The other day a junior friend – “junior” relative to my age – woke me up to the bizarre fact that we used to enjoy “Westerns”. Indeed, it’s with shame that I recall this.
First, though, something about that “junior” tag. It may be a misnomer, despite its validity, because he has quite a sizeable number of years stacked under his belt. Hint: my friend is a regular opinion pusher on this page, like yours boringly!
But then again, that’s neither here nor there. We were talking “Westerns”.
Short for “Western films”, this was a cinematic genre that ruled the roost during the early days of the American Old West. Those days, Hollywood action films more often than not pitched two groups against each other: gun-toting Settler (White) Americans against arrow-slinging Native (Red Indian – so derogatory) Americans.
A Settler American cowboy on his horse and in a Stetson hat, two revolvers at the hips and rifle in hand, leading a gang of fellow gunslingers, would emerge from behind a hill and stand astride, on top.
Then, with cold slits of eyes, as he chewed on a long-dead cigar, he’d observe the crowd of Natives below, in various aspects of herding cattle.
When our ‘hero’ spat out his cigar and rode down guns blazing and mowed down the whole ‘villainous’ crowd below, with hardly any help from his gang, we cheered ourselves hoarse!
That ‘Silver-crown’ could understand the ramification of it all, at our tender age, and many of us couldn’t, makes my heart bleed.
You see, those were the migrants of yesteryears who’d survived the Atlantic Ocean waters by a whisker, like today’s African migrants and the Mediterranean Sea perils.
Imagine these African survivors today euphemistically calling themselves “Settlers” in Europe and obliterating the “Natives” there.
And some naïve character somewhere on this earth cheers, even if it were to be a cinematic representation of that reality. It galls the guts of any right-thinking human.
If you think the comparison of those yesteryear Settler Americans and today’s Africans is far-fetched, you’ve heard of the Titanic tragedy of 1912. Now imagine how treacherous the Atlantic waters of the 16th century were, when Europeans en masse first endured them to migrate to the Americas.
All of us on this globe with a human heart can’t fail to grieve for those Native American victims. As we can’t, those of the 16th century Atlantic, of the Titanic, of the Mediterranean.
No one should cheer at the mass-slaughter of any people, for any reason. And as we hate to see any such malevolence cheered in real life, so should we, in any dramatization.
On that score then, we concur. Or do we?
You who watch adventure films today and you who don’t, if you are a ‘silver-crown’ you’ve seen or heard of the likes of action-man John Wayne or Clint Eastwood. If you’re a ‘black-dome’, you’ve seen or heard of the likes of action-man Sylvester Stallone or Scott Adkins.
In fact, some ‘black-domes’ have been known to call themselves “Rembo” (for “Rambo”)!
The very young, too, if you are not watching movie heroes of eliminations of aliens, you are playing video games that reflect that. And you applaud elimination of those aliens.
Now Imagine: has any alien from any planet committed any wrong against anybody?
So, almost all of us have lionised these ‘heroes’ because we are made to believe they are ridding us of evil Native Americans, Russians, Vietnamese, Africans, Arabs, Aliens, on and on.
Villains exist in any society (don’t ask me about the Alien society!) and must be punished, alright. But it’s been imprinted into our minds by these dramatizations that some societies are wholesale villainous by nature.
If that’s not brain-washing, I don’t know what is. And we are almost all guilty as charged.
The faithful too but, unlike ‘Silver-crown’, I’m not so foolhardy as to veer in that direction!
Anyway, we in Rwanda are all too familiar with the criminal trivialisation of the Genocide against the Tutsi with the Hollywood cinematic representation of a genocide-promoter as a ‘saviour hero’.
With the click of a camera-lens, the whole protracted struggle to liberate and totally eradicate any genocidal sentiment and any residues of it from this land by the RPF/A gallants was totally eclipsed. In place of these gallants, a genocide denier was presented as our ‘rescuer’.
This fair land was reduced to the silly nomenclature of Hotel Rwanda and the world swallowed that as the Holy Grail.
Of course, this criminality has been tried and is being tried, even as we talk; through sections of Western cinema, media, literature, name it. But Rwandans have fought it with vigour and valour every time it has reared its hateful head.
Today we are awake to the littlest attempt to manipulate minds.
The sane world must come together and actively rewrite humanity’s true story to expose these wicked mind-corruptors. Let’s all together in solidarity carry the torch of that campaign!
In Rwanda, the first gunshot that rang out on October 1,1990 signalled the launch of that, in part.
Total liberation doesn’t start any better than that.
The views expressed in this article are of the author.