Uncontrolled Contagion

As a student of political science and a current student of a class pertaining to the developing world, it is evident that the spread of western civilization and culture over time is a supremely problematic part of the world. It is common knowledge that western civilizations conquered and colonized the majority of the world, with countries such as England and Spain having colonies stretching across the globe. It is also generally understood that colonization ended, for the most part, after WWII. While it is true that many once colonized countries gained independence at this point, that does not mean that western countries lost their power over them. Many countries that were once the victims of colonization are still heavily dependent on those that had once been their colonizers.

The most evident ways of the lasting impact of colonization are a countries economy and its religion. On the continent of South America you see the lasting impression of Spanish colonization with the dominance of the Catholic religion. On the continents of Asia and Africa, you see a more economically based dominance with the economies of former colonies still relying on their colonizers to keep their economies afloat. This continued influence of the west on the “other” is echoed in Butler’s work quite effectively in The Patternist series.

As a black woman, especially one who is a minority in her field, it seems obvious that Butler would question the dominance of the western population over others. Butler manages to make her exploration and commentary on the problem subtly and without seeming shrill, a feat that is quite difficult as Duchamp points out in her article “’Sun Woman’ or ‘Wild Seed’? How a Young Feminist Writer Found Alternatives to White Bourgeois Narrative Models in the Early Novels of Octavia Butler”. Throughout The Patternist series readers see the different outcomes of westernization, starting with Wild Seed and ending with Patternmaster.

With the novels Wild Seed and Mind of My Mind, we see the taking of what is believed to be the best aspects of a person to make the ultimate race, a race that will one day control normal humans, or mutes as they are called in Mind of My Mind. This taking the best and leaving the rest is seen currently in the form of dependency theory, where more powerful countries take natural resources from less developed countries and use them to enhance their own wealth and power, while the less developed countries’ economy is left at the mercy of their once colonizer. More so than in regards to economy, the problem of cultural appropriation is heavily evident in today’s culture, especially in the United States’ “melting pot”. This is again a way that one culture asserts dominance over another, taking important aspects of the “lesser” culture and making them out to belong to the “better” culture.

While Mind of My Mind and Wild Seed outline problems akin taking from another culture to make a better culture, Clay’s Ark and, so far, Patternmaster show the more obvious dominance of one civilization over another. In Clay’s Ark there is the accidental spread of a mutating microbe, yet the more it spreads the less unintentional its spread becomes and it turns into an uncontrolled contagion, as such we see an allegory for westernization, the domination of entire peoples to create a preferred way of being. In Patternmaster, what we have read of it, we see the domination of the people cultivated in Mind of My Mind and Wild Seed over those they consider lesser, mutes and the Clayark. By outlining all the different ways that western cultures have asserted dominance over others in her novels, Butler keeps westernization and the legacy of it at the forefront of the minds of readers. While it is not possible to completely understand what Butler wishes a reader to take away from the series, this reader sees it as a reminder and a warning that the continuation of such intolerance between cultures will only rip society and eventually the world apart.

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