The complexities of Nyamuragi’s trial and the gender-related issues it raised was really striking and thought-provoking. In Baho! by Roland Rugero, citizens hounded and gathered around a man—who as a mute, was completely unable to defend himself—and were prepared to punish him for a crime he did not commit and of which were unsure that he even intended to commit. This was a group of men and women that were clearly on edge, terrified of the rape culture that haunted their area. They were quick to judge the situation because of how untrusting they were as a whole towards their men. Many men present at the trial were distracted with their own thoughts of guilt as they contemplated their own sins in secret. With this dynamic I could not help but make a correlation to John 8:7, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone.”
Prosecuting Nymuragi so harshly stemmed from the no-tolerance attitude towards rape that these men and women had adopted. While as men, they seem to be acting in good conscience, we learn that the men here do not want to protect their daughters, sisters and wives solely for love, but for preservation. Women are labeled as goods to be sullied. Fathers of daughters who have been raped are consoled for their loss of dowry prospects.
Many men in this society rely heavily on variations of the phrase “may I undress my daughter if …” (42) in order to establish their credibility or honor. While it is specified that this phrase used to provoke confidence it no longer creates trust and in fact, provokes distrust—another reason men are depicted as untrustworthy and unconscious in this work—while really the only thing that seems to define whether they are honorable is how many cattle they own. While the women do so out of fear, these men make Nyamuragi the sacrificial lamb for appearing to intend to rape a young girl, whilst they are all guilty of poor morals towards their women which—if any shame is felt—they hide deep inside themselves.
Baho! By Roland Nugero is a story heavily framed by women and the conditions of women in Africa. We become familiar with the stories of women who have been beaten by their husbands, run out of their homes, and worse. The storytelling around and during Nyamuragi’s trial are in large part framed by womanly themes, being that the basis of this trial surrounds Nyamuragi’s accusation for rape of a young girl. We come to find that the reason the men in this region are so furious is not solely based in good character, but in the way they have been conditioned to think of these women: as property. Raping a woman would be to devalue a man’s property; dowries would be withheld, marriage proposals withheld, and there would be no compensation to be had from these women. “Their honor must be avenged because their domain has been desecrated … Excuse me! Him! That unfortunate freak of nature. He has desecrated their domain and sullied their wealth …” (26). We come to understand that men are protective of the women here only because they see them as possessions. Furthermore, men here, give themselves a bad name and seem to be completely oblivious to their own faults. We hear of men who are drunkards, who are adulterers, rapists: “The country is being purified of abominable vices like rape and infidelity” (38) crimes perpetuated by man. However, some of these men stand around acting like innocents.
The contrast in the way in which men and women here reacted to this trial is stark. For many women, the near rape of Kigeme brings back painful memories of their own hardships, and for some men it brings to their minds their own faults which they are not particularly ashamed of. It seems the men here are uncertain of their futures because obviously there is no future without their women as possessions in they way in which men here envision themselves and see their place in the world alongside—or above of—these women. It is sickly ironic this way of thinking, in which every man has been painstakingly grown and carried into this world by a woman and now thinks he owns her. Man would be nothing without woman, and it is high time that men work to raise women up, not tear them down.
The dysfunctionalities of the city-state presented in Tram 83 include a severe lack of infrastructure, a nation displaying the characteristics of a banana republic, and a nation under the power and leadership of an authoritarian ruler. The chaos and disorder that exists in this nation is not one that would equivocate a whole, unified, and well-governed area that would earn the title “city-state,” and living in such a world creates dire consequences for its citizens.
“The city-state possessed all the characteristics of a disorganized banana republic” (171). In large part what makes the city-state dysfunctional is a general who does no good for the citizens but instead shamelessly takes from them, effectively depriving them of necessary electricity or resources: “People used to have power twenty-four-seven, before companies started sprouting like mushrooms. The term “blackout” didn’t appear in the dictionary” (92). The powers that be have decided what amount of electricity the public “needs” and have decided that a few days a week … a couple of days a week … and now only a few hours per day will do. They have taken to the point of cruelty and only take actions that are detrimental towards the citizen’s livelihoods rather than aiding the advancement of their people: “What will they do with their teeth when there’s nothing left to graze? Man proposes, God disposes. What will they do when the jujube trees grow shears? Will they eat those very shears?” (142).
