Surviving Dysphoric Experiences
Humans have a genetic mechanism engraved into their deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) that gives humans the will to live, adapt, and overcome anything presenting a threat to their life or that of one you love. Parable of the Sower takes place in Southern California in the year 2024, narrated by a fifteen-year-old African American girl named Lauren Oya Olumina. The Author of Parable of the Sower takes you on a journey comprised of various trials and tribulations that most people cannot relate to, nor imagine. The fact that Lauren and her group struggle with a multitude of obstacles that constantly challenge their goal, the Author’s emphasis of economic and environmental collapse coupled with major conflicts does not deter Lauren and her group from arriving at their destination.
In the radical introduction of Parable of the Sower, the reader quickly learns of the critical condition of the economical crisis that Lauren and her community live in. Many of the normal safety nets that typical Americans have come accustomed to are now missing in Lauren’s futuristic life, in 2024. She is faced with corrupt police, fire departments, absent healthcare systems, and job opportunities are scarce. Due to the lack of police protection, the only safety is found in walled communities like the one Lauren lives in with her family, enclaves where suburban families have come together to survive. The wall distinguishes Lauren’s neighborhood from the rest of the city. All the while, Laurens’ community is surrounded by pyro maniacs, looters, roving gangs, and drug crazed lunatics, who kill for sport. Much of the community is afraid of fire, a single fire set by ravaging pyros could be overwhelming and deadly. Lauren often talks about how it is pointless to call the fire department during a fire because they would either be late, or not come at all. With all the chaotic behavior looming around every corner, one must think her world has gone mad. In the article, The true cost of the economic crisis on psychological well-being, the Author states that there is a detrimental effect on the mental health of a population due to crisis situations along with lingering effects of substance abuse. (G) Seems that the world Lauren lives in is plagued with mental health issues caused by the economic collapse, influencing the madness being conducted throughout Parable of the Sower. Much of this can be attributed to the lack of Government, not supplying basic needs for their citizens, like health care, security, and any form of Government assistance helping those in desperate need of medical attention. This dramatic setting has outlined what type of barriers Lauren and her community face daily to live and what safety nets they lack. In return, Lauren has begun stock piling money, hording dried foods, and gathering survival gear. Most of the community is soft and vulnerable, but Lauren seems to be strengthened by such harsh times forcing her to start preparing for her exit plan in case of an invasion. After the greatest change in Lauren’s life, the burning of her neighborhood and the slaughter of everyone she knows, she takes charge of this change to exercise all the survival skills she has learned, then begins her journey to establish a group based on the tenets of her religion, Earthseed. (Butler)
Adaptive capacity is the ability of communities, institutions, or people to adjust to potential hazards, to take advantage of opportunities, or to respond to consequences. A related term, resilience, is the ability to prepare and plan for, absorbs, recover from, and more successfully adapt to adverse events. (Balbus, John, et al., par. 1.2) In the Novel Parable of the Sower, the year 2024, environmental degradation and economic collapse have all but destroyed the American society. Diseases like measles ravage the population, people fight and die over water and food. During this era of environmental collapse, not only is food and water hard to come by, the risk of injury or illness could be fatal. Without local hospitals willing to treat common people like Lauren, or anyone without the means of payment, disease and injuries are a major concern. Lauren proves adaptive capacity by demonstrating her skills throughout the Novel by utilizing natural resources, gathering and hunting food, and the ability to use various firearms, and good instinct to avoid most conflicts. The fact that Lauren capitalized on every opportunity while living within the walls of her community, she became self-aware, self-taught, and honed her survival techniques when possible. These critical abilities have made it possible and realistic for her and her group to have any chance at surviving and moving forward towards their goal, safety.
When speaking about dysphoric experiences, referencing the historical and ethnographic records, from warriors and soldiers to suicide bombers and religious martyrs, humans have proven capable of not just cooperating within groups, but of making extremely costly personal sacrifices for them. (Whitehouse 1) The dysphoric experiences that Lauren has encountered, along with all the others in her group, show significance, they’re shared. Shared Dysphoric experience within a group are a powerful mechanism for promoting pro-group behavior’s. (Whitehouse) In the Novel Parable of the Sower, group cooperation and a one-team one-fight mentality, is an instrumental key to their success in surviving the fallout they’re living in. The fact that everyone in Lauren’s group is a victim of violence they are surrounded by, illustrates their connection to each other, building a family like setting. Dysphoric experiences may become entrenched as self-defining memories that similarly define fellow group members promting them to stick together and make sacrifices for each other. No one uses force or intimidation or bribery to establish rule; rather, things are decided democratically. Without trust, the group would fail, and fall victim to looters, roving gang members, rapist, and pyro’s, who kill for sport. The bond that is established between the entire group is the staple of survival, escaping all major conflicts with minimal loss, edging their way to safety.
In Parable of the Sower, Octavia Butler presents Lauren as a storyteller-turned-savior. Lauren is trying to survive in 2024, America is in economic and environmental collapse, and her group is faced with major conflicts along their journey. Despite the many trials and tribulations, Lauren navigated the way by implementing the many skills she learned while growing up in her walled community. Lauren was correct to argue that the people of the neighborhood needed to institute more concrete plans to deal with an invasion of the neighborhood and its aftermath. Ironically, her father thought her plans went too far, but, if they had been followed, his life and many others could have been saved. She faced a lot of backlash and doubt from most that would listen, but ultimately, she was accurate in her assessment and those who failed to give her any credibility, paid the ultimate price when their community was burned to the ground. Lauren was well prepared, or at least prepared enough to escape and recruit members to join her group. Lauren’s compassion, coupled with her intelligence and planning, proves to be a boon. She builds a strong and loyal community of people who support each other. Lauren’s group can use violence only when necessary, and they are never carried away in the enjoyment of violence like the pyros or gang members. However, it is not possible to be completely nonviolent in this vicious world: Lauren’s group will still violently defend itself. The ability to turn that function on or off seems to benefit the group, by steering clear and eluding potential threats versus seeking and indulging in trouble. Through her building of power, use of community, and self-reliance and confidence given to her by being resilient, Lauren becomes a leader to many and an inspiration to those she meets. When they reach the north, they establish their own community, Acorn, based on the tenets of Lauren’s religion, Earthseed.
Surviving Dysphoric Experiences