At first when I was reading Dawn, I was appalled at how Butler made a lot of the characters who were Awakened by Lilith try to attack her and each other. Although it was conflict for the story, I would like to have some faith in humanity; that maybe one day people can try to get along and stick together. After thinking about it for a while, I realized that Butler is making a point that human nature never changes. Humans may always mistrust each other and work to protect themselves. It may only change if humans begin to breed with other species, like how humans in Lilith’s Brood mate with the Oankali. As long as we are completely human, much of our intentions will be the same, no matter how much times change. So, even though the humans found themselves in the future, on a ship, and interacting with aliens, they still acted just a brutally as humans today would, or humans several thousand years ago.
In Humanities I last semester, I read Thucydides’ book, The Peloponnesian War, and found a lot of his points very interesting, including his notes on human nature. He mentions how there are four main motivations that make humans do what they do. The four motivations are fear, self-interest, security, and honor. He knew that documenting the war would be important since he also believed that human nature never changes, and his records could help people make the right decision in the future when it comes to war. The world won’t see another Peloponnesian War specifically, but he knew that wars will come up in the future that will be just like it. Butler’s characters stay true to the motivations that Thucydides mentioned, so it seems. For instance, when Lilith was being turned against by most of the humans she Awakened, they acted out of those four motivations. They were afraid that Lilith was lying to them and that they weren’t safe. Peter was looking to be respected by the group, or in other words, was looking for honor.
Throughout the series so far, it is always mentioned that the Human species bear a Contradiction. Butler explains that the Contradiction is the “intelligence and hierarchical behavior” that exists in humans. “It [is] fascinating, seductive, and lethal. It had brought Humans to their final war” (Butler, 442). Shkaht in Adulthood Rites states how, “Humans had come to their own end. They were flawed and overspecialized. If they hadn’t had their war, they would have found another way to kill themselves.” According to Plato’s Republic, another book I read in Humanities I, Shkaht is right. Socrates explains that since cities are consisted of and built by humans, and all human things are inevitably degenerate, cities will ultimately self-destruct no matter what. The Akjai also points out that the resisters would either have “a quick death or a long, slow death” (475) but not anything that lasts forever. If Akin and his future helpers gave humans tools and machinery, it would only “create a civilization that destroys itself as certainly as the pull of gravity will keep their new world in orbit around the sun” (475). If anything, the tools and machinery will only further push the humans to destroy themselves, or in other words, it may speed up the process. As seen in Adulthood Rites, the humans were quick to make guns and shoot each other with them. Although there were resisters who didn’t agree with their creation, as long as there were some who wanted them, guns will exist.
I believe that all of this goes back to Butler’s beliefs about how she views what “the last days” would be like on Earth. In Conversations with Octavia Butler, she says, “I think in one way or another we will do ourselves in. Sooner or later the generation that says ‘we’re in our last days’ really will be. But not because somebody strikes us from heaven. We’ll do it ourselves” (9). I am religious myself and I agree with her opinion. I believe in free will, and that humans will ultimately choose to head down a path that will lead to destruction. War will always exist due to human nature, and as the world becomes more increasingly globalized and more technologically advanced, this kind of a future doesn’t seem very far ahead.
Even in Christianity, it is recognized that humans need a lot of work to get to the place where they can exist happily. It seems as though humans only have a chance at existing through divine intervention. During the period of Revelations in the Christian Bible, times are so terrible that Jesus Christ needs to step in and save the humans who might be able to continue the species. After the war between Satan and God is over and Satan is locked away, the humans who were saved return to the Earth and gain the lifespan of 900 years. Christ will reign over them for 1,000 years as their king. I believe that humans having the longer lifespan would help the species a lot, but it still won’t be enough, for it is written that Satan would be rereleased. Then, the vicious cycle of deceit and humans trying to destroy themselves would continue. The end of that age, however, will not be as horrific as the one that is put into detail in Revelations. After that point, when heaven and earth combine, humanity finally gets their happily ever after. Yet, think about what it took to get there. Divine intervention and thousands upon thousands of years of hard work.
In the Lilith’s Brood trilogy, Akin wants humans to have another chance at existing as a species on Mars. He has hope for humanity – something that will keep pushing him to try. Something that makes him believe that perhaps humans have a chance at existing as a species. Without hope, we would refuse to wake up the next morning. Aaor in Imago would have completely given up. I find it odd how the human resisters in this trilogy do not recognize that humans will destroy themselves again. I feel as though many humans today have a feeling that our species will not ever find a place of happiness. Even though we know this, we still live and still hope that we will figure out a solution to our problems.
“Why live?” professor McCoy asked us one day.
Why live if we know this? If we know that humanity is doomed, and that we may live to see it doomed, then why live?
This question is a very complicated one and every individual may take this question in a different way. I myself can write an essay in trying to answer this question, but for now, I have one simple thing to say.
I say, live for hope. Live for hope to find love. It might be humanity’s greatest quality – our ability to love very fiercely. Despite our selfish nature, this might be the only thing that will help us at all, in the end.