Expectation v. Reality
I had been thinking about everything we’ve read and talked about, and I realized that there’s a really important point to be considered concerning the ideas of genetic engineering and cloning. Without any kind of manipulation, we don’t know and can’t predict what life holds in store for us. None of us knows in the beginning where our interests lie and what our talents are; so we spend our teen and college years exploring different possibilities, trying to discover our strengths and weaknesses. When we’re young, we’re full of hope and dream of endless possibilities and choices that we could make. Then, we go through a process of exploration where, along the way, we slowly discover who we really are. This mutual experience of personal growth marks our transition from a child to an adult. But with genetic engineering, our lives have essentially been planned out for us. We’ve been designed to be a certain person, act a certain way, and do certain things in life. That sense of a future full of infinite possibilities is lost, and we have no need to explore and find out who we are – because we already know. I think that the idea of an unexpected future and hidden potential yet to be discovered gives us that innocence and carefree air as children. We imagine all kinds of things about what we’re going to do and be “when we grow up.” You ask kids what they want to be, and they’ll tell you all sorts of things – a football player, a rock star, a policeman, even a garbage man (no, I’m not kidding, I’ve actually heard that more than once – imagine that!). Being a kid is a time when anything and everything is possible. But what if a child had been told all his life that he was made to be an engineer? Would he still dream of becoming a fireman or a teacher? What would be the point? Everyone already knows and has told him that he’s going to be an engineer. He won’t have to go through any exploration to discover his true self because his parents can tell him. When I was young, I always wanted to be an astronaut. Would I still have fostered that dream if I knew it wasn’t going to happen? Probably not. Your dreams have been broken before you even have them.
And whatever happened to freedom of choice? We all love to advocate about our rights and freedom to choose to do what we want. With genetic engineering, it seems to me like we’re handing over our right to live our lives the way we want to our parents. This means that parents have increased control over their children’s lives. Because they’ve custom-made their child the way they want him to be, they’re also bound to have certain expectations. And when those expectations aren’t met, it can cause emotional tension for both them and their child. This was hinted at in Gattaca. The original Jerome was designed to be the best, so when that expectation didn’t match up with reality, it created an internal conflict within him, which I believe was part of the reason he initially decided that he wanted to end his life. This same conflict between expectation and reality can be present in cloning – and in a way, the situation can be even worse. At least with genetic engineering you’re still creating a unique individual, but with cloning you’re replicating someone who has already existed. This means that friends and relatives of the cloned person have expectations of EXACTLY how that cloned individual should be. In Little C, the woman expects her husband’s clone to be exactly like her husband. She “sees” from the very beginning that he has a hand built for playing tennis, and she knows that he doesn’t like the color green. But we find that he has no problem with green, and I’m sure that infant Little C had no such physical appearance of being destined to play tennis. She saw what she wanted to see; she saw what she expected to see. And when she realized that Little C was not – and never would be – her lost husband, she was disappointed. She couldn’t quite love him in the same way anymore. This is, I think, the most critical issue when it comes to clones. I would assume that someone would only come to the decision to create a clone if he/she has lost a loved one. This means that there will be a lot of hope and emotion, as well as expectation, tied to the clone. So when those expectations are not met and that hope is destroyed, the emotional effects are likely to be profound. You also have to consider the clone. Little C tries and tries to be what his “mother” wants him to be, but he’s never able to, and he recognizes it. He knows that he isn’t living up to expectations, and this has an emotional impact on him, too. He deserves to be loved for who he is, but he can’t escape the comparison that will always be made in his mother’s mind between him and her husband. Even if she consciously decides that she will treat him as his own unique individual, the comparison will still unconsciously be made. Younger siblings often have to face their parents’ unintentional comparisons to their older siblings. Imagine how much more difficult it would be to avoid making comparisons when faced with a clone. I honestly don’t think the emotional consequences would be worth it to clone a lost loved one.
These internal emotional conflicts that arise when expectations don’t match up with reality are a reason why I would be less than eager to either genetically engineer or clone a person in my life. I feel that we lose something essential when we limit ourselves and our possibilities before we’re even born. Part of what makes us special and what makes life interesting is that we don’t know where we might end up in the future. I love when they sometimes make us write out where we see ourselves in ten years, and then we look back and find that where we are is nothing at all like what we initially thought. It’s all about self-discovery, and I would hate to see anyone miss out on the fun.