Daily Archives: July 22, 2008

Octavia Butler essay on rasicm

Here’s an essay written by Octavia Butler for NPR in connection with the U.N. Conference on Rasicm. You can also listen to an interview with her on the same topic. She talks about the subject in real life terms, as well as from the perspective of her science fiction. I’ve never read any of her work myself, but I hear great things about it, so I’m planning (in a vague, unplanned sort of way) to try one of her novels before too long.

The essay begins with this comment:

Several years ago, when I was about to start a novel, I thought I might get some mileage out of the idea of a civilization in which people somehow felt — that is, they shared — all the pain and all the pleasure they caused one another.

That’s an intriguing idea, and I’m sure variations of it have been used before. What it reminds me of is the “shared reality” of Nancy Kress’ Probability series, in which the members of a certain species must all share the same basic worldview and attitudes in order to avoid excruciating head pain; indeed, in such a species, racism (and lots of other isms) would be pretty much impossible.

Butler talks about humanity’s hierarchical urges as the source of much of our unpleasant behavior towards each other, and sums it up this way:

There is, unfortunately, satisfaction to be enjoyed in feeling superior to other people.

Undeniably true (although I don’t think that’s always a bad thing).

Anyway, I just thought I’d put this up for any Butler fans who may be reading. Hope you like it.