I watch Hotel Rwanda. It is the first movie of its kind that I have seen. I have made the mysterious, indefinable change from “not old enough” to suddenly “old enough” for this sort of thing.
I am shocked by the violence, warmed by one man’s attempt to stand against it, and horrified by the knowledge that this is not just a story. These had been real people.
I feel betrayed by humanity. I’m angry at men who could hack their neighbors to death. I’m angry at politicians who did nothing but debate semantics while children were being orphaned and murdered. But most of all I am angry at my parents.
At the end of the movie, I tally up how old I was when it happened. Barely seven. There was nothing I could’ve done – I was just a kid. But I compare my age to that of my parents. They were “old enough” to do something about it. “It was on their watch,” I think as if they could’ve flicked a switch and changed world events, “and they just let it happen”. I resolve that when I am big enough, I won’t let such a thing happen on “my watch”.
Generation Y – my generation – bears the moniker “Hero Generation”. We’re supposedly more optimistic, less jaded, more into collaboration and problem-solving than Gen X (those born in the 60s and 70s). From Global Warming to supplying clean water to Kony 2012 – we’ve got high hopes and big causes. We were raised with teachers and parents unwilling to limit our potential and we believed them. We honestly think we can change the world. With the speed of technological and communication advances we see unlimited potential around us.
Gen Y is entering the workforce. We’re finding out that entrenched systems don’t change as quickly or often as versions of Facebook. In many Western countries, we’re facing heavy economic pressure from old systems and too much debt. In many Eastern and Southern countries, we’re entering emerging economies full of corruption and a gross imbalance of wealth and power.
Is Gen Y really going to be a generation full of heroes? Or will we find that the world is much more complicated than our optimism was expecting? Will we wind up not the “hero generation” but the “disillusioned generation” instead?
I’m listening to the BBC News Podcast. They’re interviewing a reporter recently evacuated from a besieged city in Syria. He recounts in numbing detail the fate of twenty or thirty families crowded into a single home, falsely believing themselves to be safe from the bombs deluging the city. Limbless bodies trapped in rubble. The dead carted off. Children tortured alongside adults. The wounded with no place to go.
“I think we left behind what will be another Rwanda,” the eyewitness says, his voice strained.
My stomach tightens. Suddenly I am “old enough” again and we’ve just finished Hotel Rwanda.
Except that now it’s on our watch.