December 5, 2006 at 9:15 pm #210
Blake Raintree, the heroine of The Secret Under my Skin is now eighteen. She returns to Toronto, the city she fled as a child, to work as an aide to Erica, her adopted mother, on a new justice council set up to address the wrongs of the technocaust. While there, she submits the ID code from the microchip that was implanted in her arm by her parents in infancy, hoping to find out more about her past. What she learns will cause her to question everything she know about herself.
I was generally surprised and pleased when I discovered this was a futuristic story set in Canada. The year 2370 is a time of holodisplay (tv), hologram (messaging) and Earth people living another planet called “Terra Nova”. Greater Toronto (and other places on Earth) had experienced 16 years of strong-arm straight-jackets political system. These years were called the Technocaust. To recover from this apartheid against technology, the new political system must deal with the crimes and victims of the recent past.
Our world has seen crimes against humanity. We, as a society are willing to perpetrate it, or at least turn a blind eye. But what happens afterwards? How should those crimes be dealt with? The Nuremberg Trials offered guilt, condemnation, and punishment. The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission granted some amnesty after full confession. Out of 7,112 petitions, only 12% were granted amnesty. Two conditions had to be met: a politically motivated crime and a full, honest confession. Those figures only hint at the Commission’s struggles. Criticisms of that Commission say that justice comes first, then reconciliation. One cannot replace the other.
Janet McNaughton used the South African Commission as a model to work through the aftermath of this fictional technocaust. The technocaust had banned many forms of technology: genetic modificatian of any type, nano- and bio-technology, satellite tracking, and artificial intelligence research or application. An eighteen year old girl works as an aide to a member of the Transitional Council. We see the process in establishing this Council through her eyes, Blake Raintree. Her victimized emotions are raw, feeling hatred to the internal protectors (home office of security). With other aides, Raintree investigates archives including radio and tv broadcasts prior to the technocaust. They must discover the triggers for the technocaust. On a personal level, NcNaughton uses Raintree’s search for her father’s identity to parallel the justice council.
Good elements to discuss:
1) What crimes against humanity can you think of? Was justice done?
2) Raintree had a microchip implanted in her arm that helped her to discover her “heritage”. How do children who suffer from our crimes against humanity resolve their past? Which is better to know or not to know your past? If you could have implanted a microchip in your baby’s arm, what would you have chosen? Why?
4) How does the Nuremberg Trials and the South African Commission symbolism their times?
5) What kind of Commission would be appropriate for our time?
6) How power shifts in society?
7) How easily can power corrupt? What are the safe-guards against corruption?
8) Technology, especially computer generated programs, always have flaws. Share some of your technological horror stories.
9) How could our current technology threaten those who govern? Is it happening?
10) How did privacy invasions occur in the book? What effect could this have?
11) When and how can technology invade privacy? Is privacy in today’s world an opt-in or opt-out process? What are the implications for both paths? When should someone be told that their privacy is invaded? Is there a time when it is okay to invade privacy?
12) How can people in power hide behind technology?
13) How does technology change democracy? How will it affect the countries in China, India, and the countries in the Middle East?
14) What is the melting ground for all forms of protest?
15) When is guilt by association a crime?
16) What is forgiveness?
17) How can we forgive when we have such hatred?
18) How can public acknowledgement and confession be a way to move past hate into forgiveness? Must justice come first before reconciliation or vice versa? Or is there another way to moving past hate into the future?
19) How does the author handle spirituality and religion?
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