The Cyclical Repercussions of Injustice

In several of the books studied so far on the module there are many points of comparison to note: ideas of globalisation as a negative concept; cultural disagreements as a root cause for injustice; and the cyclical repercussions of injustice. Discussing the latter, it becomes clear that in the majority of the novels studied on the module so far this is a point that is made time and time again.
In Kincaid’s “A Small Place”, the British Empire’s tyranny displaces the hatred harboured in the narrative towards tourists and other Antiguans. By excluding, or even attacking these groups (including the reader) the problem is hardly solved. Indeed, in the text itself Kincaid addresses this and explain that she doesn’t want an apology, because that is not sufficient.
In Danticat’s “Breath Eyes Memory”, ideas of generations and legacy are explicit. Perhaps the most obvious examples are the harmful Haitian traditions enacted on women – particularly virginity testing. It is almost like a curse that is inherited by the females of the family; a seemingly endless cycle of violence that isn’t broken until Sophie liberates herself.
In Diaz’s “The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao”, the very structure is suggestive of an inheritance of some sort. The injustices suffered by the mother Beli’s have an indirect effect on her children Oscar and Lola. With the idea of the Fukú central to the story, it isn’t hard to piece together the cyclical nature of hatred and injustice within the text.
In Abani’s “Graceland”, the government in Lagos is cyclical in its corruption; even the slums have a repetitiveness to them. Sunday’s alcoholism is just one example of people’s acceptance of their dire situation. On page 312 a man states that “we are who we are because we are who we were made.” This give rise to the idea that the people of the slum situation can only endure and not challenge their injustice which moves in an unbreakable cycle.
In Aboulela’s “The Translator”, there is a focus on family and the positive possibilities of cross-cultural understanding. At the heart of this novel, Sammar believes that a person’s religion may limit the extent to which they can understand another. This focus on a misunderstanding between the North and South, East and West is one that is in danger of leading society into a cycle of misinterpretation.
In Ghosh’s “The Hungry Tide”, the clash between nature and artificiality or – to be more specific – living in harmony with nature and living against it, is at the heart of the novel. The injustice that sets people who live in the archipelago of islands against those who live in the cities; and those who live alongside the deadly tigers in the East against those who pay for their preservation in the West, is presented in the book and never truly resolved.
This concept of a recurring injustice that breeds hatred (in Graceland), or even more injustice (in Breath Eyes Memory) is central to society today. It is present in financial injustices (the crudest example is debt, be it on a domestic or international scale), violence, racial and cultural stereotyping.
As discussed at length in the seminars, the texts raise our awareness of injustice but offer no solution to this problem – how could they possibly try to provide one for such a vast and dynamic problem? Perhaps Amartya Sen’s “realization-focused comparison” is helpful here? Whilst it is not possible to extinguish injustice – both historical and current – or the animosity that comes with it, there may be a solution in continually working toward a better situation. There is some hope; “The Translator” and “The Hungry Tide” both show relationships that build on a mutual understanding across cultures. Tabish Khair’s Fighting Islam from the Missionary Position is all about the need to address flaws and assumptions in cross-cultural understanding. This understanding may shed light on a way to prevent injustice spiralling uncontrollably.
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Viren Mistry

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