Allegiant Ch34

Last time, Tris is now leader of the rebellion, which is now morally right because it’s no longer about dealing with class inequity but is about returning things where she lives to how they were when she was younger. Progressive is bad, regressive is good.

Today, she’s about to head into the fringe! This is getting played up as a big deal except, you know, Tobias just did this already. In fact, it took me a while to remember Tris hadn’t, because they’re basically the same person.

They have bulletproof vests and guns, because the fringe is dangerous.

“So you believe it all? All the stuff about genetic damage being the cause of . . . this?”
All his old friends in the experiment were GDs. Can he possibly believe that they’re damaged, that there’s something wrong with them?
“You don’t?” Amar says. “The way I see it, the earth has been around for a long, long time. Longer than we can imagine. And before the Purity War, no one had ever done this, right?” He waves his hand to indicate the world outside.
“I don’t know,” I say. “I find it hard to believe that they didn’t.”
“Such a grim view of human nature you have,” he says.

Much like Tobias’ bit about peace being a fleeting breath between horrors, this makes no sense.

Tris insisted that there was no crime in her faction world. Even though this turns out to not actually be true, the fact the rest of the factions just flailed around in bafflement after Erudite’s attack does suggest things were, by and large, extremely peaceful. The people who come out of the factions into a factionless world and hear that factions were necessary to approximate the original world should find it easy to believe the original world ran fine.

He adds that the scientists would totally know if it’d happened before, and Tris points out the plot hole of him not realizing they could just lie about this but doesn’t bother actually saying it to him because that might risk an interesting conversation.

When the ones nearest to us see us, a young boy takes off running and screams, “Raid! Raid!”
“Don’t worry about that,” Amar says to me. “They think we’re soldiers. Sometimes they raid to transport the kids to orphanages.”

How interesting!

So, maybe the orphanages are an attempt to break the cycle of dysfunction, though who knows why they’d bother when they think genetics is all. Or maybe they’re slave labor.

A lot of this works better if we assume there’s multiple factions (in the normal sense). Tris isn’t getting a full view of the political situation, she’s just among one group of scientists with their one project, but there’s a lot of competing ideas about what the solution is. Maybe other people think that it’s mostly a nurture thing – that if you can model proper behavior, you can counteract the genetic tendencies. The orphanages probably don’t work much better than the experimental cities, but they don’t seem to have any better ideas, so maybe they’re trying to do their own generational thing where they catch kids of impure parents, try to unfuck them a little, release, then catch their hopefully a little better adjusted kids and try to unfuck those ones further. Almost certainly not going to work, but it’d take a long time to get the data to prove that.

I mean, if we’re going with the idea the GMO people were somehow the instigators of the war, maybe the flaws weren’t evident at first. Maybe everyone thought it worked, because the tendencies are actually minor and when raised in a healthy environment, they just mean the person is a bit more honest/brave/etc and we had the usual stupidity about the GMO people deciding to wipe out the individuals because they’re better. It’s only when raised in a poor environment that you start to see the problems, but unfortunately, there were all too many of those after the war, and the next generation was fucked up, and then they passed that dysfunction on.

Of course, orphanages are terrible for raising children, but I guess it’s hard to say if they’re actually more terrible than watching your mom murder your dad. The fact everyone seems to regard them as the worse than living in the murderslums would seem to suggest it, though, so I guess slave labor camps is most likely.

Tris goes on and on about hey look, these are slums.

“Do you ever help them?”
“We believe that the best way to help our world is to fix its genetic deficiencies,” Amar says, like he’s reciting it from memory. “Feeding people is just putting a tiny bandage on a gaping wound. It might stop the bleeding for a while, but ultimately the wound will still be there.”

Nice to get that hammered down a little more.

Keeping the impure in crippling poverty also helps give them a population of desperate workers and experimental subjects. I guess this all works best if we assume their goal is to figure out the best solution FOR SCIENCE. They aren’t in it to actually make anyone’s life better – actually, this works perfectly ever since they figured out factions help people function and then made no attempt to make factions in the outside world.

That said, I dislike the idea that the only right solution is charity. Tris is comparing this place to the lab, but she has no grasp of the scale difference. The fact there’s an area with surplus beds currently partly filled by Tris and company are enjoying doesn’t mean they can house everyone in the slums, let alone that they could feed and keep them organized, plus, the fact they have a dedicated area with empty beds is probably because it’s for the people leaving the experiments, since they need time to be transitioned into outside society/their new job at the labs. Just because something is empty at the moment doesn’t mean it’s always empty.

