These days, the Holocaust is compared to anything, and Jews frequently resent it. They are right to feel offended. When you compare the systematic killing of six million human beings with, say, imposing economic sanctions on a corrupt South American dictator, we have a problem. And, that problem is the trivialization of the Holocaust.
But, that does not mean that the Holocaust is the only genocide that has ever taken place. In the 20th Century, other such tragedies have happened. And yet, just as there are Holocaust deniers, there are also deniers of those other genocides. For example, renowned American scholar Noam Chomsky has come very close to denying the Cambodian genocide of the 1970s. As scholars typically do, Chomsky has always been extremely careful in choosing his words, so as to avoid the label of genocide-denier. But, effectively, he does seem to believe that most accusations against the perpetrators of that genocide (the Khmer Rouge) rely on fabricated evidence.
Unlike Chomsky, other genocide deniers do not mince words. For example, Turkey’s strongman Tayyip Recep Erdogan has repeatedly insisted that the Armenian genocide never took place. Astonishingly, President Obama followed suit making similar allegations, thus projecting a huge shadow of doubt over his Nobel Peace Prize.
Currently, a new genocide is taking place. More than one million Uighurs are being in concentration camps in China without any legal process, in an attempt to forcefully assimilate them into Chinese culture. As you would expect, China denies such allegations and diverts attention from them by focusing on the murder of George Floyd.
What is somewhat unexpected, however, is that some leaders of the West are complacent about China’s attitudes. For example, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently said that the international community “takes very seriously the label of ‘genocide’ and needs to ensure that when it is used, it is clearly and properly justified and demonstrated, so as not to weaken the application of ‘genocide’ in situations in the past.” With this argument, he refused to acknowledge the Uighur genocide.
Trudeau is correct about the need not to trivialize the word “genocide”. But, what more proof does he want of the atrocities that Uyghurs are undergoing? The evidence is overwhelming and yet he refuses to call a spade a spade. Trudeau has simply become China’s stooge.
Even more surprisingly, US President Joe Biden recently said that “the central principle of Xi Jinping is that there must be a united, tightly controlled China… I am not going to speak out against what he is doing in Hong Kong, with Uyghurs in the mountains of Western China, Taiwan and the One-China policy… he gets it, culturally, there are different norms in each country, and their leaders are expected to follow.”
By arguing that each country has its own rules and foreign leaders should not speak out against them, Biden engages in pure and undiluted relativism, the same sort of approach that justifies horrendous things such as Aztec human sacrifice or female genital mutilation. When Benedict XVI was elected Pope in 2005, his very first public speech warned about the dangers of the “dictatorship of relativism”. At the time, he was perceived by many to be out of touch; his tirade against the threat of relativism was viewed as the ramblings of a paranoid old man.
And yet time has proven Pope Benedict XVI right. In fact, relativism has always been rampant in academia. As early as 1987, Allan Bloom was making that point in his devastating critique of American youth and universities, The Closing of the American Mind: “The students’ backgrounds are as various as America can provide. Some are religious, some atheists; some are to the Left, some to the Right; some intend to be scientists, some humanists or professionals or businessmen; some are poor, some rich. They are unified only in their relativism and in their allegiance to equality. And the two are related in a moral intention.”
So prevalent is relativism amongst students, that the trope of the “freshman relativist” is well-known to professors of ethics. Fortunately, by the time they are out of college, most people begin to grow out of this worldview, and begin to understand that there are universal values that must be defended. But we have a problem when a 78-year old man thinks like a college freshman and spouts relativist dogmas. This is made even worse when this man becomes the leader of the so-called “free world” (which will hardly continue to be free if such a mentality persists).
If the relativist-in-chief continues to play by the Chinese book, there is little hope for Uyghur justice. After the Holocaust, the world made a commitment to “Never Again”. That commitment failed in Cambodia, Bosnia and Rwanda. President Biden still has time to save his honor, and confront Chinese atrocities against Uighurs. But, in order to do that, he must begin by getting rid of the great cultural malaise that lies at the heart of much genocidal complicity: relativism.
Gabriel Andrade is assistant professor of medicine at Ajman University. He received a PhD from University of Zulia (Venezuela), in 2008. He worked as Titular Professor at University of Zulia from 2005… More by Gabriel Andrade
EDITORS NOTE: This MercatorNet column is republished with permission. All rights reserved.