourteen million may have died. (Clearly without more information that is unknown at this time, a more specific and appropriate number can not be defined.) Before this time, Ukraine was considered a part of the Soviet Union and was also starting to have a strong nationalist movement forming that was hopeful for independence from Russia and the Union. It was also at the death of Lenin in 1924 that Josif Visarionovich Dzhugashvili – more commonly known as Joseph Stalin- was able to cement his rise to power over Russia and its unified territories and gain full control over both the government and its propaganda wing, the Communist Party. Once in power, Stalin began a campaign of 'five year plans' to rapidly advance industrialization and modernity into the Soviet Union and its people. The first Five Year Plan contained provisions that removed the individual farmer from the control of their land making the land consolidated property of the state and forcing peasants/farmers to either move to cities and work in the rising industries or continue to farm on the new 'collectives' with new tools and rules. It is thought that the Stalinist government hoped to suppress and control the growing Ukrainian nationalist movement as well as individual support systems that could be used for revolt against them. These were the circumstances/national policies that set the stage for the coming famine and genocide.
With the new policies of land appropriation, things turned challenging for people very quickly. Some of the more well to do farmers burned off their crops refusing to join the collective farms causing many farmers (also known as Kulaks) to be deported to concentration camps to die leaving fewer people to farm. They were also branded as 'enemies' encouraging both the official law enforcement and other citizens to 'liquidate' them as a class. A decree requiring production quotas was passed and so in most cases all grain and food products that were produced were taken by the government for export to gain money to increase the speed of industrialization... living little to nothing for the populace itself to eat. In fact, as the quotas were unable to be met, government representatives were sent to villages to look for hidden food- a true irony as they would walk past those dead or dying of starvation in their search for just a little more food to sell to Europe.
When the starvation became evident, it was seen by Stalin and many in power the result of the peasant's failure to work adequately within the new collective system. Examples of that way of thinking can be seen in the many accounts given by survivors. When a Chairman of the Village Soviet was informed of the many deaths that happened in a village in the county of Cherkasy, the chairman was said to have not wanted to believe the 'story', to object to the use of the word 'starved', and to say that the only deaths that could have happened were to the idle, the lazy, and those who refused to work in the collective farms who needed to be exterminated anyway as “enemies of the people”. Yet one observer during this time stated that peasants in the Ukraine had resorted to 'eating dogs, horses, rotten potatoes, the bark of trees, grass-anything they could find... and no matter what they did, they went on dying, dying, dying.” The writer Isaac Babel returned to Moscow after visiting the famine stricken Ukraine and he told a friend that some of the things he had seen were impossible to speak or write about including cannibalism. It seemed to be impossible for those in power or with a strong belief in the ideology of the Communist party to see that the policies of 'progressive humanity' could fail … it could only fail as a result of enemies from without and so the 'five year plan' and the system itself continued to move forward creating not only more death, but endless numbers of enemies would be created by the numberless individuals who were starving. Between the torture and death of his political opponents as well as citizens, Stalin can rightfully be called one of the most successful mass murderers in history.
During this time frame, the Soviet government strongly curtailed freedom of expression and used censorship to try and control the information that was able to be discussed. Many who spoke of the existence of the famine were imprisoned or executed and the official state talking points were of consistent denial that the famine existed at all. This strict code to denial went so far as to also refuse any food aid that other countries did try to send to the individuals in the Ukraine. Information that was given out to other countries relied on these particular talking points, and so even in the United States, Stalin's propaganda and misinformation of the famine was spread. New York Times correspondent Walter Duranty wrote during the crisis: “Any report of a famine in Russia is today an exaggeration of malignant propaganda. There is no actual starvation or deaths from starvation, but there is widespread mortality from diseases due to malnutrition.”
