Breaking Down the Book: Thnat Culture
In All Its Illusion
It was important to begin the book with the Thnat culture and why the main character stood out from the rest of his community. By the age of 13, I had many experiences which made me question who I was and why I was here. I would often try to find similarities and compare myself to those around me, how I looked, how I behaved, how I was treated. This is the journey the main character goes on in the book, which begins from interactions at home, and reflects the struggles of my younger self.
One early desire (and one maybe not of my own choosing) was for me to try to fit in. If only I could look more like everyone else or act more like everyone else then there wouldn’t be a difference. But I quickly discovered there are some things in life you cannot change, no matter how much pain and effort you put in your attempts. After more observation, I saw many aspects of society I didn’t agree with and my next desire was to be accepted for who I was. Again, I quickly found out you cannot force anyone to accept you. Finally, in my thirties, I look back at my childhood desires and modify them one more time. Now I only want to be able to accept others for who they are and allow them the space to be real.
Below are three societal illusions I dealt with as a child and how they are reflected in the book Thnat.
Realizing the Difference in Not Being the Same
Growing up, you only know how different you are when people tell you, and it’s usually about your physical appearance. In Thnat, the difference is about feelings and their expression. “To ever be blue is widely taboo”. For young Nicole, it happened to be both. People would comment on my physical appearance (too fat, big feet, nappy dirty hair) and remark if they felt my mood was inadequate. There was a deep feeling of sadness which wouldn’t go away, and no shortage of folks to infer it was wrong to feel that way.
Society’s Pressure to be Perfect
Image means a lot in society, keeping up appearances, the devil’s in the details. Having everything in line and tidy with always a smile on your face produces a society of fakeness and prioritizing fakeness over reality. The Thnat culture is all about the impression. “We always keep our little houses intact”. For young Nicole, having a clean house or perfect grades or attending church 3 days a week was living on the surface of life. Any attempt to dive deeper was seen as imperfection. Instead the military precision of implied order mattered above all else.
The Domino Effect
In a mob-like mentality, birds of a feather flock together. There’s the notion that misery loves company so if one person is sad, everyone ends up sad. Rather than dealing with the root of the sadness, the mob of Thnat culture decides to ignore and outlaw it. “Such thoughts spread through worse than the flu”. For young Nicole, fear and hatred spread rumors which led to groups of kids acting out as bullies. Only a few friends were able to have courage enough to not join in on the bullying, but not enough strength to stand up against it.
Despite all of these challenges, I was able to form a few solid friendships at key moments in my childhood to help distract me from all the negativity. While the Thnat culture in total is seen as a damaging element in the book, I must stress that the individuals who feed the culture are doing so most likely in fear of the same things. They don’t want to be different, they need to hold up to the pressure of society, and they feel it’s safer being a part of the flock. We may all question elements of society, but the courage comes from being real, addressing the issues we see, and taking steps to make things better and initiate positive changes wherever we go.