As a species, humans seek out order. It gives them a sense of control, that can’t be found in the vortex of chaos. As such humans crave organization which all starts with a leader. Though at times it may seem that leadership is undesired by our race, we require it to create the sense of calm that accompanies the order that we crave. However the Oankali, cause the readers to question this concept, the necessity and efficiency of leadership.
The Oankali, are non-human creatures that are gifted with the ability to understand and alter genetic structure. They were able to identify the cause of humanity’s downfall. “You are hierarchical. That’s the older and more entrenched characteristic. … When human intelligence served it instead of guiding it, when human intelligence did not even acknowledge it as a problem, but took pride in it or did not notice it at all…that was like ignoring cancer. I think your people did not realize what a dangerous thing they were doing” (Butler, 39). They are absolutely certain that the human race is a self-destructing civilization due to these contradictory traits. “Your Earth is still your Earth, but between the efforts of your people to destroy it and ours to restore it, it has changed.” These were, they declare, what caused the nuclear war. Hence they expend strict control over the human beings, however patronizing, for the good of the species. However the humans hate the idea of captivation. After such long periods of superiority, they are unable to comprehend and exist comfortably in a society where they are the minority. It causes major discomfort and in some instances like Curt’s case, it causes him to completely lose control over his behavior.
Nevertheless, the Oankali are utilizing sociobiology as a rationalization for colonization, similar to the idea behind the Holocaust. The Nazis ruthlessly killed the innocent Jews to clean the race and create a superior genetic pool. Likewise the Oankali are using the ideas of sociobiology to justify the imprisonment and mistreatment of humans. They were removing native dwellers out of a condition of viciousness and unawareness. They cause the readers to question the effectiveness of their method and in turn question the leadership of the Oankali.
The Oankali’s genetic trade with human beings is infected by exploitation and cruelty: Lilith involuntarily passes two years in solitary imprisonment while the Oankali scrutinize her behaviors and actions; she is originally deprived of writing provisions. It begins small and builds up into perplexing actions. She is forced to bear a child without her knowledge or consent. “I have made you pregnant with Joseph’s child.” (Butler 246)The Oankali also demolished all remains of human civilization that had endured the nuclear war because they required humans to start with a completely blank slate. However they hold double standards, as they didn’t destroy their own records. Again the leadership of the Oankali, is completely hated by the humans. They have lost their free-will due to such pragmatic leadership, and hence shows a change in necessity of leadership.
The Oankali manipulate Lilith into training the first group of humans to re-inhabit Earth. Lilith is a natural leader, but leading 40 irritated, muddled and trapped humans is no easy mission. Her allegiances are split: On one hand she desires human independence “Learn and run!” (Butler 248); on the other, she approaches a state of veneration and possibly even love for some of the Oankali. She cultivates a gratifying yet imbalanced intimate relationship with one of the Oankali ooloi (Nikanj). The connections Butler fashions resist classification. Lilith serves as both a guide and rival to the humans; lover, prisoner and rebellious trainee to the Oankali. Neither the humans nor the Oankali take into consideration Lilith’s position and emotions, making it that much harder for her to serve as a leader, but also a follower (to the Oankali). The human group is detestable, ferocious and unpleasant. The Oankali are haughty, uncaring and ignorant of human rights. Through the character of Lilith, Butler portrays flaws of leadership and how it can negatively affect society. Lilith’s leadership unknowingly caused barriers to be formed between the humans and the Oankali. This paved the way for the resentment that the humans feel towards their captors. Even when the group leaves the Oankali, they are strongly attracted to the concept of no leader. Complete freedom. Even though Lilith is more knowledgeable about their situation, no one seems to want to listen to her, showing the clear distaste for leadership and order.
In conclusion, Butler has effectively integrated an abundant amount of material into a short space. She weaves the themes of slavery, sexuality, gender and race and portrays the negative impacts of leadership on a society. She made me question the necessity leadership, organized or otherwise. In the end, I felt like any sort of leadership that was established in the novel was overlooked and demolished. Any sense of order was destroyed the minute humans turned on each other. Ultimately, the leadership that was meant to bring order, caused loss. Loss of a parent and defeat of a widowed cop’s mind. To the Oankali, the humans became some sort of experiment and this caused flawed leadership that caused devastation and chaos.
Butler, Octavia E. Lilith's Brood. New York: Aspect/Warner, 2000. Print.