A stone at the cost of blood, A review on the movie “Blood Diamond”

The avarice that we as humans have possessed in regards to precious stones has been apart of our very nature for hundreds of years. Whether it be deposits of gold, silver, topaz, jade or diamond, earth minerals with either widespread application or visual appeal have been fought over time and time and with grave consequence to those who are indigenous to the area and found no need for them. This trend is blatantly apparent in the pursuit of diamonds in Africa by many Western corporations seeking yet another means of making the wealthy wealthier. The movie Blood Diamond does an exceptional job in capturing the destructive effects of the pursuit of diamonds in Africa upon not only its economy but essentially the lifestyles and social hierarchy of African peoples. Control over diamond deposits means the more currency one shall receive and thus military warlords utilize their own forces to secure Diamonds and see them at their own leisure. The establishment of a military culture and the total social degrading effects of the diamond trade were made explicitly clear to the audience. The movie also proved to be a fantastic combination of history, action, and societal analysis. The actors such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Djimon Hounsou were especially well picked for their roles. Djimon’s emotional scenes were indeed tear worthy and believable in a movie that conveying emotion was key to getting the point across. Throughout the movies plot one feels a variety of emotion ranging from rage to sadness. This movie definitely did not disappoint me in terms of content both in historic terms as well as in terms of plot. The realities of the diamond trade pointed out in this movie were extremely effective in conveying the movies purpose as well as sticking to the designed plot revolving around Hounsou’s character. I would most definitely recommend this movie to anyone interested in watching something related to Western effects on African culture.

A review on “Nanking”

Among all the things anyone ever refers to when discussing WWII, the rape of Nanking is usually not as well understood or as infamously known as compared to the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany. Despite this lack of common awareness, the suffering of the Chinese people in the city of Nanking at the hands of the forces of Imperial Japan was a very explicit reality. Thousands of people be they young, old, children, and even the elderly were subject to not only general mistreat by Japanese forces but also were the victims of numerously reported sexual offenses giving the atrocities that occurred in Nanking the infamous title of “The Rape of Nanking”. This documentary through the use of several primary sources that ranged in origin from Chinese refugees to Japanese officers. However; the documentary primary relied on the views of outside observes or humanitarian workers who were present at the time and switching over to sources of Chinese survivors and otherwise to add in the extra emotional “hmph”. The video was quite obviously a strongly western work. This was especially true toward the end of the documentary where you have Chinese sources thanking the Westerners for their assistance and acts of “heroism” during their time of need. The excerpts they chose to share in the video did not seem overly compelling but they did serve the purpose of conveying the heinous nature of the topic. Especially when the women was sharing the story of her own rape to which she “consented to” in order to save her family from being slaughtered. Similarly, the account of the man recollecting the death of his mother with his brother on her bosom was a compelling story to say the least. The documentary’s historical perspectives and analyses were indeed sound and placed well between the descriptive sources. Although the order in which sources were presented seemed to get me a bit mixed up at times. Also several of the people chosen to read the sources were maybe not the greatest choices in terms of acting/emotional conveyance. Conveying emotion was indeed a considerable problem for them which detracted from moments that if they had possessed such emotion I would have gone on to rate this documentary with an especially higher regard then expresses here. This was the first video I have ever scene in regards to Nanking so in terms of comparing it to other analyses of the same topic I find my self unable to do so. For the topic matter it was indeed decent and mist definitely worth anyone’s time to watch. Especially if that person possesses little knowledge in regards to the rape of Nanking, which I feel is indeed an event that is of considerable worth for recognition.

Infamous medicine, A review on a the documentary “Nazi Medicine”

The stigma attached to the National Socialist (Nazi) Party of Germany and the atrocities they committed during WWII is one of the most infamous and commonly shared of any stigmas that exists within human society today. Personally, I traverse the path to becoming a microbiologist I have devoted my life to one of science. And of all the atrocities the Nazi party committed it is those that directly involve the misuse or disrespect of science and its foundations and principles that I find to be the most heinous of there crimes (aside from mass slaughter). This documentary on Nazi medicine presents an analysis of the study of Eugenics as well as the experimentation done within concentrations camps. The history of Eugenics the documentary presented was very well constructed with a clear timeline with regards to its origins as well as to its applications to the ideas of racial supremacy developed during the reign of Nazi Germany. The jump that was made in applying biological concepts of speciation and natural selection to humanity and its various racial denominations is considerably one of the most outrageous concepts behind Eugenics. Racial superiority and inferiority were byproducts of these more biologically oriented concepts that could become more adapted to a larger social understanding. The work of Eugenics following the end of WWII was rightfully terminated and its ideals discredited as works based on racial theory as opposed to true scientific and logical standing. The experimentation done in the concentration camps was also equally as infuriating as the topic of Eugenics. The experimentation not only lacked the consent of those who were made victims of either pointless or outright deadly research but also lack scientific legitimacy and can easily have been chalked up as being equivalent to a child putting things together just to see the result. Whether it was the experimentation done on twins by Dr. Josef Mengele or the malaria/typhoid inoculations, this “scientific” work possessed very little to no respect for humans and had no prophylactic desires besides possibly military application and pathogenic preventative studies. This lack of respect for the human condition in scientific research was a well conveyed message made by the documentary. As a whole I found little wrong with the documentary in terms of presentation and overall the pictures and video provided were well put together for the topic matter. It also wasn’t as completely “anti-Nazi” as many of the other documentaries I’ve watched that have sought to objectively analyze aspects of the Nazi party’s atrocities.

