Enders Game : A Message For Our Time

Posted: February 3, 2014 in Thoughts on Reading

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I love a good story. What I love more than a good story however is a story that speaks about the human condition and heart. A book that is more than just a good story but speaks to your heart and mind. One that uses the story medium to explore the human pyshce and condition. A story that explores social issues like war, power, politics. A great story is one that expounds upon the things we don’t like to think about and makes you think about the conditions and state of our political, and social and economic state. A great story gives warning of the dangers of technology and power in the wrong hands. It will also speak to the importance of mutual understanding and respect and the potential consequences of ignoring these warnings. So many writers are good at telling storys but few can tell about the human condition and soul. Enders Game is all this and more.

I should of put a review of this movie up here when it came out in November. I didn’t, kind of wished I had. So in lieu of that I thought I would write and analysis of what I widely consider one of the best story’s ever told as the upcoming dvd/blue ray release is coming up. Something I am very much looking forward to.

There is so much to say about this story it is hard to know where to begin. I Love this story as it deals with so many issues on such a profound level. From military leadership and strategy to social issues and state control over our lives. It also deals with social issues of school yard bullying, and overcoming our own weaknesses in the face of the most difficult odds.

Ender was a child that was physically and mentally abused by his peers. There has been much in the media over the last couple of years surrounding bullying. This book highlights effectively the serious nature of bullying. He has a  brother that bullied him and a sister that loved him. His brother Peter’s sick and sadistic bullying and hatred of his brother (which is the reason that he was eliminate from the international fleet trainings program as he was too violent and has no sympathy or empathy for anyone) has a sharp contrast to to his sister Valentines compassion and love, tenderness and caring (which is the reason she washed out as she was to loving and kind and does not have the heart for war),  for Ender. I love how these two contrasts so effectively balance Ender, While the younger brother of the two, Ender effectively became the embodiment of the two. Because of these two extremes in his siblings He had the ability to love unconditionally yet at the same time has the ability to be a merciless killer and extremely violent and vicious. Ender throughout the story is fighting these two opposing natures. He loves his enemy while at the same time he must destroy them. This is evident in his statement “In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him. I think it’s impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves. And then, in that very moment when I love them…. I destroy them.” A very powerful statement indeed. This inner torment and battle between his two sides is a constant theme in the book.

His pain and emotional torment really comes through for me in one scene in paticular. It shows that all he wants and all we want really is to be loved. He was having a conversation with his sister Valentine when he was about to give up on battle school and the war. He just felt he had been pushed to far and could not take it any more. In a desperate attempt to get him to come back to school Colonel graff arranged a meeting with his sister and asked her to convince him to come back to school

“You want to beat Peter?” she asked

“No,” he answered

“Beat the buggers. Then come home and see who notices Peter Wiggen anymore. Look him in the eye when all the world loves and reveres you. That’ll be defeat in his eyes, Ender, thats how you win”

“You don’t understand” he said

“Yes I do”

“No you don’t. I don’t want to beat Peter”

“Then what do you want?”

“I want him to love me”

Ender who has dealt with emotional and physcial abuse only had one person in his life that he loved and that loved him. He had been taken from the one person that loved him. Surrounded by those that did not love him. All he wants is to be loved. He wants to be loved by his brother. That would make it alright again if only his brother loved him. Ender is constatnly fighting the side of his pysche that is his brother. The fact that he just wants his brother to love him in a way is him just wanting that part of him that he hates to change into something that he can love. If his brother could change to love him perhaps he can learn to love the part of him that is so much like his brother.

This constant battle with his two sides of his pysche is effectively brought about in the giants game. This game taps into his mind and adapts to his inner thoughts and feelings. Within the game he is constantly seeing his brother and that scares him. The one person he is terrified of becoming. Like all of us we have a dark side of our pysche that we are constatnly battling with. We have our own giants game. But are we winning?

