Meeting the standards of a human

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The novel Utopia is constructed of having two different sides of the world one good and one bad. On each side lies to different communities filled all with the same thing just different aspect, it’s all filled with people. In this book, it is using a lot of words to set a feel of dehumanization among all of the people of the “outside”. Making these people sound like a waste of space or animals scavaging through life one drink or drug at a time. these people are in bad shape but for reasons behind the story. isolation from the real world has taken a toll on these people and made their appearances not so great but something that was out of there control yet still are given a title of an animal or nonhuman like figure.

“they pretend their eating meat, and pretend that they’re drinking alcohol, and of course they pretend they’re drunk and have forgotten their problems. they pretend they have the right to err and sin. They pretend to be human.” (37)

Made me think of society today and what we consider human. Every living person on this earth has a right to be called human, we breathe, we walk, we eat, we laugh, we love and we all have the same beating heart as everyone else does in this world. HUMANS ARE HUMANS!!! They keep saying over and over throughout the novel how much people aren’t human but what makes a person human? we are all living breath creature fending in the f*&%$ up world around us.

“looking for bits of food thrown in the rubbish heaps. Then they’ll die of tuberculosis one day and they’ll find them beside the wall. That’s their lives” (pg. 92).

In our world today I see it similar to Utopia by society looking at homeless people the same way. just because homeless people don’t have homes and don’t have food or nice clothing we look down on them as if they don’t mean anything, I have witnessed people physically hurting homeless people for no reason just because they feel like they don’t mean anything. Homeless people live on the streets get dirty possibly do drugs or drink and are treated so badly for something they might not even control. homeless people are humans just like us. the ” outsiders” were humans just like the “utopians”. Makes me think what if the wall around Utopia was broken down and the world was put together giving the Outsiders the opportunity to show how “animal like they really are”.

Just because you drive your nice car, have a nice warm bed to sleep in, eat daily meals and can say that you have enough money to support yourself doesn’t give you the right to sit and dehumanize the people who don’t.

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Baby-Chicks as Symbols of Corruption

In Fiston Mwanza Mujila’s novel, Tram 83, the baby-chicks symbolize the corruption of the City-State, revealing the destructive relationship between wealth and those impoverished by its desperate pursuit. The baby-chicks, prized for their youth and casual attitude toward sex, are used by the men of the City-Sate without regard to the baby-chicks age, health, or future. The risky nature of prostitution leaves many baby-chicks victims of, according to Lucien’s list, abortion, childbirth, rape, pneumonia, sequestration, and sexually transmitted diseases (Mujila 76). Despite the pleasure they bring their clients, the baby-chicks are left to fend for themselves and at great cost. This attitude parallels the corruption and desperation of the City-State, in which mines are divvied out as political favors and shut down as punishment. The tourists, or foreigners who develop mining operations, use the City-State’s mines and to the disadvantage of its native citizens. The mines use great quantities of electricity and, rather than investing in the City-State’s utilities or taxing the tourists, the dissident General opts to turn off citizen’s electricity on a regular basis and at increasingly frequent intervals. About the dissident General’s methods we’re told,

“As time passed, he adjusted his decree to two days, then one, then two hours, reasoning that the processing plants for the minerals so dear to the tourists require more electrical power, that the inhabitants of the City-State don’t have much need for it” (Mujila 73).

By restricting power usage to benefit the tourists, the dissident General is stunting the development of the City-State. The baby-chicks represent this restriction on potential, serving as temporary attractions until their health or age inevitably end their careers. Both the baby-chick’s profession and the exploitation of the City-State are unsustainable. Shortcuts to wealth taken by government officials and the tourists damage the nation’s infrastructure and hasten its collapse.

Do I Have the Time?

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It is a question someone hears every now and again. A conversation starter, a way for people to push themselves into someone else’s world or simply a distraction for another idea trying to take shape and form. It’s simplistic and can have really only a flexible and simplistic answer outright, but in Tram 83 there’s more to these words than just a question being repeated every couple of chapters that some may just not be seeing.

It can be a simple and literal question, however thinking deeper about the words themselves as a reader gives all sorts of ideas in mind considering the topic of the book.

Do I as a viewer from behind what could be a window, have the time to worry about these character situations and plights? Even if it doesn’t concern me at all and isn’t real?

Do I have the time to stop and think about what one character said something pages ago to fully understand why another character is saying something else?

Do I have the time to give Tram 83 a chance to tell it’s story before I deem it uneccesary and forget about it in the back of my mind?

