Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Everyday Evil

One of the bewildering things about the genocide in Rwanda, among many things that are nearly impossible to comprehend, is the fact that people now have little choice but to live together in a society in which, not too long ago, one half of the population tried to exterminate the other half of the population with machetes. Theodore Dalrymple has written much, and well, about the problem of radical evil. This quote, from his recent essay, gets at the strangeness of the Rwandan evil:

Francine, a Tutsi farm woman and shopkeeper, on the other hand, says this:
'Sometimes, when I sit alone in a chair on my veranda, I imagine this possibility: one far-off day, a local man comes slowly up to me and says, ‘Bonjour, Francine, I have come to speak to you. So, I am the one who cut your mama and your little sisters. I want to ask your forgiveness.’ Well, to that person I cannot reply anything good. A man may ask for forgiveness if he has one Primus [beer] too many and then beats his wife. But if he has worked at killing for a whole month, even on Sundays, whatever can he hope to be forgiven for? We must simply go back to living, since life has so decided… We shall return to drawing water together, to exchanging neighbourly words, to selling grain to one another. In twenty years, fifty years, there will perhaps be boys and girls who will learn about the genocide in books. For us, though, it is impossible to forgive.'

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