Perspective of Proverbs

The earliest record of human existence dates over 200,000 years ago, followed shortly by recorded civilization being 6,000 years old, and while we live in an exponential world of progress and technology, tradition seems to root itself in humanity. Culture, perception, living: all things that no doubt is influenced by the touch of tradition. In Baho! By Roland Rugero, the passages of wisdom comment on the state of Burundi. 

Inherently, tradition is seen through Burundian sayings as they preface certain concepts the author puts forth.  

“When tragedy assails you, even the plants along the footpath impede your way.” (17) 

The first obstacle of miscommunication is followed quickly by mob justice followed by misunderstanding followed by the impending noose. 

While the people of Kanya feel they haven’t made a return to innocence, these proverbs regardless of the issues or growth of the people, feel rooted in humanity’s predictability. An example of this can be found commonly in American culture with a phrase such as: 

“Two wrongs don’t make a right.” 

A little less poetic, but the point remains. Regardless of uttering this phrase 15, 40, or 70 years ago, the message would not be lost on the people as human nature would suggest a cycle of predictability. While it doesn’t account for all cultures, this form of wisdom has a sense of grounding radiating from it.  

While the wisdom seems prophetic, there are instances where the clash of traditionalistic outlooks versus the reality of the situation doesn’t match up. For example, take the short story within the novel about the beautifully, stunning daughter of the man who always seems to judge the interested men. After so much time has passed and the encounter of the prince, the moral of the story of “You can’t hurry love, no you just have to wait” has a counterpart to Nyamuragi’s awaiting trial. It wasn’t the kindness or self-reflection of the people that saved Nyamuragi, it was the swiftness of his anonymous uncle. The difference being the wisdom of the story of love’s patience isn’t met in the freedom of Nyamurai. What wisdom will come to Nyamuragi’s point of view? That people will continue their mob justice of hangings unless terror comes to them through a gunshot?  

Advertisements

Make Kanya Great Again

 BURUNDI-POLITICS-UNREST-VOTE

“Nostalgia is a seductive liar” – George Ball 

In the novel Baho! by Ronaldo Rugero, the people of Kanya are plagued by a time of distress as the Burundi civil war (1993-2006) has left a behind a resentment and caution of people. The death toll of over 300,000 alongside a blistering drought has created an atmosphere of people longing for a better time as they suffer in the present.  

“One eye makes out reality, and the other seeks the explanation for its harshness.” (7) 

Kanya’s reminiscence of a time where “fathers would not undress their daughters” creates a strong resistance for anything that infringes of the nostalgic concept. Yet the men who strongly desire to go back to a simpler time contribute to the pain of their society by domestic violence and sexism.  

The main protagonist, Nyamuragi, enjoys the necessity of the present as the past creates an illusion of satisfaction while the present suffers. 

“The past rekindles memories and creates a pit in the stomach incapable of being filled. Long live the present! And his mouth.” (29-30) 

The body politics depicted in the story can’t rely on the past, as the concept of necessity is nestled in the now. By denying the present of what it needs (maybe not to beat your wives and create a mob mentality) it is unable to survive. Memory becomes the highlight for this novel providing insight to the people’s life of Kanya, their upbringing and their struggles, and how it has put them in the position they’re in now. 

In many ways we, America, share the same lust for a “return to innocence” while we feel that our morals are crumbling before us. We long for the Great Times of post-WWII, where one could let kids play in the street and wave at friendly neighbors except for the, you know, blatant sexism and absolute xenophobia, but America has moved WAAAAAAAY past that now so, don’t fret. Has there ever been a period of time that was truly devoid of conflict? In the same way, the people of Kanya wish for a time that in the mind has been scrubbed clean of any imperfections.  

Smudges Left by Colonialism’s Fingerprints

It is not secret that the atrocities committed during the colonization of Africa have had ingrained outstanding effects on the people. Notably, the Belgium’s imposition onto the now Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has tarnished a great number of people and have left them to survive off resources that have been craved by other countries.

