Friday, November 30, 2012

Ujima by Jersey Campbell

VERGE- Vicariously Enter the Realm of Good (motherfuckin'*) Entertainment- is performing a skit tomorrow evening at this event:

I was charged with writing the script... and directing... and acting. Three things I have inconsiderable experience in. Yet, the show will go on- and it will be off the bomb. SO IT IS SAID!

Here is the script**:
(Video coming next week)

 *This is not a part of the official VERGE name
 **Script is loosely based off an anecdote about Ubuntu, which was also the famous rallying cry for the 2007-08 Boston Celtics, the eventual NBA Champions.

Ujima (collective work and responsibility)- to build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems, and to solve them together.
Trevor Hunter is a simple man. An anthropologist from Fervent, the most civilized and technologically advanced country in the Western Hemisphere. While Trevor grew up in a society highlighted by the egotism and selfishness of it’s people, he always imagined a world where people would be driven by altruism and not greed. For this reason, he studied the different tribes of Toya in school, and became an anthropologist in order to observe them first-hand. 
Jenny Fhum is a young journalist, also from Fervent. She is traveling with Trevor on assignment from a major Fervent magazine. Her duties are to follow and profile the seasoned anthropologist and fellow countryman. She is a dispassionate observer who journeyed to Toya only to do her job.
Chief is the patriarch of the tribe from Toya which Trevor is observing. During his time as patriarch he has come into contact with many observers, researchers, journalists, and the like not only from Fervent, but from many other countries as well. Chief’s tribe in Toya is particular because of their extreme communitarian lifestyle, along with the belief in the interconnectedness among all peoples. Their culture is a practice in contrast with most of the cultures of the “developed” world.
Scene 1
Anthropologist Trevor Hunter from Fervent is at the end of a three-month study of the indigenous peoples of Toya. During his stay, a young journalist by the name of Jenny Fhum, also from Fervent, has accompanied him. Our story begins with Trevor and Jenny sitting in Trevor’s tent after a long night of celebration and festivity. The night’s celebration was in honor of the two guests of the village, who were to be departing the next afternoon.
Trevor Hunter: I’ve said it many times, and I’ll say it again- these are a most interesting people. I am sad; my time here is complete. I would like to stay a little longer. There’s a beauty in the simple life. They have shown us that.
Jenny Fhum: Indeed there is Mr. Hunter. But still, I long for a soft bed, running water, and all the benefits of life back in Fervor. The simple life is refreshing as a novelty, something that can be enjoyed sparingly, but not as a permanent way of life. If these people knew better, they’d take up residence in Fervent without hesitation.
Trevor: Perhaps, but I disagree. Will you include that in your story?
Jenny: My story is about you, not the tribes of Toya. Any mention of them will be complimentary to your character.
Trevor: As you wish. It is your story, not mine.  For that, I cannot blame you… (he pauses as he thinks about what he wants to say) When I was in school they taught us about how observational test results will always be at least slightly inaccurate…
Jenny: Yes, the behavior of the subject is bound to change once they know they are being observed.
Trevor: Precisely, but for some reason, it doesn’t seem as if these people would change at all, whether I was here or not. I believe what we’ve seen are their true identities, how they behave on a daily basis. The teaching of all my old professors, the research that I’ve done previous to this excursion, all point to the conclusion that this may not truly be who they are. We were constantly warned about the observed being aware of the observer. But it doesn’t seem like it can be any other way.
Jenny: That’s preposterous sir, it is human nature to alter one’s behavior in the presence of an observer. They say, “You are who you are when no one is looking.”
Trevor: What if they were so removed from our fallacies and our science that this phenomenon has no standing with their culture?
Jenny: I must say I’m surprised to hear you speak in such a manner, sir. Am I given permission to speak freely?
Trevor: Yes. I am now prepared for the insult that surely follows such a statement.
Jenny: Just as the Toya tribe cannot escape human nature, the nature of human psychology has captured you as well.
Trevor: How so?
Jenny: These people you choose to study, you have an affinity for them, yes? You’ve spent so much time here- three months now- you refuse to believe that what you observed might not be totally true. Furthermore, you want to believe you are above these phenomena, so you want to believe what you see is what you get. I cannot agree with you on this matter.
Trevor: (Let’s out big hearty laugh) HAHAHAHAHA. Jenny you may well be right. Let me get my wits about me, and be as objective as a subjective human possibly can.
Jenny: That is the best course of action.
Trevor: If you’ll excuse me Jenny, I am going to retire for the night. I need to write down thoughts and notes about today’s happenings then take myself to sleep. Have a good night Jenny, thank you for clearing my mind.
Jenny: Don’t thank me, thank science. Have a good night sir.

