12+ quotes from An Ordinary Man: An Autobiography

Quotes from An Ordinary Man: An Autobiography

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“This is why I say that the individual's most potent weapon is a stubborn belief in the triumph of common decency.”
― quote from An Ordinary Man: An Autobiography


“Kindness is not an illusion and violence is not a rule. The true resting state of human affairs is not represented by a man hacking his neighbor into pieces with a machete. That is a sick aberration. No, the true state of human affairs is life as it ought to be lived.”
― quote from An Ordinary Man: An Autobiography


“There is something living deep within us all that welcomes, even relishes, the role of victimhood for ourselves. There is no cause in the world more righteously embraced than our own when we feel someone has wronged us. Perhaps it is a psychological leftover from early childhood, when we felt the primeval terror of the world around us and yearned for the intervention of a mother/protector to keep us safe. Perhaps it makes it easier to explain away our personal failures when the work of an enemy can be blamed. Perhaps we just get tired of long explanations and like the cleanliness of an easy solution. It is for wiser people than me to say. Whatever its allure, this primitive ideology of Hutu Power swept through Rwanda in 1993 and early 1994 with the speed of flame through dry grass.”
― quote from An Ordinary Man: An Autobiography


“A sad truth of human nature is that it is hard to care for people when they are abstractions, hard to care when it is not you or somebody close to you. Unless the world community can stop finding ways to dither in the face of this monstrous threat to humanity those words Never Again will persist in being one of the most abused phrases in the English language and one of the greatest lies of our time.”
― quote from An Ordinary Man: An Autobiography


“Facts are almost irrelevant to most people. We make decisions based on emotion and then justify them later with whatever facts we can scrounge up in our defense.”
― quote from An Ordinary Man: An Autobiography


“It always bothers me when I hear Rwanda's genocide described as a product of "ancient tribal hatreds." I think this is an easy way for Westerners to dismiss the whole thing as a regrettable but pointless bloodbath that happens to primitive brown people.”
― quote from An Ordinary Man: An Autobiography


“The other thing you have to understand was that the message crept into our national consciousness very slowly. It did not happen all at once. We did not wake up one morning to hear it pouring out of the radio at full strength. It started with a sneering comment, the casual use of the term "cockroach," the almost humorous suggestion that Tutsis should be airmailed back to Ethiopia. Stripping the humanity from an entire group of people takes time. It is an attitude that requires cultivation, a series of small steps, daily tending.”
― quote from An Ordinary Man: An Autobiography


“I have since thought a great deal about how people are able to maintain two attitudes in their minds at once. Take the colonel: He had come fresh from a world of machetes, road gangs, and random death and yet was able to have a civilized conversation with a hotel manager over a glass of beer and let himself be talked out of committing another murder. He had a soft side and a hard side and neither was in absolute control of his actions. It would have been dangerous to assume that he was this way or that way at any given point in the day. It was like those Nazi concentration camp guards who could come home from a day manning the gas chambers and be able to play games with their children, put a Bach record on the turntable, and make love to their wives before getting up to kill to more innocents. And this was not the exception—this was the rule. The cousin of brutality is a terrifying normalcy. So I tried never to see these men in terms of black or white. I saw them instead in degrees of soft and hard. It was the soft that I was trying to locate inside them; once I could get my fingers into it, the advantage was mine. If sitting down with abhorrent people and treating them as friends is what it took to get through to that soft place, then I was more than happy to pour the Scotch.”
― quote from An Ordinary Man: An Autobiography


“If anybody tried to threaten me I would simply look him in the eye and ask him in a firm but friendly voice, “Why?” The bully would have no choice but to engage me verbally, and this made violence next to impossible. I learned that it is very difficult to fight someone with whom you are already talking.”
― quote from An Ordinary Man: An Autobiography


“If you stay friendly with monsters you can find cracks in their armor to exploit. Shut them out and they can kill you without a second thought. I reminded myself of this over and over.”
― quote from An Ordinary Man: An Autobiography


“Between January 1993 and March 1994, a total of half a million machetes were imported into my country from various overseas suppliers.”
― quote from An Ordinary Man: An Autobiography


“It was not the largest genocide in the history of the world, but it was the fastest and most efficient.”
― quote from An Ordinary Man: An Autobiography


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