The changes that the Hunger Extermination brought to the Ukraine were far reaching and are still in work today. Initially, it destroyed the Ukraine's political leadership and also changed the demographics of the population between the deaths and the encouraged resettlement of other Russian ethnic groups into the affected areas. (Even the capital city of Ukraine had been changed from Kharkiv to the city of Kiev where it remains today.) It helped bring the separatist nationalist movement to the core of Ukrainian politics, history and identity. Any effort to have the Holodomor recognized by the United Nations as an act of genocide is heavily resisted by Russia and so the politics over the situation continue on into the current relationships of both countries; many other countries have acknowledged the Holomodor as genocide or as a 'deliberate act of famine' by the Soviet authorities. (The U.N. has recognized that the Holomodor was “a national tragedy of the Ukrainian people caused by the cruel actions and policies of a totalitarian regime.”) While this was certainly not the first major challenge that the inhabitants of the Ukraine had with Russia, it seems to have certainly caused the most pain and remembrance in large swaths of the population. In some ways the Holodomor is still a censored topic: when looking for sources for these writings, I found many books on the history of Russia and the Ukraine that mentioned the Holodomor only as a famine and in one or two short sentences... easy to be missed and forgotten. Other changes that have happened that now have international consequences due to this and other massacres committed or sanctioned by other dictators such as such as Mao Zedong in China, Augusto Pinochet in Chile and Pol Pot in Cambodia, is that the International Criminal Court has been developed and no longer (with some exceptions) allows national sovereignty to be the reason that dictators can commit atrocious acts against their own citizens. The system is no where near perfect, but it is much better than nothing.
We still have the challenges of censorship and genocide in our world today. Discovering how to combat it and use speech to attempt to not only right the wrongs that have been perpetrated but to also attempt to keep genocide and atrocities from happening is something that many scholars and individuals still debate today. How much secrecy can a government have and still allow full freedom of expression? How much openness can we have as a society and still have security? How much of either are permissible to be restricted to keep the majority of people safe, secure, and also free? It is a debate that I suspect will continue long into the future... as long as human beings continue to exist.
I hope you enjoyed... or at least learned something new. Not a topic that can really be enjoyed, is it....
From time immemorial, rulers have tried to manipulate the past, discipline historians and control collective memory”
The Irish potato famine is generally agreed to have been between the years of 1845-1852 with around one million deaths and the population of Ireland shrinking by at least twenty percent between deaths and loss by emigration; there are some suggestions that almost one million people also emigrated for other countries during this time with most headed to the Americas. The history between England and Ireland for over six centuries has been filled with hostility and the unfortunate circumstance that the good fortunes of one country usually spoke of the bad situation of the other. At the beginning of the famine, Ireland was under the control of England and its parliament and most of its land was controlled by English landlords who didn't live on their land; in fact, for the seven hundred years before the famine, the Irish people had gradually become tenants in their homeland with the English as the major landowners. In 1690, the British government passed penal laws in Ireland that restricted the rights of individuals who practiced the Catholic religion by prohibiting them from holding public office, getting education, owning land, participating in civil activity, and inheritance rights... pretty much the majority of things that helped people and their families rise out of poverty. By 1843, Ireland's demands for the repeal of their union with England- and the strength behind that demand- was seriously disquieting to the British government. Many commissions/ special committees that looked at the situation in Ireland right before the genocide/famine had nothing positive to say about the circumstances on the ground there: “Without exception their findings prophesied disaster,” or as stated by John Mokyr, “population grew unrestrained, continuously exacerbating poverty, thus making the resolution of the problem by a catastrophe ultimately inevitable.”
And so the straw broke in the form of the fungus Phytophthora infestans also known as potato blight. The potato crop had become the food that the majority of the Irish population depended on for their basic subsistence as almost two-thirds of the population depended on farming for their survival. The fungus was quick working as one day the plants would look healthy and then the next… the plants were dead. If the disease to the potato plants had been it, then the outcome might have been very different and this disaster wouldn't be seen as a genocide. What makes this challenge a man made disaster was the politics and economics that surrounded and enlarged it. As the crop failed and people went hungry and began to starve, the political decisions that England made compounded the problem. Part of the blame for the political decisions that were made can be focused on the attitude that the English populace and politicians held towards the Irish population. Between the racial animosity, the religious difficulties and the English perception that the Irish were a more primitive people, the difficulties between both cultures in some ways was inevitable... it was also a common misconception that the Irish poor took a perverse pleasure in degradation and squalor.
