Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Inner Strength and Outward Respect

Since I wrote the Spherical Model materials some time ago, I pay attention to conversations that fit into the ideas. Particularly I’ve been interested in what makes civilization. So when I came across a passage this week in the next Ender’s Game book, Xenocide, I marked it (by end of summer maybe I’ll get through all of Orson Scott Card’s Ender books).  

The quote is Valentine, Ender’s sister. They are both nearing 60 now and have raised families. They are on a planet that is at risk of annihilation, and unrest between species has been stirred up. Two other characters, Miro and Ouanda (pronounced approximately Wanda; it's Portuguese), are in an awkward situation. As young people, around 20-ish, they were planning to marry when they found out that they were brother and sister, because of their parents’ complicated choices. Then Miro leaves on a starship for what is for him a couple of months, but because of this nifty thing about relativity is 25 years on the planet. So when he returns, Ouanda is a middle-aged woman with family, and he is still young. Awkward. But as scientists they must work together and “now make the great effort to pretend that they were simply two people doing their jobs—that all was normal between them.” And that is where Valentine makes this comment about Civilization:

Inner strength and outward respect. These are the people who hold a community together, who lead. Unlike the sheep and the wolves, they perform a better role than the script given them by their inner fears and desires. They act out the script of decency, of self-sacrifice, of public honor—of civilization. And in the pretense, it becomes reality. There really is civilization in human history…but only because of people like these. The shepherds. (p. 354)

Science fiction tends to set up these impossible situations, but underneath is an observation about something closer to our world. Inner strength and outward respect indeed do help in bringing about civilization. Another day I’m sure I could find enough examples from history, from the people around me. But today I’m satisfied just to bring up the idea.

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