Category: McCoy 431 Fall 2017

The Infection of a State of War

Eli and Ingraham’s choices to engage in Locke’s society of autonomy and capitalism in relation to the rule of law forces them to enter into a state of nature. Both Eli and Ingraham took more than they needed the day they kidnapped Blake, Keira and Rane from the roadside. During this period, in accordance with Locke, they entered into a state of war. Locke states that, “In transgressing the law of nature, the offender declares himself to live by another rule than that of reason and common equality” (Sect. 8, Chapter 2). Here, that occurs in this scene between kidnappers and the kidnapped. When Blake informs them Eli and Ingraham that Keira is sick, Ingraham states, “Shit . . . What are we supposed to do with a kid who’s already-” (Butler 464), to which Eli responds, “If we’ve made a mistake, it’s too late to cry about it . . . Sorry Doc. Her bad luck and ours . . . Well, you take the good with the bad” (464). This passage indicates that they are taking more than what is necessary, and that they are aware that this is the case. Their taking of “the bad”, Keira, with “the good” Rane and Blake” indicate their grievances with after they enter a state of nature.  The indication alone that she was sick with leukemia and not in the best health indicated their reluctance and lack of need for her. Need is the basis for Locke’s treatise – to take what a person can work with, without crossing the line into greed.

Locke also takes it a step further and states that “Every man has the right to punish the offender and be executioner of the law of nature” (Sect. 8, Chapter 2). In this case, although Locke states that a person can take what they need, it does not necessarily account for the subjugation of freedom from fellow human beings. As a result, this results in the state of war that Locke references throughout his treatise. Both Blake and Rane never come to terms with their denial of freedom, and Keira’s end choice to remain with the infected people in the enclave is not necessarily a choice made from the freedom to consent. Her consent is ultimately derived from duress of familial death, and the stress of being infected, and therefore, perhaps, not truly consent by definition.

“P.O.W: Prisoner(s) of War”

“P.O.W”

  1. “Prisoner(s) of War”
  2. The title of the second section

     As I was reading Clay’s Ark, I wondered how much control the infected individuals had over themselves. Blake, in his analysis of the organism in Meda, feels that the organism, “Had left her no longer human” (498). This contrasts with Eli who continues to eat cooked food because he feels it’s a “human thing” he can cling on (515). Blake believes the organism takes away one’s entire humanity; Eli believes he still has some control/self autonomy.

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Your Language Creates Distance

We talk about a distance that vision creates, but that distance derives from the language we see in Octavia Butler’s Bloodchild. Distance in vision stems from not being able to recognize similarities between a person and what they are seeing. However, it is language that further drives distance, specifically in the way that we perceive and describe it, and the way that we, as readers and voyeurs, describe what exactly we are seeing because we don’t understand it immediately. Butler’s setting alone drives distance between the reader and their understanding of what they are supposed to be experiencing through the narrator. Our experience via Gan, is one that does not tilt us to sympathize or empathize with the Tlic, despite Gan’s affection for them. We see that the Tlic, T’Gatoi, “whipped her three meters of body off her couch” (Butler, 9), that “all of her limbs are equally dexterous” (11), and that she has “yellow eyes” (13). None of these descriptions are humane, despite the interaction that occurs between the Tlic and the humans, and even the comprehension of emotions between the two parties. But more so is distance created because of the actions that Tlic such as T’Gatoi take, and how they are translated by the narrator. The fact that T’Gatoi whipped her body around, as though her body and consciousness are two separate entities, and that her body is implied to have more than the a normal amount of “dexterous” limbs – limbs that are capable of doing tasks equally with the same amount of skill – in comparison to humans, creates distance through action. In particular, this poses a problem in Butler’s narrative, in which Bloodchild is supposed to be a story of adolescence and growing up. Part of that means understanding compromise and necessity, as readers see Gan and T’Gatoi do towards the end of the story – but our understanding of compromise and acknowledgment in part stems from the idea that power does not play a role in these decisions, or else they become choices made under duress, which is no choice at all. So while Butler has no desire for her readers to interpret this story “as a story of slavery”, the story becomes problematic because of the distance, power and lack of understanding that the story breeds.