The British prime minister at the beginning of the famine, Sir Robert Peel, stated “There is such a tendency to exaggeration and inaccuracy in Irish reports that delay in acting on them is always desirable.” In fact, the skepticism of the British government in believing or understanding the depth of the crisis- whether intentional disbelief or not- would prove fatal to many. Another challenge was that the land owners (who were mostly English) continued to force optimal growth and work out of the Irish creating large amounts of food that were then exported to England. Some figures suggest that several ships left Ireland daily laden with food for England and in some of the worse times of hunger, the exports were protected by military escorts from the hungry populace. By some accounts, enough food was shipped out of Ireland to England during the famine to sufficiently feed around two million people. As far as I can ascertain, this was the first time in history that a country during a famine where food was a dire need for the population didn't stop exports of food as well as allowing imports of food in. When relief was sent by England, it was not only insufficient but was only a fraction of the amount of food shipped out as well as food that was not easily used in the rural areas of Ireland.
There are many things that can be seen today that we can trace the roots back to An Gorta Mor (the Great Hunger). Even with the pressure and the discrimination that was committed in the cause of removing the power of the Catholic religion and to try and force the population into Protestant leanings, the constitution of Ireland which was ratified in 1937 stops short of calling for a national religion, but does acknowledge the leading role of the Roman Catholic Church. Even the language of discussing the famine says a lot about how it is viewed by the speakers- many people call it the Great Irish Potato Famine, while the Irish call it the Great Hunger. The culture itself changed as even the language of choice shifted from Irish to English and some of the customs disappeared- it is the modern Irish and nearby historian who continues to try and pull the past forgotten traditions, folklore, and customs back into the collective consciousness. It was also right before the famine and during it that the agricultural practices were changed from grain to 'pasture farming' which persisted on after the tragedy itself. The diaspora of thousands to America and other lands helped spread some of the Irish culture with its people, but also removed it from its central place- in both the lives of those who left and in the lives of those who stayed behind and managed to survive. Ireland also was unique among European countries at this time and after due to the severe population loss as all other European countries experienced rapid population growth during this time frame and the years after. The seeds of Irish independence were well watered during the famine and within a few years, Ireland was able to gain her independence from England. And today, both countries are still working on an understanding and tolerance of each other and their differences.
During the time of this indirect or direct genocide (depending on which point of view you take), there were many people who spoke out about the famine, the deaths and the devastation. One of the most well known was the speaker and writer, John Mitchell. As one of the first men to recognize and name the famine as a genocide, he was also one of the most outspoken in his hatred of the British government and its policies towards Ireland. When Parliament and those men ruling England became frustrated with the rhetoric of Mitchell and others, they passed a law called the Treason-Felony Act. This law was meant to try and censor the kingdom's critics in Ireland by creating a mechanism for 'legitimate' punishment. A few people were prosecuted under this law, but most were acquitted... John Mitchell was successfully convicted and was sentenced to fourteen years transportation to Bermuda. He managed to escape and made it to the United States where he continued his writing and vocal rhetoric for the complete independence of Ireland. In a tract that he wrote in 1861, he said, “I have called it an artificial famine: that is to say, it was a famine which desolated a rich and fertile island that produced every year abundance and superabundance to sustain all her people and many more. The English, indeed, call the famine a 'dispensation of providence;' and ascribe it entirely to the blight on potatoes. But potatoes failed in like manner all over Europe; yet there was no famine save in Ireland... The Almighty, indeed, sent the potato blight, but the English created the famine.” Strong words indeed – no wonder the English government tried to silence him. Censorship continues to this day as both Irish scholars and others portray the famine as a mostly natural disaster and play down any role that the British government had in its beginnings and long lasting effects and mortality.
