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Author Topic: Racial and ethnic identity in the Speaker series
hikari-no-tsubasa
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This is my first post here, though I have been reading this forum off and on for awhile. Forgive me if the issue has been addressed elsewhere, it's a hard topic to think of search keywords for.

I have recently been re-reading the Speaker series. It has been years since I have read those books, and in that time I managed to learn a second language, get a degree in international relations, and get myself into a wonderful international marriage. Needless to say, the way that I understand the concepts of racial and ethnic identity in the series is quite a bit different now than it was in high school, and I was wondering what everyone else thought of this particular version of the future of mankind.

I am referring, of course, to the fact that, while the different peoples of the world were "united" by Peter the Hegemon, they are still effectively seperated... not by oceans and rivers and mountains, but by reaches of space that take decades to traverse. We see a religious division as well... Lusitania hasa Catholic License, the people of Path are Taoist, etc.

My first response to this, upon re-reading the series, was actually to feel a little offended. Whether this particular way of laying out the galaxy is a prediction, a wish, or merely a possibility, I personally cannot hope that the future unfolds in that way. I cannot love the idea of a future in which Ender sticks out like a sore thumb on Lusitania because of the color of his skin, or (especially) in which Aimaina Hikari receives Peter and Wang-Mu differently because of their ethnicity (he bows to Wang-Mu, but shakes hands with Peter and makes a comment about how painful it is to watch Westerners bow). As a Westerner who bows, sits on tatami mats, and eats with chopsticks every day... it bothered me. I would like to think that my children will not be seen as foreigners in the land of their own birth... I cannot hope for a future that remains racially divided.

But, as I thought about it, it occurred to me that there is a great good in this system as well: The preservation of language, religion, and culture. While we see Stark taking over as the common language, much as English is doing in our own present time, the Lusitanians still return to Portuguese at emotional and appropriate moments. The pequeninos are taught that multiple human languages exist, and we see the existance of multiple languages in the pequenino culture as well. Stark may be the common language, but it is not the only one. Children still learn to speak first in the language of their own culture, and that, I think is admirable. As anyone who has gained any degree of fluency in a second language will know, there are simply things - ideas and nuances - that cannot be explained fully in English. There are also things that cannot be explained properly in Japanese. I cannot speak for other languages... but I don't think it's much of a leap to say that every language has words, concepts, thoughts that are its own. A common language may be necessary, but the preservation of other languages is a good thing, in my opinion.

We also see the preservation of religion in a similar way. The idea of living in a community where church... a SINGLE church that the entire community attends... it's a nice idea. I'm not a very religious person, so I can't speak as passionately about this as I can about language. But religion does a lot of good for a lot of people, and it is sad to see that not many young people understand spirituality anymore (yes, that is the pot calling the kettle black... in a way. but I go to church sometimes, I go to Buddhist temples too... and not being able to choose between the two is maybe better than never having been to either one at all?)

So... what do you think? Is the Speaker series a probable prediction of the future? Is it a desireable one?

I suppose that I think yes and no. Until this previous generation, my family was 100% Caucasian, and my husband's family married only their own distant cousins. In this generation, ours is not the only marraige to cross those sorts of boundaries. I have always believed that things like skin color will gradually cease to divide us, though of course new divisions may arise. Maybe someday, the people of one planet will have darker skin than those of another... but, at least to my way of thinking, it will be because the environment of that planet demands it, not because their ancestors came from Africa.

It is logical, then, that language will continue to evolve until the differences between languages are not what they once were. And the world definitely seems to be losing religion as a whole, though fierce beilievers won't let their faiths die. But I think that I hope for somewhere in between - where differences survive but are no longer seen as dividing factors. Of course, with human nature as it is, that may not be possible.

I'm sorry that my first post was so long, and not very well thought out. I feel that I could write a thesis on this... too bad I'm not a student anymore! I would love to hear what others think!

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Zotto!
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I seriously doubt Mr. Card was trying to suggest that those negative divisions you mentioned were desirable. I do think that they are realistic things that might very well happen, but I also think that one of the points of the series was to explore how the differing classifications and labels we give to people oftentimes do harm. The piggies were doing harm to the humans and vice versa because they weren't truly thinking from the other's perspective.

It's nearly two in the morning here, so I'll bow out before anything even more incoherent comes out of my mouth, but this is an interesting topic. Sorry I'm much too tired to give an interesting response. *grin*

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Nikisknight
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Well, even with the most benign of motives, it could be a likely scenario. People like to hang out with, marry, etc., people who look like, talk like, and/or think like they do. It's not unreasonable, in the case of language and values anyway. It's also the case that people may embrace a particular group identity because of distrust or resentment of others.
Although, after the bugger battles, humankind would likely have drawn closer together, it couldn't last forever.

