Often we find ourselves wanting to believe that the choices we make are truly the right choices. We want to believe that the causes we believe in are righteous and that we are just in trying to uphold them.
But are we really?
Sometimes we’re so eager to achieve our goals that we never stop to think about the repercussions of our actions. A central motif in Octavia Butler’s short story, The Book of Martha, is that of myopia – characterized by nearsightedness or a lack of foresight.
In The Book of Martha, God selects our protagonist, Martha, to devise a plan in which humanity will be saved from themselves. However, every time Martha contrives of a solution to a problem that is afflicting humanity, God introduces scenarios in which the solution may actually bring more harm to certain people. For example, when Martha decides to solve the issue of overpopulation by restricting couples to only having two children at most, God asks her what will happen to the people negatively affected by the edict; such as couples who have seriously disabled children, or women who give birth as a result of rape, etc. Martha’s failure to understand the implications of her actions could prove to be disastrous had God not intervened to enlighten her of what may happen. Another work of science fiction that explores the theme of myopia is the Red Rising series by Pierce Brown.
The Red Rising series takes place in the future where most of our solar system has been colonized by humans. However, the dark nature of how humanity ascended to such heights lies in the fact that the Reds, the lowest caste in the Society, slave away in horrible conditions for the benefits of everyone above them, including those of the highest caste, Gold. The protagonist of the story, Darrow, is a Red from Mars who embarks on a mission to dismantle the Society’s structure and release the chains that have been placed upon the lower castes in an effort to bring equality to the solar system. At the end of the first trilogy, he eventually succeeds in his mission and liberates the inner rim of the solar system.
Sounds like a perfect ending right?
Well, not everything is all fine and dandy in the aftermath of the collapsed Society. In the first book of the second trilogy that picks up ten years after the ending of the previous book, we begin to learn of the various consequences of Darrow’s actions. The recently liberated Reds are placed into refugee camps that aren’t too much better than their old townships in the mines below the surface of Mars. On top of that, the disintegration of the hierarchy means that the Obsidian caste who were bred for war are let loose, terrorizing civilian ships in the outer reaches of the inner rim. Furthermore, we find out that the lowColors of the outer rim live contentedly because the highColors respect the lower castes and give a sense of purpose to their duty.
All these consequences force us, the readers, to question whether or not Darrow’s “righteous” quest of liberating the solar system was truly for the best. Similar to Martha, Darrow failed to see the entire picture of what they were trying to do. But unlike the first story, people died.
These works of science fiction warn us to be more cognizant of our actions. Sure, we can deport countless families from our country because we fear the actions of a few. But what becomes of the innocents who bear the brunt of these callous actions?