Ch. 4 Child Soldiers

How in the world are the few generals in Bel Canto controlling over 15 innocent child soldiers? I don’t really understand it. These are kids, they all have guns, and their innocent. Why don’t they just take out all the generals and then they would get out free and be able to go home, and no longer be bossed around by the Generals. Some of the children are even noticeably intelligent, which means that some I am sure had some schooling. What is making them stay captive with the hostages by these Generals?These are some of the questions that have been running through my head ever since the beginning when the hostage takeover began. How do a few, quite frankly stupid, generals convince all these children to do this with them, They could fight back since there are more of them, but they don’t. So I started reading about child soldiers all across the world, and it all leads back to their desensitization.

They are desensitized in many many ways. They are also brainwashed, and their psychology is warped by the things generals will put them through. It all starts with the children’s capture. The generals of child soldier army’s are generally ex-military that decided to fight on the other side. That being the case, they are typically very good at war strategy. The child soldier groups will come in the middle of the night and take children from their villages. Sometimes they will just kidnap the children and that is all, but often times it gets much worse. This is where the desensitization begins. These rebel groups will come into the villages and destroy everything.They start to kill the villagers, which are always the adults whom these children have known their whole lives. They will perform horrific acts of terrorism right in front of these kids eyes, and even to their parents.

There are many stories of generals taking kids and making them show them where their family is while taking over the village, Once they find their parents they will make the kids torture them. Mothers and fathers will tell their kids to do whatever they tell them to, because they know that if they don’t encourage them to do it then their kids will just be killed by the generals.Can you imagine what that would do to a child, being forced to intentionally harm their parents? The worst guilt ever would be placed on their shoulder knowing they had to stab, remove a limb, or even kill their own flesh and blood. The ultimate form of desensitization. These children no longer want to be at their homes after this, they feel absolutely disgusting, and so now all they have to turn to is the rebel group that they have been captured by.

This guilt begins to compound as they continually make them do more and more things that will desensitize them. If a child soldier is acting up they will bring that child soldier’s friends to come and discipline him by beating or torturing them. If that doesn’t work after a while they’ll even make them kill them, their own best friends. After they have performed such violence they begin to feel inhumane, they begin to forget the importance of life. All they care about is just staying alive and doing what they’re told.

As they continue to progress through the stages of desensitization they will bring them on takeovers of villages. They make them relive that situation, make them bring all those memories back to the forefronts of their minds, and then perform the exact acts as what was done to them and their families. This makes them feel exactly the same as the generals, many stop caring about anything in life and just begin living in a terribly dark place!

Those in charge of the rebel group will then take it a step further and actually start reinforcing violent behavior and malicious acts by rewarding those types of behavior. When children become more violent during hostile takeovers of villages the generals will promote them to higher positions in the groups. They will also feed these children better since they are making their jobs easier and inflicting fear on the villagers.

Its no wonder these kids in Bel Canto are completely submissive to the generals. Even though they may not have gone through the horrific acts that many child soldiers do, I’m sure they had some kind of conditioning on their minds. They wouldn’t act this way as children without being desensitized in some manner, to where they could be coerced into a hostile takeover.  Hopefully something will happen as the story goes on though and the children will revolt as sometimes this will happen in rebel groups with child soldiers.

Works Cited




2 thoughts on “Ch. 4 Child Soldiers

  1. hcelemen says:

    Bryson, I found your post very informative about child soldiers. Being forced to perform atrocities at such a young age is sure to leave a lasting psychological trauma on those child soldiers. I couldn’t help but compare it to the film Johnny Mad Dog directed by Jean-Stephane Sauvaire. Although a fictional film, it is a documentary-style and realistic inspection of civil wars that take place in Africa. I would like to point out that this film is based on real events that child soldiers experienced while under commission of guerilla groups and that the child actors chosen by Sauvaire were escaped child soldiers that needed rehabilitation and re-integration to society because once a child is recognized for their association with the guerilla group they are treated as outcasts by their society. Part of their rehabilitation is breaking them out of the brainwashing and desensitization, most of which are associated with the things you’ve mentioned in your post. It was very disturbing seeing children fight in a war that they are too young to be a part of.

    However, this is under the assumption that these children did do bad things in the past; hence they were desensitized and coerced into working for the terrorists. Even now, it is still difficult for me to see the child terrorists as anything more than children forced to play soldier by having them hold guns and making them think that they have power and superiority over the hostages. The hostages are also realizing the same thing because they are starting to develop emotional attachments and affection towards the children. Furthermore, we have yet to see what these children are capable of or if they are even capable of inflicting harm at all. Some things that were brought up during our discussion in class are the authenticity of there being actual bullets in the guns. If there are bullets in the guns, can they really shoot one of the hostages? Since the terrorists arrived, the generals are the only ones who have shot their guns. Here are some questions I’d like to keep in mind as we get to know more about the terrorists and the children. When push comes to shove, how far will the generals go to get their demands? As the children and hostages get to know each other better, how long will it take until these children realize what they are doing is wrong? Will they take a stand and side with the hostages or stick to the terrorists?


  2. courtfesette says:

    Hey Bryson!
    Since I also focused my research blog post this week on child soldiers/terrorists, I was really excited to see that someone else had done it as well. As I began to read you post I liked that yours differed from my completely, giving me a new perspective on a similar topic. You focused on why the children did not overthrow the generals whereas I my blog post focused on why they willingly joined the generals. Your point-of-view and research provided an informative outlook on the other side of this topic and I found it to be very interesting.
    Firstly, I liked how in your first paragraph you got to the point. Most people draw out their research and main point to their research but you from the beginning let us as the reader know that “it all leads back to their desensitization.” I like this blunt way of writing that immediately lets the audience know the direction your research has lead you in.
    I like how you then go in to how these children are being desensitized rather than just stating they are. Doing this also provoked questions about the book; it made me curious if the same experience of desensitization by kidnapping the children and killing their families and friends happened to the child soldiers in Bel Canto.
    As much as I found your research extremely fascination and insightful, I still feel as though these children join the terrorists because they wanted to, not because they were forced to. In my research I talk about how children with nowhere to go for a good education and who are in low socioeconomic standing tend to turn towards the military, or in this case the general’s “terrorist” group, as a way to support their families and provide themselves with a brighter future. I believe they support the generals’ cause since the generals are fighting for equality for the poor; if they join them, that means they are also supporting for equality. In my opinion they are all on the same side, and that is why the children listen to the generals, even when they are being rude to the children.



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