The two extremes that Ender’s siblings represented seem to be very much symbolic or Representative of the two conflicting sides of his psyche that are constantly at war with each other. We see throughout the story his compassion for others as well as his anger and violence that make up who he is. From the fight in the bathroom where he kills his opponent to the school yard fight where he keeps kicking his bully while he is down. When asked why he kept kicking his bully when he was down Ender responded “I didn’t just want to win that fight, I wanted to win them all so that he would never threaten me again”  This scene and statement from Ender has a powerful and strong impact on how we think of bullying and what happens when the bullied fights back.

There are so many that don’t have the strength to fight back. Bullying is a very real and serious issue that kids are facing and they are not being given the tools to protect themselves against the bullies. They are told like Ender was that they should rely on there “teachers” to intervene and protect them. All to often that protection never comes and the bullied kid is left to fend for themselves. Some kids fight back,  like I did when I was younger. Ender who had been abandoned by the very people he trusted to protect him had no choice. He went into that fight intending to win every fight from there on out. Sometimes we need to take measure to protect our selves. So what does this say about us. Do we have to fight those who would threaten us at times and how far would we go ourselves if pushed. Orson Scott Card once said “the thing about fiction is that because its not about anyone it always has the possibility of being about ourselves” This quote is paraphrased.

David Rockefeller was once quoted as saying, paraphrased “all the world needs is the right crisis and the governments will accept the new world order”. Enders game plays off this idea quite effectively. The premise is the international fleet is headed to war to fend of an alien attack. The first alien attack came at at time when all countries around the globe were still independent nations only accountable for themselves. The Crisis of a alien attack on earth would I think be a crisis of sufficient size  for all governments to unite under a common international military government. Which is exactly what happened in the Enders Game universe.

The united nations has 193  member states united under a centralized union.  I did not know what the word hegemony meant or even that that word existed till I read Enders Game. A Hegemony is an indirect form of government, and of imperial dominance in which the hegemon (leader state) rules geopolitically subordinate states by the implied means of power, the threat of force, rather than by direct military force. This hegemony that rules the world in Enders Game has only one person who answer to him and that is the polemarch which means war lord. The united nations operates much like a hegemony. While it does not have a imperial head The member states answer to the united nations government or “hegemon” via an implied position of power. The laws passed by the united nations apply to all member states and those that fail to comply can be punished through threat of force utilizing the military’s of its member states in the union. This has happenned on numerous ocassions around the world. The United Nations security council has authorized the use of military force to get a country to comply with it’s wishes. The united nations has its own military called the security council with Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein at the head. Effectively a polemarch of the United Nations. When we look at the United Nations today the world already has at least on hegemony in power. The hegemony in Enders Game looks alot  like the United Nations. Ban Ki-moon I believe is the current president of the United Nations Or in other words he is he world Hegemon.

This story also touches on the idea of Eugenics. Ender would not of been allowed to exist if not for this genetics. The state authorized his birth soley because of his genetic make up. Hitler practices eugenics in Nazi germany. Controlling the genetic outcome of the people via selectvie breeding. Ender and his siblings were the sole products of selective breeding controlled and maintained by the state. His parents were required to have the first two Peter and Valentine and when the genetics did not work our in there favor they were authorized to have a third one more than the legally allowed limit in order for the state to get the desired genetic results they were looking for. Ender and his siblings were considered property of the state and his parents had no control over him and no authority over him.

Within the world of Enders Game the state or hegemony runs the education of the children of the world. Ender attends a school run by the military where his every move is watched and his education has been tailored to him. His parents don’t get any choice in his education and he is effectively owned by the state.

