Image source: Carter Matt dot com
Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, Civilization, Climate Change, Existentialism, Star Trek
Note: Apologies for the late and last 2022 blog post. My laptop has had its own mind lately.
My “Rotten Tomatoes” review:
“I’ve been a fan of Octavia Butler since reading my first novel by her, “Mind of My Mind,” about a vampiric telepath named Doro: an immortal from Africa that devours your soul, so he can essentially be immortal at the cost of what makes you “you”: your mind and soul. Butler makes us, through fiction, look at race, class, gender, and the impact of a hierarchical society whose behaviors reflect our slavery past in America. Notice that no other nation has our domestic violence problems: the Second Amendment was specifically designed for quelling slave rebellions. The fact that the first African American president was elected re-elected, and the response was a vaudevillian reality TV pretend billionaire, Kindred, could not be more timely. We need more from her, NK Jemison, and other speculative BIPOC writers. It’s been a long time coming.”
My wife and I watched it on Hulu, and like “The Handmaid’s Tale,” she was immediately hooked. She had never been a fan of science fiction, but I corrected her by saying that Margaret Atwood and Octavia Butler are speculative fiction writers:
A type of story or literature that is set in a world that is different from the one we live in or that deals with magical or imagined future events:
She tells readers that she writes “speculative fiction,” defined as “fiction in which impossible things happen.”
Her speculative fiction novel is set in the near future. Cambridge Dictionary
I’m a Trekkie, but in Kindred, the protagonist, Dana, time travels (a popular science fiction trope) to the antebellum south, where she meets two of her ancestors: a black woman and her slave owner obsessed with her. Her technology isn’t going at superluminal speeds and whipping around the sun: her tech is the terror of thinking she’s going to die, which pulls her back to Rufus Weylan, and Alice, his father’s slave. Butler doesn’t explain the mechanism of how this is done (like, do we really know how warp drive would work?), but the writing by Butler and the 21st Century adaptors of her fiction pulls you into the story. Dana is going back in time to ensure the (in this case) “grandmother paradox” favors her being born.
Terror as a tech: the United States, the John Winthrop self-professed “shining city on a hill,” has been at war 93% of the time since 1776. Assaulting the indigenous inhabitants and kidnapping an uncompensated labor force from the African continent: the only way you can keep such a psychopathic system in some semblance of “functionality” is with violence. That terror pulls Dana through the corridors of time from 2016 to the 19th Century, where her interracial relationship with Kevin could not be seen as possible or desirable. Her travels aren’t with Industrial Light and Magic special effects and light shows: it is raw, guttural fear, shrieks, and screams audible to her neighbors that remind you of Mrs. Kravitz and her patient husband Abner from the TV series “Bewitched,” which I’m sure inspired Butler when she wrote the characters. Dana is repelled by the rigid codes that don’t respect her autonomy and compelled by the need to rescue Rufus at several key epochs where he could have perished, and she would thereby cease to exist.
America prides itself on being E Pluribus Unum: out of many, one people. Yet the stratification of our society into classes, types, and colors frame our politics, our discourse, our understanding of history, our rejection of facts, and our nostalgia for a halcyon era where we were “great”: sequestered on reservations, enslaved, segregated, closeted, miserable, except for the dominant culture at the top of the Great Seal Pyramid.
Selfish desires are burning like fires.
Among those who hoard the gold
As they continue to keep the people asleep
And the truth from being told
Racism and greed keep people in need
From getting what’s rightfully theirs
Cheating, stealing, and double-dealing
As they exploit the people’s fears
Now, Dow Jones owns the people’s homes
And all the surrounding land
Buying and selling their humble dwelling
In the name of the Master Plan
E Pluribus Unum, The Last Poets, Genius Lyrics
And this framework keeps us at each other’s throats, clawing for scraps on a planet that surpassed 8 billion humans last month. Every structure of violence has within it the kernel of resource allocation: who gets WHAT. When you define yourselves at the top of the pyramid, you must convince the rest of society that this evolved or divine position is correct, “logical,” and “rational.” Your progeny inherit this “superiority” in perpetuity. Anyone disagreeing with you is met with violence, even unto death.
The Myth of Race, Robert Wald Sussman; The Emperor’s New Clothes, The Race Myth, Joseph L. Graves, Jr.; Racism, Not Race, Alan M. Goodman, Joseph L. Graves, Jr., all give credible, anthropological, biological data pointing to that we are all humans sharing the same planet with 8 billion other humans. Even if we could accelerate a rocket to near-light speed, we’re parsecs from anything resembling the current planet on which we’ve evolved. Climate change is a real dilemma we currently face that threatens our survival. Due to laws of physics and causality, time travel and warp speed have yet to materialize. We can face the future by reconciling with our past. The future is rocky and uncertain if we don’t.
Despite the gaslighting, we are Kindred.
I invite you to stream the Hulu series, write a review online, and treat one another like we’re related: because, ultimately, we are. This will also support getting a Season 2.
“God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth” – Acts 17:26