Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry

I’ve read two books that I can recall that are similar to this one with a premise of a little girl who grows up with a huge disadvantage in her society.  One was Stones from the River about a dwarf girl, and one was Wicked about a green witch.  As for these two books, the young girl never really overcame and triumphed over her peers or others but rather simply found her niche and suffered in the shadows and also became a little warped and contorted.  Of course, I’m going to now find some angle and contextualize this in a larger picture.  One of the greatest strengths of humanity for perhaps the entirety of our two hundred thousand years and the social primates before us was our ability to help the weakest members of our clans.  We recognized that the strongest were not the only ones that mattered.  In fact, if they were, then our evolution would be much different, and our individual lethality and strength would be far greater than it is today.  In fact, compared to most other animals our size, we are rather puny, weak, and harmless without any claws or sharp fangs to defend ourselves or take down prey.  This was actually not a disadvantage but our huge advantage.  Since we were relatively harmless, we didn’t seriously hurt each other in internal disputes and fights.  In fact, I believe that the human ability to get knocked out with a swift hit to the jaw was actually an inherited advantage that allowed fights to be resolved with relatively little serious damage and need for revenge.  Since strength or even physical health (as measured by beauty) were not the most sought after traits, then what was?  The answer is both intelligence and social aptitude, perhaps social aptitude more importantly.  Our strength was or teamwork, and this perhaps is even why our brains grew larger (or a larger brain was favored in the evolutionary process).  Those who could best navigate the complexities of relationships and communication were most likely to gain the clan’s resources and status and reproduce while those with great looks or a great body but no social aptitude were thrown out or marginalized. 


This evolutionary history made us noble.  What I mean is that social aptitude and morality are closely tied, so that the one with the greatest social aptitude was often the one with the highest morality.  Many people might argue that charisma and morality do not go well together, that often highly charismatic people are manipulative and immoral, but I would argue that charisma and social aptitude are not the same.  Social aptitude covers a much broader array of skill sets that allow people to navigate relationships but most importantly always for long-term gain which means the ability to develop trust. 


Today’s society is much different.  After inventing grain surpluses through grain farming, we soon developed hierarchies to allot those grains in a concentric manner with those nearest and dearest to the grain masters getting the most.  Instead of natural selection based on social aptitude, instead, for the last twenty thousand or so years, our natural selection has been based on our ability to basically kiss ass and submit to a greater authority, to weasel our way closer and closer to the grain master.  Obviously, I’m not talking about grain today but its new symbol of wealth and money.  Unlike before, ingratiation and submissiveness has very little to do with social aptitude but rather deceit, manipulation, politics, and exploitation.  In other words, we have simply become immoral and disgusting beings.  As such, instead of taking care of the weak and vulnerable who historically were valued as assets for their social aptitude and teamwork, their intellectual contributions to the team, we now view them as worthless simply because the elite have no use for them.  Obviously, nobody will admit to this, but consider our set up.  In school, the weak and vulnerable are relegated to the bottom rung of the social ladder and named geeks or dorks, the odd ones in their wheelchairs, with their obesity, their physical deformities, their bad skin, their unhealthy posture, and their pure ugliness which indicates some sort of internal disease or nutritional deficit in early childhood.  When they are unable to support themselves through gainful employment, mostly because of our discrimination and bullying, instead of being charitable toward them as we have for most of our ancestral history, we feel that paying taxes is sufficient charity and simply look the other way when we encounter one who slipped through the cracks and wound up on the streets.  In our minds, the system did not fail them, they failed the system.  We ignore the fact that the system, government bureaucracy, is designed to fail most of them, to marginalize them as much as we do, to disqualify them with the slightest hint of disregard for the contrived and purposefully complex set of rules imposed upon them. 


We fail to remember that government was never created as a charity to help the poor and needy but rather the henchmen of the elite to control and intimidate the masses.  We fail to remember that the vast majority of laws were not passed to keep us safe but rather to keep us in control and in fear as well as to give the elite all the advantages.  We have been brainwashed by none other than government (aka public schools) to believe all this and instead of viewing those get an F from the system with pity and treating them with charity, we look down upon them as failures and despise them for it.  Our guilt adds fuel to that fire.  Instead of feeling bad that we are doing nothing to help them, it makes us displace our anger upon them.  It is like hearing about a crime victim and instead of becoming fearful of winding up like them, we like to point out how the victim made critical mistakes which then gives us a sense of comfort, a sense of control over our own fate.  We like to say, the victim was hanging out with the wrong crowd, asked for it, wore the wrong clothing, was in the wrong neighborhood, or better yet, was a different race, and that stuff doesn’t happen to my race. 


It should not be that surprising that a political candidate can be part of the elite and convince the masses that the problem is not the poor leadership of the elite but rather the most vulnerable people in society, women, minorities, and immigrants.  And it should not be that surprising that the most vulnerable in society have found solace in writing novels about their plight. 


