If you’re from Dr. McCoy’s ENGL 101/431 class, go back to the time you didn’t know stone paper existed. Now imagine if someone on the street runs up to you Billy Eichner style and asks you to choose which one actually exists: stone paper or volcanic lightning. Which would you choose? Sike, it’s a trick question. Both are real and amazing! While the class easily accepted the existence of stone paper (probably because we had physical evidence), others may not be so receptive.
In present-day America, the term “fake news” runs rampant as a result of the ease of technological manipulation. It is incredibly easy to Google any skill you wish to learn, including how to photoshop news headlines as well as people’s online posts. Satirical news outlets like ClickHole and the Onion are also becoming huge platforms for younger generations to comedically vent their frustrations of the political world. Unfortunately, there is also a (usually older) population that does not understand or process the satire behind these articles. The accumulated confusion that is created from these “sources,” pushes people of differing socio-political beliefs to cherry pick and take things out of context. Thanks to the world wide web, society has an infinite pool of resources to choose from, allowing debates to get incredibly heated and for the backfire effect to act in full swing. An individual experiences the backfire effect when their established beliefs are faced with conflicting evidence and, rather than changing their opinion, their beliefs get stronger. This defensiveness can stem from one’s fear, anger, or confusion at having their world view flipped upside-down.
An eerie parallel can be seen between these cherry pickers and the stills in The Fifth Season. In Jemisin’s world, people have to fight for their survival against Father Earth for centuries by adapting to each new season. Each season brings different challenges, forcing society to culturally adapt accordingly. Cultural adaptiveness is when a group of people’s behaviors, beliefs, and values change in order to survive in a particular environment. Compared to the orogenes, the stills are at an obvious disadvantage in terms of combative power. Therefore, in order to stay on top of the food chain, the stills isolate and dehumanize orogenes to the point where it is a part of their culture to kill or banish orogene children, as seen from Uche’s death and how Damaya’s family treats her. The stills’ “hate…fear…[and] unprovoked violence” (page 58) essentially block out any desire for them to understand how orogeny works. Stills maintain their social superiority by passing down “stonelore [that tells] them at every turn that [orogenes were] born evil – some kind of agents of Father Earth, monsters that barely qualify as human” (page 124) for generations; to the point where even orogenes are raised to believe so. If the stills allow themselves to see orogenes as more than supernatural tools, then they are also forced to acknowledge themselves as the weaker “species.” As Alabaster properly puts it, “Survival doesn’t mean rightness” (page 124).