What is it to tell a story? We watch the stories movies portray as entertainment as most are meant to be enjoyed. Some stories are designed to transcend the entertainment value and provide what most would refer to as “A moral to the story.” A guiding thought, or point which might allow us to learn without direct experience. Fewer stories still are designed to evoke a feeling so strong as to transcend a lesson and provoke action.
These stories are most often the hardest to engage as they, like the beggar on the street or your boss at work, want something from you. Something that most are reluctant to give without coinciding self-interest. Perhaps it is not most, perhaps it is a small sub-culture within America of which I am a part.
For me, these latter stories are both the most favored by me, and the most avoided. Being slightly obsessive, I can be effected by stories that are designed to provoke a reaction followed by a reaction. As you may guess, beyond criticizing the technical and dramatic value of the story, I put myself in the shoes of the characters and try to sympathize or empathize with them. I humanize the characters.
Consider then that I am in Kigali. I have visited parts of the city where the Genocide took place. I have visited the memorials, I have talked with the people who have most directly been effected by the Genocide 15 years ago, I have visited the camps near Goma where people are even now still displaced because of these people were not captured, but driven into the Congo. And now, again, before I have left this place, I have watched “Hotel Rwanda” and it’s portryal of the saving actions of one hotel manager here in this city 15 years ago.
I know far more about the story then it lets on, as I have now a tourists view of the landscape which abutts Angela’s research into the effect of the “Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities” (HROC) program in Giesyni, less then 100 feet from the Goma, Congo border. I have overheard and discussed the Genocide, ethnicity, colonialism, and it’s historical implications. This after not having known more then the bare glimpses from international news and rudimentary and rather abstract discussions on the topic.
I see now a cycle of violence, corruption, greed of power, and enforced ignorance which underlines and redefines the evocation of “Hotel Rwanda.” At one point the Canadian/UN Colonel is quoted at saying, “We think your dirt” by which he means the International community thinks the Rwandan people are not worth saving. I is the cynical and bitter side of me who sees that this, to some degree is still true of several international situations of which Rwanda is one of. (Most notably the Palestinians in IDP camps, but there are also still simmering conflicts in Cyprus, the Koreas, and elsewhere.) I am angry at my leaders who hesitated and didn’t intervene in a modern day holocaust.
Having now lived in Washington, where I am now more familiar with international politics and how self-interest dominates international agendas, I too understand. I know that change is possible, the the blame lies not with the soldiers who were not allowed to protect themselves nor intervene in holocaust, but rather with people like myself and my leaders. I take to heart the memorials here that say “Genocide, Never again!” as what will stop this is the action of the single person with like minded single people driving towards humanizing each other. Providing social networks, economic security that encourages inter-dependence, improving human capacity to humanize each other so that never again will another arbitrary designation of an ethnicity be manipulated by external powers into destroying another arbitrary group.
It will take me building an internet cafe which will help teach people working skills, provide capacity for learning and teaching, employee another several people, and connect with other humans around the world. It will take Angela giving them context for their culture and it’s effects on how the live. It will take Andrew teaching people to write grants, sing in harmony, and cook in community. And it will take you talking to your friends and keeping an open mind, understanding your biases, and working to raise your children to acknowledge those biases. It will take all of us acting in our self-interest, a self-interest that acknowledges we are all really inter-dependent.
We are telling the story of the human condition.