“Silent” Consent

To think that consent is the common thread that ties patting someone on the head and using a species as incubators to nurse another’s future generation together is something that my mind has been attempting to grapple with for the past couple days. Weighing in on what affirmation versus refusal to consent looks like, all boils down to two terms, ‘Yes’ and ‘No’.  Read more

Intent vs Affect

In class on Friday, we had a discussion on consent and Brianne mentioned a good point about not understanding ones intent. Currently I am doing research with the Psychology department where we have to determine behaviors between siblings and their peers. In lab, we watch videos of children interacting and we have to determine the quality of their social interaction. For example if two kids are playing together and one of them begins to mock the other one, we have to determine whether this is a positive or negative interaction. Are they doing this to make a joke, or to intentionally hurt the other kid? This has been the cause of some serious debates within my research group because at times we really can’t tell whether or not the kid in the video was acting maliciously or not but our way of settling all debates is to value the kids intent over the effect of their behavior.

Our discussion in class about intent brought me to think of my research group and I started to wonder, do we ever truly know someones intent? We can very well assume that the child mocked another because they wanted to be mean but Read more

Consent and Children with Disabilities

After our a group of students brought up the idea of children’s right to consent during our class discussion, I have been giving a lot of thought to children’s rights to consent in the classroom, specifically those with disabilities.  Over the summer I work at the Lincoln Elementary Summer School Program as a teacher’s aide.  This program is specifically set up for special needs children in the Scotia – Glenville public school district who would show retention in their learning unless they were to continue their learning throughout the summer.  During the school year, my mother teaches at Lincoln Elementary as a speech and language pathologist  and works with the same children I work with over the summer.  I was speaking with my mother after class on September, 15th and I found it very eye-opening how some teacher’s view the consent of children.

According to my mother, the concept of consent is not only a big issue in colleges, but also in elementary schools.  An example given to me was that, often time when a child says something to hurt another child’s feelings a teacher will step in and force one student to apologize to another.  My mom described to me how she believes that teacher’s need to recognize the difference between saying, “Go tell Susie that you are sorry!” and, “Look at how Susie feels.  If you feel comfortable, it might be nice to apologize to her.”  I agree that this issue is very important.  Why should teachers have the right to dictate students emotions by forcing them to apologize when Carlos might damn well not be sorry that he told Susie he didn’t like her lunch box?

This past summer, I worked as a one on one aide for a first grader with cerebral palsy.  For the sake of this story I will call her Rachel to protect her privacy since I was not given consent by her or her parents to use her real name.  Rachel is not her name.  My job required me to help Rachel in the bathroom, help her in and out of her wheelchair, guide her when using a pencil, help her stretch her feet and aide her in moving to the carpet.  Much of the time Rachel would get frustrated and yell out, “let me do it!” when I needed to help her.  Seeing her other friends in the classroom being more independent with their movements and bodies was always difficult for her, as she made it clear that she wanted to complete these simple tasks on her own.  This was very difficult for me to grasp because I knew she was not offering consent for me to help her, but for her own safety, I needed to continue to touch her or help her in a way that she was rejecting me from.  After discussing this with my mother, I learned that she often struggles with these same issues during her job everyday.  She says that the safety of the children is most important regardless of their comfort level.  My mother said that she often has conversations with Rachel explaining why she has to do what she does, and apologizes for any discomfort it causes her.

This discussion really led me to think about who has the right to consent for young people?  Should they only  be able to connect for themselves or should a trusted adult be able to consent for them, specifically in a classroom setting?

A story of slavery? “It isn’t.”

As a white woman living in 2017, it is very difficult for me to say that I have an understanding or a grasp on the concept of slavery.  I admit whole heartedly that I am unable to fully understand this topic to all of its depths and in no way have experiences with race issues close to that of Octavia Butler’s.  This being said, I do not want to come across as the privileged, white girl who cried slavery. I do not question her motives for her story, Bloodchild, yet, as a reader, my mind immediately approached the realm of the concept slavery when reading her story.

I am unable to say if my mind would jump to the issue of slavery when reading this, had it not been for my brief knowledge of who Octavia Butler is and my experiences studying abroad this summer in Senegal while spending large portion of our course work focusing on issues of slavery.  This story particularly struck me as embodying issues of slavery on page 25; “The animals once began killing most of our eggs after implantation long before your ancestors arrived.  You know these things, Gan.  Because your people arrived, we are relearning what it means to be healthy thriving people.  And your ancestors, fleeing from their home-world, from their own kind who would have killed or enslaved them – they survived because of us. We saw them as people and gave them the Preserve when they still tried to kill us as worms (Butler, 25).”  To me, this brings up the question, what does it mean to be a slave?

