Of _______ and Men

In Utopia by Ahmad Khaled Towfik, we meet an egocentric narrator who lives in the gated, US marine-protected enclosure of “Utopia”—a hypothetical near future set in 2023—where humans are divided into two categories: the Utopians and the Others.

The Utopians bask in a life of luxury soaked in unadulterated freedom and zero traces of adversity; in this world, the people are severely devoid of anything resembling true empathy—one of the core values of humanity. Our narrator along with his fellow Utopians view the Others as part-animal, non-human, and incapable of possessing the same qualities as the Utopians. It becomes clear that this concept is truly ironic in the sense that our narrator’s moral character, or lack thereof, is not unlike all those around him, and this is only the tip of the iceberg.

He has reached a point in his existence in which death is alluring and the value of life among people is not equal. This leads him to seek pleasure and excitement in the form of hunting the Others. This demonstrates this character’s loss of humanity. To be so cold as to equivocate the life of a human, any human, to that of a creature that is to be hunted for sport is a level so beyond the realm of basic human empathy that it is inconceivable to most. He concocts a plan in which he will travel to the outside, where the Others live, find a suitable victim and bring back a viable souvenir. This plot is paired in stark contrast to the events that actually unfold when he is faced with the reality of the world outside of Utopia. While he fails to recognize his own loss of humanity, he is quick to condemn the Others for the qualities that make them different and perhaps, somewhat animalistic. While observing a woman named Safiya as she interacts with his partner Germinal, he compares her curiosity to that of a monkey: ” … she cautiously put out her hand to Germinal’s hair and started feeling a lock of it. There was something bestial and strange in that ouch, which I had only seen once before in a monkey who put his hand out once to feel my fingertip out of curiosity when I was at our zoo” (84). This contrast which shows the consequences of oppression, serves to reveal that the Utopians have suffered a loss of humanity far more sinister than that of the Others.

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