Many countries around the world have already begun to dictate how children are to be education, some countries like Germany and England it is illegal to home school children. In fact in England recently a couple were fined for failing to ensure their child was attending public school. (http://www.edmontonsun.com/2014/01/22/parents-fined-for-taking-children-on-vacation ). In Germany a couple was refused custody of there children because they choose to home school. (https://winteryknight.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/german-judge-rules-refuses-to-give-homeschooling-parents-custody-of-their-children/) this is one of many articles about this case that was before the German courts. In order for Enders parents to get approval for there child they were required to have him educated in a state operated school that educated based on a curriculum prescribed by the state. These two cases are both part of the European union, both are enforcing there education ideology on parents and not giving the choice. Very much like the world of Enders Game. Throughout most of the world the education our children get is dictated by our respective governments, even for those that are home schooled are required to be tested to ensure that they are being taught what the state has determined is acceptable.

While there are not alot of Goverments that practice population control laws there are some that have done so. Uzbekistan for exzample forced sterilization on women after 2 children (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-17612550). China for many years had laws limiting the number of children to 1 per family, though recently changed from what I understand they practiced a form of population control and limited the number of children you could have. Those who live in these countrys could only have more children with the states conscent. In the world of Enders game it is illegal to have more than two children. This is all done under the idea of resource managment as there is not enough resources and population must be controlled in order to ensure that there is enough for everyone. A common tag line for this is “replacement not growth”

Througout the book there is a back story to the ongoing battleschool. The story of Peter and Valentine using the “nets” to effect and manipulate the global politics of the world. In order to accomplish this they had to falsify there online identities because it would be illegal for them to even be online as children. Being the super intellegent kids they are they were able to do this in a manor that would prevent them from being tracked. They adopted the online persona’s of Locke and Demosthenes. Using these online identities they published a series of articles or blogs with oposing ideologys and effectively began and online war of ideas which went viral and began to influence the politics of the world. All the while no one knowing that these two characters they had created were in reality kids using there intellegence to gain power and control over the world.

The internet has become a exceptionally powerfull tool to spread ideas around the world. Goverments around the world have begun using the power of social media to spread there message and they have also used the internet to gage how the people are thinking. In many cases they use the internet to control the information that is being spread. China does this already by imposing restriction on search engines such as google and limiting the type of information that can be accessed. Edward Snowden now a fugitive of the U.S because he revealed to the U.S citizen and others around the world that the Amercian goverment had been spying on there people and others via the internet. Monitoring there usage and activitys. Much like what was happening in Enders Game with the nets. Ender’s activity was also being monitored and his communications being read before being sent.

There are so Many exzamples of Leadership in Enders game I don’t know if I can list them all. Ender showed an amazing ability to analyze a situation and learn how to get results from those under him. Bonzo who was one of Enders First commanders, hit and attackd Ender when Ender disobayed him. Ender was able to take the punishment and know that the leadership Bonzo was showing was in fact no leader ship at all. He had no respect from the rest of the group. His ability to take that punishment actually had the effect of Ender getting more respect than Bonzo. This started his rise to a leadership of his own army.

Ender however soon learns that the respect he has built up among his peers now sets him to far apart from them that he loosed touch with them and it becomes in a way a weakness in his leadership. With Bean he begins to isolate him in the same way that he was isolated from the group. Like Ender bean beings to resent that as well.

When it comes to his armies and the tactics that he uses he is the only one that is willing to think outside the box. His team wonders what he is doing but it works everytime. Other leaders have gotten stuck in mind set to keep doing the same things over and over again. Ender recognizes that if your unwilling to change your tactics you won’t have the ability to adapt and you will loose everytime. Which the other armys do when they had battles with Ender. Because of his leadership and delegation to his jr commanders his army soon trust him explicitly.

Througout the book we come to understand that leadership is not about being the one in charge but rather to be a leader you must earn the respect of those under you first and foremost. You cannot be an effective leader if you only way to hold onto your power is through fear. It must be through love and respect. Both of which Ender demonstrates.