The Congo Wars, Ambiguous in Ideology yet Clear in Slaughter; A brief review of Jason K. Stearns “Dancing in the Glory of Monsters”

This was the first book I have ever read upon the topic of the Congo wars and to be completely honest I had absolutely no idea of the violence prior to this text. I also was completely unaware of Jason Stearns involvement in the research of the central African conflicts as well as being a part of the humanitarian efforts involved. It was a combination of these two things that left me totally enveloped in Stearns work. Not a single event analyzed aside from the Rwandan genocide and the brief references to Hannah Arendt were of any significant memory to me. I had always know that After the Rwandan conflict there was violence in the region but I had no idea of the massive proportions of its extent. Even the term “violence” almost seems childish as Stearns (at least in my opinion) quite intensively conveys the scope of the massacres, starvation, pestilence and destitution felt by all peoples in the region from military commanders fallen from prominence to survivors of killing en masse. In an exceedingly well balanced way he would reiterate the history of a particular region in central Africa, explain the context of the violence that occurred then digs into the minds of the perpetrators in order to find how as Stearns would characterize it “a family man to become a mass murderer”. Throughout his work I felt little to no bias as he took apart his sources and interviews. However; he is also no proponent of anything that would minimize the extent or significance of the Congo conflict. Stearns does not particularly name a singularity as responsible for the Congo war.Rather as a part of his thesis he concludes that among the most powerful reasoning why the war was not recognized was simply because it was not orchestrated by a pseudo-governmental structure hidden behind the guise of ignorance. It was carried out by the numerous political factions dividing the Congo as well as the seedlings of hate produced throughout the Congo in even its smallest of communities. Congo’s long history of violence, its being the focus of imperialist goals, and the deeply rooted tradition of socially approved hatred are only but the upper crust of Stearns focus but indeed are legitimately his primary conclusions for the horrors that were passed on to him by for of documentation and primary sources. I found Stearns personal involvement in central Africa to be of a most note worthy appreciation. For to be even able to gather such information as he has from all walks of African life without being barred off by African prejudice of Westerners (rightly deserved opinion mind you) is a feat of great achievement. Though even Stearns himself admits he may never be able to feel the pain of those he had interviewed I believe it safe to assume that his work is more than just a surface for the conflict but also an exceedingly well constructed text regarding the topic at hand. I like to think that it is reads like this that truly create a frame for such an under toned event for Western observers but a world war level event for the peoples of Central Africa.

The Paths Taken By the AFDL

The Paths Taken By the AFDL

An attempt at bringing reality to consciousness, A review of Philip Gourevitch’s We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families

