We all do things we don’t like. It’s a fact of life at this point. Consent under duress, if you will. But it’s also something that has cropped up during this community effort to create a cohesive document. It is clear, at times, that there is discontent. It would be naïve to think that there wouldn’t be discontent. But simply because we are brought together by a need to do something, does not mean that people cannot and will not divide over the same thing that brings them together. Have we grown from this exercise? Probably. Have we accomplished something? We succeeded in putting a document together. Are all of us happy 100% with it? Probably not. But my philosophy has always been this: you need to do what you need to do, you do what you need to do, and then when you have finished doing that, you do everything else that you have to do, without attentive regard of the individual’s level of content. To clarify the latter part of that last statement, we cannot always consider the individual needs of each and every individual per group. It is infeasible to think that anything could get done that way. And this is why we can have nice things – because typically we do what we have to do, not always what we want to do, and doing what we have to do does not always constitute doing what we want to do.
I think that in doing this project as a group, we are illustrating one of the issues that we came across in our readings with Octavia Butler: even though we try to be as inclusive as a democracy as possible, we still reject the ideas of others based on the majority. One group is always left out, or left unpleased with the end result. It illustrates that we ignore others for the sake of the majority. This is supposed to be a justification – the majority wants it, therefore it is fair, and we shall give it to them. But more so, it emphasizes to everyone that we are ok, we are fine, with ignoring the minority who did not want to do this project because we cannot think of a better option right now, in this instance. And it is all for the sake of the group. It is for the sake of our grade. It would seem that doing what is necessary is not always right. That those two words are not as synonymous as we typically take for granted. Although there seems to be multiple layers to doing this group final, it certainly illustrates this struggle on a smaller scale, with a smaller task.
In response to today’s class, there are a few points I would like to make.
I had stated in class that we, as readers, tend to focus more on the humans. Yes, we are human, and yes, we will read things with a human perspective (obviously). However, that doesn’t mean that we cannot try to grasp or understand a different culture or society, whether it’s between other humans or other species. Humans today have trouble doing that in interactions between different parts of the world, for example, the US and Middle East relations – differences in culture, education and understanding. When we look at the Ina culture in Butler’s Fledgling, they share similar aspects of culture that we do: history, language, use of resources, etc.
Furthermore, when we read this book, a big theme is the idea of mutual symbiosis. The idea that there is a mutually dependent relationship between organisms – in this case, humans and Ina. However, we tend to focus on the power structure and the culture that goes into this complex idea. But let’s start with this: culture aside, the biology of the mutual symbiosis makes them NOT equal – there is a tendency to overlap and make the words “mutual” (held in common by two or more parties) and “equal” (a person or thing considered to be the same as another in status or quality) one and the same in this text, when they are not synonyms.
I had also stated in class that humans are independent of the Ina, they exist with or without them. Humans can survive, live and thrive without ever becoming a symbiont. However, the Ina NEED something, or someone, to feed on. They are more dependent because of that need. Humans are born independent, the Ina, dependent. Their relationship is not mutually dependent from the get-go, because Ina are the ones in need of this interaction. A person’s need can place them at a disadvantage, which we do see with the Ina, and Shori’s initial relationships with her symbionts. And Locke would advocate this, seeing as his philosophy is based on being able to take what you need without being greedy, and therefore avoiding a state of war.
Culturally speaking, between the Ina and humans, is a different story: the Ina and symbionts have their own culture. There is an understanding of making informed decisions between the two species. And the Ina do explain the circumstances of a new culture, and lifestyle, to them. Then there’s also the point that symbionts talk to other, possible, soon-to-be symbionts. This occurs between Brooke and Wright. Brooke states, “Iosif told me what would happen if I accepted him, that I would become addicted and need him. That I would have to obey. That if he died, I might die . . . But he told me all that. Then he asked me to come to him anyway, to accept him and stay with him because I could live for maybe two hundred years and be healthy and look and feel young, and because he wanted me and needed me. I wasn’t hooked when he asked. He’d only bitten me a couple of times. I could have walked away – or run like hell” (Butler 161). Continue reading “Need vs. Morals: Where’s the line in symbiotic relationships?”
Octavia Butler’s continual theme of challenged consent seems to run through more than just one of her novels. Readers see it again in Fledgling. However, Butler puts a spin on this one – her characters acknowledge the power and influence that have marred the 21st century understanding of consent.
No mistake, consent is challenged here. We see that right off the bat when Shori first encounters and bites Wright. Her bite has an immediate effect on him, which forces him to do a 180 degree spin from his original position on a no biting policy, in which he responds “Goddammit” (Butler 10) to her biting him, followed by him “jerking his hand away [from her]” (10), clearly illustrating the lack of consent. Looking at this scene, it is quite clear that Shori’s bite is both a surprise, and an unwanted one at that. Promptly soon after, Shori “ducked my head and licked away the blood, licked the wound I had made. He tensed, almost pulling his hand away. Then he stopped, seemed to relax. He let me take his hand between my own” (11). Following that, he tells her “It feels good” (11). He responds “Do I?” to her answer, and then “squeezed past the division between the seats to my side of the car, and put me [Shori] on his lap” (11).
So, there’s a lot going on in this scene – but there are two things to focus on: whether or not this relationship is consensual, and whether it can ever truly be consensual hereafter, and the questioning of the possible taking advantage of someone who may be a minor. This post will focus on the former, and then revisit the latter in another post later on.
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.
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.