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Traumatic experiences amongst individuals have always reaped havoc on a physical, emotional, and/ or physiological level. Trauma is a very personal experience that can affect the people around such victims in ways that can last a lifetime if not sought with any help. The most prevalent ordeals of pain stem from on a global scale being sexual assaults, natural disasters, the abuse of children and minors, familial domestic violence, suffering from war-torn conflicts, the death of loved ones, and medically correlated trauma. In this essay, the movie Hotel Rwanda will be analyzed through the perspective of a social workers’ experience of working with victims of trauma, and the process of healing all the while studying the conflict in its entirely to find out what were the reasons behind one of the deadliest mass genocides since the Second World War.
Whenever there is an incoming deadly conflict, many politicians, journalists in the media, and foreign spectators will say in much ignorance that “they never saw it coming” or “how can humanity be so cruel to each other because, in the end, we are all the same”. Truth be told is that we are not the same. We live on the same planet and breath the same air, however, depending on where your ethnic origins come from or where you were born just by one in a million chances will determine a good majority of your outcomes in life. This is because where you were born alludes to values, customs, traditions, economic status of a nation, political standings, and characteristics that of which are unique to each country in the world. Characteristics like race, religion, age, gender, ethnicity, tribal affiliations are all things that differentiate human beings drastically, therefore, one’s personal life experiences and normalities in a country like Rwanda could be entirely alien to comprehend to a Westerner who lives a completely different life. In democratic nations like Western Europe, North America and Australia, people have lived in relative harmony for generations going back centuries, with the strongest economies to provide jobs, infrastructure, and the rest. All the while, taking time back to 1994 in Rwanda where there were some major red flags that were completely alluding to the likelihood of genocide against minorities and against dissidents of the majority group. In the movie, Hotel Rwanda, the beginning starts off with how there are very serious ethnic tensions between the Hutu majority and the Tutsi minority. There has always been violence between certain periods of time when the political stability of the country was called into serious question throughout history, although in 1990, the most recent period of instability with re-emerging ethnic tensions had resurfaced when the Tutsi-dominated rebel army of which was formed in exile and called the Rwandan Patriot Front had invaded Rwanda from neighbouring country Uganda. In the movie, the tensions are due to the years of negotiation between the longtime president Juvenal Habyarimana and the Tutsi rebels that came to a written legal peace deal with the United Nations and its peacekeeping force acting as a third party negotiator. With growing frustrations that came from the Hutu majority of society, many of whom have felt as though they were being betrayed by their moderate, very tolerant Hutu president and memories coming from years of disenfranchisement originating to colonization, the Hutu extremist militia group called the Interahamwe had arose and quickly taken power. The exact moment in origin that set off the genocide into action was when the Rwandan government and the Tutsi rebels of the FPR had signed the “peace deal” in August of 1993 in Tanzania which promised to create a government where the FPR would share power with the current government. The Interahamwe had despised the plan greatly and with their hatred of the Tutsis brewing to new levels used for propaganda around Rwandan radio stations and in all newspapers.