“Language is not only a means for exposing and discerning truth, but also for stifling and misrepresenting it.”
Human beings have been around on this planet for thousands of years and from what we know of the history of the human race, murder and genocide has accompanied our existence from the very beginning. Depending on your particular viewpoint of our beginnings (whether we have been 'created' or purely evolved from one celled organisms in a primordial ooze), the first murder was either committed within the second generation of God's chosen people or the first genocide is theorized by some paleontologists/ archeologists to have occurred between early humans (Homo sapiens) and Neanderthals back near the very beginnings of our race. The pages of written history are spattered with the blood and deaths of the innocent and those who were in the way of those in power due to race, culture, gender, religion or even misperception... and even in our modern, civilized world, we still perform crimes and acts against humanity as a whole destroying the peace and prosperity that we all long for. Over the last two hundred years as ways of communication have increased and information and news has become available to a larger percentage of the global population, historians and journalists have tried to appropriately document and report on the transgressions of government leaders and dictators. As such,these individuals are most likely to find themselves on the wrong side of governments and those in power. They are more likely to be bullied or tortured into silence, forced to help with propaganda campaigns to ensure their survival, and many are killed or imprisoned every year. In our current world, we can more easily discover these horrors and fight them, but it would be remiss of me to not acknowledge that people have risked their lives throughout the human time line to try and stop human rights violations. While most we will never know due to the lack of documentation and the time that has passed, we can acknowledge and be grateful for their sacrifices and existence. For many human rights advocates, language is one of their most commonly used weapon to share information, to bring violations to light, and to strengthen others in the fight and their cause. I wish to acknowledge some of the people who have given of their time, safety and freedom to future their ideals of freedom and safety for all.
It is my intention to take this opportunity to look at how leaders and dictators use government and armies to achieve their own ends while using the law and other forms of coercion to stifle and limit dissent or challenges to their ambition. One tool that governments and those in power use to restrain communication between individuals and the population at large is censorship. This a great tool which is used to limit language and ideas that the powers that be disagree with and restrict the ability for people to speak freely about their thoughts, lives and opinions. It is through the use of censorship and the limiting of freedom of speech that dictators and leaders control large population of people who feel oppressed and dissatisfied with life... and in some cases can eventually lead to genocide.
Freedom of speech and the ability to safely express opinions and views are widely considered to be a fundamental attribute of individual freedom. In the United States, James Madison argued at the very beginning of the colonies' development that government acts restricting speech and open debate were fundamentally wrong- yet it hasn't stopped other government officials or people in authority from attempting to control or limit speech that they find difficult or unacceptable and this pattern of repression continues into our current culture. While some laws restricting speech can be seen as reasonable- laws banning hate speech or allowing criminal responsibility for some forms of speech are an example, others can be seen as restricting and limiting of speech that should be protected and allowed. Examples from 1965 and today show how some patterns of repression continue even as leaders and times change. In 1965, John and Mary Beth Tinker were told that they were not allowed to wear black armbands in school as a statement against the American interference in Vietnam; their rights to do so were affirmed by the Supreme Court later on in Tinker vs Des Moines. In 2012, a school banned their cheerleaders from using positive, religious messages on their banners.... and a court again upheld the student's rights to free speech and expression. Determining the boundaries of where free speech should be curtailed have been debated since the idea came to fruition and even laws banning certain forms of hate speech can be seen as stifling legitimate views and expressions. As Charles Levendosky once opined, “One man's hate speech is another man's political statement. And political commentary has – and should have- the highest First Amendment Protection.” John Stuart Mill, who wrote a publication titled Essay on Liberty, stated “Strange it is, that men should admit the validity of the arguments for free discussion, but object to their being “pushed to an extreme”; not seeing that unless the reasons are good for an extreme case, they are not good for any case.” Another related tool that those in authority use to control speech and ideas that they find distasteful is censorship; the control of verbal or pictorial speech by individuals or groups or manipulating what information people can receive and share as well as keeping information secret. To have a truly open and prosperous society, individuals need to have the ability to seek, receive and give out information to others. Censorship can be in seen in small ways such as when libraries remove or ban a book so that it cannot be used by patrons due to content.... to something as big and convoluted as the internet filtering that some states impose on its citizens such as Iran and China. Used together, governments or leaders can severely restrict and limit how people interact with their community, families and other groups.... even how they feel about life and where they live and the level of fear and anxiety they feel in their daily lives. There is some evidence that over time people begin to self censor themselves which potentially suppresses not only the ideas and expressions of the individual, but also those that surround that person- family, community, etc...
