What's On Order?
Chapter 12 of Oryx and Crake finally provides us with the big reveal. We get to learn of the Crake's origins and their (purported) purpose. There is so much to find fascinating in this passage, from the insights into Crake's character to the philosophical quandary over what it means to be properly human. What I find most unsettling, both as a parent and as a strident disability rights advocate, is the idea of having your child's traits customized.
Seeing the extreme nature of the Crakers, Jimmy wonders if they're actually that appealing, considering they are at the outer limits of what one would consider human. Crake responds:
“I told you,” said Crake patiently. “These are the floor models. They represent the art of the possible. We can list the individual features for prospective buyers, then we can customize. Not everyone will want all the bells and whistles, we know that. Though you’d be surprised how many people would like a very beautiful, smart baby that eats nothing but grass. The vegans are highly interested in that little item. We’ve done our market research.” ~Margaret Atwood. “Oryx and Crake.” iBooks. https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/oryx-and-crake/id421703237?mt=11
I see so many frightening possibilities in such a gene-editing eugenics. The hubris we demonstrate in believing we have the right to determine who should and who should not live, in what traits should and should not reproduce, is just mind-numbing. Of course, such a position is always given a proper euphemism, hidden in intentions to decrease suffering, improve lives, or advance the species. Unfortunately, as Atwood's novel will explore in a fictional setting, such endeavors at improvement and purity seem to always end in disaster. I can't help but think of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet:
"These violent delights have violent ends
And in their triumph die, like fire and powder,
Which as they kiss consume"