In the novel Tram 83 by Fiston Mwanza Mujila, the severity of postcolonialism is portrayed as an unfinished metal structure. The novel references actual people and events to affirm that the underlying racial and economic issues. One reference being Henry Morton Stanley, who is credited to have built the railroads (unfinished metal structure) under the rule of King Leopold II of Belgium in 1908

“…the smallest capital of the world, barely comprising a bar, the famous Tram, and the station whose unfinished metal structure brought to mind the figure of Henrey Morton Stanley.” (15)

Up until 1960, The Congolese people were exploited through feverous force and had their native resources exported for the benefit of the Belgium empire, but even after gaining independence from colonial rule in 1960, the DRC was left in pieces and had set the stage for decade long struggles of power. Mujila demonstrates the effects of the aftermath by studying the behavior of the people of Tram 83.

“FIRST NIGHT AT TRAM 83: NIGHT OF DEBAUCHERY, NIGHT OF BOOZING, NIGHT OF BEGGARY, NIGHT OF PREMATURE EJACULATION, NIGHT OF SYPHILIS AND OTHER SEXUALLY TRAMSMITTED DISEASES, NIGHT OF PROSITIUTION, NIGHT OF GETTING BY…” (6)

While the feverish amounts of prostitutes, drunkards, and exploitive tourists may seem extreme in the novel, reality suggests that it isn’t far off. Last reported in 2011, the armed forces of the DRC were using over 30,000 child soldiers (Drumbl 2012). A 2013-2014 Demographic and Health survey found that nearly seventy-five percent of women felt it was acceptable for a man to beat his wife under the right circumstances (MPSMRM 2014). The BBC reports that more than 20% of the DRC’s mining revenue is being lost “due to corruption and mismanagement”; accounting for over 750 million dollars (BBC 2017).

The severity of the DRC underlying problems has caused an international distress for the country, yet as per the formula of neocolonialism, the outside forces that have sparked the instability do not feel compelled to help at the level of necessity.

Mujila’s highlighting of the DRC’s culture shows that the people who live in a place that has been defiled and left must adapt to the circumstances to survive. It’s unclear if the unfinished metal structure will continue to rust for the Congolese people or that the structure must be scrapped. Yet repairing a century of an exploited, forgotten people will not be an easy feat.

 

Works Cited 

Drumbl, Mark A. Reimagining Child Soldiers in International Law and Policy. N.p.: Oxford UP, 2012. Print.

Ministère de la Santé Publique (MSP) et ICF International Rep (Translated). (2013-2014). Print.

“Congo’s Mining Revenue ‘missing’ – Global Witness.” BBC News. BBC, 21 July 2017. Web.

Picture: http://www.enca.com/africa/congo-train-crash-claims-casualties

What’s in an Epic?

If you have read Signs Proceeding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera, you are familiar with most epics (minus the rhyme scheme). You might be asking yourself, why? Let’s see what’s in an epic and what Herrera has to offer in his novel.

Like I’ve said, if you’ve read the novel, you’ve read an epic. Don’t believe me? Read the following short synopsis:

Makina travels a dangerous journey crossing a torrential river, venturing into an unknown land where she searches for her brother in hopes to deliver a message.

Let’s replace Mikina with a made up Greek sounding name like Orthellus, and change the pronouns to male.

Orthellus travels a dangerous journey crossing a torrential river, venturing into an unknown land where he searches for his brother in hopes to deliver a message.

Can you already see the 8th century B.C. cover art of a half-naked man wrestling a giant

snake?

https://littlelondontruths.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/img_1683.jpg?w=302&h=403

Herrera equates the same passion that comes from Greek epics into a story about a young woman named Makina who travels across the U.S. border in an effort to find her brother. Alongside this, we receive an insight that most would overlook: The immigrant who comes not for a better life.

