Integrity & Disintegrity: Costs and Consequences

In the novel Tram 83 by Fiston Mujila, we are given two characters, Lucien and Requiem, and we focus on their actions in this fictional city-state that mirrors the real-life DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo).  In it, they are surrounded by a chaotic stability in this almost lawless land that is corrupted to its core. And with the characters of Lucien and Requiem, we see these aspects of integrity and disintegrity and the results of their choices.

Let’s start with Lucien, who tries to maintain a moral righteousness in this very unruly land. According to Mortal Combat,a criminal associate of Requiem,his description of Lucien’s lifestyle is that,” You, don’t smoke, you don’t eat dog, you don’t raid the Polygon, you don’t deliver merchandise, you flee the girls, you don’t take liquor, I wonder what you do in life!” (Tram 83, 165)and with this we get more of an idea of what Lucien does in order to keep himself morally upright in this criminal environment. With him not participating in what we perceive as horrible actions, we see that he tries to uphold himself from going along with what everyone else perceives as normal (ex. smoking, eating dog, delivering stolen goods, having sex with woman of any age, drinking) And yet while is a better person than most people we read about in the novel, there’s always a cost.

The consequences of Lucien’s actions tend to not work out for himself in the long run of the novel. After discovering that Emilienne was pimping out baby chicks,girls usually under sixteen years old, he abandons her at the cost of her financial assistance ( he is broke and nearly homeless by this time) and is followed by this narration, ” Why do you keep trying to exceed the limit of tolerability? What kind of man are you? Is the reality of life not sufficient for your conscience? Must you deprive yourself of the pleasures of the underbelly to be a writer? What idiocy to want to pass yourself off as a hero? Ultimately, what exactly is the conscience of a writer who won’t open his eyes?” (Tram 83, 193) which showcases the costs of Lucien’s integrity. He rubs people to the point where they can’t tolerate him, becoming an outcast to the Tram and others in order to write,coming off as a white sheep amongst black sheep who. Ultimately, he ignores most of the terrible things that are happening while he tries to uphold himself to a higher standard that costs him greatly.

Next we have Requiem, who embodies disintegrity; acting more on malintentions rather than good intentions. This is evident when we discover his criminal operation,”Requiem possessed nude photographs of some two hundred and fifty tourists. They were completely at his feet. They bought him drinks, paid money into his account each month, revered him almost” (Tram 83,102)and this shows how much Requiem throws away his moral compass of human decency. While it could be argued that what Requiem is doing is a sort of twisted justice ( the tourists themselves aren’t a innocent bunch), Requiems blackmailing is still a despicable thing to do. Not to mention the countless other crimes he commits that everyone else, besides Lucien, seem to have embraced (ex. eating dog, lying, cheating, stealing, killing, engaging in prostitution among an unknown number of crimes). Yet he still gets his dues later on.

Later in the novel, we see some of the costs that Requiems criminality have costed him. Before his departure from the living space he was sharing with Lucien, Requiem,”Sometimes he came back bleeding like a sponge. Sometimes he showed up virtually naked…’You know what I owe a Greek ship-owner $5,765,000 in two mornings’ time. What to do? He swears he’ll have my hide.'” (Tram 83, 174) which showcases several instances of Requiems disintegrity causing himself to be hurt, humiliated, and paying dearly for the consequences. Yet, despite all this, even when he was mobbed out of the Tram, he always got back on his feet and with almost no consequences to himself. His criminal actions, while always coming with a cost, hardly affected Requiem and he gets back and with a stronger resolve to commit more malintent.

In the end this tells us that the city-state Fiston Mujila created is chillingly close to the reality of the DRC. Where people with good intentions are mocked and ridiculed,having to turn a blind eye to the immoral happenings around them which costs them more than they can bargain against. And yet those with malintentions repeatedly act on criminal actions, pay the consequences to a degree and then… nothing. Their criminal actions are a few compared to the many criminal actions that people have embraced in that part of the world, and people like Requiem would only be punished unless they committed grave offenses that people can’t get over. In total, people with integrity, those who try to be morally upright, are treated worse and have to turn a blind eye to the worst things in a place like the city-state while the people with disintegrity, those who act with more malintent, repeatedly do so and, while punished to a degree, continue to make the lives of the people miserable.

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And the suffering continues.



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