Most likely though, it was an interesting way for OSC to explore different aspects of a few different cultures he was interested in at the time, to imagine what changes may have come about due to isolation, etc.

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Orson Scott Card
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Lusitania represents a SECOND wave of colonization.

People need motives to settle a new planet. At first (the first wave), it was entirely a hegemony-sponsored, IF-sponsored movement. Anybody could go.

But at the same time, people have to be able to communicate. To begin with a shared language and culture for at least the majority of the settlers helps promote stability for obvious reasons. Common is, after all, English - not everybody is thrilled at the thought of that particular lingua franca.

No matter how egalitarian you are, notice that most people on earth live in places where most people speak a common language and share an ethnic identity. America is a radical exception to this. Wars are also fought over ethnic divisions - anybody want to join a colony where somebody has exported their little ethnic war?

The goal of a colony is to survive and thrive. To send needless divisions along with a colony is simply stupid. About as smart as if we decided the U.S. Army should be multilingual, with battlefield languages reflecting the ethnic diversity of America. No, thanks - we need to be able to have EVERYBODY talk to EVERYBODY and be understood. A colony that is too far away to be rescued or assisted in a timely manner is at least as dependent on harmony and communication as a military force.

Besides: If you want to preserve ethnic and cultural diversity in space, you don't do it by making sure EVERY colony includes EVERY culture. That's a decision to have the colonies include NO known cultures.

Then, in the second wave, it wasn't a government project - an urgent effort to spread humanity abroad so we were unkillable. Instead, the colonies had to be sponsored.

So ... who has the motive to sponsor a colony? People who care very much about it. And who cares? Usually, people with an ideology. Like, for instance, people wanting to preserve "Brazilian Catholic" culture or "ancient Chinese" culture, etc. To make it worth their while, though, they needed a guarantee that their very-expensive colony wouldn't immediately be swamped by all those darn Croats who constantly sweep in and overwhelm the local population and outvote them. In short, they needed some measure of limitation and control in order to get their money's worth.

But ... so what? Because if somebody else wants a colony, let THEM raise the money to fund their own colony! Plenty of worlds out there.

And in time, each colony will become independent and make their own rules, democratically. AFTER they have proven themselves to be self-sustaining.

The only objection to this system that I can see is if there are people who are offended at the very idea of a community having a culture that they want to see preserved. Which, of course, merely says that THEY want to see THEIR idea of a utopia forced on EVERYONE - not even limited to just one world. Sheesh. Is there no tolerance for diversity?

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Matt Lust
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If only to pleasure my ego I'm going to chip in.


Race, Religion, Ethnicity, Sexual Orientation, Handicap/Mutation, Gender/Sex are alwasy going to be factors in human life.

It is impossible to erase these in any soceity short of total assimlation which goes beyond the typical "melting pot" concept (which largely ignores larger genetic differences than Euro-Americans share).

That means large scale intermarriage, large scale conversion to one umbrella religion or another, geneticaly ensuring healthly babys via any number of technologies and everyone adopting a bi-sexual orientation.

Even if we solve these ascribed status problems, there are still the achieved status problems of economic and social postition. Is this new system capitalist? Is this new system socialist or Communist or any other particular form of economy possible among the infinite permutations possible.
So there's the wealth/income issue but even in a society that refuses materialism derision can still arise from each persons role in the community. Is the digger of ditches as important as the medical professional? the clergyman?


To bring this tangent back inline the system used in the Speaker series will only occur if we acutally find a large amount of inhabitable planets at once. It will be much more likely that settlements will be based on commonalities rather than entire planetary colonizations.

But again this depends on the agency(agencies) licensing the settlement. If we still only discover colony-candidate planets one at a time (e.g. Mars) there will a land rush every time; unless , and this has a low probability, some entity has a total and absolute monolopy on pertitent technology. Niether US now or at its zenith of global power following the disolution of the USSR had this amount of hegemony.


I will not get started on the inherent weakness of contemporary International Law and Organizations; but Kyoto Treaty, Treaty of Versailles and the United Nations come to mind.

My postition is such that barring contact with an advanced sentient spieces, the future of humanity in our solar system and beyond looks not all that different than the present.

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WntrMute
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Well, also, Mazer said in Shadow of the Giant (Pages 266-267 in my copy) that the colonization effort was geared to try to ship people out in batches based on common nationalities and cultures so that instead of 10 or 20 exact copies of Earth, different aspects of human expression can develop along parallel paths, and enhance the survivability of humanity as a whole.

