Cultural Relativism/Hotel Rwanda
I. SUMMARY/SYNOPSIS – What are you reacting to? THIS SHOULD ONLY BE A SHORT SUMMARY AND SHOULD BE PREFACED WITH A MORE GENERAL INTRODUCTION TO YOUR MAIN THOUGHTS ABOUT THE MEETING POINT BETWEEN THE MOVIE AND THE THOUGHT PROMPTS BELOW. Should not be more than a 3rd of your paper.
GOAL: Show that you understand the thesis, main ideas, and supporting ideas in the piece you’re writing about.
Identify all of the basic information: about the book/movie/documentary that you can and introduce your purpose/thesis, including:
• the author of the piece, the title of the piece, the title of the book or journal from which it was taken (if relevant), the publisher, and the year of publication;
• the topic or subject of the piece—for example, “The Triangle Shirt-Waist Fire” or “Revitalization efforts underway in Roxbury’s Codman Square.” In other words, tell what the piece is about in a word or a phrase;
• the author’s purpose or motive for writing the piece—for example, “to expose the dangerous conditions factory workers in the United States faced prior in the early decades of the twentieth century” or “to show how residents can unite to improve their neighborhood”;
• your thesis statement (might be similar to the purpose, but not necessarily); you don’t have to agree with it but you can comment on it at this point as a lead in to your thoughts on the piece.
• the sketch of your primary supporting ideas. (facts, moral principles?)
II. Analysis/Evaluation/Reflective Personal Reaction – These can be separate sections or combine into a personal reflection and analysis. Here you should be unpacking your thesis.
IIa. Thought Prompts/Analysis–Choose a few questions below and connect our discussion about cultural relativism (esp, the cultural differences argument and Rachels’ criticisms) with the themes and ideas in the movie.
You should be writing about your naive views as they relate to the possibility of a universal morality versus a relativistic model. Use the movie as an entry point.
+What goals does the United Nations pursue? When, if at all, is UN intervention or involvement morally permissible?
+Tatsi tells her husband (scene 17, roughly 1:20:24 into the film): “You are a good man, Paul Rusesabagina.” Does she mean he is a good Hutu? If not (or if not merely that), what does it mean to be a (morally) good person?
+The film shows that there was a close relationship between the French and Hutu governments, even while the killings were going on. On the tenth anniversary of the genocide, Rwanda’s president accused the French of consciously training and arming the Hutus, knowing that they would massacre Tutsis. The French deny this, yet it is indisputable that France was the Rwandan government’s number-one supplier of weapons. Does this fact alone make France more culpable for the genocide than the rest of the international community? How should responsibility be allocated for what happened, both inside and outside Rwanda? How has the international community, in particular Belgium, France, the United States, and the UN, faced up to the question of responsibility and blame in the years since the genocide?
+How should we define a culture? How should we define societal norms about a topic? How do questions like these impact the prospects for directly linking ethical truth to cultural belief?
+ In 2005, world leaders formally adopted the Responsibility to Protect [R2P]—the duty to intervene in when national governments fail to fulfill their responsibility to protect their citizens from atrocious crimes—and in 2006 the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1674, which commits the Council to protect civilians during armed conflicts. Do you agree that under certain circumstances, R2P should override sovereignty? Can you cite any examples where R2P has been or should be implemented?
IIb. Your Reactions–How do you react to the piece on a personal level? How does the piece relate to your experience or your own “naive” moral perspective?
Goal: Share your own impressions and your own experiences with readers.
1. Here are some questions you might consider answering:
• did the piece hold your interest? Why or why not?
• did the piece bother or annoy you? why or why not?
• what would you ask, or tell, the author of the piece if you could?
• what did you realize as a result of reading the piece?
• what questions does the piece raise for you — about the material, about other things?