Author: Nolan Parker

Cooperatives and Butler’s Communities pt. 1 (revised)

The Rochdale principles are a set of guidelines on how to operate a cooperative. They date back to 1844 when they were first drafted and enacted by the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers in Rochdale, England. They are as follows:

Voluntary and open membership

Anti-discrimination

Motivations and rewards

Democratic member control

Member economic participation

Autonomy and independence Read more

The Amish and Community (an earlier post revised)

I don’t know how I feel about the Amish. I don’t know if it’s fair to bring someone into that lifestyle without their consent. This might sound like a familiar dilemma to my classmates.

First, allow me to clarify that when I say “that lifestyle,” I do not  wish to insinuate I have anything close to first hand experience the way an actual Amish person or even one of their neighbors would have. I grew up among the comforts of suburbia and therefore my first-hand experience is limited to public markets and driving past buggies on back roads. My exposure and understanding of the Amish is product of my own community, which plays upon my reading of things independent of the thing which I’m trying to reach a judgement on. All said, I’m going to use this source mainly as my basis for talking about the Amish in this post.

Amish children are raised in a certain lifestyle all their life, one that is intentionally separated from the practices of the world at large. Sometime recently either in my notes or perhaps in class I spoke about the way cultures creates a homogenized opinion of something, and the larger the culture the greater potential for this general opinion to be established. (There’s probably a word for this, so Sociology students are invited to get at me. I think what I’m talking about is Freud’s superego but that kind of sounds wrong to me too…) Read more

David Huggins is the most relaxed alien abductee you’ve ever seen

David Huggins is a painter from Hoboken, NJ, whose work is primarily dedicated to illustrating his lifelong experiences as an alien abductee. The experiences he describes and paints are not unlike the established alien script that’s been propagated throughout America for over half a century. The way I see it, that’s just as much a reason to believe as it is a reason to be skeptical. This year a movie about Mr. Huggins was released: Love and Saucers: The Far Out World of David Huggins.

Here’s the trailer:

The scenarios he paints are also not without their own ethical conundrums reminiscent of those we encounter in Butler’s fiction. How he tells it, his abductions began when he was 8 years old, and have never stopped. When they began, rather than receive beatings for telling is parents what he saw, one alien told him to keep silent about their visits. Almost a decade later, he lost his virginity to the same alien, a female named Crescent, when he was 17. Since then, Mr. Huggins believes he has sired over fifty hybrid Human/Alien children.

What makes Mr. Huggins unique among professed abductees is the way he’s managed to render his experiences visually. He has taken his experiences out of the realm of his singular account and, through creating these visual testaments, has created objects for viewers to experience as well. It’s a neat little hat trick. Read more

Posthumanism, Transhumanism and Butler’s Humanism

Here above is a helpful short post which defines the two fields of thought: Posthumanism and Transhumanism.

Posthumanism is a term I have been using a lot in casual conversation. Now that I’ve looked it up to flesh out this blog post, I’m finding my definition was awfully limited. Apparently there’s up to seven definitions of the term (according to Wikipedia), but the one I’m focusing on is illuminated here, meaning:

“Most simply, the posthuman can be defined as that condition in which humans and intelligent technology are becoming increasingly intertwined.  More specifically, the posthuman is a projected state of humanity in which unlocking of the information patterns that those who believe in the posthuman say make us what we are—will shift the focus of humanness from our outward appearance to those information patterns.” (LaGrandeur, 2014).

This seems like a significant tie-in with regards to disrupting the primacy of the regime of the visual. If humanness can be attributed to something ethereal and cerebral rather than visual, external or physical, then our definition of what “human” can mean expands. If instead we accept the primacy of visual, the form of our appearence, if we equate it with something essential to being “human,” what we get instead might look like Transhumanism, defined in the same post as: Read more

Cooperatives and Butler’s Communities (part 1)

The Rochdale principles are a set of guidelines on how to operate a cooperative. They date back to 1844 when they were first drafted and enacted by the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers in Rochdale, England. They are as follows:

 

Voluntary and open membership

Anti-discrimination

Motivations and rewards

Democratic member control

Member economic participation

Autonomy and independence

Education, training and information

Cooperation among cooperatives

Concern for community

 

The Genesee Valley Co-op, located on 23 North Street in Geneseo, has a poster in the kitchen with these principles printed on it. The GVC is currently enjoying its fifth year of operations as a housing cooperative providing students with low rent, in-house meals and community engagement.

 

The Co-op is where I have lived for the past year, and I’ve had friends living here for every year before that. I am interested in talking about how this version of community-idealization might mirror or diverge from the smaller, isolated, intentionally-designed communities found in Butler’s fiction.