Do I have the time to continue reading this story that perceives its own vision of blackness in Africa through jazz, boozing and uncontrolled activities when I myself don’t agree with it?

I am sure I do in fact have that kind of time. After all I am reading a story, rather than seeing this happen right in front of me and in the moment. However, the question isn’t whether or not I have the time?

But will I, or anyone else, give their time away to something they don’t know about.

 

You Really Need to Educate Yourself

“And you earn a living doing history?”

“Look what can happen by dint of imitating the tourists!”

“I’ll throw myself onto the tracks if my dad insists I study history and stuff,” exclaimed a kid, barely ten years old, who was with his father. (Mujila, 42)

In Tram 83, getting an education doesn’t fall at the bottom of people’s list of priorities; it’s not on the list at all. People live in a perpetual competition for resources and economic opportunities. Education is something that is privileged, associated with those who have the luxury of not working for, at the very least, four years. It’s “imitating the tourists,” the people who come only to exploit their land and live in the luxury of not having to fight every day to survive.  People are dying of hunger, you have to work to survive day to day. You have to take any and all opportunities. and get a “real job.” Even when you do get an education, how do you earn a living in academia? No one is reading.

There’s no reason for those in Tram 83 to want to read, anyways. They live in a country ravaged by colonization and still receive no benefit from the for-profit tourists that own the mining industry. They are not the victors, and it is the victors who write history. Those on top will always write history, and as a person who has been oppressed you loose your history. I know I wouldn’t want to read that either.

Seeking an education is something that is inherently hopeful. You get an education so you can have a better future, so that you have more opportunities. How can you justify an education if you do not have a future at all? Educating yourself does not do anything besides waste time you could spent working for a living, there aren’t any jobs for those who are educated. As a student, you will also have to find a way to get to school and become forced to rely on the unpredictable train. The only thing that changes once you become a student is what your predicted death will be. On pg 76 we learn that the number one cause of death for students is to be hit by these trains, followed closely by an even bleaker cause; suicide.

It’s not as simple as, “educate yourself.”

Repetition Within Tram 83; the Purpose.

Repitition is a tool that’s often used in many forms of literature, media, and everyday life. It helps people get into a state of mind that they find comfortable, that helps others achieve goals at a necessarily easy of fast pace, and it helps improve work ethic.

However, when it comes to literature, and writing, religion can be used in many forms as well. From calling back to a scene, to repeating an action over and over, it can be a tool that can be easily harnessed, or abused entirely. Within the novel, Tram 83, the use of repetition is used I need interesting, and rather unique, ways. The novel delves into the life of a city plagued by barren land and terrible conditions, with most of events surrounding this abdained, unfinished tram, known as Tram 83.

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The novel, though translated, has many instances of repitition, such as the phrase, “Do you have the time”. This phrase is constantly repeated throughout the novel, and it’s something I was somewhat confused by whenever I saw it. It kind of comes out nowhere, but as the novel goes, and you read, it becomes more apparent, depending on the situation that’s happening in the chapter. It was strange and didn’t really understand the necessity of having it appear over and over again, but as I continued to read, and suppduscuss in class, I got many mixed ideas from my own perspective.

One idea came from the fact that the nice, takes place in such a rundown and corrupt world, that I believed it to originally be something that just happens because, simply, it was strange. It was all over the place and came out fo nowhere, much like some of the sudden violence and resentment situations that are described in the novel, such as corrupt police and the parties within the Tram that are loose and overcrowded.

Another, much later on, came from the idea that the phrase is used as a coping mechanism for the protagonists of the novel. I thought, “Maybe it’s used to keep your thoughts, or mind, in check. So you know that you’re not losing it while traversing through this terribly uncomfortable situation”.

Finally, when we can to the end of the novel, I’ve come to the new realization that religion within the novel is used for some form of purpose. Even if it may seem random, or out of the blue, the author that writes it always has some purpose of ng should just be freely scattered around in a novel, or else you’ll create confusion. So my new realization for it, would have to be, that it’s used as a way to get the reader thinking. I know the realization sounds kind of lame, but to be honest, that’s what I got out of it. I found out that the phrase is actually used in regards to the “baby chicks” of the novel, or the underage prostitution that plague the area and are simply like any other person that just happens to work in a seedy business.

