Rule Number 0 We are not living We are Dying

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William Gibson a famous science fiction writer once said ” If a nation’s laws are situational, that nation has no laws, and soon isn’t a nation.” (William Gibson) 


In the novel Tram 83 written by Fiston Mwanza Mujila  we get a peak into this country of situational laws Gibson talks about.  Tram 83 is a novel following the mundane adventures of Lucien a writer from the country and his brother Requiem the underbelly king. The novel contrives its name from the bar that the entire unnamed city state seemingly revolves around Tram 83.  Within the text it is easy to see the harshness of living within the city state through the rules that Requiem tells Lucien throughout the story.  These rules not only show the difficulty of living in the city state but also serve as a way for Mujila to comment on how Africa isn’t doing well as a whole.

“RULE NUMBER 23 :  every day is a pitched battle. As soon as dawn breaks you wonder what you’re going to eat, and then, with the sun you reintegrate the cycle of the city state.” (Mujila 82) This rule sets a tone for the social commentary of the difficulty of living in the Africa as a whole. Living is compared to that of a “battle”  or a war to survive. Something as basic as eating isn’t guaranteed in city state, which is social compared to the whole of Africa.  This idea and rule is reinforced from an earlier mentioned rule “RULE NUMBER 34: Watch out for hunger! Toddlers barely weaned, have been known to take entire trains hostage. ” (Mujila 46) While the train hold up is in place to be  funny it is also to show that hunger is so vast that not even children are unable to escape it. This rule serves the author point in that Africa is in need of help and that living is closer to that of slow death.

The one rule that seems to rule over the rest is “RULE NUMBER 67: the mighter crush the mighty, the mighty defecate in the mouths of the weak, the weak sequestrate the weaker, the weaker do each other in, then split for elsewhere.” (Mujila 32) This sets the tone for the novel and Africa in general. Power is what matters in the City-State. Power is money or some form of monetary wealth.  In a region where the system is set up to be equal to that of a food chain that it is difficult to see an escape from the current social paradigm. The City-State and Africa have become closer to an ecosystem of animals, by Mujila comparison, then to that of a civilized country.

Through William Gibsons quote on could easily see that this nation is a nation of rules not laws, and by Gibsons idea we as readers can see that this nation is soon to fail. Mujila observes his as well  and writes Tram 83 and its rules to inform the reader that Africa right now needs help to get out of the survivalist cycle of dog eat dog world mentality. Through these rules that Mujila constructs perhaps more people will understand and the fragility of the African nations currently and through this education break the cycle that has been constructed in Africa since colonial times.






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