Galax Arena And The Cultural Issues

Galax Arena And The Cultural Issues

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How does cultural difference function among the peb who live in the Galax Arena?

Rubinstein’s Galax-Arena (1992) is a science fiction text which shows that a barrier between cultures can be created through a fictitious scientific experiment called Project Genesis Five. Rubinstein creates cultural difference not only between members of the peb, but also between the peb and Vexa; which in turn shows the racial impacts of cross-cultural exchange. The text outlines the impacts of science on cultures, more over how science experiments can affect people; and how people who use science can create difference between and among cultures. Some of the cultural barriers and impacts created by the science in Galax-Arena include racism that occurs from using other cultures for benefit through resources; de-construction of a human over time into animalistic behaviour by means of experimentation; and communication by cross-cultural exchange referring to the ways in which it can evolve or have negative impacts.
In Galax-Arena the racism of using science on other cultures occurs when Project Genesis Five hidden under the mask of alien-other: Vexa, kidnaps children of gymnastic abilities for evolutionary benefits. Thus the children become a group used by science as Bradford writes, ‘as a resource or benefit, so that characters from the dominant mainstream gain knowledge or advance in maturity through exposure to difference’ ( 2006, p117). This therefore demonstrates the negative impact of racism that occurs by cross-cultural exchange against the peb through the science of transferring adrenalin for defying age. The narrative leads the reader to believe that the novel moves into a science fiction by being transported to another planet, however with insight we realise they have been transported into a science experiment, and thus the novel in itself is always a science fiction novel by its use of experimental science.
Ousby (2006) states that Rubinstein ‘interrogates the truth of ‘science’’ in the scenario where children ‘perform in a dangerous circus, where their deaths stimulate the audience’, thus they are used for their abilities by science to benefit one culture, the Vexa. Joella finds out quite quickly that the Vexa like ‘risk, excitement, danger’ and thus she eludes the reader to the science behind the reason why the children are forced to perform like animals; ‘The performers wore pulse bands around their wrists and temples, which picked up and relayed the adrenalin charge to the spectators. The greater the risk for the performer, the greater the thrill for the audience’ (p42).

