The city state: Real or Imagined

Fiston Mujila writes of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the state colonization left it. Mujila often refers to it as a city-state meaning he floats between two systems of power. The term city-state is a reflection of the old form of democracy.His references to what democracy  was meant to be, and what it is is. One of the ways Mujila describes the city state is this, “The inhabitants of the city-state mumbled when asked about their profession. High voice. Evasive answers. Narrowed eyes. Vague and uncertain look like the trains that depart with diggers and students.”  (Mujila 32) We are looking at a country which just won its independence, but do they know what to do with it? By adding the college students with the diggers and the prostitutes Mujila paints a nation still struggling with its identity. It wants structure, but it its unfinished. Left without a blueprint to finish and be whole.

Though what evidence does Mujila give us that the City state actually runs and is something that is real. It’s not the dissident general who’s power exists because he’s the wealthy guy in charge. In fact by the end of the book the general is almost as vulnerable as the people are. Mocked and laughed at for his appearanceBy the end of the book the general’s power crumbles, Mujila states, “There was a dissidence within the Dissidence. A hundred mercanaries broke away from their leader and switched arms and ammunition.” (205)  If the city-state exists it is dependant on the people, and the people in it. The tram being the symbol (metaphor) of the city state, is the heart of the people. The people are in a state of chaos, and so remains the city-state. What it lacks in structure it fills with forms of rebellion. Music, art, pornography, drinking all these things meant to fill that gap. What is keeping them alive is the mines, and its not just work.  Everybody who does business at the trams, tourists who spend money there. What’s left of the culture is depended on the unfinished structure.

What is the people? That is an interesting title to give. It could mean different things. For instance “The people” could be the only one that counts. For example, to the dissident general the one he recognizes is the one that profits from the mines like himself. Not the one’s at the tram. Which is why he can close it so easily. The people supply the city state also struggle to supply themselves, and because of this division there can hardly be a city-state or representative democracy. In the book Mujila writes, “As soon as dawn breaks you wonder what you’re going to eat, and then, with the sun, you reintegrate with the cycle of the City-State, you fish, you dig, you scavange, you glean  you divise, you fuck, you sell, you trade, you peddle, you abuse, you corrupt, you drink you shit, in the stairwell, you identify with jazz, you taunt the white tourists.” (75) and as you read this you can see that the city-state gets progressively worse.  It could be hopeless to do all that work, and see nothing change. The city-state is a real thing, but reality crushes it. As the person feeds the cycle it becomes less and less a state. More like a country of individual wants. Which is fine, but in order to have a true city-state cooperation is needed. The country cannot have that until the leader serves it in return. Which becomes less and less as the book goes on.




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