Elizabeth Vair Unit 3 Assignment 3

Gourevitch’s focus is on when the world turned its eyes to the atrocities of the Rwandan genocide while Sontag explores how and why this turning away occurs in history, despite the draw to seek out photos. The Rwandan genocide marked a time when humanity allowed over a million people to be killed, all the while denying it was, in fact, a genocide out of a lack of desire to intervene. It was not until the genocide trickled to a stop, and a massive cholera outbreak swept through the refugee camps – filled with the killers- that the world decided to actively intervene. Gourevitch focuses less on why would people not help, but more on what happened as they watched. As UN peacekeepers stayed in Rwanda, and France deployed troops, the focus was on killing stray dogs and protecting fleeing Hutus – not stopping the killings. As previously stated, Sontag’s focus is on why we turn towards pictures of atrocities, but away from helping. In the fourth chapter, she examines the censorship of photographs in conflict zones. This links with Gourevitch’s point as it almost provides the world with a sense of plausible deniability. We do not feel as though we need to intervene if we claim we do not see what is happening. With this, it is also to intervene when the situation becomes manageable, and one we do not have to hold accountability for. A genocide was something the world pledged to prevent after the horrors of World War II, yet, genocide is what they turned their eyes from. Once the genocide became a cholera outbreak, the world stepped in. After all, it was not their fault the fleeing refugees were infected with cholera, it was something they could help with, and it was something that did not weigh down on their consciousness. Sontag explores this conflict of consciousness with her statement on compassion: it is an unstable emotion, and if it is not put into action, it fades. 

Leave a Reply