The main storyline of this book is the War with the formics who were defeated when they invaded earth. The battleschool was created in an effort to train the next generation of military leaders and to launch what the goverment determined was a neccesarry preemptive strike. The threat had been eradicated in the orginal war, The crisis ended. However in order for the global hegemon to maintain control of the world they maintained that this alien threat was still just as real and alive and they could not let there gaurd down. Thus the practice of seperating the most intellegent kids to educate or indoctrinate there ideology. Ender spent time studying all the videos of the orginal war that were available, provided of course by the global hegemon and polemarch. Ender being the intellegent and smart kid he was knew that something was not adding up. Parts of the story were being covered up and it had been tightly controlled information and used more as propaganda. Much like we hear today, constant barage of extremeist islamic terrorist cells threatening us. Despite Ender suspecting he was not being told everything he still had been successfully convinced that the formics were a threat. Just as we are not told everything that is happening either. We still believe what we are told. His state controlled schooling and the state controlled information had successfully convinced him that he must continue with the war training.

Goverment control of information and propaganda is nothing new. We are constantly hearing about threats from terrorist against us. Threats that rarley if ever come true, and while the people buy into the idea that these threats are real we accept more goverment control over our lives. Invasive security screening at airports. More restrictive laws surround information and internet use. Goverment spying on us. People being ciminally charged and investigate over statements and ideas that have been put into a public forum. A riot happens in the middle east and a indepent film maker is blamed over his film he put on youtube. He is promptly and publicly arressted with the media invited to witness the event in the middle of the night. The whole arrest was meant to be a public spectable and scape goat. mean to show the populace they were doing something about the supposed threat from the people we keep hearing are a threat.

The storys behind well known terrorist attackes are so full of holes it has lead to a rise in and large following of conspiracy theorist as the official story just does not add up. Yet despite that we are still largely willing to accept more state control over our lives in everything we do. The parrells to Enders Game could not be more clear.

Drone warfare which did not exist at the time of Enders Game is widely used Within this story. The idea that drones could be controlled from a centralized location to launch an attack on enemy perceived or otherwise runs throug out all of Enders training at command school. During his command school battles he was controlling a fleet of war craft bound for the Formic home world and was required to remotley lead a fleet of war ships against an enemy force.

SPOILER ALERT!!!!

Drone warfare has been used quite a bit under modern goverment military actions. Most notably American military in the middle east. Having this type of technology today and it being written about 30 years ago almost makes me wonder if Orson Scott Card knew something he was not telling us.

It was not till the end and the final simulation that he learns the truth. While in command school he was not being trained on battle simulation but was infact commanding fleets in a real battles and he had effectivley destroyed and entire species of aliens and became Ender the Xenocide. This would haunt him for the rest of his life and he sends him self in to permanant exile over the guilt he feels because of these actions.

Will we wait till it is too late before we realize what we have done in our own war on terror? Will we be as Ender and have to live with the guilt of our actions against a enemy that in the end was not a threat to us at all? Will we one day wake up and learn who the real enemy was?. The implication of this happening in Enders Game certainly gets you thinking about some the practices of modern govermetns and media today. Do you ever wonder if we are being told the whole truth or if the terrorist are really the true threat to us. I know I do.

There is so much we can say about this book and how it relates to so many aspects of the world that we live into today. I have only really touched on the surface of what this book represents to me. Because this story is about so much more than just a boy named Ender It will alwasy hold a special place in my heart. The messages contained in this book are clear and powerfull told at times in subtle ways but they are there and have many parrelles to the world we live into today.

Enders game is a story that I could not help but fall in love with. The ideas and issues it deals with are issues that we are dealing with in our modern world and presented in a way that just draws you into story. This is a story for our time and in many ways predicted a future which in many ways we are living in now. It is a story that like Orson Scott Card has said because it is fiction always has the possiblity of being about us.

I love this story and hope that you will at some point come to love it as much as I do.

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Comments
  1. […] Katherine on Enders Game : A Message For Ou… […]

  2. Katherine says:

    “What I love more than a good story however is a story that speaks about the human condition and heart.

    Beautiful, Andrew!

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