What separates us from the reality of genocide? This question by far is what I felt was desperately being grasped at throughout Gourevitch’s work. The question of whether or not peoples of distant lands can ever truly sympathize with the horrors of genocide far from them has been the primary defendant of the “it never happened” defense of genocide perpetrators. Claiming falsified testimonial, social tensions of common pretext, and lack of sufficient evidence directly implying intent have all defended the likes of the most despicable human beings are planet has ever known. Throughout much of part I of Gourevitch’s text (particularly chapters 2-3) I felt a sudden and exceedingly prevalent sense of ambiguity between the stories of Rwandan survivors and the excerpts from the Pastor accused of genocidal intent (and indeed was found beyond a doubt with this same intent). After first the murderous acts were introduced, then the subsequent defense of the Pastor for his actions were brought to light in the book. I couldn’t help but wonder who was correct. Indeed the Hutu population of Rwanda was without a doubt the orchestrators of the massacre of over a million Tutsi. However; I couldn’t help but wonder whether the Pastor involved was truly guilty of all of his accused crimes or did his words heed some sort of truth when he told Gourevitch that all his life he had done nothing but help the Tutsi. Who was lying threw their teeth? Who truly could account for the claims of a handful of Rwandan Tutsi? Will we ever know the true extent of the horrors that went on in 1994? All questions that unless we had an unlimited supply of first hand sources we as observers can never say for sure. This book left me with more questions than answers, this much is clear. Yet despite that I found Gourevitch’s dissection of Rwandan history as it pertained to setting the stage for genocide to be more than compelling. In an almost artful with a combination of historical fact, primary sources, and impersonal interpretations of Rwandan stories and actualities he portrayed the scene, captured its moments (if only in brief segments) and extrapolated their meaning. These qualities however turned the work into more of what may even be considered a news article review than a scholarly work per say. This was I believe a purposeful structure of the stories he collected however. A methodology of writing I believe to be an exceedingly we thought out and ideal means of breaking the literature/reality barrier which so nullifies our sense of humanity as readers rather than those who experienced the ordeal. It makes sense in that one of the very few means by which events of history are shared through a population who never even imagine such an event occurring has always been threw means of news reportage.And so for this work to be styled in such a format only strengthens its message and shows the resolve of the author to make what was once a reality in 1994 a reality even today in 2014. To an extent I wholeheartedly believe that he was indeed successful in his goal and was equally impressed with this work. Its style most definitely served to better my understanding of the Rwandan genocide but also allowed me to generate a whole host of questions that serve not as beacons of confusion and disillusion but rather of more stable insights into my own connection between my reality and that of many I will never come to meet or ever set foot upon their world.

Pastor Ntakirutimana

Pastor Ntakirutimana

Rwandan soldiers collecting remnants of the skulls of slain Tutsi from the genocide of 1994

Rwandan soldiers collecting remnants of the skulls of slain Tutsi from the genocide of 1994

A map of Rwanda

A map of Rwanda

A short analysis of Primo Levi’s Survival in Auschwitz

Survival is considered one of the most powerful abilities of humanity. Whether it is jumping off a cliff to avoid a charging animal or simply taking a bit out of a sandwich for lunch, by any means we sustain ourselves. But what of when we face each other; does ones sole survival take precedence over the other? IS one will so strong as to overcome the will of the opposition? Primo Levi seems to answer these questions in his work and numerous more. His personal account was striking and absolutely fascinating to say the least. Images of horror and maddening sights that no sane man can overlook in silence. From the very first chapter of his account, Levi did not disappoint. His masterful combination of sentimentality and recognition of events served to move me every paragraph that passed. One quote I felt a blow to the heart with as it were was “Sooner or later in life everyone discovers that perfect happiness is unrealizable but there are few who pause to consider the antithesis: that perfect unhappiness is equally unattainable”. He then goes on to elaborate this idea and what factors oppose which generally include our very nature as human beings. Personally, Levi time and time again brought up perspectives and angles of the “Holocaust story” that I never truly ever gave much of a second thought. For example; as Levi describes the conditions of the prison blocks and how cleanliness within them was “practically pointless” but “necessary as an instrument of moral survival” he is capturing a mere glimpse of the will to sustain ones self and the persistence of ones humanity even in a place that denounces theirs. Numerous accounts exist of the prisoners of the death camps seeming to persist in many of the habits considered typically human such as washing, praying, and even despite the odds love and hope was even sustained. Levi’s accounts of the his prisoner friends and their role in his own survival pay testament to the fact that even a prisoner practically chosen for death with no true hope of escaping their predestined fate can still act and behave as a civilized human. Questions such as: Is it truly a waste of energy to wash? what significance does it truly have to us as humans? “Why should I was?”. Not a single moment in Levi’s book left me sure of the reality of his experience. Questions that seemed almost submerged below what I had come to see as common perspective came to new light. Levi being a chemist also spoke to my “inner-scientist” as it were. Which is to say that as I also pursue a career in science I find this story of survival to be that more closer to home. Also his ability to utilize this knowledge and experience to better his chances of survival was truly impressive to say the least. To say is his story is inspiring and even simply “a good book” would not even begin to cover the amount of power captured in every word and every metaphor. Levi’s survival as a human being gave to us a story that would encompass the suffering of a people. And even despite his agony and woe one could truly feel his humble nature. That no event that had befallen him was by any means more tragic than that of others whom he personally mentions we far less fortunate. This was also the first time I have ever read an account by a Italian Jew associated with the holocaust, which seemed to kick out the frame of simply an innocent eastern European or simply a Jew from Poland which seems to be the source of many stories but are far from the only ones.Levi himself and his work are both equally humbled as well as fascinating in thought and honest in experience.
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(Rough/Possible) Abstract For FSEM Paper

