Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Those Who Fly Away from Earth

I’ve read Ender’s Game a number of times and I’ve come at it from a number of angles. Now that I’m reading it as an “adult,” one big thing strikes me. This is a novel about utilitarianism and why its got some issues. The continued survival and the continued happiness of humanity are achieved through the extermination of the Buggers. Now humanity can expand past their own solar system without worry of danger, and with a slew of planets ready for new occupants.

All of this comes at a relatively low price. In exchange for some money for the Fleet and a few children, humanity can enter a new age. Yet we’re left to wonder if this is entirely moral. The children brought up in battle school are not kids anymore, especially not Ender. Not only have they lost their innocence, they’ve lost their whole damn childhood. Reminiscent of Aliah, these are adult minds shoved into that of a child. Raised on obedience, command and violence, the authorities have dehumanized them to a great extent, made them into tools who will never outlive their usefulness. Even as the war ends, various members of Ender’s jeesh have become hot commodities for the next set of conflicts. There’s no retirement for these kids, they’re condemned to a life that is not their own, unless they a trip on a colonial vessel. Otherwise they’ll be killing for the next 50 years.

When you think about the kids like this you begin to loose some respect for humanity. It reminds me of the short story “Those Who Walk Away From Omelas.” In the story a city is blessed with the utmost happiness, everything goes well, even acts of nature. Yet, it is all predicated on the total misery of one little child. Those who can’t stand it “walk away.” Here we have a less polarized situation, but children are still being dominated for the benefit of everyone else. The question we’re all left with at the end of the novel is whether we too should “walk away.” Well…would you?

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