Imagine a world without pain, a world without fear, hunger, worry, or illness – a seemingly perfect world. This is the society of “The Giver”… So, how can we reach this “ideal” in our own society? It seems we’ve begun to apply the same methods referenced in the book and movie. They take out pain, choice, fear and illness, along with dignity, love and a full life.
First and foremost, there is the problem of pain. So many things cause pain, but we can hide or avoid them, at least until we pass that pain onto someone else. For the pain we can’t displace to others, we can keep it hidden so that we don’t have to deal with that bothersome “compassion” that makes us feel others’ pain as if it were our own. We have gotten pretty good at this already: hiding the blood from abortions so that mothers are numb to the reality that their children are dead, hiding the truth of post-abortion effects and hiding graphic images – all like the Elders, who hid the community from the true nature of things. Through the manipulation of language, it is quite easy to be indifferent to injustices; for example, using “product of conception”, “fetus”, and “abortion” instead of “baby” and “murder”. We just can’t let people like Jonas realize that “[our society] hadn’t eliminated murder, [we] had brought it home. [We] had just called it by a different name.”
Another issue is choice. We all value the ability to choose. To get rid of the responsibility that comes along with choice, we first have to get rid of that notion of ‘wrong’ that’s so objective. Therefore the assumption is made that all choices are good choices. Sometimes this means the freedom to choose is valued more than life itself. But what could be more valuable than life itself?
The other task we must accomplish if we want a world like that in “The Giver” is to take away fear – that unpleasant emotion indicating that we could experience pain. We have become experts in suppressing and ignoring fear instead of sharing that burden with others. In the film, the Giver must take on all the painful memories, just as we leave the post-abortion mothers to hold all her suffering without support. For instance, imagine a mother who wants to keep her baby but has run out of savings, lost her job, and is homeless. Of course she wants what is good for her child, but she is afraid…and left alone in her fear (adapted real examples from http://nymag.com/thecut/2014/09/my-year-as-an-abortion-doula.html). We need to get rid of this fear, so we get rid of the pregnancy.
Difference causes discrimination, envy, abnormalities – so the end goal is to get to Sameness, as they do in the story. Illness, one cause of difference, is quite easy to eliminate: just don’t allow fetal abnormalities to reach birth. The defective old and young are just removed in the book. This would be much more difficult if love existed in “The Giver”. Blood families are separated to prevent the mother from loving her child, or seeing that the child loves her back – just as mothers in our society are told to abort before they meet their babies. Society avoids the risk of realizing that the pain is worth the “love” that is being removed. That raw, true love that means you must feel fear and pain for someone else. That love that accepts no lies – society’s widespread lies regarding the “products of conception” as opposed to a human being, and the lies of philosophy that strip that human of dignity.
In the end there is no way to completely rid our society of fighters and defenders of life over choice. There will always be people like Jonas who know deep down that “for Gabriel there would have been no life at all. So there had not really been a choice.” (pg. 174) There will always be people like Fiona (in the movie) who know something is “stolen”, not lost…”something more” – more than the poverty, pain, fear, and fleeting pleasures that were eliminated in “The Giver”. It seems a society like this cannot exist for long, so life-advocates just have to fight and wait like the Giver. We need to wait until people experience love themselves, remember or learn the truth, remember that death isn’t simply Elsewhere, and that people and pain can’t simply be forgotten…these ideas weren’t accepted “back and back and back”.
Jonas learned to love by seeing and experiencing love himself. Then he was compelled to sacrifice himself, accepting the pain he and others would feel so that the community could know the happiness and goodness that a full life brings. You need pain to appreciate pleasure. Death is only tragic if life is precious and full. A full life is one that respects the dignity of others’ lives as really “something more”. The moral of the story is that a full life – dignity and love and life – is the best gift the Giver could give.
– by Jonathan Conte