September 28, 2009

Atwood response

Interesting response via email to the Atwood post by someone calling themselves The Guava Tree ("I hope my email address name doesn't throw you off and make you think I'm a religious hippie person", they say), highlighting some aspects of The Year Of The Flood which I underplayed:

    There is that spiritual Mother Earth aspect to the Greens--but there was also a spiritual Brotherhood of Man aspect to the Civil Rights struggle in the US. In both cases I could long for a secular alternative to the core of these struggles, but in the end it's still the right side to be on.
    I think Atwood in "The Year of the Flood" is trying to avoid the macho male-male jealousy narrative of Oryx and Crake, but there is the split that takes place in God's Gardeners between Adam One and Zeb. And Zeb, who actually survives unlike Adam One, seems to question the whole spiritual mumbo-jumbo by not being afraid of direct-action and violence. I think Adam One even dies as a result of his band, at the very end, staying too close together and bringing in infected outsiders.
    Earlier there's the comedic scene of the Gardeners selling their wares at the farmers market as the rich "Greens" and their children slum it while buying their organic produce--In this scene and the subplot about the guy illegally growing weed Atwood mocks both the Corp-dwellers' love of fresh produce, their brief vacations in nature by buying the right commodity, and also the other end of the Green movement, which are the hippies growing and becoming super rich off the ultimate organic commodity: marajuana.
    But you're right, Atwood doesn't include the type of green-feel-good multi-national corporation such as Starbucks or BP, that uses the arguments and rhetoric of the green movement to its own profit-making advantage. These corporations have to flank themselves in this way, though, because of the truth at the core of environmentalism--humans have destroyed much of the world in a wasteful way. Atwood, though, imagines a pre-9/11 world of the Genoa G-20 in which corporations have to acknowledge the "unelected and poorly-informed rabble", but a world of the post-9/11 Pittsburgh G-20 in which the rabble will be neutralized as quickly and lethally as possible. As the resistance becomes more invisible, the corporations no longer have to kid the masses that they are helping the world by purchasing a commodity. The inward-looking Gods Gardeners are response to a world in which direct-action has become more and more life-threatening and in which corporations no longer have a resistance to answer to: They will bring about the Flood because no one is checking the direction of their technological advance.
    I agree "year of the flood" is a bit of a let-down after the "zero-hour" beginning and ending of "oryx and crake" , but with the voice Snowman hears on his radio, the smoke he sees, you know he can't be alone.
    Oryx and Crake is the wish; Year of the Flood is the reality principle. they bang up against each other beautifully.
    If there's a new organizational model of the "Gods Gardeners" it is "live it, now." You may think that's mumbo jumbo when the potential for a real transformation is seemingly non-existent. But I am perplexed why many left-wing bloggers I read aren't aware of new organizational models that actually exist right now, especially for food. One can dream of utopia while living in a cold world, thinking of the lack of transformative capabilities that exist--or one can also activily participate right now in models that seek to emulate (even a little bit) what a better world would actually be like. It's not that doing so means that you believe in "Mother Earth", reek of patchouli oil and are ignorant of what a true transformation *for everyone* would actually be like and what that transformation would actually require-----it's more that if you don't act and don't create "new modes of organization and management" *right now* you'll feel like you'll life will have been wasted.
    I have not read "Cold World", so I don't know exactly, but I guess while that idea intrigues me, there's also something that's extremely unsettling about it to me. I know it's not your book, but it seems that the question with the Cold World is how to make the leap from that to an actuality, a working politics. Perhaps that's what I'm slowly attempting to wrestle with. When you start to act, politics can get very mushy and warm and uncomfortable in an ego-threatening way. Oryx and Crake is the cold world--perhaps Year of the Flood is Atwood's answer to that, why you react so strongly against it.
Posted by mark at September 28, 2009 07:17 PM | TrackBack