On April 6th, 1994, the private plane that carried President Habyarimana and the Burundian President at the time Cyprien Ntaryamira along with other staff was shot done by Hutu extremists as evidence leads to such conclusion, while previous blame was being put on the Tutsi rebels even though such claims were deemed insufficient. As many as 800 thousand to one million Tutsi’s and moderate Hutu’s were mass murdered along with the assassination beginning with the moderate Hutu and only female Prime Minister as she was being guarded in her home. The biggest disappointment was that the global community knew what was happening and did nothing as the Belgians and the French actually pulled out of Rwanda and not others. What happened in Rwanda was atrocious and discriminatory on all levels as there were innocent people who left to fend for themselves. The big travesty was when the shipments of cheap machetes were imported from China was not a serious warning enough for the international community to stop the butchering of people as it took the same Tutsi rebel group to put an end to the conflict and fight the Hutu rebels right into the Congo. With the traumatized survivors of the Rwandan genocide till this who keep reliving the horrors of war, how could the Western world who prides themselves on being about human rights and universal values for all not help a nation in need at its most desperate time. Part of the answer is political being political- Rwanda was and is a small nation that exists not affecting any of the major powers at the time, economic- Rwanda had no natural resources, therefore no “monetary value” and socially- the UN was more quick to stop the conflict in Bosnia because of communism falling all over Eastern Europe (hence the interest) than it was to stop a genocide of black people in Africa (hence much racism and discrimination from all sides). Not being scene as people worthy of help because of the difference of race all goes back to how the White/ European powers back in the 1990s and going far back to colonial times has been a massive detriment for almost the whole continent of Africa of which were colonial by several European powers. As much as people would like to rightly blame the Interahamwe and those Hutus that were sympathetic to their cause. They are also a product as well as a victim of their environment/ past history. The biggest blame to go around would be to the Belgians as the true original source of the conflict. Research shows that prior to colonialism, the African nations that came to form the present-day nations were one and the same, especially in Rwanda of which the people that are divided by the ethnicities of Tutsi’s and Hutu’s had co-existed peacefully for generations. It was not until the Belgians had come to Rwanda, taking whatever wealth the country had to send it to Europe and inserting their white culture, religion and way of life upon them. The Belgian government had then taken it upon themselves to divide the peoples of Rwanda according to the basis of eugenics. The Tutsi’s had come to be known as those with a lighter complexion, taller in height, thinner lips and noses. While the Hutu’s were darker complexed, shorter on average, had wider facial features, etc. The Tutsi’s were more educated, favoured by the colonists, and ran the government for many years all the while the Hutu majority were discriminated against and oppressed for years with little to no support by Tutsis. The genocide was seen widely as payback for years of oppression and control that they wanted to wipe out the next generation, that being Tutsi children and men, then systematically rape Tutsi women in camps and forcibly make them give birth to such children. Forcible mass rape of women and girls is the most common way to gain control and power because women’s bodies have been violated, others had unwanted children that bring up resentment many times while the post-traumatic stress disorder kicks in post-conflict trying to live whatever normal means after not having to survive day to day. Things like headaches, depression, flashbacks (like sounds of bullets flying, the feeling of having a machete held to your throat when touching your neck, remembering being held down while being raped), the loss of sleep, getting bad thoughts, angry outbursts, crying spells and much more. Another thing that led to traumatic experiences in the movie is being called cockroaches continuously by the extremists to everyone who dissents against them, implying that death is definite as the example in the movie shows the hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina driving back from getting food from his Hutu extremist food supplier and driving on a trail filled with nothing but bodies the entire way just realizing the true devastation and more determined to protect his fellow abandoned citizens. Such a word implies trauma passed down from generations. The making of young children orphans (the murder of parents), the burning of houses and the murder of orphans shows the loss of innocence, the elements of PTSD, lack of trust in adults and implications of long-term loneliness/ emptiness (not having parents alive to guide such children), etc.
The traumatic effects of war in a post-conflict setting are some of the most devastating scenes and times to witness. Any conflict no matter the scale is shocking if ever witnessed in the media or in person however, the period in which no one really talks about is the aftermath of the conflict. How do people that have lived together for generations going through many periods of ethnic tensions, mass violence, corrupt governments and finally full-blown genocide go back to living their lives as normal as possible? The work is tremendous as rebuilding Rwanda extends to fixing their infrastructure, bringing up their currency, re-learning how to co-exist side by side as Rwandans, (not Tutsi’s and Hutu’s), bringing back refugees, and most importantly getting help providing professional support to all those affected by the trauma of such conflict. How the healing process comes about is through a multi-faceted approach that involves all aspects of a person’s life. The intervention plan that would be proposed in order to deal with the victims of war and their trauma would be to have a multidimensional support system of implementing the relevance of Rwandan African culture (prior to colonialism), the quintessential participation of the family members in the lives of victims’, making sure that the school system, workplace, friends amongst other peers help each other get through their trauma, as well as religion as another important guide seeking strength to get through hard times and lastly the community as the overall support to seal off the whole process in order to be successful. The nature of genocide is much different experience that many people have endured in our world. Compared to a single traumatic event, war zones often go on for as little as less than a week to more than a few years, sometimes even decades. Experiencing a single traumatic event on a long-term scale is a very brief moment in your life. In the context of war, it is an everyday constant fight for your survival and much of life in a war zone is spent hiding.
