Another Kafkaesqe Moment

Yesterday my wife and I experienced another kafkaesque moment. As I explain in a previous post the term kafkaesque is a literary description of a work that has a similar feel to that of a work by the writer Franz Kafka. His works give the reader a surreal feeling of subtle terror. He does this by throwing his characters into situations where they are confronted with unacceptable or unreasonable circumstances. The reader is forced to accept the unacceptable because of the nonchalant way the characters including even the protagonist accept the situation. For instance being transformed overnight with no explanation into a giant bug. Or being placed under arrest but refused the right to know under what charge or who is bringing the charge against you. 

Every Monday and Friday morning I teach an English class to a young man from the republic of Guinea. I always now carry my documents in my back pocket for easy access if I’m about to be arrested. It’s a good thing I did too because that Monday morning ‘Control of Foreigners’ was in full swing. Often just called ‘Control’ the measures which include checkpoints and random vehicle searches are thought to prevent anti-terrorist activity. This particular ‘Control’ has everyone confused, as Chinese who are not usually targeted and even natives are being stopped and questioned. Anyways we arrived at our location without being stopped by the police. However when we stepped out of the car we noticed people being questioned some already wearing handcuffs. My pupil had a worried look on his face as he peered through the crack of his iron door. We were ushered in and he began bolting the door. Just as he secured the first bolt, someone began kicking the door and shouting. 

“Open the door! If you don’t open we’re going to break it down!” 

This, by the way is unusual as home invasions are rare. But as I said before this particular Control is unusual. As far as we could tell anything was on the table. Even home raids. Nevertheless after a few tense minutes the police drove away with the ‘suspects’ they had arrested. Considering all that had just happened (it was my students cousin they had arrested) I wasn’t sure if he was up to having the lesson. Who am I kidding? I wasn’t sure if I was up to giving the lesson. But my student pulled out his chalkboard and secured it to the wall. Minutes later we were practicing the unique English ‘R’ sound which is difficult for many French speakers. After the hour long lesson my student changed his mind and decided to open his store. He had resolved to stay closed all day but his customers wouldn’t hear of it. They showed up and chided him for being a coward. They acted as if the morning events were no big deal. I would describe the entire event as another kafkaesque moment.

– William Chasterson 

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What does Kafkaesque mean?

The term kafkaesque is literary description of a work that has a similar feel to that of a work by the writer Franz Kafka. His works give the reader a surreal feeling of subtle terror. He does this by throwing his characters into situations where they are confronted with unacceptable or unreasonable circumstances. The reader is forced to accept the unacceptable because of the nonchalant way the characters including even the protagonist accept the situation. For instance being transformed overnight with no explanation into a giant bug. Or being placed under arrest but refused the right to know under what charge or who is bringing the charge against you. 

I’ll give an example of a situation that actually happened to me that I could only describe as kafkaesque. A friend and I were walking down the street talking when suddenly a conversation from some elderly people in his tribal dialect caught his attention. He stopped and said something doesn’t smell right. All at once police officers dressed in black with the words, “NATIONAL SECURITY” displayed on their backs appeared on every corner. They immediately began arresting people. My friend had his umbrella up to protect us from the sun so he instinctively covered my face with it and told me to act calm. I should probably take a moment and explain my situation. As an American my documents are in order. Americans are welcome in the country and viewed highly by the authorities. But you see I am an African American which is rare in this country. When the police look at me they see an African foreigner from a neighboring country. This means I have no rights. They can rough me up all they like and ask questions later. At the end of the day when they realize I’m an American they’ll have to let me go. But what I’ll have to endure before they come to that realization is unpleasant. It’s easier just to run and hide along with the other undocumented foreigners. I never imagined I would be facing this kind of reverse racism when I decided to come to Africa. Anyways…Back to the story. While the police arrested a man right in front of us my friend calmly pulled me into a store to by a can of soda. He conversed nonchalantly with the store owner even laughing. I of course tried to be very calm on the outside though I was bugging out on the inside. In fact I noticed everyone was very calm except for the people being arrested. Once they had on the handcuffs they too were resigned to the situation and became calm. At this point I felt like a character in a Franz Kafka book. Though police were everywhere we ducked out of the store and into an alley. My friend spoke loudly to me in his tribal dialect to throw off the officers. We entered a small section of woods, crossed a river and discovered suddenly that their were officers searching through the woods. We quickly exited and ascended towards a main road. But as we got there an armored truck full of military personnel was driving by. They passed us but then suddenly stopped and began to reverse the vehicle. Again my friend instinctively blocked my face with his umbrella but this time he simultaneously hailed a taxi. As we sped off I could see the soldiers peering into the taxi to see if it carried any foreigners. However they didn’t bother to stop us because there was plenty of low hanging fruit surrounding them. The taxi dropped us off in an isolated neighborhood where we could visit another friend until the invasion was ended. I was agitated for the rest of the night but my friends were indifferent. They soon seemed to have forgotten that we were just running from the police. By the time we returned home it was dark out. The foreigners were back on the streets laughing and talking as if nothing had even happened. To me, describing the events of this day is the best way I can think of to answer the question: “What does kafkaesque mean?

