Thursday, February 3, 2011

Is Stephenie Meyer Critiquing Classism in 'The Host'?

Okay, you all know Meyer from the Twilight saga.  Many have raised very legitimate critiques of the series.  Today, I would like to talk about her lesser known book The Host.  First, let me start off by saying that Meyer does not include a single marginalized person in the book.  There are no LGBT characters, no disabled people, and no POC.  The premise of the book is that the earth is invaded by aliens, and of course it is left to White heterosexual, able bodied, cisgender people to carry on the human race.  I know that this is complete erasure, but given Meyer's former forays in writing characters of colour, I am relieved that she didn't even try.

What I would like to talk about is the make up of the world in Meyer's book, now that humans are no longer in charge.  Everyone on earth has a job and are allowed to pursue the calling that best suits them.  Everyone takes their turn cleaning the streets and doing menial tasks, that allow the environment to be clean.  If one is hungry, it is a simple matter of going into a grocery store and taking the food items that are needed off of the shelves.  If one is sick, it is a simple matter of traveling to a healing center to be cured and no cost is ever incurred for treatment. Both men and women work, though women or at least human women, remain subservient to males.  Sports are played without violence and at the Olympics, everyone is given an award.  There is no war and there is no violence.

In Meyer's book, it took an alien race inhabiting human bodies to make the changes that we need to make today.  At first, I was really put off by the tired premise of the Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but then as I thought it through, I realized that Meyer is really making a statement on the way our world is ordered today.  What would it mean for every single person to actually have enough to eat each day, and a home to live in?  I read a post by Red Queen, of which I am going to share part with you, that really meshed with the message that Meyer was trying to send Vis-à-vis class.
I wrote once about how Simon Schama called Obama a Victorian in the modern world. As I look around at the cuts to social programs and the focus on national debt before citizen welfare I think that it's not just our president who is victorian, but the entire political class that is stuck in 1800's ideas of bootstraps and sacrifice for the underclass while the upperclass thrives. We are watching them create a modernpotato famine through the calls for austerity.
The problem is not that we have a lack of necessities, but that a small percentage of the population has decided to hoard the resources of this planet for themselves.  Everyday, restaurants and supermarkets throw out thousands of pounds of food and this does not even include the personal waste that happens in every home.  We walk by the underclass, who are often begging for change to buy meager meals to feed themselves. This onslaught of snow had many thinking about how they were going to get to work, and I wondered what if you didn't have a job to go to?  What about those that are currently freezing in their homes because they could not afford to pay their gas bills?  What about those that had to make the choice of freezing on the street, or risking violence in a shelter? 
 

There is a sense of entitlement that is born by the false idea that people can just pull themselves up by the bootstraps, and yet the welfare given to the rich, and corporations is deemed unproblematic.  I know that we call them tax breaks, or  bailouts, but essentially they amount to welfare and never is there a complaint about this being a drain on society, or that these people are not entitled to social aid.  We talk about personal motivation and yet there are people working full-time that do not make enough for subsistence. How much harder can someone try? The war on the poor is an ongoing effort and even those who run for office under the mantle of balancing the discord of worth and value, are so beholden to corporations and maintaining their class privilege, that they fail to do any real positive.  We have been in an going war against the poor for centuries, and yet it is rarely actively named and acknowledged.  Its very invisibility grants power to its progress.

I look at former President Clinton and see far more than a progressive man.  While he was responsible for a large economic growth, he did so while doing his part to continue the war on poor people.  TANFF, or lifetime limits on welfare anyone?  Yet, he is remembered as having the best interest of the poor and working class at heart.  Better than an opposing party, does not equal good, and it is time that we start to admit this. Right now, this issue is very close to mind, as the ads aired on Canadian television indicate that we are getting close to an election.  I know that like everyone else, I am going to vote with the lesser of the three evils, but even as I do so, I know that there isn't a single party truly committed to making the brave changes required that will help the many instead of the few. 

Meyers brave new world may be utopian in its makeup, but I cannot believe that this disordered chaos is the best we can do, when we live on a planet that is so rich in resources. I have not had an easy time in the life, and yet I am so well aware that in comparison to many, I have been blessed.  I own my home, I can afford to buy food to feed my family, and we even have disposable income.  There is nothing so special about any one individual or company that should place them above another human being.  I know that many find this idea terrifying, but I truly believe that this stems from a place of a false belief that hierarchy is the only way to organize this world, and since they are on the top of the pyramid, they see no need for change.  As we watch the revolts in Egypt, we would all do will to remember that given the right amount of inspiration, change often happens when the underclass see no difference between fighting for freedom and living as walking corpses.  It may not be within our lifetime, but this order cannot be maintained and we can only hope that change will occur peacefully, rather than violently.  Even a broken clock is right twice a day, and so while it is easy dismiss Meyer for her many faults, perhaps this is one idea we should listen to.