I found it interesting that Rumor Hermisferico chose to name his poem “Major Tom (Coming Home)” after David Bowie’s song “Space Oddity” which features an astronaut called Major Tom. Major Tom is a fictional character that first appears in “Space Oddity” on Bowie’s album of the same name released in 1969. While Major Tom becomes a regular character throughout Bowie’s albums and videos through the entirety of his career, it is only “Space Oddity” that is mentioned in Buzzing Hemispheres. In the song “Space Oddity”, Major Tom is a man who travels into space. He gets very, very far (past one hundred thousand miles) when ground control tries to reach him to tell him his circuit is dead, and there’s a problem. The last words from Major Tom are “Here am I floating ’round my tin can, far above the moon. Planet Earth is blue, and there’s nothing I can do.”
Why did Hermisferico specifically choose this song to name his poem after? In the first line of the poem he writes
“the answer song to space oddity plays in downtown
cafes in all the cities of the planet “
Above the poem is written Syracuse, NY.
One thing we discussed in class is the use of noise throughout Buzzing Hemispheres. The reader can almost hear the city streets in “Major tom (Coming Home)” with lines like
” the drum shuffle the side streets.”
So what is the answer to “Space Oddity”? It seems that Hermisferico isn’t writing about Major Tom but the answer to “Space Oddity.” When listening to Space Oddity, it’s a song with a lot of noise. There’s a lot of instrumentation going on and celestial sounds and it can feel noisy but there are also times it is more quiet, especially when Major Tom is floating around space, he says he feels “ very still” in the song. So what exactly is the answer to “Space Oddity?”
Hermisferico also mentions Phil Collins’s songs twice in the poem. One line says ”
“love lives like in
that phil collins song going on too long”
Which, in my opinion, any Phil Collins song goes on too long. But I am curious as to why Hermisferico specifically chose Phil Collins and David Bowie to write about, and to name his poem after. After listening to both artists, I am no closer to a definitive conclusion.
To equate a group of people into less-than human, to make them seen as animals is one of the classic strategies used in racism, and to a greater extreme, genocide. Hitler often described Jews as parasites. This very practice is seen throughout Ahmed Khaled Towfik’s novel Utopia. The Others and those living in Utopia use animal metaphors to represent the other, with cockroaches being one of the most prevalent metaphors presented. The Others tend to be viewed as animals throughout the novel. The way they are forced to scrounge for food evokes images of animals. The way The Others are literally hunted for sport by those in Utopia. Alla and Germinal lure their victims in with a hamburger the way I get my dog to come in by offering her a treat. It’s much easier for people to harm, or even kill, people when they are viewed as less than human. When describing The Others, Alla says “This flight of yours is no different from a cockroach fleeing on the kitchen wall, or an amoeba sliding under the lens of a microscope” (4). Alla isn’t even equating The Others to animals at this point but to an amoeba. And how easy is it for people to hunt deer? For some to hunt other large animals? How easy is it for most of us to step on an ant, to kill a cockroach lurking in your kitchen? Imagine how much easier it would be to dispose of something not even containing a consciousness. This is how Alla and the people of Utopia justify treating The Others. It’s the oldest trick in the book when it comes to the justification of hurting others. The people of Utopia have convinced themselves that The Others deserve the pain they live in. They truly believe they deserve to be hunted.
When it comes to The Others, it does feel they’re living off instinct, mostly. They’re so busy trying to survive in their harsh environment, there isn’t much time or room to behave in ways we, or the people from Utopia, consider humane. There’s filth everywhere, food is scarce. There’s disease and hardship. Their lives are short, painful and difficult, so of course they resort to sometimes acting with animal instincts. But, they are not animals. They are not amoeba. They are human and that’s what the people of Utopia do not want to believe. The same could be said for any group “othering” another. None of us are born superior or inferior based on money, comfort or boarders. We are all human, no matter how different form one another we may appear.
Will The Others in Ahmed Khalid Towfik’s novel Utopia revolt against The people of Utopia? I believe that they will. The novel ends with the uprising of The Others. And though The Others poor and deprived, they have power in numbers and they have determination. What do they have to lose? Their lives are already in ruins, they are already as poor as one can be. They are dying of curable diseases, they are starving, they are killing each other. What they have that the people of Utopia don’t is anger, poverty and nothing to lose. I don’t believe it will be easy or pretty, but nothing in the land of The Others is. The Others have been in poverty so long and have had their humanity stripped from them for so long, they have reached a breaking point, “As the saying goes, ‘the rock endured many blows but it only shattered on the fiftieth. ‘ It’s not the fiftieth blow that did that but all the previous ones” (153).
The question was brought up in class: will the US ever revolt? My belief is that we will. When things are bad enough, when the average person in the US has been dealt their fiftieth blow. While we can hope that things never become as divided as they are in Utopia, there is a general unease these days as the middle class becomes more and more obsolete. I am of a generation who will live a shorter life than my parents because I don’t have access to affordable healthcare. I will never make enough money to own a home. I am tens of thousands of dollars in student debt though I’ve managed to live my entire life debt -free besides. There is no guarantee I will have a job when I’m out of college and if I do, there is definitely no gurantee my job will pay enough to cover the repayment of student loans, healthcare, rent, a balanced diet, not to mention a little set aside for fun. The distribution of wealth in the US is so off-kilter that it eventually will have to change. There will reach a breaking point if things continue to progress as they are. There was an attempt with the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations and while they weren’t successful, I believe it was just the beginning of an eventual revolution. The French did it. The US did it in 1783 and I believe if things don’t change, we will do it again.
Yuri Herrera’s novel, Signs Preceding The End of The World, translated by Lisa Dillman, tells the story of a young girl, Makina, crossing the border from Mexico to the US in search of her brother. One thing that caught my attention while reading the novel is that Makina is constantly in motion and constantly learning. After Makina finds her brother, the ultimate goal of her dangerous trip across borders, she turns right around to begin her unpredictable journey back home. Though Makina comes across a tough, smart, and strong young woman in the novel, she still learns much from her trip, as do most people when they leave home to travel, no matter what the journey may entail. For example, on her trip to the US, Makina sees snow for the first time. Though it may seem an insignificant milestone, it was a learning moment for Makina. Upon Makina seeing a snow flake for the first time, Herrera writes:
“One came to perch on her eyelashes; it looked more like a stack of crosses or the map of a palace, a solid and intricate marvel at any rate, and when it dissolved a few seconds later she wondered how it was that some things in the world- some countries, some people, could seem eternal when everything was actually like that miniature ice palace: one-of-a-kind, precious, fragile” (55).
While The United States is portrayed as a dark, scary, featureless and dangerous place, there is a moment of beauty and understanding for Makina upon seeing snow for the first time, a sight she may have never encountered had she not left her hometown in Mexico. It was a unifying moment for Makina, making all people and their places of origin seem equally significant and insignificant at the same time. She felt less fear after this realization. Though Makina will not return to Mexico with her brother, she has become more knowledgeable and empathetic because of her journey.