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HOME INVASION

I’m trying not to run for my keyboard every time something happens. Especially considering I have an approaching deadline to finish my book ‘Metaphysical Man the Don Quijote of the Digital Age’. Nevertheless I feel as if I need to write about something that happened last night especially since it ties in with something I mentioned in a previous post. And that’s home invasions. 

Yesterday my wife and I were approached on the street by a soldier who wanted to know who we were, what we were doing and where we are from. As he questioned us I noticed a truck full of his fellow officers emptying onto the street preparing for a raid. While we explained our nationality using strong American accents many others were arrested and loaded into the trucks. As I said, I wasn’t planning on writing about this event as it is becoming commonplace. But the same night we heard some sort of altercation occurring behind our house. I peeked out the window and saw an angry soldier yelling at the neighbors in broken English about something. Suddenly the large soldier walked to the wooden window of the neighboring house, lifted his powerful leg which was decked in blue  camouflage which if I’m not mistaken indicates the Air Force. With his shiny black combat boot he noisily smashed in the wooden window while the neighbors stood by afraid to interfere. After a while a bare arm came out the window and threw something onto the ground. It could have been his documents but it was most likely money. The soldier picked it up and walked away satisfied.

We have the proper documents but I’d be lying if I said the accelerating aggressiveness of this particular ‘Control’ doesn’t have me a little worried. I can’t help but wondering, will my home eventually be raided?   

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“Today we literally dodged a bullet.”

Something very strange happened to my wife and I after a long day of volunteer work. My taxi driver friend who I mentioned in a previous post had warned us about taking any unpainted taxis. “They’re not really taxis,” he explained. “The majority of the crimes that take place here are committed by people with unregistered cars. If something were to happen to you while in an unregistered car, do you know how hard it would be for someone to track down the criminal?” He then went on to tell us of a personal story where he had to pull off the road and throw the door open to expel his passengers. He suddenly got a strange feeling about the passengers who he had agreed to carry to an isolated area for a considerable sum of money. Two of them were carrying bags which he sensed contained knives. He was convinced they had plans to kill him and sell his organs on the black market. After throwing out two of the passengers the third refused to take no for an answer and gripped onto the car door. My friend peeled off dragging the man until he finally let go. The story did its trick. We were scared straight. No more unpainted taxis for us even if we’re in a hurry. 

