Going Belly Up: The Politics of It All


What are your needs vs. what are your wants? It is often the wants that crowds our mind when we think about this, the necessities of survival are an afterthought. The politics behind these necessities are unseen as it is the underbelly of it, knowing that it paints are picture of rawness to these unfortunate circumstances.

In Tram 83 by Fiston Mwanza Mujila, he writes a narrative of the reaction to the political turbulence that has come in the wake of independence in the Congo and its effect on day-to-day life as two men try to navigate without drowning in the desolation, desperation, and desecration of their community and their morality. It is through the body imagery that convey this writhing and hungry side of this politics.

Food is a luxury/commodity that has become scarce in its sustaining force to this community, no longer a human right. The people have become second class citizens, stealing has become a norm in order to just get food on the table. It is illustrated in how Mujila described how a woman has:

“…realized she could only survive in this hardboiled town thanks to her vocal cords, and had attempted the impossible, with such dedication that she made it through.” (Mujila 161)

But the people have also become their own undoing in that they are now the commodity to be sold, whether it be manual labor or prostitution, it shows how much little value they have other than cheap things to be bought and sold are appallingly low prices. Not only that but:

“Ah! Well we don’t go walking without purpose. We dig, we delve, no downtime for us! It even depresses me that individuals who are supposed to be busy indulge in this activity that offers nothing in return!” (165)

It creates a hostile environment where the competition is more than a little fierce but survival of the fittest as losing means you might dies from starvation. It forces the reader to face this unseen/uncertain future, barely making it through the day in a desperate bid for survival. The rhythm of their toil has become a subtle melody in their life.

Because the environment does not allow much empathy or a humanity aside from the rawness of it, the prostitution and the pleasures of it are minute and fleeting fantasies trying to be reality, but ultimately give us their bright and fake promises of happiness if only to get something more than this provincial town.



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