Though it is rather trivial, within Lilith’s Brood there is one aspect that does not make sense to me. I do not understand why the constructs are built with the need to mate with strictly Humans. I had thought that the constructs would be built to mate with other constructs or Oankali because the Human race is being made to morph, so to speak, into the Oankali. Even with the prospect of Mars, there are a definite number of Humans left, and an increasing number of construct ooloi who will be born with the need to mate with a Human. The Humans eventually will dwindle down, and the ooloi eventually will be forced into dissolution unless more Humans are found to placate them. I then began to wonder if the Oankali permitted Mars to exist for this reason; to breed more Humans who are capable of breeding with the future ooloi constructs. This is mainly speculation though, in my opinion, likely. The Oankali are known for leaving out vital information rather than spreading lies. Therefore, it seems likely to me that they would have seen this issue and given the Humans the illusion of freedom that also benefited the Oankali’s needs.
“But what she felt now went beyond liking, beyond loving, into the deep biological attachment of adulthood. Literal, physical addiction to another person.” p679 This line along with the several lines on p700 where it says, “I knew humans did such things: marry here and mate there and there and there… There was nothing in Human biology to prevent this…. There was no permanent bonding, no betrayal, no biological wrongness to contend with.” Makes me wonder about what Octavia Butler thinks about marriage and our biological need to mate. Wilson lists marriage as one of the common occurrences among all human cultures, why have this bonding if we will merely go against it because of a biological drive. Although the Oankali may not see adultery among humans as a betrayal humans would. We may be naturally adulterous but we strive against this nature, most people eventually assign themselves to one person and marry bonding legally if not physically. Is this then solely for the sake of the children in our world that we marry and in a world of the Oankali where at least for males if the children are taken care of we would not care to stay with our mates? What then of Leah and Tate? They stay together without an ooloi to bond them or children to keep them together? Does she think marriage is unnecessary and that it would be better for men to wonder like the male constructs or simply unnatural, perhaps something we could improve with biology?
“…productivity mobilizes society as a whole, above and beyond any particular individual or group interests. The brute fact that the machine’s physical (only physical?) power surpasses that of the individual, and of any particular group of individuals, makes the machine the most effective political instrument in any society whose basic organization is that of the machine process” (Marcuse 3).I’m not sure what to do with this concept. Marcuse’s language is clear and definite, and appears to be logically sound, but I am still having trouble wrapping my head around the raw knowledge of an individual’s relative insignificance. Although I am as liberal as they come and thus believe in the power of collective action, I have also spent a lot of my life reading about the individual’s accomplishments both in in history books and in novels. The first book of Lilith’s Brood is about a woman who becomes a leader in a difficult situation. In Frankenstein, Victor achieves significant technological advancements because of his own intellect. So if Marcuse is right, and the machine is the most effective instrument in society, do we as readers cling to stories about the individual because we find it comforting in a way that reality isn’t? And what would the Oankali have to say about the power of the machine over the individual? Individuality is integral to the American psyche, but Marcuse was German-born (although I believe he was a US citizen by the time he wrote One-Dimensional Man). So are his views more cultural-based than universal, or is the American emphasis on individuality somewhat impractical?
“But what she felt now went beyond liking, beyond loving, into the deep biological attachment of adulthood. Literal, physical addiction to another person.” p679. I found this quote interesting because it explains a general theme of the book. Though the entire book is centered about relationships, there are very few, if any genuine relationships. The Oankali do not fall in love, they become addicted. In the end, the humans find “freedom” by agreeing to take on an ooloi mate, and move to mars. This did not strike me as freedom, but rather moving from one undesirable situation (living with horrible inbred genetic diseases) to another undesirable situation (being eternally bound to another against your free will). Is this freedom, or simply a transition from one living hell to the next?
"A comfortable, smooth, reasonable, democratic unfreedom prevails in advanced industrial civilization, a token of technical progress. Indeed, what could be more rational than the suppression of individuality in the mechanization of socially necessary but painful performances; the concentration of individual enterprises in more effective, more productive corporations; the regulation of free competition among unequally equipped economic subjects; the curtailment of prerogatives and national sovereignties which impede the international organization of resources" (Marcuse, 3) I have to say, when reading Marcuse I was reminded of the time in which I came to learn that Santa Claus was not real. I was angry at myself for not seeing it sooner, but at the same time, I was highly skeptical. How could he not be real? Even though the mere physics of a fat man sliding down our narrow chimney seemed highly suspect, I did not want to accept what I was being told, combined with the inability to truly understand why such things like flying reindeer can't exist. I find myself responding to Marcuse, especially in the above quote, in much the same huffy disbelieving manner. This feeling is combined with the trouble I am having completely absorbing and properly understanding everything Marcuse has to say. However, it is safe to say that I am not happy with the ideas that I am able to ascertain. What I think Marcuse is stating from the above quote, is that we are essentially being controlled by our government, and yet are placated with the illusion of freedom through being given choices about what we may buy. This idea is utterly repulsive to me. I dislike it immensely; but I can't help but wonder if it's true. If it is true, what implications does this kind of statement have for the way in which we live our lives, and the way in which we view our governments? I think that what Marcuse is saying within One-Dimensional Man is perhaps even more disturbing than anything Wilson or Lewontin suggested. The very word phrase "democratic unfreedom" has more meanings than I can care to even think about. I suppose what I'm getting at is, what exactly is Marcuse trying to tell us; is it something as plain and clear as the freedom in which you think you have does not exist, or something with even more implications? And what could Marcuse wish to accomplish by convincing the reader that what he says is true?
