The Backlash of European Ambition

“When they said ‘never again’ after the holocaust, was it meant for some people and not for others?” – Apollon Kabahizi

The pursuit of science! In search of prosperity, progress, and competing with the newly emerging global market, European powers sent explorers to discover all corners of the earth; desperate to strive for new assets which would make them more attractive than their neighbors. Europe was fresh from an intellectual breakthrough. The Renaissance was the genesis of new ways of seeing the world, towards a more human-oriented existence. This was followed by the enlightenment, which allowed for the pursuit of science to be seen as noble and progressive, breaking away from the reign of religion. However, this pursuit of knowledge was malignant, leading to unfathomable implications that would have an impact on a global scale throughout modern time. The aftermath of such explorative ambitions led to imperialism and colonialism.

Take, for instance, the case study of the Rwandan Genocide in 1994. It is no secret that in the 1990s, an organized plan to remove the Tutsi population from Rwanda was executed by an elite few in the Hutu majority government. The horrors of this traumatic experience are still felt in Rwandan society today. When walking around Kigali on a typical day, one can’t help but notice that the general population is overwhelmingly young. Once you realize why that is, one’s understanding of this thriving, jubilant, and welcoming society becomes more complex.

What most people don’t realize is that the Hutu and Tutsi ‘ethnic groups’ were, in fact, the product of superficial categorical constructions that led to objectivation and ‘otherness’. The categories were initially socio-economic constructions enforced by colonizers (Germany first, followed by Belgium). The Catholic Church also influenced the education system; they taught these constructed categories in school, thus perpetuating an ideology of superiority by praising Hutu over Tutsi peoples. This, alongside propaganda from the state, led to the widespread dehumanisation over time. It can be said that these taught divisions are direct obstacles to peace for so long. It can also be said that because of European nations striving for greatness and yearning to claim new lands for their own, that in the pursuit of science, they have resulted in oppressing an entire group of people to the point where their very existence was deemed irreverent.

By Maya Schwartz

Image: Rwandan flag, creative commons.

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