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The idea of defying age through stimulation resonates closely with social Darwinism theory of evolution and survival of the fittest, however in Galax-Arena, evolution is at the expense of another group or culture; the peb, which shows the racism behind the science. In the world of the peb, the politics of social Darwinism are forced upon them also in the sense that it can be ‘interpreted to involve a "sink or swim" attitude’ (Johnson, 2008) on the planet Vexak which is demonstrated through the fear of becoming a ‘pet’ and the need to perform.
Joella the protagonist highlights the negative impacts that have created difference among the children in Galax-Arena when she acknowledges the first time in which Peter shows evidence of ‘sink or swim’ Darwinist theory, ‘it was the first time I heard Peter speak in patwa. …[it was] as though he was no longer my brother. …He had acquired the aura of the peb’ (pp43-4). As such he had become a member of their society, a society formed by children from many countries. Thus their communication is forced to evolve through the creation of a new language called patwa. Their ability to communicate and their gymnastic ability are the ‘foundations for their social group’, which is fused by a multitude of cultures by the force of science (Hall, 1990).
The children of Galax-Arena are deconstructed from humans into animals to view that ‘It was far better for them to be the peb of the Galax-Arena, even though they were exiles and slaves, even though they were used as performing animals, than to be children back on earth.’ (p45). Beere (2000) states that narrative passages such as these shows how ‘contemporary children have become innocent victims of a social order based on selfishness, greed, competition and overly materialistic concerns with science and technology’. She indicates the racism behind the deconstruction of children that occurs from using science and technology for greed, in Galax-Arena; age defying evolution. Beere shows how deconstructing a group of children into animals for survival, leads Joella to a need to be part of the group. Beere states that her ‘lack of special talents, her ordinariness, renders her unable to survive in the competitive world of the Galax-Arena’ (p196), however it shows that she is in fact, a child who is able to defy the deconstruction into animalistic behaviours and become a performing circus animal. Joella’s ability to defy animalism shows that she is able to avoid the racism of experimental science through performance stimulation, an idea that resonates largely with the example of the case of ‘"human zoos", in which human beings of various races were presented in cages during colonial exhibitions’ (Blanchard et al. 1997). Blanchard’s idea that ‘Human zoos’, sometimes called ethnographic zoos for their multicultural distribution, were ‘often predicated on a version of social Darwinism’ and thus echoes evolution of the Vexa culture.
The peb in Galax-Arena are ‘constructed as intrinsically competitive, individualistic, chaotic and framed through social Darwinism’ (Sawers, 2006, p25), which shows the negative impacts of Project Genesis Five in that when forced to ‘sink or swim’ children are required to act as animals in order to survive. As such, forcing a group or formed society to assimilate to behaviour that reflect the values of the dominant mainstream, in which case, animality; reflects the racism behind the social Darwinism and the hidden scientific experimentation in Galax-Arena. However it is the knowledge and insight of ‘truth’ that can defy the racism of social Darwinism hidden in science, in that Joella, the protagonist is ‘enlightened’ and her ‘perspective sets her apart from her colleagues, the peb, who ‘act’ like animals, or perform animality’ (Sawers 2006, p25). Galax-Arena implicitly implies that in order to see the hidden truth behind the Vexa, ‘knowledge can only occur through the repression of animality’, which shows that truth is the key factor for survival and not animalistic behaviour framed by social Darwinism (Sawers, 2006, p25). Bro Rabbit who is a defining character of understanding how to survive the scientific racism of human versus animal superiority, shows the reader that being ‘hardwired to perform’ reinforces the ‘distinction between ‘animal’ and ‘human’ in terms of instinct and performance, and truth and knowledge.’ (Sawers, 2006, p25).
Bro Rabbit is a source for revealing the truth in which the peb seek, but also to act out animal desires of the peb. Bro Rabbit appears to assume power over the group and his word is seen as rule and truth, however Joella, who is logical and rational tells the group that what Bro Rabbit says ‘doesn’t have to be the truth’ meaning that an animal’s thoughts and ideas should be resisted and inferior to a human who ‘sees the truth’ such as Joella. (Rubinstein, p67) Thus, in Galax-Arena, the reader is positioned to align themselves with the knowledge and truth of a human, i.e. Joella, instead of an animal. This implies scientific racism between the biology of human and animals, which casts human knowledge as superior. Joella is a character whose knowledge is seen as superior as she is ‘rendered more fully human’ with vision and insight, not only to Bro Rabbit, but also to the peb, who express animality and thus biologically inferior (Sawers, 2006, p25).
Blanchard et al. state that, ‘Today, “scientific racism” refers to politically motivated research to justify racist ideology’ (1997). However Galax-Arena shows how science can use racism against cultures through research and experimentation by the Vexa-Project Genesis Five. The science behind the evolution of the Vexa is ‘motivated by racist assumptions’ (Blanchard et al. 1997), which is the peb’s gymnastic ability which is used for adrenal stimulation in which Joella states, ‘more or less [Vexa] has stumbled upon’ (Rubinstein, p118). In Galax-Arena Project Genesis Five aims to justify their scientific experimentation for evolutionary purposes, however through its use of children for scientific experiment, the moral ethics of science create racial injustice, in that they use the physical ability of a group for benefit. Miriam and Joella discover that the Vexa keeping them as a pet is human, named Emmeline, they show her the injustice and unethical treatment that Project Genesis Five promotes by using others as a resource for evolution when Joella states, “But other people die so you can live. Why should they have to die?” (Rubinstein, p118). Emmeline states the ‘scientific racism’ justification for the project as being ‘[the peb] had come from very sad backgrounds where they would have died anyway’ (Rubinstein, p119).
The justification of the resourcing of the peb for evolutionary purposes shows that cross-cultural exchange can impact a group negatively. Galax-Arena shows that the peb, as Sawers states ‘are positioned as raw material for scientific purposes’ (2006) and in using another culture for knowledge exchange, in this case children’s adrenalin rushes, shows that the peb are merely a tool for transporting another societies’ technology for the benefit of the Vexa. Galax-Arena is a novel powered by the greed of knowledge by its use of scientific experimentation which shows the negative impacts of exchange of knowledge for the purpose of evolution. The negative impacts of science for one particular culture in Galax-Arena show how easily positioning a group or culture for development and advances in knowledge for the greed of ‘dominant mainstream’(Bradford, 2006) can disrupt what should be ‘hybrid’ evolution and ‘intra-active’ knowledge development into racism against ability (Sawers, 2006).
Cultural difference in Galax-Arena functions through hidden science and the racism in which it creates. Galax-Arena shows that science has the ability to transform behaviour, which ultimately affects society and the behaviour of the peb. The greed for knowledge and evolution explored through scientific experimentation by Project Genesis Five shows racism by using another culture for benefit by the peb being repressed into animalistic behaviour for performance. Thus cross-cultural exchange is marred by science in Galax-Arena and shows the negative impact on one group or society caused by scientific experimentation.

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Sawers, Naarah. "Intra-active: the child/animal in children’s SF." Papers: Exploration into Children’s Literature Vol. 16, no. 2 (December 2006): pp23-8.
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