Unit 3 Assignment 3 by Lydia Catterall

Sontag’s exploration of viewing other people’s suffering expands on the failure of the international community in the Rwandan genocide, which Gourevitch highlights. Specifically, Gourevitch explains that it was not just a failure to understand the situation, but a failure to take action. The United Nations, and especially the United States, knew what was happening in Rwanda, but just stood back and watched. Sontag helps expand this concept by highlighting the differences in perception of suffering based on the demographic of the image’s subject. She explains that in war photos, the faces of dead American soldiers rarely face the camera, as though it would be too painful to face their death head-on. The same courtesy does not often apply to faces of war victims from Africa or Asia. Sontag surmises that westerners view violence as a more standard part of life for these victims. The western world is more upset when faced with depictions of Anglo-European suffering. This is what happens in the story Gourevitch tells. Gourevitch includes the testimony of General Dallaire, who pointed out that the western world had poured thousands of troops and billions of dollars into stopping the violence in Yugoslavia, but had turned their backs on Rwanda. 

Leave a Reply