In One Dimensional Man, Herbert Marcuse diagnosis contemporary culture by claiming that technological advances and common commodities have engulfed much, if not all, of conflict and strife by individuals against the dominant society. He claims that this is done by providing the individual with false needs, ones which seem necessary to the individual, but are in no such way vital to human survival. Just only the first section and preface prove that his work is an extension/distortion of Marxism critique of capitalism (distortion because he includes both sides – capitalist and communist – except so far it has been mostly focused on capitalism). Marcuse’s idea of contemporary culture’s predicament is involved with what he calls ‘unfreedom’ – the freedom to choose between a subset of choices already heavily whittled down from the maximum number of choices. Several weeks ago in class we spoke, somewhat semantically, of the concept of independence as sort of a precursor to our later discourses on free-will. During the discussion the point was raised: are any of us actually independent, in the strictest sense of the word? We all, of course, rely heavily on outside beings or entities daily: we rely on separate entities (most of us do anyway) for food, clothing, etc. Those who do obtain some level of self-sufficiency are normal bogged down with simply trying to procure enough calories for themselves and keep from hypothermia(/hyperthermia). This is one downside to complete autonomy. Although it is completely independent from outside entities, it is in some ways not freedom. Certainly there is very little of what we would consider ‘free-time’ in such a life. Yet this is a life based on vital needs, supplying one’s self with food, shelter, and water and one could imagine an individual traveling this path to work far over 40 hours per week. This essentially is “freedom from the economy” and “liberation…from politics” (Marcuse, 4). Yet clearly Marcuse is not calling for a return to pre-industrial times and so therefore this unfreedom to him, is potentially worse than the unfreedom which we actually currently unenjoy. On the complete opposite end of this spectrum, we have Marcuse’s idealized world, where a “productive apparatus [w]ould be organized and directed towards the satisfaction of the vital needs, its control might well be centralized; such control would not prevent individual autonomy, but render it possible” (Marcuse, 2). Although I agree with Marcuse on the majority (so far) of his critique, this actually sounds quite horrible to me. We have completely mechanized machines to produce all of our vital needs for us with minimum intervention from human beings. I also assume that we would have free choice between any products imaginable. I have supreme difficulty in restaurants often with something I’ve dubbed “menu anxiety.” I am easily overwhelmed by an extremely broad range of choices. I do not believe I am alone. Is there not something positive to be said for being given a subset of objects to choose from? What do the humans in Lilith’s Brood think regarding this? Furthermore, wouldn’t a society where all labor is mechanized be…eye-gougingly boring?Marcuse, Herbet. One-Dimensional Man. 1964. Beacon Press: Boston.
Coming to the conclusion of Lilith's Brood I am struck by how at ease I feel. Maybe I am an absolutely terrible human being and have betrayed my species but there seems to a be a level of peace achieved by the conclusion. I started this book with an absolute hate and disgust for everything the Oankali had done and were planning to do. And now the troubles of the future, whether Mars humans will start a war with Earth, or will the new construct Ooloi destroy everything? I find myself not overly concerned with the future but very much invested in the present situation of the characters and how a sense of stability has finally arrived. Or is it all just some giant cop out, in part I did want that orgy of destruction to blink humanity out of existence once again if that is to be our fate. The human contradiction I guess.
“The process always replaces one system of preconditioning with another; the optimal goal is the replacement of false needs by true ones, the abandonment of repressive satisfaction” (Marcuse 7). Although I do believe he accurately lies out the differences between true and false needs, false needs are still things that humans desire in their lives. Marcuse states that things such as “needs to relax” and “to have fun” are false needs. This much I cannot debate. However, I feel his pushing for replacement of false needs by true ones is a bit extreme. His true needs include “nourishment, clothing, and lodging” These are certainly much more necessary than his false needs, but these things often lead to those false needs. These things may be in place because of the growth of different societies, but the human desire to have fun is something that could not be removed. To remove these false needs would create humans that are closer to robots or Oankali than real humans. Some of his ideas remind me of political philosophy theories. They seem like a possible alternative for what society could be like if things had started differently. Although Marcuse makes a lot of strong points, his views can be very extreme quite often. Surely he doesn’t believe that his views could actually be accomplished?
"The tilio had been fashioned from the combined genes of several animals. Humans put animals in cages or tied them to keep them from straying. Oankali simply bred animals who did not want to stray and who enjoyed doing what they were intended to do"(Butler 446).I had sort of a tangent of a question about Lilith's Brood that I thought about after the passage in the book where they ride in the living transportation device. I was curious about the Oankali's relationship to other creatures on earth and if they were as fascinated by them to the same degree. I believe that most creatures on earth can develop cancer. Perhaps the Oankali could have used DNA from a dog, an insect or even a closer genetic relative to humans like a chimp to incorporate into their system. This would avoid the problem of having great intelligence and hierarchical tendencies and maybe even bring other desirable qualities. It is true that the Oankali came upon earth after great destruction so who knows what species were left on the planet. Or it may be that the Oankali just couldn't help themselves in being infatuated with the humans. Another possibility is that fact that Oankali seem to have to think of themselves as the highest, most important species. They seem to condescend even to enslave other species, including the humans though they always seem to do what is in their best interest. Maybe this mentality led them to not consider other animals as worthy possibilities.
Marcuse believes that over time working class America has developed a One-Dimensional Thought. A kind of social consciousness that "is systematically promoted by the makers of politics and their purveyors of mass information"(Marcuse 14). This thought drives our lives and shapes our goals. This type of thinking dissuades change and promotes uniformity. If this is the case then are lower and middle class Americans left with any sense of free will to Marcuse or are we forced to be mindless consumer drones? Through our freedom are we given numerous choices but does this mindset only draw us towards one or two options? Is our only escape from this One Dimensional Thought to transcend mediocrity and become part of the upper class, or is general social awareness the answer? If we had been indoctrinated into a One-Dimensional Thought what is the way out?