While the Agrarian Age pulled humanity down with its hierarchy, the Industrial Age almost destroyed humanity altogether by created scale and industrial weapons of mass destruction.  Human history is not very unique.  Whenever any intelligent species industrializes, they inevitably clash, and the result is inevitably monumental loss of life.  Often overlooked is the mass murder of a nation’s own citizens as evidenced by the Soviet and Communist Chinese regimes.  The only reason we view Hitler as the epitome of evil and Stalin as merely some oddball dictator was that Hitler killed more people outside his nation.  It is saying that a nation can kill its own but horrors if it kills others.  Perhaps a bit of an optimist, I truly believe the Information Age will help us uncover and reverse this horrible downward turn of humanity.  Information being the key, the masses will become more independent minded and informed.  They will learn the real history of humanity and the real evil of hierarchies and scale.  Even today, people who fight the system of hierarchy and authority do not necessarily go straight to prison or the poor house.  In fact, two prime examples, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, both defied the system by not graduating from college and nonetheless both became multi-billionaires.  Today’s youth are taught only to associate with their own kind, a narrow slither of demographic, and their goal supposedly is to aspire to an even narrower demographic, the elite.  Everyone else is to be ignored, dismissed, and belittled.  Increasingly, however, those who socialize outside their demographic and succeed in developing trust and forming strong relationships are finding fortunes not only moneywise but intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, and everything else not tied to money.  What they are discovering is the age old power of teamwork, of being part of something greater than the self, the age old paradigm that we were not individuals but rather relationships, the son of so-and-so from the town of such-and-such. 


The reason hierarchies have embraced the paradigm of individuality is that it works to divide and conquer us, to distill us to single islands that can be more easily managed and controlled than groups.  So many of us are isolated at work, isolated commuting, and then isolated at home.  Socializing at work is viewed as a bad thing.  Socializing while commuting is viewed as wasteful and socializing with neighbors is viewed is distressing.  Instead of motivating us through the small biochemical bumps we get when we socialize, we are motivated through fear, through the small biochemical stress hormone bumps we get when we fear losing our job, losing our face, losing our health in a car accident, gaining weight, getting old, being inadequate. 


To add to the confusion, the elite gaslight us.  They distort and rewrite history.  Liberalism was first created as an opponent to government, hierarchy, and bureaucracy.  It sought liberation and liberty.  It viewed all men (unfortunately not all humans) as equal in so far as deserving equal opportunities and rights.  It was revolutionary, but in our history books, they are not called liberals.  In fact, the word ‘liberal’ is now used to describe pro-government, pro-hierarchy, pro-bureaucracy people who believe government is a benevolent force of good.  Individualism also has been confused.  At first, individualism was associated with people who were free of government controls and lived free out in the frontier lands of America.  Today, individualism is associated with greed and isolationism, people who are infatuated with themselves and anti-social not just anti-government. 


* * *


Have you ever wondered why we have shitty bosses who are cruel, selfish, and exploitative with impunity merely because they are ranked above us and make more money than us?  Does it ever occur to you to question this system?  Of course not.  For 12 years, you’ve been taught to be obedient to a teacher and conformist to a morally bankrupt school system.  Why should you rebel now?  But why is it that the vast majority of people, billions of people, agree to a system where they get mistreated simply because they have lower rank and make less money?  One reason is because they are not at the very bottom.  This is one of the oldest tricks in the book and why human sacrifices were often used.  Hey stupid, things are bad, but look, Joey over there is getting his heart cut out.  He has it much worse, and if you don’t like the system, well, that’s exactly how Joey ended up where he is.  But what choice do we have?  Most all Americans believe that the only choices are the ones given to them, like some fucked up stupid multiple choice exam.  They fail to realize that they have more choices than the ones fed to them by authority, and that there is not always the one correct choice picked by authority.  There are many legitimate choices, most of which you never see offered by authority on mainstream TV.  How about a system where you don’t have a supervisor.  But how on earth would that work?  No work would ever get done!  How would they fire bad workers!  It would be anarchy and chaos!  This is the hysteria they throw at you every time a legitimate alternative is provided.  Meanwhile, suffering, chaos, and misery continue. 


It was only at the end did I notice that this book is part of a series.  Apparently, this is the 2nd in a 4 book set.  The first book is called The Giver which was a movie that I saw, but I don’t understand how that movie can be a prequel to this book.  The Giver is about some kid who breaks through a utopian society whereas this book is about a crippled girl who is saved from exile and given the task of weaving a gown that relays the history of her community.  Apparently, all the crippled people are thrown out of this dystopian society. 


I wonder how people would react if you simply told them they lived in a dystopia.  As an American, you live in a world of great privilege and wealth where your nation’s power heavily exploits the world to its advantage.  Your nation supports autocracies which imprison and torture political enemies.  Your nation itself has the highest incarceration rate in the world.  Your nation murders innocent people in a war on terror that it perpetuates for profit.  You support and embrace a hierarchical culture that values wealth and status above character and morals.  You live in a society that applauds soulless billionaires while condemning or dismissing the crippled, weak, and poorest who may have the largest souls and highest morals.  We assign moral value to wealth.  Apparently, if you have a lot of wealth, you’re a hardworking, ethical, obedient person, but if you’re dirt poor, you’re lazy, untrustworthy, and rebellious.  I’ve always been a rebel, but it seems my choice of rebellious behavior was also controlled by society.  The iconic rebel is all about alcohol, drugs, partying, self-destruction, promiscuity, and recklessness.  Basically, society tells people that it’s okay to rebel so long as they destroy themselves in the process.  Since then, I’ve learned that a true rebel does not overindulge in substances and destroys themselves but rather reads books by independent minded people, becomes politically active, volunteers, and helps others while forming long-term relationships with a wide variety of people from different backgrounds. 


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