Romeo Dallaire was the commander of the UN Peacekeeping Mission in Rwanda in 1994. He witnessed the genocide of 800,000 Rwandans in the ethnic conflicRomeo Dallaire was the commander of the UN Peacekeeping Mission in Rwanda in 1994. He witnessed the genocide of 800,000 Rwandans in the ethnic conflict between Hutus and Tutsi. His experiences spurred him into becoming an advocate for genocide prevention and for the eradication of child soldiers in conflicts around the world. His first experiences with child soldiers began during his tenure in the African Great Lakes region. In this book, he also mentions other areas with prevalent use of child soldiers, most notably in Liberia and Sierra Leone.
This book is a blend of story telling, advocacy and inspirational messages that revolve around the central theme of child soldiers. The main purpose of the book is to draw in the reader to take empathize and become more aware of the issues surrounding child soldiers. I believe this book does this very effectively. Taking on the point of view of a girl who gets forced into combat, he attempts to show the process of recruitment, psychological conditioning and combat. Through this narrative, he also shows the effect of the existence of child soldiers on the psychological impact of the children, other combatants and the society. He also makes an effort to focus on the plight of female child soldiers who are forced into these encampments and contrasts their treatment with boys. Drawing on his own research, he also gives an explanation for why child soldiers are used and the reason for their continued prevalence in the world today.
The goal of the book is not to publish groundbreaking discovery or milestone on the issue of child soldiers but rather tries to educate and invite the readers to become emotionally and morally linked to the issue and to respond proactively in a manner that will help of eradicating child soldiers. He attempts to put the readers in the shoes of a child soldier and challenges the reader to respond. He does this by asking the readers to “imagine” the scenario and recounting stories of his own childhood, which effectively places the reader in the position where they can empathize with the situation. The fictional short story follows the progression of the loss childhood innocence, to the sudden and cruel recruitment that involve large amounts of trauma, followed by the psychological conditioning that “dramatically warps” the values of right and wrong, leaving only the twisted mentality that “killing is good and mercy is bad.” (246) The story follows this indoctrination with the dramatic death of the child at the hands of UN Peacekeeper. In an effort to highlight the diseased nature of this issue, Dallaire also writes a short narrative in the point of the view of that UN Peacekeeper. The narrative serves to not only portray what many professional forces have to face when deployed to conflict regions that use child soldiers but also highlights the undeniable pain and suffering that these professionally trained, adult soldiers must face when confronted with this reality.
Overall, Dallaire’s book effectively challenges the reader to address the issue of child soldiers and attempts to force the reader to become engaged by raising moral and ethical questions. It attempts to inspire and push for the development of international awareness through its Child Soldier Initiative campaign. However, the book would have benefited from an increased discussion on the politics and the root causes of war and how that can also effectively eradicate child soldiers. ...more
**spoiler alert** A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley is set in a dystopian world. Most of the citizens in the world are unified under one World State.**spoiler alert** A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley is set in a dystopian world. Most of the citizens in the world are unified under one World State. The World State espouses a perpetual peace, an unending flow of a perfect society made up of five different classes ranked by their genetic pedigree. I personally found the book fascinating and challenging because it forced me to consider whether I would live in this world. Hasn’t everlasting peace been a goal of humanity for centuries? Isn’t it something that we have always strived towards? The prospect of a static world may initially seem boring but as the plot progresses, one can only begin to question, “Would I choose this world as well?” If yes I would live happily regardless of which caste I am in. If no, I would be as I am now, struggling to make something of myself, competing with 7 billion others. Both answers are equally terrifying.
“…most men and women will grow up to love their servitude and will never dream of revolution.”
SPOILERS PAST THIS POINT.
The five classes are Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta and Epsilon. Each are further sub-divided into plus or minus. The two higher classes Alpha and Beta are allowed to develop naturally and given chemical stimulants while fetuses that are chosen for Gamma, Delta and Epsilon classes are chemically hampered causing arrested physical development and intelligence. This produces a society made up of people that from birth are meant for a certain task. Alpha caste members make up the intellectuals and leaders while the Epsilon caste members are physically only able to perform menial labour tasks. A society where caste mobility is impossible and those at the bottom have no capacity or desire to advance. Sex is now recreational and a social activity. Those who wish to bed something needs to only ask. (From within the same caste of course)
The main character Bernard is an Alpha Plus. However, he suffers from an inferiority complex because he is shorter than most other Alphas. This fuels the vicious rumours about his in situ development. (Apparently having accidentally been fed alcohol). This difference made him an outcast and thus made him question the world around him, including the use of Soma a state sponsored recreational drug that citizens take to ‘escape’ and the conditioning method used by the state via phrases that are repeated to children as they sleep e.g. A gramme is better than a damn. Aka take drugs if you get upset.
Lenina Crowne, an alpha female is the subject of Bernard’s interest. In an attempt to get with Lenina, Bernard travels with her to a ‘savage reservation’ where the population within was allowed to develop naturally with no outside interference (think tribal era). There they met a savage named John born to a woman that used to belong to the World State but was separated from her group when she visited the reserve. Her shame of giving birth led her to decide to stay on the reservation. John is unwanted by the tribe because of his mother and decided to leave the reservation to see the world that his mother has always praised in his youth. He returned with Bernard to the outside world.
John’s background gave Bernard an in with the highest members of society, they attended parties and had sex with anyone Bernard wanted. (Still a symbol of dominance, even in Utopia sex doesn’t change much ha) John in the meantime falls in love with Lenina but refuses to have sex with her in the sense of the World State but rather wishes to fall in love with her. Soon, John refused to go to the parties, pointing out how empty the World State really was. Even his own mother has put herself on a permanent soma vacation, essentially high every single day.
“I’d rather be myself,” he said. “Myself and nasty. Not somebody else, however jolly.”
John retreats to an air-light house (meant to guide planes) and attempts to get away from the utopia that he does not believe in. Shunned from his tribe and unwilling to become a part of the World State, he mulls in the despair of unrequited love for Lenina.
The novel ends with John whipping himself in penance and this attracted the attention of the Utopian citizens. In the chaos that ensued, a massive orgy occurred, one that John participated in. When he woke up and realized that he unwittingly became a part of the society that took everything from him his identity, his mother and Lenina, he hung himself.
“…reality, however utopian, is something from which people feel the need of taking pretty frequent holidays….”
Incredible book that challenges the way we all think. To be honest, as I read the book I came to a rather uncomfortable conclusion that I would probably choose to live in this Utopia. Why? The safety and the lack of effort required while maintaining a sense of happiness seems like an attractive prospect.
At the same time, I also enjoy the feeling of the pain that comes with happiness so perhaps not.