Reading this story of humans who migrated to this new place to settle, only to be surprised the planet was inhabited by a different species almost reminds me of a sort of reverse situation of the Europeans coming to the “New World” (America) for the first time.  We all know the story of how the Native Americans were treated like savages in their own land.  I find this similar to Butler’s work because in both cases acts of hatred and war broke out.  Similar to Butler’s story, there was a major issue with race between the Europeans and the Native Americans.  Much of this has to do with the visual that we discussed in class.  Exploring this text allowed me to realize that a lot of fear and hatred stems from foreign visuals.

In my beliefs, slavery can be seen in this story when the humans first came to the Tilc’s planet and they were restrained, imprisoned and forced to mate with each other; “still tried to kill us as worms” (Butler, 25).  One could think that slavery can be seen when one does not have the ability to make decisions about their own body.  Although Ghan agrees to carry and host a Tilc child, he is ultimately unaware of the violence of the birth and the arrangement that happened years before he was born stating that the humans would carry the Tilc’s children.  Due to this happening years ago, Ghan technically had no say in this.  Does that mean that it was actually his choice?   Additionally, the eggs given to the Terran have an intoxicating impact, much like that of drugs.  To me, this raises the question of if they are fulling aware of the decisions they make because they are under this drug like trance.

 

Male Pregnancy in “Bloodchild”

Brendan’s post about the relationship between Gan and T’Gatoi reflecting many elements of Western society’s model of love and marriage reminded me of Butler’s claim that “Bloodchild” is her “pregnant man story” (30). Brendan claims that Butler has the “talent to alter this familiar institution (marriage) in such a way to make it seem foreign and repulsive”, but I think her mastery goes even further to take giving birth, something that happens numerous times a day and is generally considered a “miracle”, and make it into something that seems like torture. It might seem different because Gan is a boy and this is the way the Terrans “pay the rent”, but the impregnation of Terran men and subsequent birthing is very similar to what women have be going through for years. Read more

Beauty is in the “eye”of the beholder.

In last Fridays class we analyzed the appearances of the word “eye” in Romeo and Juliet or its equivalent. I want to agree with Sandy’s analysis about how everyone in the novel is more concerned with how other characters look and how they will look together. For example (in my version) Act 1, line 85-88 Lady Capulet states “And what obscured in this fair volume lies; Find written in the margent of his eyes. This precious book of love, this unbound lover; To beautify him only lacks a cover”.  Lady Capulet begins her statement with how handsome Paris is, and then ends with how he is only lacking a wife and how much Juliet (and therefore her family) would gain from this union. It is not surprising that Juliet is so easily able to fall in love with the look of Romeo when considering the example that her parents set for finding and falling in love. One can see Juliet’s enactment of this cultural norm in her family from her lines ” I’ll look to like, and if looking liking move; But no more deep will I endart mine eye. Than your consent to make it fly.” (Act 1, lines 97-99). Basically stating that she would start looking for love but no other factor other than looking is mentioned in her search for love.

This may seem like a stretch, but Octavia’s novel Bloodchild  also has a theme of finding love through the methods in which ones cultural norms dictate. In the novel, Gan is struggling with complicated feelings for T’Gatoi who is of an alien species that is coexists and is codependent on the human race. Gan is clearly chosen to carry T’Gatoi’s babies from his birth and at first this can be seen as a forceful situation. But it becomes clear that it is Gan’s decision whether he wants to do this and whether he truly loves T’Gatoi. This novel is so often mistaken for Slavery, because we have not (obviously) grown up in a colony with another alien species we cannot understand the cultural norms present. But we can understand that in our society it is common for children (of same or opposite sex) to grow up together and to fall in love with each other. The idea that Gan loves T’Gatoi then isn’t so unusual then when imagined within the confines of our own cultural values. Similar to how Juliet falls in love upon first sight because her Mother taught her love is through sight, so to does Gan fall in love with T’Gatoi because that is what his culture taught him.