Well, along with the idea that a colony that started off unified would have a better chance at survival.

Both solid concepts in most respects.

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hikari-no-tsubasa
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True, true, and true... I'm actually not sure how many trues I need at this point, as I agree with basically everything that has been said. Thank you all for your responses.

The more time I spend thinking about this (which is not to say that I spend hours contemplating the cultural dynamics of a fictional future... really. No, seriously!), it comes to seem like a good idea. As Matt Lust pointed out, however, that particular system would be contingent on having large numbers of planets available for colonization at a time, and would therefore be not terribly likely in the near future.

And when it all comes down to it... sure, Ender stuck out like a sore thumb on Lusitania, but they did accept him once he adopted their faith and learned a bit of their language. I suppose that's the important thing... not that the Brazilian Catholic culture of Lusitania is forcibly shoved into a melting pot... but if someone wants to be melted into THAT culture, and is willing to assimilate their ideas into himself, he is accepted eventually.

I suppose I don't like the idea of, say, giving citizenship to someone who doesn't speak the language and has made no effort to try. But I also don't agree with denying citizenship to someone who has worked themself to the bone to learn the language and still has a bit of an accent. To oversimplify things. And I suppose that, at least on Lusitania and at least in Ender's case, that's basically what has happened. He changed for the culture and they accepted him, but the CULTURE didn't change for HIM.

That's got to be a good thing.

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Matt Lust
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quote:
Originally posted by hikari-no-tsubasa:
And I suppose that, at least on Lusitania and at least in Ender's case, that's basically what has happened. He changed for the culture and they accepted him, but the CULTURE didn't change for HIM.

That's got to be a good thing.

While I don't disagree with the example I find that your conclusion of "that's got to be a good thing" to be fallacious, a hasty generalization fallacy in particular.

I'm not sure you really want that much cultural relativism on earth let alone off earth. Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot just to name a few 20th examples have all succeded in performing atrocities simple because A) they capitalized on feelings already present and B) of those who didn't already believe in X leaders message, enough people did what Ender did on Lustitania and just went with the flow.


I am going draw an analogous relationship to society and Chemistry, (Gasp!) In particular the pH scale.

For those of you who hated, ignored or have never been cursed with Chemistry here is a brief overview of the pH scale.

1-14 with 1 being very acidic and 14 being very basic

Either extreme is deadly to carbon based life. With saftey ususally stretching from approximately 2.5 to about 11 depending on the entity and the total exposure to said substance.

The anaglogue is that human society can only be sustained in a particular swath of the possible governments. Some people groups, including many asian nations, have historically been tolerant of centralized governments that put the interests of society are far above the individual. Where as others, like Europeans, have typically perfered a more fractious system where individuals though not by any means all powerful have had more influence. Its possible for one culture to perfer a different type of governance than another but those that are sustainable won't ever be all that dissimmilar.

Ender wanted very badly to be accepted so he put aside his own beliefs and embraced the system of Lusitania.

Yet to have this be an eternal "good" would be disatorus because what needs to be understood is that throughout human history its never been "good" to hold one principle surpreme especially in government and cultral institutions. Take the first amendment to the US Constitution and you'll see 5 rights that seem perfect for total and unfettered practice. Yet all of us know at least one hypothetical or real example where none of them can be held without conditions.

Ender explores this principle but OSC never really develops the Speaker series into an full blow literary treatise on the subject of "good vs evil."

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Orson Scott Card
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The basic condition of freedom in a community is: You can join, and you can leave. Societies where newcomers are always excluded are not so free; societies that you can't opt to leave are not really free at all.

That's what the Starways Congress oversees: Rules that make licensed colonies a haven for certain views, cultures, or ethnicities, but that protect the rights of minorities and dissidents - not by forcing the licensing body to meld into the overall culture, but by allowing the discontented to emigrate to a world more conducive to their desires.

And the licenses were not permanent - only during the formative stages. It's like the colony of Mormons in Mesa, Arizona. Even when I lived there in the mid-60s, it was about fifty percent Mormon; but since then, it has booomed and is now only ten percent Mormon. Not for lack of reproductive and proselytizing efforts on the part of the Mormons of Mesa, either, you can be sure!

Still, the "Mormon" character of Mesa remains to a certain degree, more than a century after its founding. To provide a legitimate haven, it is only the early years that need to be protected; later, the culture can take care of itself and continue to have influence long after it is no longer a majority.