In stories such as The Odyssey or The Inferno, the main character doesn’t travel to a location to stay there. They go through various conquests and face personal moral demons before they triumph in their goal. What makes Herrera’s novel so unique is that for one, the resilient hero is a woman, and two, it combats that the journey of a Mexican immigrant is often depicted as derogatory. Makina overcomes the celestial elements of borders (both physical and mental). Her presence alone in the Anglo populated world is a divine offense.

The diction Herrera uses further supports the idea of an epic.

“Suddenly the world turned cold and green and filled with invisible water monsters dragging her away from the rubber raft…” (39)

Similar to Virgil in The Inferno, Makina also has a guide into the new world. Chucho is described:

“Every muscle in his arms and neck seemed trained for something specific, something strenuous” (37)

While Makina is usually dismissive of men, she is attracted to Chucho’s being (this is the first time outside her brother that a man has a real name associated with him). This reinforces the idea of complementary elements in characters as found in legendary epics.

Herrera creates a character that compliments the duality of the environments and relates it to her persistence. By overcoming physical challenges paired with the emotionally draining pursuit of her brother, the author sets up the perfect recipe for an epic.

Image credited: https://littlelondontruths.wordpress.com/tag/musee-de-louvre/

 

 

The Value of Humanity, Utopia Dissection

How much does a dollar cost? To most, people see a dollar as a quick 3/10 tasting lunch or a song from iTunes, but in Ahmed Khaled Tawfik’s Utopia, there are those who would skin a man for just as much.

Tawfik starts the reading of Part 3, chapter 2 with a song sung in Utopia, praised by the youth there:

“…I squeeze out your soul with my burning flame

So it goes to heaven broken and lame

When the angels ask how it got that way

It’ll say, I slept with the Devil today…” (Page 80)

This foreshadowing sets the scene for our Utopian narrator described as “Alaa” who has yet to ferment into the new environment of the Others. While living in the same place as Gaber and Safiya, he still defines them as animals, not humans.

“There was something bestial and strange in that touch, which I had only seen once before in a monkey…” (Page 84)

The reoccurring issue arises: What is a human? It is coveted to be human, but both narrators feel that in the outcast of the Others and Utopia, humanity is nowhere to be seen.  Tawfik writes Gaber’s sister with monkey-like qualities, yet Alaa doesn’t find her repulsive. When asked if he would “want her” he replies: “I wouldn’t object…but I wouldn’t risk flirting with her” due to being in Gaber’s home and the layers of filth that he believes has corrupted her soul. There is an attraction, a parallel between both worlds that has the ability to unify, but it is being diluted by the negative perception of “Us versus Them”.

While Alaa tries to rationalize his connections to the Others, Gaber decides that he is blinded to the ways of the Others; that his perception is deceiving him for the true reality apart from the reality that Alaa smugly understands. Our window to both narrators are filled with hypocrisy and flaw that not even Gaber can run from. He creates the opportunity to rape a drugged out girl but realizes that he is incapable as Gaber describes a “psychological barrier” that has been created in him.

When Gaber brings Alaa to slaughter chickens to bring home his share of the workload, Alaa is disgusted by such a primordial activity. Gaber thinks:

“They are very particular about slaughtering chickens but they aren’t so particular about slaughtering us.” (Page 112)

There is a disconnect over what is valued by Alaa, unable to see the hypocrisy in killing chickens, but finds a rush of adrenaline when killing just another Other. The animalism was given to Utopian citizens and the Others helps to solidify a feeling of desensitization. When Gaber refuses to rape a drugged out girl he comes to a moment of self-actualization, something that many define as a human trait: the ability to put others unknown before oneself. The sparing isn’t mutual, there isn’t much evidence to prove that Alaa wouldn’t take advantage of Safiya.

There is this constant battle of the haves and the have-nots. To Alaa, his immense wealth is the cause of his dissatisfaction and to Gaber, the harsh environment devoid of wealth brings him hopelessness. Alaa has been able to live a short time with the Others, but imagine if Gaber were to live in Utopia. He would be astounded to see dogs (which he has seen many people be killed over to eat dog meat) are being paraded around all uptight all while his sister coughs up blood from tuberculosis.