The Future Present
Of all the different dystopians that we’ve read about and seen, the one in Oryx and Crake is by far the most intriguing, and perhaps the most likely. Or, at least, it’s about as likely as science fiction so far seems. Pigoons, wolvogs, and rakunks may not be as farfetched as people would think – after all, science has already created the geep – a mix between a goat and a sheep – as well as the zonkey and, a chimera that’s been around for ages, the mule. What’s to stop science from expanding these hybrids to encompass animals that are further apart in genetic similarities? But it’s not even the scientific details that I wanted to talk about: rather, it’s the corporate takeover of human society that I think is most chilling.
Think about the kind of power corporations hold over society, even today. Corporations are the lifeblood of many countries’ economy. They hold more power than any single person. And how? corporations have this kind of power because people gave it to them, gave them money in return for a service, a product, that they use to enrich their daily lives, to make it better than it was before. Let’s take Coca-Cola as an example: their ads don’t sell the soda; they claim to sell happiness. Happiness that happens to take form in a $1.50 20oz bottle of liquid sugar and caffeine, not just the white stripe across the red background, but in a hundred other forms. Wal-Mart and Target sell convenience. Apple sells innovation. Exxon Mobile sells movement. General Electric sells us our day-to-day lives in the modern age.
Atwood’s story just takes this corporate posession of our quality of life to a higher level. In Oryx and Crake, the government is almost entirely absent. Everything seems to be run by the Corporations – Anooyoo, Helthwyzer, OrganInc. Farms, RejoovEsense, they’ve gone on to sell life itself. Youth, health, sexual prowress – and really, it’s not as if contemporary medical scams don’t already do that. How many beauty products claim not only to restore your physical youth, but your energy and spirit, as well? False Panaceas have been around since the middle ages, and they haven’t gotten any more effective or any less scammy over the years. And let’s not even consider the amount of Viagra knockoffs spamming e-mails and mailboxes of the insecure.
So what is Atwood trying to say about the current human condition? In Oryx and Crake, she predicts human greed for better lives spinning out of control, and in the story, the only way to fix it is to eradicate humanity entirely. This apocalypse is brought about by humanity’s own desire for immortality. But I think Atwood isn’t necessarily advocating the end of the world as the solution to our current dependancy on corporate products. Even though she essentially “restarts humanity” through Crake, bringing people back to nature in the tribal age.
Crake and Oryx are the new Adam and Eve – and just as with the biblical story of Genesis, a new world is created along with them. But are the Crakers doomed to the same human folly that Jimmy’s peers were? There’s already a sign of that – the creation of art, the implications that they’re advancing in the same way that early Homo Sapies did. Are they too doomed to the same fate? Will they too develop corporations and businesses and take advantage of each others’ insecurities? Or has Crake successfully erased that from their natures?
And without that competitive drive, the desire for superiority, are they truly human, or simply other animals, like pigoons and wolvogs?