All of the single-handed crimes are committed all at once on a massive scale and are always aimed to murder off minorities in many parts of the world. The things people are exposed and/or experience as well as the loss of loved ones, violence, pain, suffering, loss of home, job prospects, trying to account for missing people, and the repossession of dead people for burial. Therefore, the intervention plan that must meet the needs of the people that have experienced the genocide needs guiding forces that bind neighbors together is that of going back to the true ancestral origins of the people that make up Rwanda, to bring families whether they be nuclear or extended together and open up about the traumas and see how one can relate on certain traumas experienced while trying to understand the personal traumas each person when through alone whether that be mentally and/ or physically. Another area is that of school, work, friends and peers help keep people’s minds focused and busy. Communities’ outside the home environment give people something to strive for, helping build social work, working skills, routine, and learning how to trust and rebuild relationships. The next area of importance is religion, where such determination and strength help many to persevere to always seeking light at the end of the tunnel and to tie all the point stated in with community, of which forms in many different areas and makes up everything we do in life.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is the after effect of emotional, psychological and at times physical trauma that occurs in victims of traumatic events, more specifically in the case of Rwanda, the trauma of dealing with the aftermath of genocide. The behaviours that come with going through post-traumatic stress is things like depression, loss of sleep, outbursts of anger, invasive thoughts, flashbacks, a faded memory, the inability to focus the mind on situations, and random things like headaches are the main symptoms most trauma victims are known to have History of Trauma Lecture. All of such symptoms described are feelings of still living in the trauma. Trauma does not and cannot go away overnight. The human mind works its way to adapt to whatever situation we are put in and overtime as the situation remains constant, such a state of mind becomes your individual new normal. To program or re-learn how to live a “regular life” after a traumatic experience takes a lot of time and with the right support, the process of integrating into a new state of being and living is inevitable. However, not everyone does get back to day to day living as many do struggle because of the widespread stigma that crosses all cultures and walks of life. The admission of psychological struggle can be just as harrowing to admit if there is no support or no professional help available or the feeling of shame and/ or survivor’s remorse. Therefore, it is always important to work through PTSD holistically as sharing a traumatic experience alone, not even professionally has been proven over and over to be very therapeutic, and to know a victim of such horror is never alone.
The implications of such practice would be that of a mental health emergency just as when a person is in the state of fight or flight for months on end, there is no thinking of emotional trauma, but solely getting to make it out of the danger zone. When it comes to the aftermath of trauma, the survivors should opt to find the multi-faceted ways previously mentioned in this essay to deal with trauma in healthy ways. The most efficient way is a community-level approach of getting back to living a normal life as much as possible and rebuilding lives. Given the example of the hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina had managed to start a new life in the West all the while raising his children and his two nieces that he had adopted and has spoken publicly many times on tours for the movie as well as advances his activism for all the survivors of the Rwandan genocide.
In conclusion, what should happen in our modern and ever-globalised world is use the resources at our disposal so everyone can share their experiences because with life comes inevitable suffering, and depending on where you live in the world, it can either be on a massive scale or a singular event that of which has shaped your life permanently. From sexual assaults to war-torn conflicts, by bringing experiences to the forefront and sharing conveys real changes to those around us and a voice for those who have suffered in silence. In today’s day and age, we can google the horrors of every modern conflict, watch footage and be moved to want to do something because people share their pain through art or by merely talking about one’s own experience, hence seeing the humanity no matter the differences in our lives.
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