When I started thinking about the assignment tasked to us to compare The House of the Scorpion with one of our other science fiction readings we’ve had so far over the semester, I thought, “Yikes. This could be tough…”
But then my mind went straight to eejits. Eejit: “…a person or animal with an implant in its head” (81). Now there’s a motif that pops up quite often in science fiction: the alteration of the mind, the remodeling of the most important and perhaps most sacred of human organs. Eejits were programmed to do one specific task. Tam Lin explains: “Eejits can do only simple things. They pick fruit or sweep floors or, as you’ve seen, harvest opium” (82). As we soon learn, these once-human-androids will do exactly as they are programmed to do and nothing more, until commanded to do otherwise. In the book we see that one of them strays too far and dies of thirst, simply because he kept on working in the fields and didn’t hear the command to come and drink.
In essence, their freedom to make their own decisions was eradicated, thus they became inhuman.
One of the biggest examples that I saw this elsewhere was in Blade Runner.
I imagined that being a replicant on other planets provided a very similar experience at first: androids were created to serve the purposes of humans. In other words, they were slaves. As Batty puts it, living as this kind of slave was to live in fear, and even though Farmer does not specify whether eejits were able to feel emotion, the imagery provided is striking. As humans attempted to further these replicants’ minds to make them more like themselves, the replicants began to make their own decisions. They escaped, freed themselves, and in consequence needed to be destroyed, which as we see in the movie proved to be a difficult task.
Thus where I saw robots in Blade Runner gaining their humanity I saw humans in House of the Scorpion losing their humanity.
The connection: the mind.
It’s all in the mind; in the ability to choose, and to rationalize;
in the freedom of the will.