saving humans

When we were discussing in class whether or not humans deserved what the Oankali were doing to/for? them, there was something floating in the back of my mind: early on, I think it is Jdayah that tells Lilith about saving her and the others. He says that they rarely interfere with a species' self-destruction because the species usually wants it--but they interefered with the humans because they knew not all of humanity was ready to die. Obviously the first question is how did they know this since they obviously have difficulty understanding people. Second, if humanity actually did want to continue, then what the Oankali are doing is not helpful. They are changing humanity. By creating hybrid children of both the humans and the Oankali, humanity is still being destroyed, in a way. Whether this is better or worse is obviously arguable, but certainly Lilith's child will not be purely human. So my question is, how can the Oankali say what they're doing is saving humanity?

You bring up an interesting question. Mankind is flawed, and I think we definitely have come to terms with this innate characteristic. By trying to improve humans, isn't that removing humanity? Also, when Jdahya mentions that they destroyed all the remnants of buildings on Earth, Lilith accuses them of eliminating all traces of culture. So while they may be saving humanity by resurrecting humans and preserving some genetic aspects, it's really not saving the human aspect of humanity.

So... what is the human aspect of humanity? I, like you, was struck by the destruction of the buildings, as well as denying Lilith pen and paper initially. But, we'd all be completely dead without their interference anyway; what good is it if we disappeared while remaining 'true to ourselves'? I'd go back to the argument that we, as a species, are constantly in flux... trying to say that us 'now' (or at least within the last couple hundred years, starting at the Enlightenment?) is the existence most worth preserving might be moot -- we will always need to constantly change in order to survive.

Although the Oankali make the effort to remove the old physical "humanity" from the Earth, it seems like their methods/motives changed somewhere in the training process...for the aliens do almost nothing to force the humans to lose their "humanity". While they prevented/disallowed reading, writing, etc before...after learning more about them the Oankali have given the humans much more freedom. The resisters are a prime example, as they have established their own societies again somewhat like they used to be before the war...creating new buildings like the ones destroyed and bringing back culture with their books, which they say are "more valuable than gold" (369).

And yet, the Oankali do nothing to stop this. They now allow the humans to choose their own path, whether to destruction or salvation, even though before the indication was that the aliens wanted to change human society/thinking/etc completely.

Perhaps this had something to do with Lilith's awakenings, which didn't go quite as planned or expected (same with the training). The Oankali were still learning, and even after some time on Earth I don't think they know the whole extent of "humanity".

"for the aliens do almost nothing to force the humans to lose their "humanity""

...Except make them infertile unless they mate with an ooloi. It is not a direct removal of humanity for each individual, but instead a removal of the humanity of the next generations, which I think is far more complete.

Before you ask, I don't know what I mean by "removal," since the Oankali are more merging than removing certain characteristics.


Yeah, I agree. The really insidious action the Oankali take is the sterilization: this way, they can manipulate those who won't accept the Oankali's methods into eventually dying off without producing a capable resistance, while tempting the rest to change their minds.

The Oankali claim to be "preserving" humanity through themselves and their hybrid offspring, but beyond the survival of the current generation, they are really only preserving the parts they like; essentially, they decide arbitrarily which parts of humanity are worth saving and perpetuating - and this perverse arbitration is the part that really rings true. The problem is that most of the Oankali seem incapable of recognizing that their moral perspective is not absolute. Any version of relativism, or any version of moral absolutism in which the Oankali are not the center, immediately recognizes the problems posed here.

An interesting, and related, idea which I have fun puzzling over: the Oankali as a whole consider it tantamount to mass murder for humans to be resurrected, allowed to procreate of their own free will by themselves. But they don't consider it the same to prevent the procreation in the first place, to prevent babies from being born. Their "pro-life" morals demand that they prevent life (in their perspective, flawed life) from beginning. How's that for irony?

I have been going back and forth with how I feel about the Oankalis' treatment of the humans. Humans would be extinct if it were not for the interference of the Oankali. For that the humans owe a great deal. But should they be willing to give up all hope of a future for humans? Accepting that prospect without a fight is simply not in our genetic makeup. Yes, the Oankali allow the humans the freedom to run off and create their own villages. Humans are not physically restrained from leading separate lives from the creatures. But the freedom to reproduce is a most sacred one. Without that, how can anyone be optimistic? This is going along a different path than my blog from last night did because frankly, I still don't know what I believe to be right. The story is clearly not black and white. Lilith could not just choose a side and whole heartedly stick with it. It is much more complicated. I find it difficult to sympathize with the humans in "Adulthood Rites" because thier human flaws are exagerrated. Their impulsion towards agression and dishonesty is overwhelming. In relation to the gentle and honest Oankali, one almost believes that humans would be better off if they just mated with the Oankali. But ultimately, the right to reproduce is something that should never be stolen. I was often apalled by the human's treatment of the hybrid offspring. They practically have the children in kidnapping and their desire to remove the tentacles is nothing less than torture. The human race is undoubtedly flawed and they would perhaps be more moral creatures if they breeded with the Oankali. That is simply not the Oankalis' decision to make though. No matter how much more appealing that species may appear, it is flawed in its unwavering need to mix with humans.

I personally view the Oankali as being the enslavers of the human race. I think that many of us are giving them a lot of moral leeway because of the fact that they "saved" our race from extinction, but that should not be the case. To put it a crude form, if I see a kitten on the street about to be run over, and I run out and grab it before its doom, we would all say that that is a good, morally just thing to do. However if after saving the kitten, I look it square in its big cute eyes, and punch it in the face three times before letting it go, that is an obvious moral transgression. The fact that I saved the life does not justify me doing whatever i want with that life. The same could go for saving a human; if i saved a person, I would not hold them to some sort of "life debt" of slavery to me, for that would be unjust. It seems to me that the Oankali are playing the role of saving the kitten, purely so they can do whatever they want with it afterwards.

ps. If the kitten analogy is a little too intense, think of if I bought you an ice cream cone. That does not justify me running up to you a month later when I see you eating one and grabbing it from you. A good moral action does not justify or cancel out a bad one.