Some more thoughts on the roots of evil

Continuing my reading about the tragedies in Rwanda, I’m now following the writer Jean Hatzfeld–thanks to my colleague Carol King. He has written a few books on the genocide in an attempt to give voice to both surviving victim and killer. “Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak” is a chilling mix of interview of 10 “killers” from the district south of the capital and background information

[FYI, for those following this blog for some time, my trip to Rwanda has been delayed until at least July. Pray that it happens then!].

For most of the world, Rwanda was a quiet, tiny country that exploded into Tutsi genocide in 1994 after their Hutu president was assassinated. One day it is calm, the next an entire population of Hutus begin systematically destroying their Tutsi neighbors. Even soccer teammates killed each other, with no remorse.  

But dig a little and you find out that this is not so. Despite living and working together, Hutus (the majority) felt the minority Tutsis (treated as the upperclass by Europeans in the formation of Rwanda) had too much power. Much radio and media did comic portrayals about the killing of cockroaches (the Tutsis). Apparently, they were so funny that even the Tutsis listened and laughed.

It looks like this is what happened:

1. Conflict between groups, fanned by leadership (read pp 52-58 for how it happened).
2. Use of both comic discussions of killings plus occasional actual killings going unpunished
3. Lots of free beer, food (many ate meat every day when normally they only ate it at weddings), and promises of rewards
4. Threats of violence to Hutus if they do not follow outsiders orders. These outsiders “apprenticed” farmers into killers.
5. A large group involved (100% involvement) with lots of camraderie so as to defuse guilty feelings.
6. A simple task ordered: kill.
7. The abandonment by the white individuals in the country and so gave the sense that the world didn’t care and wouldn’t hold them accountable.

This is quite a chilling book (because thus far there is no apology or blameshifting in the book by those being interviewed). Here’s one especially difficult passage:

For my part, I offer you an explanation: it is as if I had let another individual take on my own living appearance, and the habits of my heart, without a single pang in my soul. This killer was indeed me, as to the offense he committed and the blood he shed, but he is a stranger to me in his ferocity. I admit and recognize my obedience at that time, my victims, my fault, but I fail to recognize the wickedness of the one who raced through the marshes on my legs, carrying my machete. That wickedness seems to belong to another self with a heavy heart. The most serious changes in my body were my invisible parts, such as the soul or the feelings that go with it. Therefore I alone do not recognize mysefl in that man. (p. 48)

Tomorrow I will post one more on this topic: the pattern of running away from and then back to the Lord as seen in Judges. Or, how we stop seeing our sin and forget to cry out to God.


Filed under conflicts, Cultural Anthropology, Rwanda, self-deception

3 responses to “Some more thoughts on the roots of evil

  1. We all sit around and think “I could never do something like that.” Yet looking at history it seems like such a short distance from “I could never” to “I have done”. That’s certainly the picture I get from the Biblical history of Israel. As well as what I see when I look at slavery in this country or Nazism in Germany. We are all much closer to sin than any of us care to dream.

  2. What is that? Demonic activity or plain mass hysteria?

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