Scene 2
The next morning, because it is the day of their departure, Trevor is forced to relax. He sits on a stump, watching the children play and the older women and men attend to what westerners call ‘chores’. Jenny is playing with the children some ways away. Trevor soaks in the scene- one of the last he will enjoy of Toya on his journey. The Chief approaches Trevor in his usual regally laid-back manner.
Chief: (with a big smile) Good morning.
Trevor: (forces a smile back out of respect) It is morning, yes. But I’m afraid I cannot call it ‘good’. Today is the day of my departure, Chief.
Chief: I am aware of that. But why be upset? You have learned a great deal about peoples you’ve only read about through the studies by other people. You have gained much knowledge and experience. Be delighted of your accomplishments. Do not dwell on your impending departure.
Trevor: You are right, Chief.
Chief: (gesturing to a nearby seat) May I sit?
Trevor: When have you ever had to ask?
Chief: (When Chief takes his seat, he is staring off into the distance, as if pondering the meaning of life) We have had other people of your color and cultures come here to watch us. You have been the most pleasing to our people and me. The others would come and watch, always keeping a distance, afraid to interact, to touch, to recognize the humanness of themselves in the midst of a foreign and strange people. I know we are strange to you, Trevor. But you have immersed yourself in our tribe. You have adopted our way of life as yours during your brief stay. You have helped us set up fires, you have helped us hunt for food, you play with the children and speak with me daily. You are a most astonishing man.
Trevor: (smirking) Last night Jenny pointed out my obvious biases and the emotionality of my observations. Now I am being praised for my hands-on approach. I thank you for your unabashed inclusiveness into the culture of your tribe, Chief.
Chief: We are brothers, my friend, and that philosophy is apparent in the methods you have used to study us. It is refreshing to see a man immerse himself in his work, not only through observation, but through understanding. You know more about our people than any that have come before… I will accept your expression of gratitude, but you need not give it. There is only one way to accommodate a guest- by treating them with honor and respect. I am aware of the gravity of these studies on our people. We can all come to a greater understanding, as humans, due to the nature of your work. I never had any intentions of shunning you or shutting you out, even when I knew little to nothing about you. My people are thankful for the assistance.
Trevor: That is the only thing I ask for. Where I am from, people do not understand your way of life. They say we are more civilized, only because we have many luxuries that science and technology have granted to us. But what is more civilized than living peacefully amongst other people? Helping one another? Performing tasks for the benefit of all the people involved? To me, that is the true mark of civilization. For while we enjoy countless luxuries, our spirits have suffered mightily, and I fear it is because the foundation of our culture lies not in camaraderie or unity, but selfishness, pride, and ego. We have much to learn from you, and I plan on revealing to the world the principles of your culture.
Chief: (laughs) Brother, do not speak of your people in such a manner, lest you forget that this great man you have shown us to be was raised and nurtured in that environment. It cannot be too bad if men like you are being made.
Trevor: I am the exception, not the norm.
Chief: That, I have found to be true… the people of Fervent know about our lifestyles in Toya, they choose to ignore it, or discredit it. While I doubt they will recognize our culture as legitimate, anyone attempting to further his own knowledge and reveal those findings to the world, is a man that is welcome here anytime.
The conversation continues for some time. They speak as two people who have an implicit understanding of one another, yet they come from completely different places. They recognize the power of humanity, and their speech, their mannerisms, reflect this reality.
Scene 3
A few hours later, Trevor and Jenny are sitting Trevor’s tent. While they continue the packing process, a discussion of how to spend the rest of their time with the indigenous tribe ensues.
Jenny: Perhaps a game of some sort. A competition?
Trevor: Sounds like fun… what do you have in mind?
Jenny: We will put a basket of fruits, nuts, and treats under a nearby tree. Then we will tell the children of this basket, and that whoever first reaches the basket, can reap the benefits of his or her reward.
Trevor: To the victor go the spoils…
