How much does a dollar cost? To most, people see a dollar as a quick 3/10 tasting lunch or a song from iTunes, but in Ahmed Khaled Tawfik’s Utopia, there are those who would skin a man for just as much.
Tawfik starts the reading of Part 3, chapter 2 with a song sung in Utopia, praised by the youth there:
“…I squeeze out your soul with my burning flame
So it goes to heaven broken and lame
When the angels ask how it got that way
It’ll say, I slept with the Devil today…” (Page 80)
This foreshadowing sets the scene for our Utopian narrator described as “Alaa” who has yet to ferment into the new environment of the Others. While living in the same place as Gaber and Safiya, he still defines them as animals, not humans.
“There was something bestial and strange in that touch, which I had only seen once before in a monkey…” (Page 84)
The reoccurring issue arises: What is a human? It is coveted to be human, but both narrators feel that in the outcast of the Others and Utopia, humanity is nowhere to be seen. Tawfik writes Gaber’s sister with monkey-like qualities, yet Alaa doesn’t find her repulsive. When asked if he would “want her” he replies: “I wouldn’t object…but I wouldn’t risk flirting with her” due to being in Gaber’s home and the layers of filth that he believes has corrupted her soul. There is an attraction, a parallel between both worlds that has the ability to unify, but it is being diluted by the negative perception of “Us versus Them”.
While Alaa tries to rationalize his connections to the Others, Gaber decides that he is blinded to the ways of the Others; that his perception is deceiving him for the true reality apart from the reality that Alaa smugly understands. Our window to both narrators are filled with hypocrisy and flaw that not even Gaber can run from. He creates the opportunity to rape a drugged out girl but realizes that he is incapable as Gaber describes a “psychological barrier” that has been created in him.
When Gaber brings Alaa to slaughter chickens to bring home his share of the workload, Alaa is disgusted by such a primordial activity. Gaber thinks:
“They are very particular about slaughtering chickens but they aren’t so particular about slaughtering us.” (Page 112)
There is a disconnect over what is valued by Alaa, unable to see the hypocrisy in killing chickens, but finds a rush of adrenaline when killing just another Other. The animalism was given to Utopian citizens and the Others helps to solidify a feeling of desensitization. When Gaber refuses to rape a drugged out girl he comes to a moment of self-actualization, something that many define as a human trait: the ability to put others unknown before oneself. The sparing isn’t mutual, there isn’t much evidence to prove that Alaa wouldn’t take advantage of Safiya.
There is this constant battle of the haves and the have-nots. To Alaa, his immense wealth is the cause of his dissatisfaction and to Gaber, the harsh environment devoid of wealth brings him hopelessness. Alaa has been able to live a short time with the Others, but imagine if Gaber were to live in Utopia. He would be astounded to see dogs (which he has seen many people be killed over to eat dog meat) are being paraded around all uptight all while his sister coughs up blood from tuberculosis.