Imagination and Genocide

I spent a lot of the summer arguing with my friend, lets call him “Clint,” about whether or not a world without genocide is possible.

Clint believes that genocide on earth is inevitable. He looks back at the long and global history of genocide and concludes that it is a part of human society. He does not believe that a world without genocide is possible (though I’m sure he would like to live in one).

I disagree with Clint. As technology makes us more aware of the world around us, I believe that we will develop the empathy and understanding we need to eliminate genocide. When this happens, it will be a milestone for humanity.

The problem with these types of arguments is that it they are extremely difficult to resolve. Clint and I were making guesses about what is and is not possible in the future. Though many people turn to science or religion to make assumptions about the future, we can’t with any significant confidence “know” what will happen in the future.

However, there is critical distinction between Clint’s and my visions. Though both of us would prefer a world without genocide, Clint cannot actually imagine it is possible.

This is an extremely important difference to understand, not just for ending genocide but also for achieving any goal. Imagination is a critical tool for success. If you can’t imagine something is possible, you can’t begin to achieve it (unless it happens unintentionally).

By failing to imagine, you deprive yourself, and the world, of potentially plausible realities. If you can’t imagine that a world without genocide is possible, then there is no chance that you will be part of the team that creates that world.

The future is largely unknown, so we can’t say for sure what is, and what is not possible. Therefore, the best approach when taking on a new task is to imagine that the outcome you want is possible. Your imagination is within your control. By imagining a positive outcome you are setting yourself up to begin achieving high levels of success and innovation.

The first step towards eliminating genocide on our planet is to imagine that we can do it. If we can’t even imagine this then we are simply setting ourselves up for failure.

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4 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Imagination and Genocide”

  1. Kerri December 18, 2009 at 12:46 am

    hey, so I’m sort of studying for my classical chinese final. and replying to all of your facebook posts. good call. i’ve encountered people who can’t imagine world without genocide, too. the next question is, and what prompted me to reply to this, is whether or not the people who can’t imagine it are willing to try? and if they try, with practice, will they be able to imagine it? there’s probably a difference, too, between people who live in the midst of genocide and the people who are totally removed. we have to approach it in different ways, no?

    • jasonconnell January 11, 2010 at 12:12 am

      I think that non-believers (or non-imaginers, if you will) can eventually come around. I suspect that few people in the late 1800’s/early 1900’s believed that airplanes would exist, but as the Wright brothers got closer and closer, I imagine people began having faith. When they finally created an airplane the skeptics had no choice but to believe.

      I also suspect you’re right – people living in and out of genocide zones probably have different points of view about whether or not life without genocide is feasible. I think one step that would be universally helpful, would be to see past borders and begin thinking of the earth as a whole, instead of seeing it as subdivided into 190-something different countries.

  2. Lhill December 21, 2009 at 11:44 pm

    I really like this post, Jason. Many, many of the great accomplishments of humanity have undoubtedly sprouted from dreams or stretches of the imagination.

    It makes me recall a film we once saw together in central florida about the power of the human mind.

    • jasonconnell January 11, 2010 at 12:13 am

      Thanks, I really appreciate it! That was a fun night and a good film. If I recall, we danced with people old enough to be our parents after the movie.

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