Unearthing and examining the history of different countries with a focus on how limited speech and effective censorship can not only cause a 'chilling' effect on people, but also potentially lead to human rights abuses and genocide is difficult the further back in time we travel. Many written records from our past were created by the victors of wars and conquests and so all documents that were written and survive to this day (with few exceptions) were written and distributed by those in power and therefore, not necessarily truthful or accurate. Perception is everything and we gain our views, ideas, and biases from our experiences, the people around us, and our environment... which is why censorship and limiting speech works so well, as the less input we have, the less information we have to develop our views in a well rounded way. It is easier for dictators to steer our thoughts/ actions and easier to convince people of the lack of humanity in others without the full ability to question the information coming at you if what input you get in controlled and focused on the message you want people to agree with. It is this process which eventually leads to propaganda, the process of combining different forms of communication to try and influence people and groups towards one viewpoint. It usually only shares one view of the position and along with censorship, suppresses alternative views and discourages inquiries challenging the stated position. And so, many of the documents that are available to historians can be seen as propaganda or, at the minimum, a limited view of the discussed topic.... one of the reasons that history can 'change' over time as more facts or perspectives are discovered. As M.C. Beaton once wrote, “The way propaganda works as any schoolboy knows is that if you say the same thing over and over again, lie or not, people begin to believe it.” And historians can be caught up in the same web as they try to separate fact from fiction and other altering viewpoints while governments and those in power try and restrict what information is available and how it is viewed. There is some evidence that governments have in some cases destroyed or culled materials from their records and archives to keep it from potentially being viewed and dissected even in our more modern and 'enlightened' times. When confronted with censorship, historians and the everyday individual must decide whether to collaborate with the government, impose censorship onto themselves, or resist and leave themselves open to persecution. These are important viewpoints to keep in mind when studying history, large groups, governments, leaders, etc...
So, how do the combination of limiting speech and the freedom of expression lead to crimes against humanity or genocide...? There are so many examples in the course of human events to chose from (unfortunately). The examples I have chosen vary due to location, culture, and the facts. However, they also have a few things in common; those in power either didn't share important information or made specific decisions knowing the harm they would cause, people allowed themselves to become focused on the differences that they disliked in other groups, censorship and limited speech as well as the use of propaganda were used to further their desires and to attempt to limit the knowledge and discussion of the consequences of their decisions. I also specifically choose examples that I had heard briefly mentioned during my studies or my fun readings over the courses of my lifetime so that I could take the opportunity to not only learn more about the transgressions and the aftermath, but also to try and understand how they came to be. I also recognize that some of my choices are not free of controversy, that full documentation does not exist and that even the term genocide may be questioned by both scholars and the lay historian today. Therefore, the examples I have chosen are the Irish Genocide also known as the Irish Potato Famine and the Holodomar in the Ukraine.
I am a transplant from the beautiful east coast to the west coast and back to the east coast to farm and bore her family with history lectures and allergen free food. A descendant of Mormon pioneers, I feel a little strange at appearing to move in the opposite direction geographically. I fit many labels : Female, Wife, Mother, Mormon, Political Firebrand, Loyal Friend, Farmer, Historian, and service overacheiver. Hopefully, I am not as easy to place into these labels as I think that I am. I live with a beautiful son, an amazing husband, too many animals to count and twenty beautiful rural acres.