Paul Rusesabagina - An Ordinary Man
A retrospective by the man featured in the film Hotel Rwanda. This book is very intimately written in a way that handles the Rwandan genocide fairly gently, but leaves you with no doubt about the nature of it. What makes it fairly unique is the personal manner in which someone who survived the genocide firsthand expresses how good and evil interact within society. I had the pleasure of spending a day with Paul, and he really is the most humble human being I have ever met. If only there were a billion "ordinary men" like him.
Some great lines from the book:
"At the end, the best you can say is that my hotel saved about four hours' worth of people. Take four hours away from one hundred days and have an idea of just how little I was able to accomplish against the grand design."
"I am not a politician or a poet. I built my career on words that are plain and ordinary and concerned with everyday details. I am nothing more or less than a hotel manager, trained to negotiate contracts and charged to give shelter to those who need it. My job did not change in the genocide, even though I was thrust into a sea of fire. I only spoke the words that seemed normal and sane to me. I did what I believed to be the ordinary things that an ordinary man would do. I said no to outrageous actions the way I thought that anybody would, and it still mystifies me that so many others could say yes."
"I wondered how many of the dead bodies I might have known in the time before, perhaps people who had come into the Mille Collines for drinks, or relatives of friends that I'd met. Perhaps I'd only passed them in the markets without looking. Whoever they were, each one was irreplaceable, as irreplaceable to the people they loved as I was to my wife, or she was to me, or us to our children. Their uniqueness was gone forever, their stories, their experiences, their loves -- erased with a few swings of a cheap machete. Ah, Rwanda, why?"
"We cannot change the past, but we can improve the future with the limited tools and words that we have been given."
"A sad truth of human nature is that it is hard to care for people when they are abstractions, hard to care when it is not you or somebody close to you. Unless the world community can stop finding ways to dither in the face of this monstrous threat to humanity those words Never Again will persist in being one of the most abused phrases of the English language and one of the greatest lies of our time."
"Kindness is not an illusion and violence is not a rule. The true resting state of human affairs is not represented by a man hacking his neighbor into pieces with a machete. That is a sick aberration. No, the true state of human affairs is life as it ought to be lived. Walk outside your door and this is almost certainly what you'll see all around you. Daily life in any culture consists of people working alongside each other, buying and selling from one another, laughing with each other, ignoring each other, showing each other courtesy, swearing at each other, loving each other, but hardly ever killing each other as a matter of routine. In the total scope of man's existence collective murder is a rare event and should never be considered the 'real' fate of mankind.
I do not at all mean to downplay the role of politicized mass murder. It is a pathology of civilization and it will certainly happen again, probably before the decade is out. My point here is to say that it is not -- and should never be seen as -- the default state of mankind. These things are not supposed to happen, and when we write them off as Darwinist spectacles, inevitable by-products of war or worse, to ancient tribal animosities, we have lost sight of the most important thing: the fundamental perversion of genocide. We will have played into the hands of those who excited racial hatreds as a device to acquire more power. We will have been duped by the cheapest trick in the book. Human beings were designed to live sanely, and sanity always returns. The world always rights itself in the long run. Our collective biology simply refuses to let us go astray for long. Or as the French philosopher Albert Camus put it: 'Happiness, too, is inevitable.'
This is why I say that the individual's most potent weapon is a stubborn belief in the triumph of common decency. It is a simple belief, but it is not at all naive. It is, in fact, the shrewdest attitude possible. It is the best way to sabotage evil."
"Wherever the killing season should next begin and people should become strangers to their neighbors and themselves, my hope is that there will still be those ordinary men who say a quiet no and open the rooms upstairs."
Check it out, it is a very moving read.