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JennaDean
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This has made me think. I hope I can make my thoughts coherent.

After these groups went out and colonized worlds with everyone from the same culture/ethnicity/religion, they would still eventually end up with differences - people who didn't feel like they fit in, people who wanted something different than was offered. It seems to be in our natures to notice and exaggerate the differences. For example, if everyone looks the same because they were born to the same small group, they may be more sensitive to small differences in their appearances that an outsider like Ender wouldn't even be able to see. Perhaps instead of seeing different skin tones like we do, they'd focus in on different eye color, or different shapes of nose, for example. They'd make a big deal of those differences that to us would seem like nothing.

And they may not even be aware of some of the larger differences out there: On Lusitania, for example, they may not even realize there is such a possibility as different religions or even different branches of Christianity - because in that society there was only one religion.

Makes me wonder how many of our differences - political, racial, physical, religious - are really tiny things that we see as huge, but are really nothing because we all started from the same "stock". And how many possible huge differences are there "out there" that we don't even know about, because they've never arisen on our planet?

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WntrMute
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Jenna, for some reason your post makes me think about Sneeches.
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Matt Lust
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Jenna,

To keep myself awake Tonight studying for my Behavior analysis final (what is a Soc major doing in the PSY dept? Seriously) I've been listening to the Speaker Series on my Ipod.
I mention this to say that when Pepo mentions the ansible's use in preventing language drift it also helps in maintaining cultural drift. I'll spare you the exposition on Bourdieiu, Pierce and Burke and go straight at the matter.

Language binds us together. A common vocabularly gives us common culture. OSC develops this in the Ramen v Verelsa story arc and its an important one to note.

From a biological, even socio-biological, viewpoint you're right we are of the same stock.
But what is important to understand is the same one Ender often makes, that we are not the Hive Queen and as such illogical, irratic and spontaneous. This make our "small" differences very important to us.

However this is not to pigeonhole the role of Other, generalized or specific. Again I'll skip the works of Mead and Goffman here and give you the nitty.

What is important to understand about the Other, inhuman or otherwise, is that we define ourselves by them. Take the difference in the aliens in Aliens and the Hive Queen. What seperates these two? The simplest answer is motive Hive Queen sorry and the Aliens unrepentataly Verelsa (at best) The more important answer is not motive but language.

While the Hive Queen does not verbalize her communication with Ender, it remains true that she shares with Ender and those most closely twined to him.* This is important because it allows Ender to make the Hive Queen into something more than the Stranger** or Verelsa.

To build upon this, once its fully established that a seperate species is Ramen we can look at them with the lense of "huge" difference but rather the subtle though significant differences that arise in our natural language. OSC explores these subtlies pretty well in the discussions between HQ and Rooter. These exchanges always piqued my interest. It shows that the ability communicate overcomes many barriers, ones that would otherwise be impossible to change. The descolada planet is what comes to my mind.

That is why we must hope that we can communicate with what species we encounter in the future or we may find ourselves in the same situation Ender faced in Ender's game of Kill or be Killed.

To OSC,

Freedom is rarely the dichotomy between have an option but we often percieve it to be such. Nor is it really a spectrum of options because that insinuates a linear progresion. Rather when we consider freedom it should be like battle room direction orientation. I metion this to develop it below.

Having lived Cedar City attending SUU for 3.5 years, I understand the framework you describe in Mesa. However your analogy breaks down because it lacks diversity in your primary analogue. Mormon roots remain because while they're clearly foreign they're not at all alien to those who have come to Mesa over the last 20 years or so. Granted I'm sure there was plenty of grumbling at the beginning about how weird LDS beliefs are and how crazy the doctrine is etc but it wasn't so forigen that it couldn't be understood as most likely Utlanning or at worst Framling.

Now what if it had been more Ramen or even Verelsa? The way Europeans viewed the cultures indigenous to the Americas or Asia and vice-versa (though granted Asian society was far far more reslient to assimilation and dispersion) at the beginning of the Age of Discovery (what a misnomer)would qualify as Ramen at best and Verelsa at worst. This could also include the early years of the Church in Kirtland, Navoou and most definitely Liberty.

How concrete and real was the formative years of the peoples who were conquered and lost their uniquess? Mexican Spanish has the Mestizo, in American English there is the Mulatto, Quadroon or Octogoon and Half breed in regular use in the past to indicate this blend. I suppose Brazilian portuguese has a similar word as well. This indicates that what they once were was very different than they are now.

