“OMG I was just thinking that!” “I was just about to say that!” “GET OUT OF MY HEAD!”…How many times have you found yourself in a conversation with a close friend, colleague, or sibling and found yourself saying something like this in jest? The idea that two people can have so synchronous a thought that one actually says what the other is thinking is a phenomenon that is neither new nor unique. But while most of us can attest to saying at least one of these commonly used phrases, what if the person finishing your sentence wasn’t simply in a moment of synchronous thought, but was actually in your mind? What if the person finishing your sentence knew of their power but decided to hide the truth from you? From everyone? Virginia Hamilton addressed this very scenario in the novel Justice and Her Brothers. As I was reading the novel I couldn’t help but wonder about (and feel sympathy for) the character Levi, who was the most effected by the mind-reading abilities of his siblings and friend. The sympathy I felt for Levi as I read the novel not only comes from the artful way in which Hamilton presented Levi’s situation, but also from my own feelings of intellectual intrusion.
Intellectual intrusion, it feels exactly how it sounds: to have your private thoughts invaded by an unwelcome visitor, an unwanted being, an uninvited adversary. Thinking about Dawn and Justice, I can’t help but wonder if both Octavia Butler and Virginia Hamilton drew inspiration from the military intelligence scares in the US during the cold war. Considering how frightened people may have been by the idea of the ‘evil’ communist forces listening in and encroaching upon their private lives, I can’t help but think about the degrees of willingness that we today give up our intellectual privacy and freedom. I know this seems far-fetched (as is the idea that pre-teens can read and control minds) but follow me here:
Today we willingly give our intellectual property to anything/anyone; Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Vine, Blogs (oh my!). However, we never fully think about how quickly an action as simple as taking a picture of a breath-taking sunset and sharing it with our “friends” and “followers” becomes the means by which we all but summon an intellectual intrusion—an assault of our privacy and private thoughts. I wonder how the heroines in black speculative fiction would regard our willfully giving up of our intellectual property, what advice would Lilith or Justice give to us from the future? At the end of it all I’m left wondering: can humankind really become “slaves” if our freedom was never actually taken?