Tris goes on about how this must be why her mom wanted to join Abnegation and feed the factionless. The ridiculousness of making fancy food for the starving now makes sense, but just makes it more obvious it’s about making the givers feel good about it, not helping the people who get it. Feeding the factionless didn’t fix the actual problem, it just made the political situation between the factions worse.

People don’t want food. People want decent lives. If you can’t provide decent lives, giving them food is an okay first try, but it’s not a solution, and spending all your energy just feeding them so you can never improve anything is a mistake. The sculpture had a point, Tris. If you have finite resources and you blow all your finite resources on one tiny part of the problem, you will never actually be able to fix things.

Come on! This is a scifi staple, a future where we’ve dug a hole and we can’t try to climb out because we spend all our time just keeping the sides from collapsing. It’s one of the better ones, in my opinion. There’s just something about how trapped everyone is.

If she had really craved safety from Erudite’s growing corruption, she could have gone to Amity or Candor.

Also holy shit CANDOR ARE THE TRUTH SERUM ONES HOW WOULD THAT BE A GOOD IDEA.

This fucking book.

Perhaps in a desperate bid to distract us from all this bullshit, suddenly gunshots and a cry for help from George, our not yet dead possibly gay guy.

As much automatic, Abnegation-bred sympathy as I have for the people living in this place, I am also afraid of them.

I really don’t think you have any Abnegation sympathy given you never displayed that while you were Abnegation.

That said, in another book with more craft, the idea of people thinking any sympathy for others was solely the result of being raised in the one faction in charge of sympathy for others could be interesting and get into why the factions don’t get along – Abnegation assumes all others never feel sympathy, Dauntless feels all others are total cowards, Candor figures the only time people aren’t lying is when they’re too lazy to think one up, etc. (And, of course, obviously when the other factions treat them along similar lines it just shows how arrogant those other people are, and how little they understand the One Correct Faction, but of course that makes sense because if they did understand they wouldn’t have picked the other factions.)

Someone somehow drags Tris into one of the shacks and then starts chatting with her without Tris jamming her knife through any of the squishy bleedy parts of her. This is good because the other woman was trying to warn her to stay away because some fringe people are ready to attack anybody they see aligned with the scientists. Her name is Amy, which is sort of boring but better than Peeta. It’s not clear why Amy is warning her, though – Tris obviously is aligned with the scientists, and also she’s armed and could’ve harmed Amy. Amy seems to view Tris as really young and presumably innocent, but why would people living like this view sixteen year olds as really young and innocent?

“I can’t,” I say. “My friends are out there.”
“Then you should wait until the hordes of people run to wherever your friends are, and then sneak up on them from behind.”

It’s really unclear why Amy’s so helpful. She figures they’re the Genetic Welfare people rather than soldiers, which is an unclear distinction given the scientists appear to have their own private army. The only real difference I’m aware of at the moment is just that the scientists’ one is presumably a lot smaller. Amy is disappointed to learn Chicago hasn’t fallen apart yet.

“That’s my home you’re talking about, you know.”
“Well your home is perpetuating the belief that genetically damaged people need to be fixed—that they’re damaged, period, which they—we—are not. So yes, it’s unfortunate that the experiments still exist. I won’t apologize for saying so.”

Aside from how really weird the language is here – what, did Amy major in GMO People Studies? – there’s the fact that Tris’ home would appear to prove that they do need to be fixed, given every other experiment that used a more normal setup exploded messily and the faction system, the one that resembles no human society that ever existed before and has a huge starving underclass, is the only way they can function normally.

I mean, it is possible that they never did a proper control group of only mindwiping the child abuse out and having the people try to set up a normal society from here. If this is a story about doing science wrong, it could turn out that all the other societies tore apart because they were being run as prison camps due to the belief the GMO guys needed constant abuse to keep them from their genetic desires to do evil. But that would require the author to know anything about science, so I really doubt it.

I hadn’t thought about it that way. To me Chicago has to keep existing because the people I have lost lived there, because the way of life I once loved continues there, though in a broken form. But I didn’t realize that Chicago’s very existence could be harmful to people outside who just want to be thought of as whole.

Okay but Chicago also seems to be a really good argument in favor of there legitimately being something wrong with the GMO people, which means that it’s not harming them, it’s presenting a possible solution to the fact they aren’t properly whole or whatever metaphor we’re using today.

