The Freedom of Risk-Taking

Why do we put ourselves in positions of risk? Let’s take driving for instance. The Association for Safe International Road Travel estimates that 1.25 million people die and 20-50 million people are injured/disabled by road crashes each year. That’s 0.5% of the entire population. 2.2% of all deaths are caused by road crashes. Yet almost every day, people drive to work, class, or wherever they need to go. In theory, we should all stay indoors eating nothing but vitamins and minerals. But no one does. We all take risks every day. The ability to take risks is the freedom that we enjoy. That freedom allows us to grow and develop as humans. In short, without risk-taking, we cannot become better at anything.

So what happens without risk? Octavia Butler describes this situation in their novel, “Bloodchild and Other Stories.” In that work, Gatoi is a creature that uses humans the reproduce. Gatoi finds Gan, the main character, holding a gun. Gatoi then attempts to take the gun from Gan. Gan replies “If we’re not your animals, if these are adult things, accept the risk. There is risk, Gatoi, in dealing with a partner.” I think this fully encapsulates what gives us our humanity. By removing individual liberties, people can no longer grow. Gatoi does just that. By then reducing Gan to an animal, they can feel much less remorse when they use him for reproduction.

Earlier in the novel, Gatoi presents Gan and his family with an egg that causes a type of intoxication. When Gan’s mother, Lien, refuses the have some, Gatoi tries to coax her. Gatoi starts by saying “Lien, I would like you to have what’s left of Gan’s egg… You should take more.” The drunken stupor caused by the egg prevents Gan’s family from taking risks. Ergo, it takes away the ability for Gan’s family to resist. This lack of resistance has led to the current situation, where Terrans (humans) are used by Tlic (the kind of creature Gatoi is).   

Gan recounts a story about his late father. He tells us that his father often drank the eggs and lived to be very old. Gan recalls that his father “had lived more than twice as long as he should have. And toward the end of his life, when he should have been slowing down, he had married my mother and fathered four children.” Gan’s father was the perfect animal for the Tlic. He lived longer than he should because of the eggs, and then made more people to use. Farmers use antibiotics in order to get the most out of their animals. The Tlic uses the eggs in order to get the most out of the Terrans. Both the antibiotics and the eggs lower risk, which lowers freedom, which lowers the opportunity to grow. 

Gan himself demonstrates how effective this is. His brother, Qui, dispises the Tlic for what they have done to his kind. When pondering this, Gan says “Even my brother who had somehow grown up to fear and distrust the Tlic could probably have gone smoothly into one of their families if he had been adopted early enough.” Whether Gan is aware or not, his thoughts have been effectively controlled by the risk removal that he has been exposed to from Gatoi. 

But why is taking risks important? Most of us want to live long lives. Most of us want to be healthy. Most of us want to wake up every time we go to sleep. Logically, we should strive to minimize our risk. Let’s go back to driving again. As previously mentioned roadway accidents cause 2.2% of all deaths in a given year. People look at that number and try to minimize the inherent risk of driving. People now wear seatbelts, cars are required to have airbags, there are certain height restrictions associated with sitting in the front, etc. No one says stop driving. 

Every great thing that has ever happened involved a lot of risks. From the brave patriots who defending this land in 1777 to Robert Smalls who stole a Confederate ship to Marie Curie who won the Nobel Prize in physics. These three examples also demonstrate a very important idea, that the growth achieved through risk is not only personal but societal as well. Freedom creates the opportunity to take risks. Risks create the opportunity to grow. 

However, being forced to take risks can also lead to its own set of problems. Returning to Octavia E. Butlers “Bloodchlid and Other Stories,” Gan is, for all intense and purposes, forced to be used by reproduction by Gatoi, even though he had just witnessed what happened to Bram Lomas, a Terran who gave birth. This force of risk-taking is clearly not in Gan’s interest, as Lomas was “opened” directly in front of him. 

This naturally begs a few questions: does this risk need to occur, do I feel comfortable with this risk, and is there a way to lower this risk. Everyone, conscious or not, askes themselves this question each day from crossing the street to an academic partnership. The freedom to answer these questions is what allows growth. 

In this class, my goal is to answer all these questions. Firstly, an academic partnership is crucial to the advancement of every field, so the risk needs to be taken. In this class, I hope to become more comfortable with the idea of an academic partnership. In my opinion, the most important goal of this class is to learn ways of lowering this risk. In this way, we can reshape the phrase of no risk, no reward into low risk, high reward.

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