Nevertheless as time went on we grew lax. As I mentioned it was a long day, we were exhausted and intent on getting home as quickly as possible. So when the unpainted car pulled up and replied to our call for taxi by honking his horn we ran over to him. We told him our desired destination and again he honked the horn signaling his affirmation. We piled in and headed down the road. Suddenly he looked back at me and asked if it was okay if he made a stop off at his house to drop off his soccer cleats before taking us to our destination. From what I’ve experienced so far in this country the request was not that unusual and since it was on the way I said, “Sure. No problem”. To our surprise he then pulled into an entrance of a wall marking off a military compound. We weren’t in the actual compound itself but it was the residences of the soldier’s families. Soldiers were everywhere. Upon entering he stopped and said a few words in his dialect to some soldiers sitting at a bar near the entrance. “Are you going inside the compound?” we asked. He assured us he was not. Foreigners are not supposed to be inside the compound unless you are with someone who can vouch for you. We had just met this guy so my Spidey sense began to tingle. It was my wife however that took action. I didn’t notice it at the time but the taxi driver began rolling up all the power windows and slightly accelerating towards an opening in the wall. There were weeds lining the entrance and we sensed he was about to take a road that lead into the bush. This caused my wife who had already pulled out her cell phone to throw open her door. As a result the taxi driver stopped the car and looked back for an explanation. “I want out! I don’t feel comfortable!” my wife yelled as she exited. “Look I’m just dropping off my cleats!” The taxi driver lifted up the soccer cleats he had under his seat. “Let’s go William!” She explained, “We can’t be inside here.” The taxi driver continued to argue, “I’m a soldier myself. As long as you’re with me nothing is going to happen to you.” I think it goes without saying that our next move was to exit the area as fast as our legs could carry us. We grabbed the next painted taxi we found and quickly headed home in silence. We were deeply disturbed for the rest of the night as we pondered what it was that almost happened to us. The next day I told my friend everything that happened and he said the guy definitely had a plan for us. Average citizens here don’t have the right to bear arms so for the most part you don’t have to worry about violent crimes from the general population. Military personnel is a different story. They use their arms with immunity. After today’s experience the expression ‘we dodged a bullet’ will take on a whole new meaning for us.

When Metaphysical Man, Atro City’s resident superhero and trendsetter is inadvertently sucked into an alternate world by a mysterious super villain he’s forced to overcome his only weakness; reality. Read more at http://smashwords.com/books/view/540303#amreading #amwriting

Pride & Humiliation

The other day my friends and I were in the mood for some freshly made Churros loaded with sugar. So we piled into a car and headed to the Churro spot. We fought our way through African traffic only to find that the freshly prepared Churros we were hoping for were all gone. To not have driven all that way for nothing we settled for what was left.While I waited in the car for the Churros something disturbing happened. A military truck full of soldiers swerved to hit a cat that was trying to cross the road. They clipped its head with the tires of the truck. It looked as if was just injured and could shake off the incident and keep running. Then I noticed the small puddle of blood on the street by the cats head. His body attempted to pick itself up but his limbs wouldn’t cooperate. Suddenly his body began convulsing. I wanted to look away but for some reason I couldn’t take my eyes off the cat. I wasn’t the only one either. A small crowd began to form to witness the animal’s slow death. The experience left me a little shaken and I debated on whether or not to include it in this post. I decided to include it because the ominous feeling it left me with accurately foreshadowed the event that was about to take place.

After purchasing our stale Churros we headed home. Before I explain what happened on the way home, first I think you need to understand the traffic situation in our country. Unlike America where stop signs, traffic lights and one way signs are seen as nonnegotiable commands here they’re viewed as suggestions. If you complain at someone for blocking your path by coming up the wrong way on a one way street instead of apologizing they argue back. “This road is new. We don’t have to respect the signs yet!” The police are more concerned with shaking people down for money than monitoring traffic violations. Also depending on what car you drive you may not have the same rights as others. For instance it’s common to see brand new cars and SUVs stopping traffic to carry on conversations. Or honking their horns and speeding past all of the older cars as if the road belongs to them. The car most looked down upon is the taxi. It is seen as the cockroach of the road. My friend by the way is a taxi driver.