However!

i feel like religion within this novel is used to provoke thought and discussion, even if it already has a definite answer. It made me  and use critical thinking skills, and overall, I found some of the reasons that I had found, as well as the ones that others shared in class, to be more interesting, especially when reasoning and opinions were thrown into the mix as well.

all in all, religion may seem strange in a novel, but within this novel, I find it to be equally stimulating to the mind, as well as a necessary too, within literature, in order to provoke thought to all readers.

The Start of a Revolution

Probably the most striking part from the novel Utopia by Ahmed Khaled Towfik has to be the conclusion. For me, the way Khaled decided to end the novel should be looked at more carefully.

“I saw them there, advancing along the horizon. They were carrying torches and shouting in anger” (Khaled, 156).

From this quote, we could create an image in our mind of a crowd of angry people marching, fighting for a justice system… Does this sound familiar?

Nirappil, Fenit. “Youthful March for Our Lives.” The Washington Post, WP Company

Due to recent tragedies involving gun violence, there have been many movements rising demanding a change in the system. People of our society are fed up with innocent lives being taken away and came together as a community to fight for their voices to be heard and for actions to be taken.

“Thousands marched in liberal Los Angeles, closing off the downtown core for hours. More than 120 marched in Victorville, in a high-desert region more associated with conservative values. About 5,000 gathered in a park in Santa Ana. In each place, marchers demanded that lawmakers end the easy access to rapid-fire guns and take action against the everyday violence that plagues urban communities” (LA times).

The Others were constantly mistreated and were living in a society that seemed to be against them in every way. The Utopians seem to have no sympathy for the Others, as a matter of fact, it seems like they believe that the Others deserve the mistreatment, the poverty and the rape. When Alaa raped Gaber’s sister we could see how he feels about the Others, “You are less than us in every way. That’s how life is. You should just accept it. No one is capable of changing a thing…” (Khaled, 132). Utopians believe they deserve their rich, privileged life just like they believe the Others deserve their unpleasant lives. Khaled shows the readers that having a social hierarchy in today’s world could cause many problems that can result into a revolution.

Similarly to how the group of teenagers began their march towards better gun control, the Others marched their way towards Utopia to show their anger and frustration towards the way Utopians set up the unfair world they live in. Both groups strive for a better, unprejudiced society where the odds are not against them.

Ahmed Khaled Towfik is attempting to show his readers that a change must be made in this hierarchical system we live in today. The sooner we begin to make the change towards a humane society, the sooner we can stop these tragedies.

Animals vs Humans

We should never try to degrade any particular group to being less than anyone else. We should never have people not even be considers human at all. We should try to help and support each other in every way possible. In the novel Utopia by Ahmed Khaled Towfik and translated by Chip Rossetti, there is constant example after example of the use of animals to describe the others. The people from Utopia think that they are better than everyone else. The others and the Utopians call each other non-humans, the others are seen as cockroaches while the Utopians are seen as rats. In both ways they degrade each other but, Utopians act on this while others are treated like they are worthless. However, if people aren’t helping each other and treating like they are worthless aren’t they the real animals?

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Even though we all love our pets and we care about animals, we do not see them as equals to us, they are more like properties. This is how slaves used to be treated and how Jews were treated in concentration camps. Examples that we can see from our own lives today are people like the homeless or immigrants. I can see some people treat the homeless like they are worthless. They look away and try to ignore them while the homeless ask for money. There is dogs and other animals that are treated better than they are, easily spending money on meals for dogs but we can’t even take care of our own when they are in times of need. Some Americans act like animals when they act like this. Another example is how immigrants are treated, I also see people treat immigrants like they need to worship Americans or they need to do the hardest work for the least amount of pay off. They make them do the jobs that no one else wants. The photo above is to represent how we all have animals inside us and we are all capable of becoming animals.

Appropriation, Rhythm, & Resistance in Mujila’s Tram 83

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“Jazz is no longer the story of the Negroes” writes Mwanza Mujila in his novel Tram 83. In his novel, Mujila takes colonialism and whiteness to task. One example of this is the first glimpse into the popular club which the novel is named for: Tram 83. In this scene, Mujila paints a picture of appropriation through Jazz:

In the labyrinths of the City-State, you don’t listen to jazz to get a whiff of sugar cane or reconnect with Negro consciousness or savor the beauty of the notes: you listen to jazz because you have to listen to jazz when you make your bed on banknotes, when you deliver your merchandise daily, when you manage an extraction plant, when you’re cousin to the dissident General, when you keep a little mistress who pins you to bed in a dizzy haze. Jazz is a sign of nobility… (Mujila 11).