From as early as the the spread of the black plague (Yersinia Pestis) to the weaponization of the Anthrax bacterium (Bacillus Anthracis), much of warfare and the home-front alike across history have suffered at the hands of organisms that remain hidden to the unaided eye. Since its conception, microbiology has sought to gain a better understanding of the micro-verse that surrounds us and use this knowledge to better humanity. However in what is considerably the most heinous perversion of the field we find that throughout human conflicts within the modern era (approx. 1900-present day) a tremendous shift from study and innovation to weaponization and mass murder has become blatantly apparent.This paper drawing from several scholarly texts and microbiological accounts seeks to analyze the progression of the development of biological weapons since 1945 to the present day. As well as taking an intrinsic look at the uses, incidents and international responses to several different case studies of biological agents used in and out of warfare such as Anthrax (Bacillus Anthracis), HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), Botulism (Clostridium botulinum) and Tularemia (Francisella tularensis). Sources that were used in this research include several biological lab reports on weaponization of these biological agents as well as scholarly works delving into not only the processes but the ethical dilemmas surrounding biological weaponry in a international context such as Deadly cultures : biological weapons since 1945 Mark Wheelis, Lajos Rózsa, and Malcolm Dando. By analyzing the development, implementation, and future implication of biological agents as weapons of war, massacre and genocide I seek to draw the perspective of human suffering away from the limitations of human social divisions and being seen as violence based solely on that pretext and unto the implications biological weaponry may have upon us as a whole species and the responses that are currently being made to better control this completely uncertain area of orchestrated human suffering.

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A Sickle to Butcher the Weak and a Hammer to Crush the Strong, A review and impressions of Timothy Snyder’s novel “Bloodlands” Chapters 1-5

Timothy Snyder along with several other colleagues and archival sources have put together in this book what I would consider to be an accurate and well devised interpretation of the events that occurred in eastern Europe under the influence of Stalin’s Soviet union to the East and Hitler’s Nazi Germany to the west. Snyder’s thought process and structure were fairly simple to follow with little tangents aside from archival accounts which he stresses are some of the greatest contributions to his work and I for one definitely agree with him. Though at times I feel he reiterated points far to frequently. For example; in the first chapter pertaining to the Soviet Famines of Ukraine, Snyder plays upon numerous accounts of the starvation that occurred through either personal accounts or social recollections (such as in common place songs/sayings). These accounts were explicit and well shared but I felt were to numerous in number to reiterate the setting of Ukraine in the 1920-1930’s. Snyder’s analysis and interpretations behind the ideology of Stalinism as well as the possible motives for Stalin’s actions seemed well rooted and based upon good premises with some slightly presumptuous interpretations that found to be a bit of a stretch but I suppose are still open for debate. One of the harder concepts to the wrap around throughout these chapters was primarily the duality and extremely contradictory nature of communism as an ideology. Much of Snyder’s first chapter and second chapters deals particularly well addressing the complexity of socialist/communist thought which primarily in both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union focused upon the state (particularly the chosen patron of the state) was victim to those the state has oppressed or “liberated/modernized” as the state would view it. The idea that it is the very act of starvation that is a far more rebellious an act against the state then even a full pursing may be considered. Such was the case as portrayed by Snyder during the Ukrainian famine where even legislation passed under Stalin would make even the possession of food in an area undergoing “collectivization” was considered a rebellious act against the state. for as far as Stalin was concerned there was no problem with any system of modernization implemented by the Soviet government that was in anyway wrong, rather, it was the peoples subjected to the law that are the true opponents of its success (as made evident with the blame of the famine being placed on the Ukrainian communist party for “lacking implementation” of collectivization.  Also that any opposition to a necessary step toward the envisioned communist revolution was evidence to the success of the methodology. Much of this ideology is further entangled and reinterpreted with the outright elimination of numerous political entities that would, at least in Stalin’s perception, ever pose a threat to his power. Yet despite the vast amount of famine, elimination of political groups, and outright massacre of many individuals by the Soviet Union across eastern Europe or as Snyder refers to it as the bloodlands, many of it remained :swept under the rug till shortly after the Cold War. Where many archives across eastern Europe became accessible to a global community. One question I had and still have yet to truly settle is that of what Stalin did to his own populace considered a “genocide” or simply mass killings of a rather indiscriminate nature? Many of the arguments for the genocidal intent fall well into as Rafal Lemkin coined the Soviet Famines as : the classic example of Soviet genocide”. Others yet would argue against it specifically pointing out the multicultural nature of the Ukraine as well as the elimination of groups falling under a strictly “political” category and thus not necessarily associated with genocide. Despite Snyder’s evidence and historical accounts I still have yet to truly reconcile the case of outright genocide in this case myself but I find myself leaning more toward the non-genocidal view of Stalin’s actions. I see almost all of the Soviet maneuvers to be strictly state motivated more so than the ideology of the state as intent would have it to purposefully starve to death the Ukrainian peoples. I would propose that an excessive need for self-sufficiency and industrialization played a major role in the events of the 1920-1930s. Overall I have thus far appreciated Snyder’s work and anticipate no less from the sections that follow chapter 5 as Snyder focuses in on the Nazi Germany impacts upon the bloodlands.

