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A Theme of Genocide in The Man in The High Castle by Philip K. Dick

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Genocide, in which mass amounts of a specific group of people are killed, and cultural genocide, in which the culture of a group is forced in extinction, often arises from violent conflicts that typically have at least one of two main factors driving them: religion or control over land. Conflict over land often happens between two different peoples where one group tends to see themselves as superior and therefore having the right to rule over the land of the group they see as inferior. Such a conflict can be seen in the Argentinian conquest of the Patagonia Desert over the Mapuche Indians that inhabited the area. Through the conflict, Argentinians executed a genocide by killing and persecuting the lives and culture of the Mapuche. The idea that one group has the right to exterminate another in order to control more land is also heavily prevalent throughout science fiction author Philip K. Dick’s novel, The Man in the High Castle. Dick’s novel explores the conflict that spurs between allies when they are no longer in need of one another by looking at Japan and Germany in a post-World War II world in which the two have won the war. The power and land struggle that is demonstrated both by the genocide in the Patagonia Desert as well as through Dick’s analysis in The Man in the High Castle exemplify the greed that comes with victory in conflict as well as the destruction that it causes. The greed driven genocides in Argentina and The Man in the High Castle lead to a loss of humanity and culture, which create unforeseen implications between groups regardless of how friendly they once may have been.

The Patagonia Desert genocide, or as South American historian Richard O. Perry refers to it, “General Julio A. Roca’s ‘Conquest of the Desert’ of 1878 and 1879”, is often a conflict looked back on with the hope of justification for horrendous actions. According to sociologist and anthropologist Sarah Warren, Argentinian scholars depict the conquest with context of an issue between Chile and Argentina for control over the Patagonia Desert, however, what is often distorted is the nature of the Mapuche Indians who inhabited the land. Early in the 1800’s, Chile realized the economic abundance that was bound to come from the location of Patagonia at the southern tip of South America, however, with this realization from Chile, Argentina, as well as European powers such as England and France, made the same realization and began a political struggle of what country had the right to claim the area. The political discourse discussed by Perry fostered tensions, especially between Chile and Argentina which pushed conflict further leading to a violent conquest and genocide. The genocide perpetrated “its central goals of the eradication of indigenous people and the expansion of Argentina’s national borders”. In working towards these goals, Argentina killed and displaced thousands of natives of the area. According to author on Spanish South America Alfred Hasbrouck, between November 1882 and March 1883 “three hundred and sixty- four Indian warriors were killed, 1700 surrendered, or were taken prisoners, and more than 3000 were driven out”. The implications of Argentinian victory, the loss of culture and history of the Mapuche Indians. By creating these tensions through violence and genocide, Argentina changed the landscape of South America forever both geographically and culturally. The conquest of the desert left scars on Argentina’s history, as well as the history of the Mapuche survivors that are still prevalent as the differences between a minority and majority culture.

In a world where the Germans and the Japanese have won World War II, Dick investigates the greed that infiltrates a government when given the opportunity to gain more land and control. After having divided the United States to be under German and Japanese control and depleting American’s of control over their homeland, Germany eventually decides that sharing with Japan is no longer an intelligent option for them. In a conversation between Mr. Tagomi, Captain R. Wegener, also referred to as Herr Wegener, and Mr. Baynes, there is a discussion about the German Reich’s military plan, Operation Dandelion, with “the basic purpose… an enormous nuclear arrack in the Home Islands of Japan, without advance warning of any kind”. Operation Dandelion depicts the German Reich in an unfavorable light both to Americans and the Japanese. After the genocide of the Jewish committed during World War II, Germany justifies additional mass murder and genocide as a way to gain more power for themselves and control a wider array of lands and peoples, even those which they previously were aligned. The idea of the operation, even though not yet executed, furthers a divide between the Germans and the Japanese that continues to infiltrate the society and create more conflict. In fact, in a meeting in Mr. Tagomi’s office, the men are under attack by “a group of SD men in the downstairs lobby… attempting to take over the building”. The German’s continue to act in ways that perpetrate the belief that Germans are superior to the Japanese, despite the fact that both groups had to rely on one another in order to win the war. The consequences continue to permeate throughout the society created by Dick in the ways that others begin to act and how attitudes begin to shift. In discussing the possibility of another genocide at the hands and technology of Germany in the name of power and control, the Japanese are placed in a defensive position working to avoid obliteration because of the German developed social hierarchy.

The Argentinian conquest of the Patagonia Desert, as well as Operation Dandelion planned by the Germans in The Man in the High Castle are met with high levels of controversy by the groups perpetrating the atrocity. When it comes to the conquest of the desert, there are many Argentinians that deny the idea of it as a genocide, but instead see it as a way of civilizing the area. On the other hand, the Argentinian government has been working to change the perspective on the conquest and “the shift from a policy of extermination and assimilation to one of recognition has created space for racial identification as indigenous”, which has created an avenue for growth and movement away from the destruction of culture that had previously occurred. While the recognition of the Mapuche people is a positive and productive step taken by Argentina, it does not replace the Mapuche suffering from death and displacement. Similarly, to the controversial reactions of Argentinians to the conquest, the Germans face controversial differences of opinions when it comes to the execution of Operation Dandelion. In the midst of learning about the operation itself, the men ask who is not supporting it, in which Mr. Baynes informs them that it is SS General Heydrich and “this was a bitterly disputed issue in many sessions between the principals last year… the police demanded authority but were turned down”. The disagreement within the German government reveals the creation of factions, one of which supports German imperialism and overall control, and one that sees the importance and value in a degree of international cooperation and maintaining allies. By looking at the factions that are developing, the detrimental effects caused by genocide not only to the group being exterminated, but also to the group committing genocide are revealed. Groups that commit such an atrocity often fracture and affect the nation’s politics as well as the additional loss of lives of those who disagree with the violent majority.

Genocide, both of life and of culture cause lasting detrimental effects on all societies and cultures affected. Genocide creates a mass loss of culture that defines a group of people, that even if some survive, their culture has been destroyed. Additionally, acts of genocide create implications to the group committing the act as well, because not who belong to a group agree with and believe in the mission at hand when it comes to genocide of another people and culture. In committing genocide in the Patagonia Desert, Argentina created a divisive split between both the surviving Mapuche, who had ancestors die and suffer in the name of land and control, and between the factions of Argentinians created by either supporting or detracting from the conquest. Additionally, the idea of another possible conquest in The Man in the High Castle does the same in fostering tensions between the two previously cooperative nations of Japan and Germany, while also fostering tensions within the German Reich over question if Operation Dandelion is a positive and productive move for Germany and the world as a whole. The lasting tensions created from genocide, in addition to the disastrous change of history through the eradication of culture leaves deep scars on the world and the future generations that inhabit it. 

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