The fact is, Chicago is way better than the world outside. The only place we’ve seen that’s anything like it is the lab area where the aryan master race original model humans have in a stranglehold. Every other attempt at giving the GMO people a stable society with plenty of resources has fallen apart, at least once literally exploding in the process. And if Chicago wasn’t getting food flown in, it was self-sustaining, which means you could use the model to replace the current slums.

I mean, there’s a difference between “Hey, we would like it if you stopped trying to fix our paralysis with lampreys and electrocution!” and “The fact we can’t move any of our limbs is not at all a problem because social model of disability!”

Whether or not the GMO people actually have anything wrong with them, and if so, what, does in fact matter. I mean, it sucks to find out you have cancer, but the problem isn’t the doctor saying you have cancer, although the doctor then saying you’re going to get mindwiped and dunked in the lamprey tank to fix you definitely is a whole new and more pressing problem.

What particularly seems off here is that she doesn’t seem to have any concern for the actual people in the experiment. They’re her fellow GMOs. The experiments aren’t just to breed out GMO people, because they could just give people the gene therapy and then dump them back into the slums. The experiments are trying to find a way to house the GMO people safely in the meantime, and Chicago really seemed to work there.

Now, the fact the “cure” here seems to require mindwiping would make a good point of contention. Maybe there’s fear that if Chicago actually is deemed a success, they’re just going to dump serum into the water supplies and then round the new amnesiacs up for new faction cities. But the problem isn’t believing there’s something wrong with the GMO people there, it’s people deciding on a cure that’s functionally murder.

(…hey, what if Jeanine’s simulation serum was a test run for taking over all the GMO people that way instead? They didn’t give it to her, she invented it and they copied it for their own use. We’re told early on that the Erudite made lots of improvements (and it’s confirmed in Natalie’s backstory that Jeanine did a lot of work on the fear serum) and that makes more sense because they should’ve been inventing new things normally. The idea they gave Jeanine the serum made no sense at all and actually conflicts with what their supposed goals were. And they keep the city under 24/7 surveillance, so they’d easily see how the new serum was made and be able to reproduce it just by spying. In fact, it makes more sense they would copy her work than that a few of their members could sneak in and contact her to give her the full version without anyone at the cameras noticing the intrusion or the fact that Jeanine never did any work before the new serum suddenly appeared (followed by Jeanine testing it out as if she’s trying to figure out how it works). Plus, Jeanine was capable of improving further on the zombifying serum to put Tobias under, then a little later she was making ever-stronger versions to screw with Tris’ head, so she obviously had a really good grasp of how the serum worked.

(Please let this be the twist. It works so well.)

Anyway, Amy now says Tris should go to backstab the GMOs and rescue her friends who work for the thing Amy hates, because Amy is a plot device, not a person.

a tall, gangly boy has a gun pointed at George.

It’s never stated how old she thinks he is, which is an odd oversight. He’s described as if he’s on the older side, but if he’s sixteen and up then Tris should see him as an adult given how very, very much time we’ve spent on how in Dauntless you’re an adult.

The boy of unknown age wants to know where the missing people (are they taking adults as well as kids?) have gone.

“We haven’t taken any of your people,” George says. “We’re not soldiers. We’re just scientists.”
“Yeah, right,” the boy says. “A bulletproof vest? If that’s not soldier shit, then I’m the richest kid in the States. Now tell me what I need to know!”

This feels odd. The scientists are the ones motivated to disappear people, and also, it gets back to how this whole book seems to be about how you should never believe anyone marginalized about their own experiences, only the opinions of the privileged about the subject. This should be the kid targeting them for being scientists. We already know the scientists capture anyone who gets too close to the experiment and erase some amount of their memories.

Tris pops in to escalate the standoff with more guns. She assures the boy that they have no idea what’s up with the missing people, despite the fact for all she knows the scientists totally are stealing people. She’s already had her revelation that the scientists lie about things and are willing to hurt people, but apparently she’s only concerned about stuff that directly impacts her and doesn’t give any thought to the rest.

“It’s the Abnegation in you,” Amar says. “That makes you hate that place. I can tell.”
“It’s a lot of things in me.”
“It’s just something I noticed in Four, too. Abnegation produces deeply serious people. People who automatically see things like need,” he says. “I’ve noticed that when people switch to Dauntless, it creates some of the same types. Erudite who switch to Dauntless tend to turn cruel and brutal. Candor who switch to Dauntless tend to become boisterous, fight-picking adrenaline junkies. And Abnegation who switch to Dauntless become . . . I don’t know, soldiers, I guess. Revolutionaries.

