Book: The Wind-Up Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
As I discussed in the last post, love and compassion in this book are hidden deep down in the psyches of those struggling to survive this ugly world, if they exist at all.
Large powerful corporations – one of the main characters works for “AgriGen” – rule the calorie market by whatever means necessary. Negotiation, bioterrorism, hand-to-hand violence, whatever. (AgriGen is this future’s natural extension of Monsanto, the comparison cannot not be made.)
Foods, animals, and humans have been genetically modified. Barely a calorie exists that isn’t made with a genetically modified crop or animal. All natural crops have been destroyed by some disease or another.
The people of the Thai Kingdom, where the story takes place, hold a deep disgust for genetically modified humans. (I suppose this is a somewhat natural, since the very existence of humans as a species could be threatened by the very existence of genetically modified ones, in the long run.) Eating GMO crops is a must but the Thai people are against GMO people.
The most fascinating thing about this book is that the author has played out how present and substantial the role of genetic alteration may become to our world.
Japan, as we learn, does not treat “wind-ups” (genetically modified humans) as soulless disgusting creatures, as the Thai do. (A Japanese company based in Thailand creates – builds – wind-ups.) Japan views them primarily as tools, though, and they are put to death when they’re no longer useful or if they commit an act that is not sanctioned by their education. A Japanese wind-up, Emiko, is more or less the main character, and she is left in Thailand when her Japanese benefactor decides to upgrade to a newer model.
In our view as readers of this book, we know that genetically modified people are different than us, yes, but they are still humans with the equivalent of “souls”, no different than you or I in that department, but the Thais think they are practically demons.
Cloned creatures have all of the “personhood” attributes of any other member of their species. Years ago when the first cloned animal was created (or at least the first to be publicized), Dolly, I asked myself, what is different about a cloned creature? The answer is, there is no difference, except for whatever physiological differences such as being more prone to disease and whatever changes the designer put into them. And that might be substantial, but their minds and bodies feel the same psychology and emotional pain that other members of their species do. The same depth of being.
If scientists ever succeed in cloning a woolly mammoth, for example, would it not suffer terribly like any other animal, in a cage or enclosure, away from its natural habitat and any creatures like it?
Perhaps a cloned individual is different than a genetically modified one but to say that someone isn’t a real person because their DNA was tampered with, or because they were not born in the traditional way, is simply hogwash. I wonder if someday this will be a bigger discussion because of cloning or GMO technology. It’s exciting, but this book will remind you that it should also be quite disturbing to you too.
The people of Bacigalupi’s The Wind Up Girl seem to lack the sentiment that GM humans are people too. And they lack much of that love and compassion that I spoke of earlier. Even the Japanese who treat their genetically altered people with decency consider them little more than a means to an end, and nearly everyone will snuff out a life like they’re taking out the trash.
But it’s a great ride, and I will keep reading Bacigalupi, even if his books are based in a monstrous future that is haunting and frightening for what it depicts, and possibly, predicts.