Ina in The Classroom

The teacher is like an Ina.

Today in class, as I sat listening to the overwhelming amount of information I so desire to have to learn from, I began to think that a/the teacher is an Ina. I began to think about power; my being there in the classroom, ‘willfully’ taking in the information as my own ‘want’ or is it a result of years of encouragement from parents, relatives, friends, and/or colleagues implanting that ‘will’ within me, asserting that education taught by a teacher will help you throughout your life. Can encouragement be a form of power, for instance, I encourage you to take action on something, while giving you reasons to take the action, and thus, you take action? Which calls forth the question, is encouragement bad?

Shori, in Octavia Butler’s Fledgling, does the same thing. She encourages Wright, within reason, to follow her as her symbiont. This is after she found out more about her people and why she needed to have not one symbiont, but seven. Not knowing my own power seems problematic too. The entire Ina/human deal is like a master/slave dealnd as can see, it becomes a power/property deal too. Though Butler claims that the Inas and Humans have a relationship that is a “mutualistic” one, I am drawing my statement of their relationship being a slave/master one from my recollections of slave narratives and films.

In Frederic Douglass’ Narrative of the life of Frederic Douglass, he talks about slaves who received special privileges like the “house slaves,” who lived with the master, ate better food, had a better appearance (being taken care of better), and cared about the master greatly. Such slaves were those who helped their masters when the master wished. In the film “Sankofa,” directed by Haile Gerima, one of the slaves, a lighter complexion man, did not get punished like his kin – those with a darker complexion. He even was given the duty of punishing his own kin if they were not doing their labor. I understand Butler’s assertion of a mutualistic relationship between the Inas and the Humans, but the fact that an Ina can take over a Human’s life without “express consent” makes me think of it as such. The Symbionts cannot run away or else they will eventually die. The venom or chemical placed within them ensures that their survival is dependent on the Inas’ bite. Like a slave deciding to run away or leaving the plantation, a symbiont deciding to leave the relationship would render his or her chances of survival very low. For slaves, it was also a high risk because of the time period wherein they would have other masters searching for them, their masters would be furious with intent to punish them, which could send the slave to his/her grave. The thought of that would possibly continue to compel the slave to keep hiding fearfully in hopes of getting away. Such fear prevented a lot of slaves from running away because of the possibility of certain death. That fear compels them to stay with and obey their masters, just like the chemical in the Ina bite that compels the Symbionts to stay with the Inas.

After reading John Locke’s “Second Treatise of Government” and along with the discussion generated in class today, I began to see John Locke as a big contradiction to himself. Similarly, Shori, also contradicts herself in some sense.

Locke states that “men had the right to appropriate” and that “he who appropriates land to himself by his labor, increases the common stock of mankind” (sec. 37). Additionally, he claims that appropriation is okay if the land is not valued, if it is evident that a great amount of the land is just sitting by itself and “the inhabitants valued it not, nor claim property in any more than they made use of the land by consent” that they give half of their land which they do not use. But what consent are you speaking of Mr. Locke? My silence does not say I agree with you. And who are you to make claims? Ironically, when Locke spoke about the state of nature, he asserted that land is “given to everyone in common” and for someone to encroach on another’s property, he/she has entered in a state of war with said owner of the property.

For Shori, she seems to be in conflict with herself, but without realization. On the one hand, she says that the humans are themselves equal to other humans, or rather, “no one symbiont is more valuable or less valuable than another.” On the other hand, she herself, is engaged, or has engaged in the state of war by commanding the human ‘respectfully [after taking their will to choose]’ through venomous control, calling them a symbiont, which has now become her “property.” And because Katherine Dahlman encroached on her [Shori’s] property and killed Theodora, Shori, according Locke had all rights to kill, enslave, imprison, or demand reparations for her property.

It seems that property becomes property by one who has the greatest power, and as can see, the Inas have a greater power over the humans with their extraordinary capabilities. By Locke’s statement on property, he has power by considering himself “industrious” and “rational” in comparison to those who do not use their labor rationally, as he believes, “the inhabitants not valuing their property” because they do not perform their labor on it.

Now, this, I would say, is the very reason why Dr. McCoy is so cognizant of calling the students “my students” because they are not her property. But in a system of hierarchy, teachers implicitly give consent in having ownership of students and so do parents too. Well, parents let it be known explicitly. For instance “my child is…” Nevertheless, in high school, a teacher is responsible for students in the classroom. If something, good or bad, happens within the classroom, the teacher would be credited. That is unless nobody really likes the teacher then he/she would get the blame for the bad, and only the bad. And to impart guidance through knowledge wherein students are expected to listen, a teacher has the power over the students. It is just the same as the Inas having power over their Symbionts who are expected to do what their Ina requests of them. The very act of the bite took the will power away from the Symbionts. And it is a result of that bite which takes the ability from a Human to decide on being with an Ina or not. As a result of loss of will power, and gain of desire which is fulfilled, the relationship is rendered a mutualistic one. My only question then is, what if the bite was non-existent? Perhaps the Inas would find another way because they need to survive. What could that other way have been Octavia Butler?

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