In an organized banana republic, torture is an art form. It is a craft that must be refined and perfected; something you can take pride in. After the for-profit tourists ravage the city in Tram 83 of its natural resources, the banana republic is no longer organized. Torture became lazy and ignorant of finer torture techniques. Like art and language; torture became nothing but a lost art of the Congolese.
“Torture is above all an art, an artistic discipline just like literature, cinema, or contemporary dance” (Mujila, 145)
While it may be a trade to take pride in, torture remains, at its core, barbaric. One could even make the leap that engaging in torture can turn you in a barbarian. The for-profit tourists have established a system ran by torture and made the torture itself unrefined and crude. They have created a system to turn the people of the City-State into animals.
There is only one word for the way that the for-profit tourists stripped the land of its resources without giving back to those who had claim to the land; torture. Torture is an art form. It is something that strips the tortured of their dignity. In a way, the for-profit tourists have perfected the art of torture themselves by taking the dignity out of an act that takes the dignity out of a person. You can’t even be stripped of your dignity with dignity.
“All the detainees in the City-State ghettos bitterly missed the torturers of yesteryear” (Mujila, 145)
“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.”
One of the strongest images of dehumanization that is seen in Utopia is the prevalence and normalization of women as objects and the perpetuation of rape culture. This is seem from the very beginning in the way the Alaa speaks about women; how he just keeps them around for sex, gets them pregnant, and then moves on to the next girl while the first is recovering from her abortion. Alaa does not make any emotional connections to the women he is sleeping with, they just serve as a body to comfort him in the place of a real connection. He uses women and sex as a coping tool for dealing with the boredom of his life, with no concern with the person hood of these women or how this may affect them. When Gaber decides to finally lash out at Utopia, he decides to do so in a similar way, by using a woman as an object, by treating women as a tool with no person hood; by raping Germinal.
Women are discarded when they are no longer of use. Source: Lasana Liburd
“She wasn’t a lifeless corpse, since I didn’t want to have sex with a dead body…” (Towfik, 115)
Ahmed Khaled Towfik does a good job at capturing the perspective of a rapist in this seen. Gaber does not care about Germinal as a person, at this point he only views her as the body he plans on raping. He only considers what kind of sex he wants to get from her, with no consideration of her wants in the situation. Though, fortunately, it turns out that Gaber does not actually end up being a rapist, this attitude seen in him is not something too far off from the reality of a rapist. For example, after being sentenced to only six months in jail after the rape of an unconscious girl behind a dumpster, Brock Turner decided to try to appeal his already lenient sentence. Among the letters to the court was one from Turner’s father, who boiled the whole experience down to “twenty minutes of action.”
It is incredibly dehumanizing and objectifying to only see women as the quality of sex they provided while being raped. Whether that is only viewing her as 20 minutes of action, or as a incapacitated, but not too lifeless body.
One of the most interesting things that sets Signs Preceding the End of the World apart from other hero’s journeys that the hero in this journey is a young girl. Though there are not a ton of other examples of other young, female heroes, Makina still has found many ways to distinguish herself from them. From the very beginning Makina is shown to be very intelligent, courageous, independent, but realistic. Makina has fears, weaknesses, and insecurities like everyone else while still overall maintaining an impressive amount of maturity and level-headness. Examination of Makina’s character can go on and on; she is pretty magnificent. Though, I like to think that it’s not just because of the way the stars were aligned when she was born, Makina is like this solely because of her mother.
“I don’t like to send you, child, but who else can I trust it to, a man?” (Herrera, 12)
Our first view of Cora is her sending her daughter off to cross the border. A pretty bleak beginning for someone who I hail as an amazing mother. In reality, the only reason Cora is sending her daughter on this journey is because she knows Makina is the only one suitable for the job. If this is a journey created by Cora, with strings pulled by Cora, and everything set up by Cora, why would she send her daughter to do it rather than go herself?
“…but Makina took no notice and instead asked Cora what the deal was, what that was all about, and Cora said It’s nothing, just Aitch up to his tricks.” (Herrera, 29)
She knows her daughter has grown up to be just as mature and capable as she is. Makina is the only one she trusts to send on this journey because she knows Makina will not get caught up in anything other than what she has been sent to do. I believe that the moment that Makina choose to ignore Mr. Aitch and stay, while her brother left is the moment where Cora knew that Makina would have to be the one to go retrieve her brother. Makina would not get distracted by anything promised to her in America; she would just focus on what Cora had told her. It seems almost like Cora is reliant on Makina’s obedience, but I actually see it as she knows she has raised her daughter to be able to make the right decisions during challenging times.