 

Off the bat I see one principal similarity between cooperative communities and the communities in Butler’s fiction: Both are communities working in cooperation with one another to accomplish something. In a housing cooperative like the GVC, we are a community of nine people working in cooperation with each other to have house dinners four nights a week, to keep the house clean and low-cost, to be sustainable, to do good community work, etc. I guess I’m trying to suggest that that exchange between members is not that different than the cooperation that happens in the Ina communities in Fledgling or the colony in Clay’s Ark, or the human separatist communities in Lilith’s Brood.

 

In all of these cases members of the communities take pains not to draw any attention to where they are.[text ref]  In Fledgling, the Ina have used their non-human advantages to create secret spaces for themselves outside the world’s human societies. This is done both out of survival and intention – it allows them a background from which to conceal their existence and conduct their business. Additionally, the smaller community of Shori, her symbionts and anyone else close to her also has to remain secretive because they are being hunted by an unknown and deadly force throughout the first half of the book.

 

In Clay’s Arc, the colony members are all connected by the alien virus they share. Because of the impossible-to-ignore urges that the virus forces on its host, the spread of the virus would spell certain doom for humankind at large. Because of this, the colony is designed as a means to suppress the spread of the virus by any means necessary. [text ref]

 

In Lilith’s Brood, once humans have been reintroduced to Earth from the Oankali ship, they are presented with an ultimatum: Either take part in the re-habitation of the planet via Human-Oankali mating, or live as humans free of the Oankali but without the ability to create human children of their own. The Oankali do not apply any force (beyond the inherent force of their superior capabilities which make them vastly superior to humans) in the execution of this ultimatum. The Humans who do not partake are sentenced to un-humanly long lives with no future, so to speak. Still, enough humans choose this route as to form entire communities where they have the illusion of freedom from the Oankali and the new reality they’ve settled humanity with. [text ref]

 

In all these cases, the communities need something from the larger world that they are also hiding from. In Fledgling, the Ina need new human partners to feed off of. In Clay’s Arc, the infected cannot resist the virus’ urges entirely, meaning they infect new people in as close to a controlled method as they possibly can. In Lilith’s Brood, the separatist humans are desperate for children, which lends them to the delusions that the Oankali or the humans who mate with them have wholly human children that can be stolen and adopted by the separatists. [text ref]

As for the GVC, we instead try to make ourselves very visible because, not unlike Butler’s communities, what we need from the larger community is new members. This diverges interestingly from another consistent source of tension in the communities in Butler’s fiction: that these communities would not grow if prospective members knew what they were getting into before they entered.

In Fledgling, the first human that Shori makes a partner of is completely, utterly unaware of the ways this Ina will change his life, and render him unable to ever resist or leave. The rest of the book’s evidence surrounding Ina finding human mates suggests that there is no getting around the fact that human partners are selected and made unable to resist before they are ever able to fully comprehend their being stuck.

In Clay’s arc, the virus-granted abilities of increased strength, sensory perception, agility, etc. might initially sound appealing to mere humans, but these gains come at the cost of self-control. The virus demands of its host that it is spread, and this manifests in something like a blinding lust, a sort of carnal hunger that does not make time for human conventions of decency such as respect for consent.

This convention is hinted at again in Bloodchild, where Gan is ignorant to the true nature of his family’s relationship to T’Gatoi until by chance he witnesses an older by without a Tlic, and comes to understand that he too was being set up to carry Tlic eggs and engage in this violent, bloody birth.

The only work in Butler’s Fiction that we’ve read which breaks from this convention is Lilith’s Brood. In this case, the Oankali do everything in their power to both inform and brace humans for their new reality before even allowing themselves to be seen. Even this is only a slight break of the earlier convention, because the Oankali tell their truth over an extended period of time, centuries, so that there is no out-rightly intended falsehood told about the circumstances. Still, human’s fill in their own rationalizations as they come to understand their new reality, which makes them believe they’re being lied to by omission when in (the Oankali’s) reality they’re being spoon-fed truths at a pace which will not overwhelm or incapacitate them.

So, all this goes to establish that the communities in butler’s fiction share certain traits with human cooperatives. Namely: intentional community, cooperation as means to an end. Butler’s communities and cooperatives diverge in one key aspect, being the coercive control, manipulation or limiting of information by the smaller community which the larger community and prospective members are powerless against.

It is worthwhile to mention that coops and socially-progressive agendas generally stack their information foreword because, perhaps like a virus trying to take control of an entire organism, the belief is that good ideas which help the most people are or ought to be contagious ideas, or maybe a reality with people that information accessibility is not enough, and perhaps Butler’s fiction partially demonstrates how certain things change, certain opinions matter more or less before or after experience has been had. Perhaps this suggests that there is a value to experience which can supersede judgments we make with information before the experience is had? If this suggestion makes readers uncomfortable, it’s likely because  the way we equate knowledge with autonomy. Does this position create a division between knowledge gained via information versus that gained via experience?