Jenny: Yes, sir.
Trevor: I have a feeling it may not go over too well with the children. We may be surprised at the outcome of this game we are setting up.
Jenny: What do you mean?
Trevor: You’ve have been with me every day for the past three months, Jenny. You know these people as well as I do. If you cannot predict the outcome of this event, I will be even more pleased to see how you react to the proceedings.
Jenny: I have an inkling, but let us carry out the game first.
Trevor: Very well then. Let us gather the goods, and prepare the announcement.
Jenny: I will bring all the children together.
When the game is concluded a most peculiar spectacle occurs. When Jenny tells the children of the prize that awaits them, the children hold hands in solidarity. They proceed to walk to the tree together. Jenny is astonished at the display of unity. The children come back holding the basket, and explain to Jenny and Trevor that if one of them suffers, they all suffer. The children explain that one cannot be happy if the people are sad. They all share the treats among one another, eating and laughing haughtily.
Scene 4
Some time has passed since Trevor and Jenny witnessed the ultimate act of altruism by the children. The visitors are now ready to depart. But before they do, they meet with Chief for the last time.
Chief: Are you surprised by the outcome of your game, Jenny?
Jenny: I must say that I am very, very surprised. It almost doesn’t make sense to me.
Trevor: Now would be the time to say, “I told you so,” but I wanted you to see it for yourself. These people live by a different standard, dare I say a nobler standard. While we in the west are preoccupied with personal advancement and self-indulgence, the people of Toya are thinking only of their fellow man. (He smiles) Ayn Rand would be disgusted.
Chief: Who is this Ayn Rand you speak of?
Trevor: She was a great philosopher and novelists who believed that the purpose of one’s life is the pursuit of one’s own happiness.
Chief: What exactly would she be disgusted about?
Jenny: Altruism is not a virtue…
Chief: Maybe you have simplified her philosophy a bit too much, because our way of life does not run counter to Ayn’s principles.
Jenny: They are the complete opposite of her principles.
Chief: This way of life is compatible with such a philosophy. We all want to be happy, and our happiness is contingent upon the happiness of our people as a whole, therefore, we are only dong what makes us happy, when we behave the way we do. In fact, I am very surprised that the people of Fervent believe otherwise.
Trevor: It is a curse disguised as morality.
Jenny: We have different lifestyles, and we have benefited immensely from it.
Chief: Explain please.
Jenny: How have we not? Look at the advancements we have made over the course of a relatively short time span. Our technological capacities increase at exponential rates; our standard of living has improved drastically; we continue to build marvelous structures. Only a fool could say we have not benefitted from our way of life.
Chief: Everything you say is correct, Jenny. I cannot speak too much about the nature of Fervent for I have never stepped foot in that country.
Trevor: Chief, your knowledge goes beyond the boundaries of this territory. While Fervent creates productive men, we lack wise men. Seeing the children of this tribe behave in such a manner, without even thinking of it, gives me hope for the rest of the world. It gives me hope that children around the world will begin to see the world not as a place to conquer, but a place to build with other individuals. I have heard tales and anecdotes about such behavior in Toya, but to see it in action is another satisfying experience. (He turns to Jenny) These people have shown us another way, an alternative to our methods…. Thank you Chief. For allowing us to bond as if we were tribesman, for your enlightening conversations, and for the hospitality. The people of Fervent will hear the story of the people of Toya. What they do with such information, I cannot be sure; I will tell it with the best of my ability.
Chief: You are very welcome. Whenever you wish to return, you have our blessing. I wish you both a safe trip back to Fervent. May your God shower you with blessings.
Trevor: Farewell Chief, we will meet again.
Jenny: Goodbye Chief.

Thoughts of the game’s outcome-and the principles it represented- linger on in the minds of the visitors from Fervent as they head home. The principle of Ujima, collective work and responsibility, are imbedded into the subconscious. This influences friends and family back in Fervent, and like an epidemic it spreads amongst the population. It all began with a simple demonstration by a score of young children…

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