1994 Rwandan genocide

My faith in the basic goodness of people is increasingly weakening. I really don’t want to believe that people intentionally do horrific things. I want to think that people are caught up in a mob and do things that they regret later. I want to believe that people get drunk and stupid, and one thing leads to another. I want to believe that they lack judgement in a moment of rage, and horrible things happen. These things, while still horrific, are slightly easier to accept.

To think that a government systematically planned genocide, and even imported the implements for this genocide months in advance, is simply more than my mind can grasp. I can’t understand the kind of depravity and hatred necessary to make that happen. And, even if I could accept that one brutally deranged person could do this, the idea that a planning committee existed for this sort of thing is mind boggling. How can that happen in our “enlightened” age.

The genocide trials in Rwanda are revealing things that make it sound like a committee of otherwise reasonable men sat around a board room table and carefully planned the murder of nearly a million people, then oversaw their plan being carried out in less than 100 days.

Conspiracy To Murder chronicles this series of events, with interview transcripts and documentation. The trials seem to indicate that a huge number of people were aware of what was planned, and have kept silent about it for the last 10 years. BBC is covering the trials fairly well.

It’s all very well to blame the UN for what happened, as many have done, but that would be utterly missing the point. Even if the UN had acted immediately, on the first day, hundreds of thousands of people would still have been hacked to death with machetes – machetes which were expressly imported for the purpose – before the first soldier could have been on the ground. No, this has nothing to do with the UN, although Annan has apologized profusely for not doing enough. This has to do with the Heart of Darkness.

I can’t begin to understand what would drive someone to plan such a mass murder. I further can’t begin to understand what would compell *thousands* of soldiers and civilians to go along with orders of such obvious evil, and hack men, women, and children to death while they were pleading for mercy. These things are so far from my understanding that I can sit here and write calmly about them. I expect that if I really understood even a tenth of the horror, I would not be able to retain my composure. I presume this is why nice rational moral people denied that the Holocaust was happening (or happened, depending on your timeframe). They simply could not get their minds around such horror. And if I can’t imagine it, it must not be happening.

I suppose it’s also why people don’t like “Lord of the Flies.” Even though I choose not to imagine it, it still might be lurking right below the surface.

Behind the finer feelings
This civilized veneer
The heart of a lonely hunter
Guards a dangerous frontier

The balance can sometimes fail
Strong emotions can tip the scale

(Rush – Lock and Key )