What makes us human? Is it our emotional attachment? Or is it our overbearing arrogance of power? Is it our minds in which we invented everything we use nowadays? Is it our capability to feel remorse and regret?
Maybe none. Maybe all. Maybe just one. To each his own.
To me, what makes us human is our emotional attachment to other living and/or nonliving things (like I said- to each his own), our connection and emotional attachment to one another, and our ability to reason and change throughout our lives based on how we’ve lived and what we’ve been through.
The novel Utopia, by Ahmed Khaled Towfik, challenges its readers to really question what makes us human. Set in Egypt in the year 2023, Utopia is an isolated colony the rich created on the Northern coast to keep the poverty and all the baggage it comes with, out.
The residents, Utopians, are spoiled, wild, they have lots of sex, have every need taken care of, don’t have to worry about a thing in life, are emotionless, poisoned by their possessions, and are bored, entitled, and infatuated with death. To them, death is so intriguing, it’s seductive. It’s romanticized.
And to me- that’s creepy.
Yes, there is something somewhat interesting about death. It comes with all its questions such as: Is there an afterlife? Are there ghosts? Is there really a God we get to meet once we die? And many, many more… But in Utopia, that’s all the young people think about.
In the novel, Alaa, the “predator” narrator of the book, is cocky, violent, rapes for fun, intimidating, self-centered, and looks like the Grim Reaper because he wants to. He has a fake scar and uses contacts to make his pupils white, he colors his teeth, and he has a purple mohawk. If that is not screaming for attention, then I don’t know what is. He is bored with his life- he wakes up, goes to the bathroom, uses drugs, eats, throws up, has sex with his African maid, eats, and throws up more. This is his morning routine. Once finished, after just a mere hour, he is done for the day and has nothing left to do. Having done everything is not enough for him.
He is bored. He needs MORE. He now needs a new way to kill time, and for that he needs to kill. He decides to go where The Others are, those outside of Utopia, who are poor and and full of disease and starvation. The Others are his target, his prey.
This novel brings to light how, to the Utopians, life outside of Utopia is nothing and The Others are just people waiting to get killed, showing how little they value lives that are different than theirs. Life and death play an important role in this novel, especially when death is as romanticized as it is by the Utopians. They make a game to invite death into their lives, all because they’re bored and ran out of things to do.