Jazz originated from African American Blues in the USA, which developed from slave songs. Jazz in itself carries a long history of oppression and resistance. Here, Mujila demonstrates the way in which colonists appropriate that history for themselves, and also highlights the way in which the citizens at Tram 83 play into this: “…the jazzmen continuing to prostitute music” and “the yelling of the tourists and other upstarts who identified with the atmosphere, waxing ecstatic, grooving” all “fueled the fervor of the bank, and consequently the lynching of that beautiful melody” (10).

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This warping of jazz for commercial use and commodification, the appropriation of a cultural component by the colonizers, is criticized by Mujila in this excerpt. The jazzmen “prostitute” the music out to those who don’t connect to it’s history but just want to use it for trivial fun. This use of the music devalues it, and it is instead taken by those who colonized the Congo and benefit from extracting its minerals and other aspects of the corrupted system put into place by the colonial project.

It is also a critique of those who are a part of this problem, as “the diggers and the students adopt the manner of the tourists… Smiles like the Queen of England, they mime imaginary empresses. Jazz is the only lever used by all the riffraff of Tram 83 to switch social class as one would subway cars” (11).

The Congolese peoples here are shown to try to mimic those who created the system which they are in many ways stuck in, rather than resisting the narrative that has been created and resisting the power structure which has been created due to the politics of extraction. However, Mujila’s novel is in itself a resistance of that, because the novel mimics the rhythm of jazz and through this novel, Mujila tries to create a narrative depicting the Congo by someone who is from the Congo – not an outside white gaze, and he also reclaims Jazz in doing so and makes it a narrative of resistance once again.

How Corruption Runs Lives

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In Tram 83, there is no doubt that there is corruption present. Corruption is defined as:

“the misuse of entrusted power for private gain.” In the novel, Tram 83 by Fiston Mwanza Mujila, the trouble of corruption is portrayed time and time again. A quote that stood out to me from the text is as follows:

“You write an epic poem about the hairstyle of the president’s wife, they give you a house; a monologue rehashing the dreams of the Minister of Divination, clairvoyance, and prophecies, they buy you a trip to Venice; a novel about the president’s childhood, they appoint you Minister of Agriculture and Bovine Farming…”

This quote nods, not only to favoritism, but governmental corruption. Because of the emphasis on corruption throughout this novel, I was curious to see what “real-life” Africa corruption was like.

According to the Naij website, researchers conducted a study from 2014-2015 on the level of corruption and perception of the current situation by citizens of twenty-eight African countries.  Overall, citizens of the countries concluded that the government is not doing enough to overcome corruption. More than half of the participants said that corruption has increased within the last year and continues to grow. A sad, but true, statistic gathered from survey data, was that those of higher income are less likely to be demanded to give a bribe than those of lower income.

This video shows the most corrupt countries in the world.

Do You Have the Time?…

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…or in other words, “Would you like to have sex with me for money?”

“Do you have the time?” might as well be the catchphrase for Fiston Mwanza Mujila’s Tram 83, considering it was by far the most repeated phrase in the entire novel. Upon the first few readings of the unavoidable phrase, readers may just think, “Wow, no one in this book carries a watch on them” but soon enough it is uncovered that the persistent question is used by prostitutes (of all shocking ages) to invite men to pay them for sex. This phrase is seen in many difference sections of the book but is extremely prevalent when our characters are in the chaotic and busy train station, which is inevitably filled with eager prostitutes. “Do you have the time?” shows up in almost every chapter of the book, and nearly every page.

Mujila emphasizes this repetition and in a sense shoves it in the reader’s face for two different reasons. The first, is to show just how persistent these women are in getting their jobs done. In a sense, persistence can even hint at a bit of desperation that these women face just to make ends meet and how the average 9-5 job has started to disappear in this society. The second reason he repeats the phrase so much is to show just how unavoidable prostitutes are in this setting. The train station is basically crawling with all kinds of “baby chicks” and “single mamas” looking for a job. Our main characters, Lucien and Requiem, can’t get anywhere without being asked for a good time, and they especially can’t hold a solid conversation without being interrupted by a girl at work. The men have even grown so used to this every day occurrence that they don’t stop their conversation to respond to the women, unless they are taking them up on the offer.

Mujila’s repetitive “Do you have the time?” in Tram 83 shows readers the sad and unavoidable nature of prostitution in this post-colonial setting.