- Rwanda Since the 1994 Genocide
Rwanda Since the 1994 Genocide


Questioning society v. the human – “First Kill”

By kristi on January 30, 2013

After watching First Kill, I have many mixed thoughts and emotions.  Yes, I absolutely am shocked by the capability of human kind.  But, as we’ve encountered in previous PCON classes (namely, Grossman, On Killing, from PCON 218), with the proper amount of conditioning and the normalization of circumstances, the human being capacity is somewhat limitless. I think what most affected me was how the individual was psychologically impacted by warfare.  Take the man who mentioned attempting to carry back the 36 ears as a trophy.  It’s unfathomable to think about… to imagine that one could feel so compelled and attracted to feeling pride in taking the life of another human being.  It was the end goal to “get them all,” whether the victims be men, women, children, etc, by whatever means necessary. However, it is far too easy to write off the mind of the individual.   The thing is, that was (as he states later) the highlight of his life.  The thrill of killing was the utmost pleasure of his life, and he yearned for that experience because he had come back to nothing.  I don’t know whether that’s a flaw within his mindset or rather a production of contemporary society that doesn’t provide enough services to our veterans who have been subjected to this kind of conditioning.  The amount of psychological damage that is done at war is very real and very frightening, and it’s impossible to ask one to simply assimilate back into American society after having gone through such an experience.


  • Professor Thomson said:

    Any thoughts on what American society has done to decompress soldiers returning to “normal” society? The American military failed a great many of its Vietnam vets and seems to be repeating many of the same mistakes. What sort of support systems might we think about to begin to support those who are on the front lines of American war craft?

  • kristi said:

    For Vietnam specifically, because the American public was so harsh and reluctant to even respect, let alone accept those in combat back into society, it made the sentiments voiced by the man in the film somewhat justified. He wasn’t welcomed home, he was forced to be back in a place which both treated him with contempt and disregarded the sensitive emotional state in which he was in. However, as you mentioned, these flaws in veteran support systems most definitely manifest themselves in present-day, as well. In terms of physical abuse, as we saw earlier in the semester in “Invisible War,” the services offered are untimely and relatively ineffectual. Mentally, services are just as limited and flawed. The repercussions of this lack of aid are evident in both the high suicide rate as well as the amount of homeless veterans. So many are incapable of simply integrating back into society. As someone in the film mentioned, you can’t understand the frontline until you’ve been there. I would say what we need to imagine is a space for telling, and those willing to listen. What we as civil society must do is attempt to bridge the disconnect between the public and our military vets, and while we will never be able to fully understand what it’s like, all we may do is try. There must be increased, direct contact through meaningful, humanizing tactics on the individual level. We owe them this, at the very least.

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