So this would seem to validate my belief that you can get more well-rounded individuals by having them adopt elements of a second faction. Of course, because only Abnegation is good all others produce bad things.

I wonder if the Candor one has cause and effect a little mixed up. Candor say whatever they’re thinking, and as Tobias showed back in the first book, that’s a good way to get into a fight.

“If Four wasn’t so plagued with self-doubt, he would be one hell of a leader, I think. I’ve always thought that.”
“I think you’re right,” I say. “It’s when he’s a follower that he gets himself into trouble. Like with Nita. Or Evelyn.”

I really don’t see that. He gets into follower trouble because he trusts people, but he really hasn’t done anything good as leader anyway, and it doesn’t seem like it’s a matter of self-doubt that makes him refuse.

In case you were thinking it’s interesting that we’re being told the problem is a guy letting two women be leader instead…

What about you? I ask myself. You wanted to make him a follower too.
No, I didn’t, I tell myself, but I’m not sure if I believe it.

That was indeed exactly the point. Tobias must be leader, and women who want to be leader instead are bad. Even just wanting Tobias to take Tris’ information into account is crushing his manly spirit.

Tris then thinks how awful her mother would’ve been to leave the slum area and work for the scientists instead, a thing she did for like two years, and how basically the only reason her mom isn’t pure evil is that she devoted herself to the factionless as a replacement.

Amar then says he totally had a crush on Tobias but no longer so it’s okay, and just as everything is nice and non-homophobic….

“You have to understand,” Amar says. “The Bureau is obsessed with procreation—with passing on genes. And George and I are both GPs, so any entanglement that can’t produce a stronger genetic code . . . It’s not encouraged, that’s all.”

This isn’t even a good reason.

Dating isn’t procreation. Christianity’s particular issues with homosexuality have to do with hating any non-reproductive sex. Otherwise, you can handle it the way so many other cultures handled it, namely that all that mattered is you produce kids with some woman between fucking your boyfriend. In this world not even that should be an issue, because if anything, artificial insemination is an even better way of handling all this than conventional reproduction.

Also it annoys me because it is really not the gay boys who are worse off in a world obsessed with procreating. It’s the women bearing the children.

As with many of these things, in a world with more nuance you could have something like this – a world where the reasons are just the current justification for far older homophobia – maybe even homosexuality was one of the things they were trying to cure, or that people believe true pure people are heterosexual only. But it doesn’t just have to be done in a plausible way, it has to actually add something by being there – it would be a good addition to a story that’s focused on the questions of what “fixing” people meant, and how the current pure blame all sorts of things that were always there as coming from damaged genes alone. Otherwise, having homophobia be there regardless just makes it seem like it’s a law of reality. Gay? Life sucks, now and forever.

But, it does mean we currently have two gay characters and neither is dead yet, so sadly, still doing well on that front in comparison to other stuff.

Anyway, we end on Amar telling her that she’s good for Tobias.

5 Comments

  1. GeniusLemur says:
    And now Amy just kind of pops up to tell Tris everything about the slums. Dammit, isn’t the exposition barrage over yet?
    1. Betty Cross says:
      This is roughly the place in Allegiant where it was a real struggle to keep reading. More than one reader of this book has complained on the Net about how pointless the “fringe” chapters are.
      1. Farla says:
        I think the idea is that seeing the fringe convinces her to take out the scientists, because they don’t care about the fringe, so she’ll save totally unrelated people in their name.
  2. SoxyOutfoxing says:
    I prefer to think that the gay issue is just more science fail from these fail scientists. Clearly they all think that sperm is a precious and finite resource that cannot be wasted on the amusement of gay boys. (Many cultures have managed to believe that sperm is exhaustible. It’s one of the relevant-to-dudes reasons given for why no one should ever masturbate ever.) They seem so confused about so many things that I can buy this being one of them. Otherwise, it would mean that these scientists are running their breeding program by being vaguely optimistic that everyone pure will pair up perfectly into tidy heterosexual couples, because REASON NOT FOUND. And come on, that’s just silly.
    1. Farla says:
      Many cultures have managed to believe that sperm is exhaustible.

      Like ours. People get really upset about stud horses masturbating.

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