In a Genocide, Who Are the Morally Upright?
April 19, 2017 7:19 PM   Subscribe

Niyitegaka told the soldiers that, whether in life or in death, she would remain with the Tutsis she had sheltered. Singing and chanting, she followed them onto the buses, which headed for the notorious Commune Rouge, a public cemetery that served as a killing field. There, alongside her Tutsi friends, Niyitegeka was slain by an assassin’s bullet.
On the motivations of rescuers in the Rwandan genocide.
posted by Rumple (4 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
Thanks for sharing this - it's a very nuanced piece.
posted by daisyk at 4:56 AM on April 20 [5 favorites]

An excellent piece. An important paragraph for those who don't want to read the whole thing:
If even the best-intentioned rescuers sometimes fall short of their moral ideals, how realistic is it to encourage rescue behavior when persecution and killings begin? One constructive way to assist rescuers, Burnet says, is to stave off or alleviate the pressures they face before those pressures become intolerable. “Early intervention is key,” she says. She argues that if the United Nations had not reduced its peacekeeping force during the genocide, rescuers would not have had to hold out in dire conditions for as long, braving ongoing raids and the threat of death in order to save their fellow citizens. As a result, many more Tutsis would be alive today. “It’s about the space for rescuing,” says Fujii, the political scientist. “Outside powers can enlarge those spaces.”
posted by languagehat at 7:28 AM on April 20 [13 favorites]

There's always been this conundrum - do you kill in order to save people from being killed?

It's not just personal courage that's the barrier (from the piece: "One can have pity, take the risk, and save people. Others say, ‘I cannot involve myself in these troubles,’ because they are afraid to take the risk").
I don't think I've taken a thought about my own death in decision making. I know I use empathy...

What it is I think is a lot of people struggle with the moral courage. Myself included. I mean, empathy can move your heart but it can harden you against opponents. You can stay calm in life or death situations and not be a psychopath. But...

“The one who had a beastly heart didn’t save the person, but the one who had a merciful heart, which understood that a human being is a human being, saved that person. That’s how we saved people.


While I know, for certain, there are people in the world who absolutely need to be killed, maybe I don't have to be the one who has to kill them.
Try to be the change you wish to see.

You have to stand in awe of people who can save lives with just songs and the mercy in their heart. That's real courage. And they were successful.
That's probably what's holding the world together.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:13 AM on April 20 [1 favorite]

While I know, for certain, there are people in the world who absolutely need to be killed,

"Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement."
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 1:11 PM on April 20 [1 favorite]

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