Tuesday, March 10, 2009
I have slacked off A LOT in the last few months. I have not been regularly writing on my blog. I have not written any book reviews. I wish I had the time to write about all the beautiful books I have read, but alas, I work full time and my laptop is finicky at best. But I just had to tell share a few of my thoughts of the book I am reading now.
We wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We will be Killed With Our Families By Philip Gourevitch is the story of the 1994 Rwandan genocide. As the title suggests, this book is NOT light reading. Readers know this from the very direct preface:I have read other books on Rwanda. Call me morbid for dwelling on humanity at its lowest, but I think there is a lot to be said about studying this subject. Pick your topic: greed, power, corruption, betrayal, ignorance-- its all there. What fascinates and horrifies me the most, though, is the the truly terrifying extent of human disinterestedness and apathy for their fellow kind. What makes people accustomed to murder? Where's the sympathy? Where is the call to action? I've thought a lot about what makes people care but not care enough. Most, I think (I hope), care when bad things happen to people, even if those people are strangers. But most people don't care enough. And how can you? How can we all make room in our busy lives, full of our own personal troubles and headaches, for another's pain? If one were to feel that much for so many, would they really be able to focus on anything else BUT the pains of the world?
Another lesson I have gleaned from my studies. A person is real in a way that people (plural) are not. Its easy for me to feel for that homeless child they did a news special on. She is real to me. I can imagine what it must be like for her. It is much harder for me to feel for a multitude of people; groups lose their individuality, their distinctness, their tangible humanity. Can I feel what it must have been like for the Rwandan dead? For those 800,000 or more who were tortured and killed? Can I understand the magnitude? I admit that on a purely surface level, 800,000 seems like a lot of people. But what does that number mean? When I look at 800,000, can I see 800,000 bodies, or do I just see the number, and nothing more? I believe that once I tragedy becomes quantifiable, it loses something important. It loses its ability to be relatable because it becomes something we see with our heads instead of our hearts/souls. When we begin to study things out with our heads, our compassion is replaced with apathy, and emotionality with rationality.
Yes. Rationally it doesn't make sense that 800,000 people died in 100 days. But it does rationally make sense that not much was done to stop it. Why would you or I or the United States meddle is something in which there is only potential loss. Loss of money, resources, time, lives, etc. In other words, why would anyone go into something with no promise of gain? Here are some noteworthy equations:
added power + added resources = action
no power + less resources = inaction.
It's really that simple.
Back to the book. Is it a little disorganized? Yes. The book goes from the personal account of a Tutsi survivor, to historical background relating to the French monarchy, to UNIMIR and its role in Rwanda. There is not a lot of guidance moving readers from topic to topic. The book is good about blending accounts. You can tell Gourevitch is a journalist. He gets down and dirty with all parties involved. He asks the tough questions. This book, like no other I have read on Rwanda's genocide, gives the story of the genocidaries, the Hutu killer, the UN secretary- general, UNAMIR, the French and Belgian governments, the RPF general Paul Kagame (interviewed before he become Rwanda's president), and even the now famous Paul Rusesabagina, owner of the Hotel Mille-Collins (Hotel Rwanda). It's all there.
I would recommend this book to almost anyone. So if you're looking for a book to read, and are not prone to depressive moods and suicidal tenancies when you watch the news, please go to the library and check it out. That's all.