I have been obsessing over the “Ender’s Game” universe during the past few weeks. In fact, I’ve been obsessing to the point of insanity; yesterday for example, I read from 10:00AM to 2:00AM, with a two-hour break to go to the gym.
The books are truly amazing. I have read a lot of science fiction in my life, and the very reason I read science fiction in the first place is because it makes me think.
So, I don’t take it lightly when a science fiction series makes me think REALLY HARD. I guess it helps that Card is a Mormon and a lot of his ideas and ideals in the books are not in line with my own as a secular person. Yet, Card says them so well, and his arguments are structured logically. Obviously, they won’t make me change my ideals, but they definitely have been making me find gaps in my own theories and beliefs, which is always a good thing.
So, reading these books has been an experiment in figuring out what and why I think of things the way I do on souls, monogamy, genetics, tribal society, and goodness.
Here’s one of my favorite texts from “Xenocide” (Book 3 in the series) by Orson Scott Card:
<The strangest thing about humans is the way they pair up, males and females. Constantly at war with each other, never content to leave each other alone. They never seem to grasp the idea that males and females are separate species with completely different needs and desires, forced to come together only to reproduce.>
<Of course you feel that way. Your mates are nothing but mindless drones, extensions of yourself, without their own identity.>
<We know our lovers with perfect understanding. Humans invent an imaginary lover and put that mask over the face of the body in their bed.>
<That is the tragedy of language, my friend. Those who know each other only through symbolic representations are forced to imagine each other. And because their imagination is imperfect, they are often wrong.>
<That is the source of their misery.>
“Yes, I call it nothing,” said Valentine. “We human beings are no different. It may not be a virus, but we still spend most of our time acting out our genetic destiny. Take the differences between males and females. Males naturally tend toward a broadcast strategy of reproduction. Since males make an almost infinite supply of sperm and it costs them nothing to deploy it–”
“Not nothing,” said Ender.
“Nothing,” said Valentine, “just to deploy it. Their most sensible reproductive strategy is to deposit it in every available female– and to make special efforts to deposit it in the healthiest females, the ones most likely to bring their offspring to adulthood. A male does best, reproductively, if he wanders and copulates as widely as possible.”
“I’ve done the wandering,” said Ender. “Somehow I missed out on the copulating.”
“I’m speaking of overall trends,” said Valentine. “There are always strange individuals who don’t follow the norms. The female strategy is just the opposite, Planter. Instead of millions and millions of sperm, they only have one egg a month, and each child represents an enormous investment of effort. So females need stability. They need to be sure there’ll always be plenty of food. We also spend large amounts of time relatively helpless, unable to find or gather food. Far from being wanderers, we females need to establish and stay. If we can’t get that, then our next best strategy is to mate with the strongest and healthiest possible males. But best of all is to get a strong healthy male who’ll stay and provide, instead of wandering and copulating at will.
“So there are two pressures on males. The one is to spread their seed, violently if necessary. The other is to be attractive to females by being stable providers– by suppressing and containing the need to wander and the tendency to use force. Likewise, there are two pressures on females. The one is to get the seed of the strongest, most virile males so their infants will have good genes, which would make the violent, forceful males attractive to them. The other is to get the protection of the most stable males, nonviolent males, so their infants will be protected and provided for and as many as possible will reach adulthood.
“Our whole history, all that I’ve ever found in all my wanderings as an itinerant historian before I finally unhooked myself from this reproductively unavailable brother of mine and had a family– it can all be interpreted as people blindly acting out those genetic strategies. We get pulled in those two directions.
“Our great civilizations are nothing more than social machines to create the ideal female setting, where a woman can count on stability; our legal and moral codes that try to abolish violence and promote permanence of ownership and enforce contracts– those represent the primary female strategy, the taming of the male.
“And the tribes of wandering barbarians outside the reach of civilization, those follow the mainly male strategy. Spread the seed. Within the tribe, the strongest, most dominant males take possession of the best females, either through formal polygamy or spur-of-the-moment copulations that the other males are powerless to resist. But those low-status males are kept in line because the leaders take them to war and let them rape and pillage their brains out when they win a victory. They act out sexual desirability by proving themselves in combat, and then kill all the rival males and copulate with their widowed females when they win. Hideous, monstrous behavior– but also a viable acting-out of the genetic strategy.”