The Power of Conversation

The Geneseo Code of Conduct, while not on its surface, portrays the ideal learning process for its students. The Conduct Board represents the best situation for learning as noted in Article 4, “The conduct proceeding requires an open discussion rather than an adversarial debate.” The conduct board reveals that Geneseo creates an environment where the students and the board can have an open discussion. Even if the student’s actions do result in a consequence, the conversation was had that will promote deeper thinking and deeper reflection on behalf of the student. To the naysayers that still see this as a burdening process, I implore you to consider the statement, “The College is committed to providing due process to all students involved in the College conduct proceedings.” Due process is defined as the right to be heard. If the college truly wanted to punish its students, they would not create a space for open discussion wherein the student is encouraged to convey their side of the story. The lesson here is that you must be willing to take the less convenient route in life if you want to develop a deeper understanding of your feelings and the world around you. After all, we aren’t here to do what is easy, we are here to do what is right. By the same token, Octavia Butler’s “Bloodchild” argues that it is important to never underestimate the power of a conversation in which both parties are listening and are willing to delve deeper.

The learning process for the student is comparable to that of Gan’s in “Bloodchild” by Octavia Butler. Similarly to Gan, as students we must peel back the surface layers to gain a deeper understanding of a situation to eventually learn from it. Before we seek to understand the learning process of Gan, we must first understand the world in which he lived. Gan and his family identified as the Terrans, or humans. Although there was a presence of humans, the planet that the Terrans inhabited was not Earth. In fact, this planet inhabited an alien-like species known as the Tlic. The Terrans were desperate for a place to live and the Tlic were desperate to reproduce their species. In light of their situations, the Tlic government and Terrans entered an agreement. One that provided the Terrans with protection given that they would provide a child to act as a host for Tlic reproduction.

In this scenario, Gan was responsible for hosting a child and was partnered with a Tlic government official by the name of T’Gatoi. Initially, Gan was excited to be a part of T’Gatoi’s life, and even saw it as an honor. While this may have been true, Gan had a different interpretation of this situation compared to his other family members. On page 6 it says, “T’Gatoi’s limbs closed around her… I had always found it comfortable to lie that way, but except for my older sister no one else in my family liked it. They said it made them feel caged.” With this, Gan reveals to the audience that he didn’t feel trapped with T’Gatoi, he was actually accepting of his relationship with her and in turn was ready to become the host for T’Gatoi.

Gan’s belief that he was ready to be become “pregnant” with T’Gatoi’s children was short lived, as he bore witness to his first Tlic birth when he had to aid Bram Lomas. It was during the birth that Gan became aware of its gruesome and painful nature, “His body convulsed with the first cut… I had never heard such sounds come from anything human” (15) This process frightened and scarred Gan, “I knew childbirth was painful… but this was something else, something worse… closing my eyes didn’t help.” At this point, nothing could reconcile Gan’s feeling about the childbirth. Directly following the birth, he had an argument with his brother Qui regarding whether or not he had a choice in being a host for the Tlic. This argument resulted in anger surrounding T’Gatoi and childbirth to arise in Gan, an anger that wasn’t present before. Allowing that resentment to build, obscured and clouded the conversation’s original purpose. The original purpose being a discussion, where both sides could voice their concerns and heard, similar to due process. But when Gan allowed anger to enter the conversation, he made up his mind what T’Gatoi was, and at that point there was no longer a space for both sides to be heard. At this point he believed T’Gatoi was dangerous and would ultimately hurt him, just like he witnessed with Bram Lomas. No true resolve can be reached when you put up a wall, you must be willing to express your emotions and engage in an active conversation.

In the argument Gan struggles with the possibility of childbirth and considers allowing his sister to fill his place. Although Gan ultimately decided to have T’Gatoi’s children, he carries some of his reservations and resentment into the impregnation process. During the impregnation, he made an inadvertent movement that harmed T’Gatoi, “I expected to be caged… When I wasn’t, I held on to her again, feeling oddly ashamed.” (Butler 27) This reveals that even with no prior experiences of feeling caged by T’Gatoi, he was holding on to his perceived notions and fear which ultimately left him feeling ashamed of himself. So, this begs the question, are we allowing our preconceived notions and suppressed emotions to corrupt our life experiences? After this process, T’Gatoi and Gan have a conversation that reveals Gan’s true feelings. “It wasn’t hate. I know what it was. I was afraid.” (Butler 28) Upon further reflection, Gan was able to peel back beyond the surface, and it’s worth noting that Gan’s realization about his true feelings only emerged from a conversation he was having with T’Gatoi. This process bears a striking resemblance to Conduct Board hearings. The hearings open the door for a conversation to be had, and by actively listening, you may be able to understand why you acted the way you did. And it’s through understanding these actions that we can move forward.

Through Bloodchild, we were able to bear witness to Gan’s learning process which included the convenient measures Gan was willing to take. Regardless of its subconscious or conscious nature, by and settling for what emotions lied at the surface and not initially unpacking his feelings, Gan embarked on the easy path. Some of you may be asking yourself, “Can someone really be held accountable for their subconscious behavior?” The answer is yes, because when you plan to engage in an agreement, you owe it to yourself and the people around you to reflect on the emotions that guide your decisions. In this case, Gan exchanged the convenience of avoiding his true feelings with hurting T’Gatoi with his preconceived notions.

The sentiment of doing what is right, rather than what is easy is prevalent in today’s age more than ever. In a world where our opinions have become polarizing, is it important to maintain an open conversation that both parties can learn from. Today, it is very easy to surround yourself with likeminded people, listen to the same news stations and bury yourself deeper into your own ideas. But its here that I urge you to stay informed, branch out, and enter a conversation with someone who has a different viewpoint than your own and be open during the conversations. If we continue to avoid the important conversations, we will become rooted in our preconceived notions that may ultimately insight fear and resentment. Do I think that we will all share the same opinion one day? No, and we shouldn’t because our ideas and beliefs should be ever changing as engage in meaningful conversation. But I do believe that those conversations and a willingness to listen will change the world around us for the better.

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