Wall Street's Dawn
In the beginning of Octavia Butler’s Dawn, the protagonist Lilith is awakened once again to serve masters who need her human abilities to keep their society alive. Lilith’s comment at the outset of, “Alive…still alive,” could easily fit into our world. We dare ask if the Wall Street protestors feel a new spirit directed against entities that seemingly control their lives the way that Lilith’s oppressors rule. Those oppressors continue through a series that includes the book, Adulthood Rites.
The similarities are striking. Lilith and her human friends are controlled by the Oankali, a group which has evolved with specialized organs but lacks genetic diversity. The protestors’ lives are controlled by financial interests that push them to buy mortgages, consumer products and serve a financial community of specialized instruments like Credit Debt Obligations. Lilith at times is naked, lacks reading material to improve herself and cries for clothing. The protestors are being told that while their worker productivity since the 1970s has risen 30 percent, they should accept less than a zero increase in benefits.
While Butler visioned Lilith’s story as a symbol of the torture from slavery, we dare to ask whether the same conditions now apply to most people because of the structure the financial interests have imposed on most people. The growing inequality between the business community leaders sitting in corporate offices just might resemble the power difference between the Oankali and Lilith’s humans.
Both the Oankali and corporate state have promised to improve life for most people. The Oankali arrived to aid humanity after a nuclear war that threatened all existence. They provided medical advances and security. They also offered to trade with human kind, promising genetic improvements. The corporate state offers global advances where remote fishermen can sell their wares with cell phones to markets because of technology. Some people can live longer because of improved diagnostics in healthcare. And travelers can use credit cards without carrying cash around the globe.
But while the advances seem worthwhile, the workers and middle classes of the globe have lost control over their lives. Employers looked at the 30 percent increases in productivity from workers and thought those profits were wonderful. But they faced a decreased work force once the age of the 70s unleashed computer aided production. Hence the need to seek those profits from overseas workers. So the average person lost not only the extra value of increased productivity, but also the ability to hold a job.
The controllers, whether Oankali or the corporate state found ways to transform the language so their control could meet with little opposition. The Oankali flooded the humans with ideas that the Oankali offered an egalitarian life. That human problems happened because of human waste. The corporate controllers blamed the financial crisis on homeowners. To balance out their losses on Wall Street, the corporate state told workers to accept the end of certain healthcare benefits and even embrace half pay.
Language had been changed. Instead of slavery, the Oankali claimed they were raising the standard of living for humans. Instead of ripping rights away from workers and the middle class, the corporate state focuses on how they create jobs, and spending or debt is the problem.
Butler thought of the chains of slavery, but the image of chains can change. The weight of Lilith’s problems, trying to keep a family alive resonate with the physical chains of the slave ships in the 1700s. Our world of Wall Street occupiers feels pressures such as, possible evictions, job layoffs and other ethical dilemmas. Even though Lilith’s human could not vote against the Oankali, our protestors have found their votes being scattered in the wind as the same controllers who created the financial crisis dictate to the elected leader.
So the language is skewed, the system of redress is flawed and the weight of the new chains limits the shoulders of the protestors. Maybe Lilith would fit right into the group of occupiers.
Image courtesy of africanafrican.com