Saturday, November 15, 2014

Revision #2

Madison Kraemer
Dr. Adam Johns
English Composition 0200
15 November 2014

The Strive for a Different Perspective on Cancer

Close your eyes and imagine that you are walking down the street. You run into this tall, muscular, handsome man with most beautiful blue eyes.  As a female, you immediately become turned on. A tall, muscular man with beautiful eyes are sexual characters that normally attract us to men. To the Oankali, cancer is considered this “tall, muscular, blue eyed man” because they view cancer as this sexual characteristic that they want and attract from us humans. The Oankali have taken cancer, something so dangerous and lethal to us humans, and altered it so it can be useful to their race and future generations. We humans are investing in millions even billions of dollars to find a cure for this disease whereas the Oankali are finding different ways to utilize it to benefit their way of life. The Oankali transform the aspects that have destroyed our human world and have changed them into something that can be beneficial and effective in their quality of life.

The Oankali had the capability and time of deeply understanding cancer because they do not believe they have a hierarchical status like us humans. The Oankali believe that the destruction of human life was due to our combination of intelligence and hierarchy. In the United States, we live in a society where you are separated into classes based on the amount of money you make and acquire. In our human society, people who have more money, have more power politically and sociably in the world. In Lilith’s Brood, Butler sets up a type of hierarchal status between the Oankali and ooloi that is similar to ours. Essentially, the ooloi is the voice or “head” of the household and everyone in the household defers to the ooloi. But it seems as if Butler gives each person in the household a special quality or role that is significant to their name (Oankali, ooloi, or baby ooloi) in attempts to abolish the possibility of a hierarchical status. Butler writes how it essential to understand the true meaning on why the Oankali want to avoid having a hierarchy at all costs; “we’re not hierarchical, you see. We never were. But we are powerfully acquisitive. We acquire new life-seek it, investigate it, manipulate it, sort it, use it,” (41). In other words, instead of us humans who seek power due to hierarchical nature, the Oankali have studied and changed this view we humans naturally acquire and use their learned knowledge of cancer to improve their way life for future generations. The Oankali want to stay clear of a hierarchy because they have learned that it seems to blind our thinking which causes us to look at only the face value of things.

Now that we have reasoning for the Oankali’s avoidance of hierarchical status, we can explain how it relates to cancer. As humans, we have this tendency to search for any type of solution in hopes of getting recognized. A journal called Hierarchies, Power Inequalities’, and Organizational Corruption written by Valerie Rosenblatt states that “Particularly, institutional environments structured as hierarchies promoting power or status inequalities may compel individuals and organizations to get to the top using any means possible, in process overlooking moral norms and values,” (Rosenblatt 238).   Rosenblatt’s description of hierarchy is very similar to the way we humans think. For example, a solution or cure for cancer is essentially a race. The first person to find a possible solution or cure for cancer will go down in history as “the person who cured cancer and saved millions of lives”. It seems as if human scientists are so preoccupied and obsessed with moving up in hierarchical standings that they forgot to deeply explore cancer in order to find multiple solutions instead of just one. As a society, we are blinded by this urge to increase in hierarchical status which causes us to not focus on analyzing cancer in a useful and effective way. The Oankali have mastered this skill because they have studied our ludicrous ways and found the ability to focus more on the research and anatomy of the cancer instead of just one simple cure. This causes them to have a deep motivation to find the different ways you can manipulate DNA within themselves in order to develop a better understanding of the effects of cancer.

The Oankali have studied our human flaws and found a much more beneficial way to treat cancer. They are open minded and search for multiple ways in which they can use this cancer to advance their knowledge. As humans, we solely look for one answer. We put humans into more pain by the use of chemotherapy and radiation instead of exploring the different possibilities that would be less harmful. Just as Valerie stated in her journal, it seems as if we humans will do anything to find a cause even if it means putting humans in a more harmful and destructive situation. As humans, we need to open our eyes and realize that everything we perceive as “bad” may not really be bad and I think this is the message Butler is trying to portray. Even though we have a good reason to think cancer is bad and deadly, we cannot just look at the face value of everything, we need to look deep within something to really be able to manipulate and understand the complexity of it. We need to follow in the Oankali footsteps and acquire this type of thinking. We must rid ourselves of hierarchy and turn something that is so deadly and lethal into something beneficial and useful to our quality of life.

Following this belief of changing the way we perceive cancer, we could possibly use cancer in a similar way the Oankali do. The Oankali have taken cancer and transformed it from this malicious, deadly disease into something savior and beneficial to their way of life. Essentially cancer is the “holy grail” to the Oankali. Cancer can dramatically change their appearance by transforming them from this medusa, “snakes for hair [and] nests of night crawlers for eyes and ears,” appearance to more of a Lilith, human like appearance. (43). The Oankali look into the future and use cancer as a way to “[...] reshape themselves and look more like the partners before trade,” (41). It changes them in a way where people will not be so afraid of them, but rather they will appear to look human because it helps in the “regeneration of lost limbs, controls malleability, […] and increases longevity,” (41). If we humans could grasp this concept, then maybe we could eventually have the capability to regenerate the limbs and increase longevity to help the mental stability of humans who have lost their limbs due to war, from a car accident, or any other unfortunate event. Cancer could be another way to improve our quality of life and even increase our life expectancy if we just followed the Oankali way of life.

As humans, we need to rid ourselves of this mindset that cancer is malicious and deadly. To the Oankali, cancer is the thing that can aid your quality of life and can be very successful and useful, whereas humans view cancer as a disease that only destroys and kills. We need to use cancer the way the Oankali use it, open minded and without hierarchy tendencies. Our human society needs to stop conforming to this idea that all cancer does is destroy, and we must stop looking at only the face value of cancer but rather deeply explore the true meaning and understanding of cancer to further our quality of life.



Works Cited


Butler, Octavia E. Lilith's Brood. New York: Aspect/Warner, 2000. Print.


Rosenblatt, Valerie. "Hierarchies, Power Inequalities, and Organizational Corruption." Journal of Business Ethics 111.2 (2013): 237-51. Web. 6 Nov. 2014.



  1. You turned it in late, but not outrageously so. My comments will be compact. Your first few sentences were good, but there’s not enough focus in the rest of the first couple paragraphs - are you summarizing or arguing? Your use of Rosenblatt was good - I wonder if you could have gotten here more quickly?

    Your own point of view does emerge: “We need to follow in the Oankali footsteps and acquire this type of thinking. We must rid ourselves of hierarchy and turn something that is so deadly and lethal into something beneficial and useful to our quality of life.” This would work better if you were more specific. Where and how (if only as an example) should we learn this lesson from Butler’s Oankali? The idea that we could use cancer if we abandoned our hierarchical tendencies seems, at best, underdeveloped. It’s very speculative, and it’s totally unclear how that works. It would be more effective to focus on ways closer to home that we could transform ourselves through an abandonment of hierarchy, and to think through the consequences of that. For example, what does a non-hierarchical classroom look like? How about a workplace? Or better yet, since you started with science, how do you do scientific research in a non or anti hierarchical way?

    Overall, this shows some insight into Butler and alignment with her thinking, but it remains vague and abstract.

  2. Emma read both of the essays I was starting to revise and said I should choose this one rather than Lewontin. She thought that I had a good understanding but reading the rest of the book would really give me more material to work on. She also told me that I should incorporate more aspects of hierarchy, which I did. I took all her thoughts into consideration but the only problem I had was time. I was not able to read all three books but I was able to incorporate more hierarchy into my revision and I think it strengthened it from my previous essay.


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