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Genocide and Mass Killing in “Becoming Evil” by Waller


Waller’s work in ‘Becoming Evil’ is a reminder of the numerous accounts of genocides that have occurred in the past century. Waller unmasks the ordinary excuses for psychopathology, and genocide-group think, unusual cultures and puts up a comprehensive perception of humans’ capability to participate in transgression. He highlights the evolutionary factors that contribute to shaping human nature, individual inclinations and the circumstances of evil around which the acts occur. In a rational tone, this editorial seeks to explain Waller’s model for genocide and illustrates how humans get to participate in evil acts. It outlines the primary factors that make individuals commit atrocities against fellow humans.

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The first section of the book discards the idea that Holocaust murders are diametric from the community. The primal section disregards psychopathology, German national culture and the tyrannical personality as sufficient explanations for the genocide (Waller, 2002). According to Waller, the public notion that Nazis are a surviving species of insane humans has no basis. Illustratively, a scientific analysis of Nuremberg Rorschach research depicts that humans have a tendency to express overconfidence in various situations (Waller, 2002). This ascertains the insignificant role of pathology in the atrocities committed by human beings. He posits that genocide acts do not warrant any scientific research, and efforts at understanding events around such evildoing would depend on a post hoc request of hypothesis. The first part is a past indictment of psychological science at the time.

The second section explains Waller’s theory on how ordinary persons get to take part in mass murder. From the fundamentals of social psychology, the following four models play up: conformity, intergroup hostility, obedience and role acceptance (Waller, 2002). The author acknowledges several works by other writers to highlight the components that make his model. However, he shuns from the fallacy that the proposed model could be a flowchart design (Waller, 2002). Nonetheless, he maintains that the aforementioned variables deal with group processes and moral exonerations; it thus begs the question, how does an individual explain a human being’s conduct? Waller’s model points out three areas of immediate influence which include Cultural Construction of Worldview, Psychological Twist of the other Human and Social Twist of Cruelty. The Cultural Construction of Worldview describes the role of society in identity, the role of authority within groups and social dominance hierarchies. Since individuals have variant cultures, the difference in reasoning is a real possibility that could justify why an individual would consider participating in genocide.

The Psychological Twist of the other Human revolves around the notion that humans are victims of social identity, moral disengagement and incriminating the victim. Humans fight extinction and, as a result, may end up participating in genocides. Humans perceive it as a means of survival regardless of the fact that the idea of mass killing is ideologically based. According to Waller, the present societies regard such acts as proactive rather than reactive (2002). Nevertheless, the Social Twist of Cruelty is not inadvertent, and it constitutes professional socialization, group identification and binding factors which dictates the might of group acceptance and conformity. The factors above influence human actions; the desire for acceptance dictates most crimes perpetrated against humanity. Unfortunately, the groupthink approach does not accommodate individualistic reasoning.


It is acceptable to reason differently; however, humans ought to avoid situations that may lead to violence and mass killings. Genocides are avoidable if society respects individualistic reasoning and avoid unnecessary social groupings. Besides, the community ought to elect reasonable leaders who prefer dialogue to violence. The effort to co-exist is a grey area, and it is human nature to fight for existence. On the contrary, humans are reasoning creatures and should often examine their thoughts before engaging in war. Conclusively, human ought to eschew destructive thinking and ethnocentrism.


Waller, J. (2002). Becoming Evil: How Ordinary People Commit Genocide and Mass Killing (Second ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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