- Rwanda Since the 1994 Genocide
Rwanda Since the 1994 Genocide

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The Greatest Solipsism

By kristi on February 4, 2013

A film about rape in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), The Greatest Silence did a sweeping overview of the pain and suffering experienced by many Congolese women.  Interviewing a number of rape victims and rapists, the film paints the picture of the systemic problems that exist under the current regime of war.  When asked, the rapists contextualized the rape within the state of affairs, and claimed that without the backdrop of war, they would have no need to “take [these women] by force.”  Aside from recognizing the gender-based power structure, the film further points out that many found this constant sexual violence as a ‘patriotic’ act, a form of payment for doing service to the country, and therefore seen as justified.  Forcing the audience to confront this suffering, the film attempts to unmask the epidemic of sexual violence within the DRC.

So, you would think that these points of exposure would be considered the intent of the film…however with Lisa Jackson’s overwhelming compulsion to directly connect to these women and equation of her own experience to theirs, the film is clouded by her solipsism.  I understand that with limited understanding to an issue, any exposure is beneficial, however I wished that I walked away from the film with more insight on the victims in the DRC. When speaking of women who are shunned and brutalized by their own communities, Jackson also mentions her experience as leaving her “damaged goods,” essentially universalizing the shame of sexual violence, however vastly different the experience.  Though t I found myself weakening in my seat when hearing the monstrosities committed against these rape victims, Jackson’s perpetual need to invade on such intimate experiences (and let’s not forget, distribute nail polish and free sample fragrances), made the intention of the film ultimately about her own empowerment, and how she may draw strength from “a new definition of grace,” implying that she has started to achieve reconciliation…  I think this way of understanding also points to something larger.  Sometimes when traveling and documenting tragedy and horror, the ‘spectator’ seems to leave with more than he/she has brought.  Jackson remarked countless times how she felt helpless for these women, and yet she herself gained so much out of the experience.  But honestly, was to help really her intent?  I think she would have done better to recognize that amendments can’t be made with tokens from a Westernized community, and rather focus more on the women’s stories rather than constantly drawing connection to her own horrible experiences.  Moving forward, it is important to consider from what perspective we are analyzing systems and epidemics of violence, and how that viewpoint influences the way in which information is relayed.

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.

The overlooked deaths of Hutu and Twa victims

By kristi on January 26, 2013

What resonated most with me from class discussion was the Rwandan government’s exaggeration of the number of Tutsi deaths, largely ignoring the deaths of the Hutu and Twa victims.  I think that this is in order to reduce the atrocity to a singular occurrence rather than a development of conditions whereby events such as the genocide are possible.  By presenting it as an ethnic conflict—simply one versus the other—it is easier for the Rwandan government to convince the global audience that they are taking preventative measures (eliminating ethnic class) and are successfully progressing as a nation. Especially because the ethnic classes were essentially “ascribed stereotyped intellectual and moral qualities” by Europeans, and often reduced in their social complexity (Burnet, 2012:47).  Further, this oversimplification reflects the human’s need to dichotomize within most contexts.  These polarities are created in order to have a clear path to breaking down an enemy, which is often even more dangerous. When we build barriers based upon nationality, race, ethnicity, sex, class, etc, we lose sight of an end goal of humanism, of caring deeply for one another no matter the difference.  Categorizing provides the conditions for hatred, and releases one of moral obligation towards other human beings who may be unlike oneself.  People are people, and a life is a life; that must be recognized above all.