Unit 3: Connections between Gourevitch and Sontag’s texts
The United States fought against fascist aggression, not the genocide of some 6 million Jews. The international community fought against health problems imposed by the corpse-eating dogs, not the slaughter of the Tutsi minority. States do not solely act for humanitarian reasons, for this is not in their interest. Not only do they remain inactive, but they also do everything in their power to remain inactive, even if this means denying the fact that there was even a genocide in Rwanda. Gourevitch raises all of these points, and we are bound to search for a justification for our immorality. What is the psychology behind our decisions to allow genocide to carry on? Shouldn’t we be more concerned with human life than certain advantages our country may reap from joining a war? Sontag explains the philosophy behind our indifference to the events in Rwanda. She acknowledges that viewing a photograph will never help us (us being everyone who has not experienced anything that they have gone through) understand what the dead went through. The ubiquity of these photos causes us to view these tragedies as inevitable, and when we believe this, we believe that there is nothing we can do to stop them from happening. Our abundant viewership of these images somewhat makes us more indifferent to the actual horror being portrayed. The most gruesome photographs tend to come from events in Asia and Africa though we experience tragedies on the same scale. We overlook considerations that prevent us from displaying our own dead victims. When we fail to recognize that these people from remote, exotic places are just like us and that these events can in fact be prevented, we justify our complacency during times of national tragedy.