To return to the issue of Freedom I borrow from the greek historian Thucydides who in his history of the Pelopensian war reported that the Athenian Delegation, who had defeated the Persians without the help of certain colony cities came afterwards to demand their aquiesence, made keen observation that justice is only possible between Equals.

I put forward that freedom is the same because if justice isn't the distrubtion of freedom than what is?

Thus freedom is only what we percieve of it. You can claim that within a community as long as you have the dichotomy of "Should I stay or should I go now" we have the closest thing to freedom possible. I would posit that this often forces us into "Damned if I do and Damned if I don't" situations and where's the freedom in that?

Note-I'm not arguing agency but freedom. Agency is a whole 'nother can o worms.

In every society there has been mechanisms (a structual term i know please forgive it)to ensure protection and freedom of minorities but it should be noted that these were only those who were viewed as full citizens. I valued your depiction of Starways Congress in Xenocide/Children of the Mind because you made them as vulnerable as every other human institution in history by allowing them to reduce some members of their society to second class citizens.

In your depiction of Han Fei Tzu and Han Qing-jao you depict this problem of freedom well. It wasn't until they had been freed from the "voice of the gods" were they actually free.


*(aside I loved the use of twining both in Speaker
series and Homecoming. The homecoming use was the first thing I could use to explain to myself how I feel I see social interaction and why I chose to be a sociologist)

**(a social form first created by Georg Simmel a german sociologist in the early 1900s, though granted he likely was discussing Utlanning but if you read the text the Stranger form has lots of latitude)


Edit for the edit:

Yeah!!! for Timestamps on our edits. I appreciate the administrators for adding this function, I find it a helpful tool to the readers to understand when each poster adjusts their post. (unless I some how started this on my own account without knowing it.)

The point in editing the first time was to fix a juxtapostioning of utlanning and framling and replace a their with there.

[ December 15, 2005, 08:30 AM: Message edited by: Matt Lust ]

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hikari-no-tsubasa
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quote:
Originally posted by JennaDean:

And they may not even be aware of some of the larger differences out there: On Lusitania, for example, they may not even realize there is such a possibility as different religions or even different branches of Christianity - because in that society there was only one religion.

Exactly... maybe I did oversimplify things when I used Ender as an example, but I do think that in his case, religion was not as important to him as: A) Novinha and her family and B)the pequeninos and the hive queen. It was important to him to be a part of the community of Lusitania primarily for those reasons. I don't necessarily think that converting to a religion that you don't fully believe in is a good thing... but the doors of the community did not remain closed to him when he made an effort to belong. That is fundamentally a good thing. All of this is only my uneducated opinion, of course, so feel free to disagree.

But JennaDean, you took the words right out of my mouth. The (potentially) sad thing about this future, as I see it anyway, is the lack of EXPOSURE to other cultures. Again, this is not an absolute, as Mr. Card reminded us. Pacifica comes to mind as an example from the books: it is mentioned that people from many different backgrounds live there, though only the Samoans come into the story directly.

Lusitania is a young colony, and it is necessarily small because of the restrictions relating to interference with the pequeninos. Thus the lack of diversity until Ender arrives? We don't see Trondheim or Path or Divine Wind being very diverse, but they could be. We really only get a glimpse of the lives of a few characters.

And really, even when I say "diverse"... maybe I'm not entirely sure what I mean. Thus the request for other opinions! Do we need to have the church and the mosque and the temple all next door to each other to be diverse? Not really. BUT... I would hope that, for example, the people of Lusitania would know about other forms of Christianity and non-Christian faiths... maybe not all of them, as there are far too many! but at least to know that some people don't believe the same things... and to choose to believe in the Church of their parents anyway.

Or not. Without exposure to other faiths, there would be no converts. And don't people WANT to share the joy of their faith with others?

With the effects of relativity the way they are, it's unlikely that you'd have many interplanetary missionaries. Or, maybe it isn't. Speakers for the Dead obviously do it - maybe others would as well, and there would be exposure to other cultures.

When it comes down to it, I suppose... for better or worse, Ender's universe isn't all that wonderfully different from our own. It isn't a utopia, but it isn't a wasteland either. And that's part of what makes the story worth reading.

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Dagonee
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quote:
The basic condition of freedom in a community is: You can join, and you can leave. Societies where newcomers are always excluded are not so free; societies that you can't opt to leave are not really free at all.
One think that always intrigued me about the way this was implemented in the Speaker books is how leaving was basically a permanent decision: even if one went back immediately, the place returned to 25 or 50 years later would be undoubtedly different.

I also like the way removal from the time stream is seens as basically onerous in the Speaker universe and is desired, more than almost anything else, on Capitol.

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