The effects of of living under an authoritarian general, result in citizens who are forced to employ an “eat or be eaten” mentality, displayed in the way in which they live their day-to day lives: the guileless waitresses viciously seeking their tips, the baby-chicks eager to provide their services, the tourists who take advantage of a helpless situation all to satiate their bellies—to survive.
“The mightier crush the mighty, the mighty defecate in the mouths of the weak, the weak sequestrate the weaker, the weaker do each other in, and then split for elsewhere” (45).
In the Yuri Herrera novel Signs Preceding the End of the World, we are met with a contrast that showcases what is perhaps the malignant stereotypes of immigrants to the US and the point of view of a young woman who takes part in the experience of crossing the border.
Makina is not your typical young woman. She’s gritty, and employs a no nonsense, tongue in-cheek personality. She sets off on a quest, leaving her home in Mexico to set towards the American border to retrieve her brother. This highlights what is perhaps the most common and attractive enticement for migrants coming to this country: family. It is astounding how scarcely people are empathetic towards the motives of the well-meaning immigrants they view as criminals, those who come to America for the promise of more opportunity and to provide a better life for their loved ones. The poem “New Colossus” by Emma Lazurus which sits on the base of the statue of liberty—the most symptomatic symbol of the American spirit—states: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” America is meant to be a melting pot of dreamers. However, many American citizens see American land as a possession to be owned, to be tucked away safely so that no one will threaten nor their ownership of it nor its contemporary existence.
The truth is, migrants do not come to take. The allure of this country is undeniable, but the superiority complex that is evident in the American way of thinking is one that promotes the idea that everyone wants to be here and that there is not enough country to go around, causing malignant possessiveness. Makina is by contrast, completely unattracted to the American lifestyle, and embarks on her journey with little in her bags and plans to return as soon as possible: “She was coming right back, that’s why that was all she took” (70).
Makina clearly does not see the US through rose-colored lenses. The observations she makes throughout her journey are not those of wide-eyed admiration, but instead she takes an approach that shows she feels her ties to her own country deeply “ … on staring up at the sky Makina thought that it was already different, more distant or less blue.” (55) Makina is critical of the things and people she sees: “on versing out to the street they sought to make amends for their momentary one-up by becoming wooden again so as not to offend anyone” (75). Her mindset would prove boggling and perhaps even ironically offensive to those who, unwilling to make room, would be eager to cast her away only to learn that they wouldn’t need to.
In Utopia by Ahmad Khaled Towfik, we meet an egocentric narrator who lives in the gated, US marine-protected enclosure of “Utopia”—a hypothetical near future set in 2023—where humans are divided into two categories: the Utopians and the Others.
The Utopians bask in a life of luxury soaked in unadulterated freedom and zero traces of adversity; in this world, the people are severely devoid of anything resembling true empathy—one of the core values of humanity. Our narrator along with his fellow Utopians view the Others as part-animal, non-human, and incapable of possessing the same qualities as the Utopians. It becomes clear that this concept is truly ironic in the sense that our narrator’s moral character, or lack thereof, is not unlike all those around him, and this is only the tip of the iceberg.
He has reached a point in his existence in which death is alluring and the value of life among people is not equal. This leads him to seek pleasure and excitement in the form of hunting the Others. This demonstrates this character’s loss of humanity. To be so cold as to equivocate the life of a human, any human, to that of a creature that is to be hunted for sport is a level so beyond the realm of basic human empathy that it is inconceivable to most. He concocts a plan in which he will travel to the outside, where the Others live, find a suitable victim and bring back a viable souvenir. This plot is paired in stark contrast to the events that actually unfold when he is faced with the reality of the world outside of Utopia. While he fails to recognize his own loss of humanity, he is quick to condemn the Others for the qualities that make them different and perhaps, somewhat animalistic. While observing a woman named Safiya as she interacts with his partner Germinal, he compares her curiosity to that of a monkey: ” … she cautiously put out her hand to Germinal’s hair and started feeling a lock of it. There was something bestial and strange in that ouch, which I had only seen once before in a monkey who put his hand out once to feel my fingertip out of curiosity when I was at our zoo” (84). This contrast which shows the consequences of oppression, serves to reveal that the Utopians have suffered a loss of humanity far more sinister than that of the Others.