We were headed home when we noticed one of those brand new SUVs parked in the middle of the road in front of a bar. The car wasn’t blocking our side but in order to pass it the other cars needed to enter our lane. We had the right of way being that it was our lane but as we tried to pass, another car entered our lane and pulled up to our front bumper. It was an obvious act of disrespect. He wanted us to back up and let him pass. As I sat there waiting to see who would back down first a soldier came out of the bar and walked up to our window. He warned us that we should back up because the person who wanted to pass was a lieutenant. Swallowing his pride my friend backed his car up onto the curb even though he had the right of way. This however wasn’t enough for the lieutenant. He needed to express his dominance further. Even though he now had enough room to pass he began honking his horn to demand the taxi move back further. This was too much. My friend stood his ground as the lieutenant finally began to pass. The lieutenant paused to give my friend a challenging glare. Again my friend stood his ground and stared back. The lieutenant asked him if he’s sure he knows how to face serious problems? This was a not so veiled threat. My friend displayed humility but the pride of the lieutenant demanded an act of humiliation. My question to you is what would you have done?

When Metaphysical Man, Atro City’s resident superhero and trendsetter is inadvertently sucked into an alternate world by a mysterious super villain he’s forced to overcome his only weakness; reality. Read more at http://smashwords.com/books/view/540303#amreading #amwriting

What’s the difference between you and I?

From immigration reform to ethnic tension in Jerusalem to the Ferguson Missouri shooting the entire world is focused on the racial divide separating human beings. If I were to make the claim that there is no difference between the races it would most likely be taken tongue in cheek. The politically correct response is to acknowledge that we are all of course equal. But do we really believe this? Without fear of being judged I’m going to ask you to honestly consider the question.

I will attempt to make the case that not only is there no difference in the races but that race is a myth. I believe the human mind needs to categorize things in order to be able to understand the world around it. Nevertheless language, accent, skin color and economic status should not define a person.

3 Points to make my case

1. Were the same on the inside. I mean this literally. If our organs weren’t the same we wouldn’t be able to successfully transplant them from one person to another regardless of race, sex, or social status.

2. When a child of a different race, language or culture is raised by another group they adapt. They identify themselves with the people in their environment. Some may argue that this is not true. But I would say that any difficulties arise not from the child rejecting his environment but from the environment rejecting the child out of superficial prejudice.

3. Race is used as a tool by those with power in order to manipulate the masses. In any part of the world once a person has a certain amount of money his race becomes insignificant. Which makes me suspicious about the true authenticity of racial differences.

Tell me where I’m wrong.

– William Chasterson 

When Metaphysical Man, Atro City’s resident superhero and trendsetter is inadvertently sucked into an alternate world by a mysterious super villain he’s forced to overcome his only weakness; reality. Read more at http://smashwords.com/books/view/540303#amreading #amwriting

18 things I hate about money

1. Money changes people. New job + more money = changed social status. Suddenly the little people become harder to see.

2. Money divides people. Friendships have been ruined over business deals gone bad.

3. Money defines people. From level of customer service received to the right kind of medicine being prescribed, if you don’t have money you’re not a person.

4. Money borrowed transforms a man into a mouse. No matter how tough a person is they can be brought to their knees by the necessity to borrow.

5. Money owed turns a man into a cockroach. People scatter or at least are repulsed when a debtor enters the room.

6. Money can make the difference between life and death.

7. Money never completely satisfies.

8. Money determines how far from home a person can venture.

9. Money determines the temperature at which a person falls asleep.

10. Money can ruin marriages.

11. Money determines whether or not two people who are in love can be together or not.

12. Money causes people to worry about thousands of things that will never actually happen.

13. Money forces people to waste their lives doing activities they care nothing about.

14. Money makes the difference between health and malnutrition.

15. Money converts warm family relations into cold business dealings.

16. Money forces you to eat when you’re not hungry because you don’t know where the next meal is coming from.

17. Money continues to exert a humiliating power over individuals even after their death.

18. Money isn’t something we can eat, drink or breath and yet it seems to control our very existence.


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“I don’t believe in Man”

