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The progress of civilization is not measured by democracy or economics, by health or wealth, nor by art or architecture. It’s measured by our reduction of cruelty.
I needed to state that thesis up front. To discuss it, I have to cite instances of cruelty that will turn your stomach. If I started this column with them, you’d probably quit reading.
Let’s start with Genghis Khan, who reputedly killed 40 million people in his 30-year reign. He executed one enemy by pouring molten silver into his eyes and ears.
Which is probably characteristic of his time. A rival tyrant boiled captured generals alive. Victims may have been conscious for several hours as they cooked.
Scottish explorer James Bruce became the first European to enter the mountain kingdom of Ethiopia. The emperor and his vizier entertained their visitor by putting out the eyes of a dozen slaves while they ate dinner.
Categories: Soft Edges
Tags: Cruelty, Genghis Khan, Inquisition, torture, kindness