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“A Genocide that Never Happened” Views and Reactions to Donald Bloxham’s The Great Game of Genocide

History is written by the victors-Winston Churchill,

Donald Bloxham’s The Great Game of Genocide is by far the most detailed account about the atrocities that occurred in the Republic of Turkey (formerly the Ottoman Empire) against the orthodox christian Armenians I have ever had the opportunity to read. Prior to reading this text, I was gravely uneducated in the details surrounding what is considered the first genocide of the modern era. Which only speaks volumes to some of the major points of international ignorance which Bloxham indeed never fails to address throughout his work and then primarily in the final chapter strictly dealing with the question of recognition. Personally as I read the work, I would periodically find myself recalling the details of the genocide which either completely escaped me or was simply never passed to me by any form of “common place” media. As opposed to the internationally recognized and most well known modern genocide, the Holocaust, which completely overshadowed the plight of the Armenian people in the wake of a near ethnic oblivion. Aside from personal reflections I made during the reading of the text, much of Bloxham’s work (however rigidly and ill-formally crafted) was indeed a exceedingly and informative piece that does in fact I believe outline the timeline of the genocide with enough detail to emphasize not only its impact on the Armenian people but within a global context as opposed to popular belief. Points brought up throughout chapter one ranging from the decline of the Ottoman empire to the rise of Armenian political parties were very well articulated in thought. Although personally I lost my co-called “train-of-thought” every now and again. As one proceeded into the second and third chapters of the work; Bloxham shifts into the primary phase of the genocide itself in 1915 into 1923. Many of the crimes against the Armenian people by not only (ironically) the Community for Unity and Peace (CUP) but other Muslim denominations in the region including the Kurds were unexpected and completely unknown to me which left me rather perplexed throughout this section.  It was not particularly the involvement of these groups in the Genocide but rather the fact that despite these despicable acts little evidence exists of its perpetration or rather if it does it is evidence that has been time and time again refuted. For example; during much of the Armenian deportation by the CUP. many Armenians were registered for deportation but no records (for most of them) even exist of their arriving at there destination which leaves one to assume that the deportation quickly evolved into a full on massacre of the Armenians and all non-Muslim/pro-pan-Turkish peoples. The deportation is by far in my opinion the least cataclysmic event to afflict the Armenian people as in comparison to the death marches, front-line military slaughter, and  bombings. Yet as suggested in Hugo Slim’s text “Killing Civilians”, the ousting or “ethnic cleansing” of a particular group from an area proves to be among the greatest of hardships inflicted upon a civilian population leading a number of different forms of suffering of the peoples involved.  As per my usual sentiment, I am always quick to be amazed by the capacity for human violence based on something so mundane or without evidence such as the possible (which in actuality had no premise with the Armenian) undermining of power. The CUP’s efforts to create a purely Turkish state however unfair and disastrous of the Armenian population it was somehow without a problem was indeed by all context of the word “successful”. Not only did the CUP successfully decimate the majority of a non-Muslim ethnic group from east Anatolia, they miraculous happening to you got away with it! It’s like watching a younger sibling get away with spitting in your face and kicking you in the shin only to find out that no one will ever say it happened even though it clearly happened in front of several spectators and you have the twitching eye to show for it. Now imagine that you are the Armenian people and your younger sibling was the CUP/Ottoman Turks. Nothing less then a frustration builds up knowing that all of your suffering is only to be ignored and brushed aside as the rest of the world continues to remain ignorant to your suffering. Bloxham’s work as a whole was excellent for anyone willing to drive through the historical aspects of his work and pay close attention to his subtopics within chapters, reading it like a history textbook. Aside from those minor details regarding the overall text compositions with texts structure, the text proves to extraordinarily re-image the Armenian side suffering in a better lime light of comprehension of not only the scope of the international ‘sphere of the Armenian genocide but the politics and economics surrounding the controversy.

 

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