Is there a term for this? A person who doesn’t believe in God is called an atheist. But what do you call it when someone no longer believes in man? Well obviously I’m not saying I don’t believe in the existence of man, (though anyone who’s read 1984 could make a case for the existence of non-persons) rather I no longer believe in man as a god. I now realize I once believed man was a god although I was never able to admit it to myself. Man as a god? Have you lost your mind William Chasterson? No. I’m just being honest. If you were to examine closely your beliefs you may be surprised to find that you too currently worship Man. Think about it. What is the underlying theme of epic Hollywood movies like Independence Day, Star Wars, Armageddon or the Matrix? Despite overwhelming obstacles Man always prevails. Something called the human spirit and the need for man to stubbornly remain the same despite the threat of extermination is strongly pushed by these forms of entertainment. Such ideas are swallowed up hook line and sinker by the masses without their even realizing it. Evidence of this can be found just by turning on the news. How many wars are started and terrorists acts committed because of Man’s absolutist belief in himself? Now I’m not anti-man. I’m just pro-reality. History is littered with countless examples of epic beginnings and disastrous endings. 

You may wonder where I’m going with this? I’ve come to the conclusion that man is not qualified to rule himself. At this point you may roll your eyes, throw your hands in the air and conclude, “William you’ve been having a laugh at us. If man can’t decide for himself between what is right and wrong what would you have him do?” I will reply that I’m quite serious. Mankind is out of control. As for the follow up question of what we are to do I’m not prepared to tackle that right now. I think the admission that we have no idea what we’re doing is sufficient. It requires a bit of the virtue humility to do this. For this reason the majority of people in the world will never admit this to themselves. Oh when push comes to shove they may admit it to others but admitting it to oneself…That is the really hard part. The realization comes to us now and again but we quickly push it back into our subconscious as an absurdity. Society makes this easy by providing a striking facade of order. The facade is convincing as long as it is not examined to closely or put under scrutiny. To help us avoid this discovery society provides us with an endless amount of distractions. The Romans had the coliseum. We have television. This proven system works well in developed countries. But in the third world the fact that man is in over his head is harder to hide. Less effort is applied to try and conceal the fact. The following example will illustrate my point.

Today my friend who as I mentioned in a previous post is a taxi driver attempted to drive me home. All at once another taxi pulled into our lane blocking our advance. When my friend attempted to swerve around the taxi the car behind us started honking its horn and officers ran up to our car shouting. I was told to get out of the car. They said they were from the municipal police and were confiscating the car because my friend didn’t have a particular document. I asked my friend what he wanted me to do. This response may seem strange to my readers in the states but where I’m at you have to weigh every decision. They could be rouge officers shaking people down for money or worse just plain criminals who had gotten their hands on police uniforms. My friend told us to take another taxi so I got out, the officers entered and my friend drove off with them. The preferred action in a situation like this is to call someone with influence. Here in Africa who you know makes all the difference in the world. I don’t know anyone with influence but I have friends who are connected. Anyways it didn’t matter because I didn’t have credit on my phone. (Here all the phones are pay as you go.) I watched as my friend drove off with the officers. Later that night we received a knock on our door. It was my friend. He explained that they took him to a compound lot and ordered him to either immediately pay $200 for the required document or hand over his keys. One of the officers gave him the alternate option of paying a $100 bribe to be released. He continued to stand his ground complaining that he doesn’t have any money and what they were doing was unlawful. One of the officers was impatient and he yelled for the others to strike him. Finally the head officer gave him until the count of five to hand over the keys. After that he would approve the use of violence. They wrestled with him but he refused to loosen his grip on the keys. Finally an officer of hire rank noticed the commotion they were making and inquired into the matter. The document they were requesting was not available at the beginning of the year when he registered the taxi. In fact the documents just recently became available as the year is about to come to a close. Instead of alerting everyone of the arrival of the document to generate money they decided to catch the taxis by surprise and strong arm them into either immediately buying the document or paying a bribe. It made no sense for my friend to pay $200 for a document that would expire in two weeks. He would then be forced to spend another $200 for an updated document. The hire ranking officer advised them to let him go since he was making such a ruckus about it. Situations like this are frustrating but at the same time it’s comforting to know my hypothesis about man is sound.

When Metaphysical Man, Atro City’s resident superhero and trendsetter is inadvertently sucked into an alternate world by a mysterious super villain he’s forced to overcome his only weakness; reality. Read more at http://smashwords.com/books/view/540303#amreading #amwriting