Ender’s Game: Politics and Fantasy, film and literature

Ender’s Game (Ender’s Saga, #1)
by Orson Scott Card

bookshelves: personal-challenge100

Read in October, 2013
I was given this book to read last weekend by my son – just in time for the ‘blockbuster’ film to be announced with Ben Kingsley playing a lead role. Read it too over the next days and really liked it. He said it was originally aimed at children or adolescents but written in a way that adults could enjoy too and he was right.
The language is simple but the ideas are at the level of complexity you could understand and if it introduces the ideas of Locke and Demosthenes to the younger generation (hopefully they may read the originals) then all the better!
It is quite chilling in its concepts of how humanity might evolve and how they might not be recognised as sentient beings and how they fail to recognise others’ behaviours as what they are. Humans it would seem would never sacrifice themselves for the greater good but perhaps other races might.
I am not sure what the follow on books could offer that could top this, so I shan’t look for them, but even if you don’t like science fiction or fantasy you need to read this book for the political ideas and psychological insights that it contains – scattered amongst the shoot’em dead sequences.
For those not familiar with Locke and Demosthenes (I read Locke at uni but have forgotten much), I searched trusty wikipedia and found this:

John Locke FRS ( 29 August 1632 – 28 October 1704), widely known as the Father of Classical Liberalism, was an English philosopher and physician regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers. Considered one of the first of the British empiricists, following the tradition of Francis Bacon, he is equally important to social contract theory. His work had a great impact upon the development of epistemology and political philosophy. His writings influenced Voltaire and Rousseau, many Scottish Enlightenment thinkers, as well as the American revolutionaries. His contributions to classical republicanism and liberal theory are reflected in the United States Declaration of Independence.

Locke’s theory of mind is often cited as the origin of modern conceptions of identity and the self, figuring prominently in the work of later philosophers such as Hume, Rousseau and Kant. Locke was the first to define the self through a continuity of consciousness. He postulated that the mind was a blank slate or tabula rasa. Contrary to pre-existing Cartesian philosophy, he maintained that we are born without innate ideas, and that knowledge is instead determined only by experience derived from sense perception.

The whole tabula rasa stuff was emphasised to us at teacher training as it was then considered our job to fill these empty minds with ‘good stuff’…

Demosthenes (on the other hand]; 384–322 BC) was a prominent Greek statesman and orator of ancient Athens. His orations constitute a significant expression of contemporary Athenian intellectual prowess and provide an insight into the politics and culture of ancient Greece during the 4th century BC. Demosthenes learned rhetoric by studying the speeches of previous great orators. He delivered his first judicial speeches at the age of 20, in which he argued effectively to gain from his guardians what was left of his inheritance. For a time, Demosthenes made his living as a professional speech-writer  and a lawyer, writing speeches for use in private legal suits.

Demosthenes grew interested in politics during this time, and in 354 BC he gave his first public political speeches. He went on to devote his most productive years to opposing Macedon’s expansion. He idealized his city and strove throughout his life to restore Athens’ supremacy and motivate his compatriots against Philip II of Macedon. He sought to preserve his city’s freedom and to establish an alliance against Macedon, in an unsuccessful attempt to impede Philip’s plans to expand his influence southwards by conquering all the other Greek states. After Philip’s death, Demosthenes played a leading part in his city’s uprising against the new King of Macedonia, Alexander the Great. However, his efforts failed and the revolt was met with a harsh Macedonian reaction. To prevent a similar revolt against his own rule, Alexander’s successor in this region, Antipater, sent his men to track Demosthenes down. Demosthenes took his own life, in order to avoid being arrested by Archias, Antipater’s confidant.
The Alexandrian Canon compiled by Aristophanes of Byzantium and Aristarchus of Samothrace recognized Demosthenes as one of the ten greatest Attic orators. Longinus likened Demosthenes to a blazing thunderbolt, and argued that he “perfected to the utmost the tone of lofty speech, living passions, copiousness, readiness, speed”. Quintilian extolled him as lex orandi (“the standard of oratory”), and Cicero said about him that inter omnis unus excellat (“he stands alone among all the orators”), and he also acclaimed him as “the perfect orator” who lacked nothing.

Well there you have it! the perfect orator… and if you can look these up then you can begin to understand what the characters using these names are up to in the book (or film if you only watch that).

Ender's Game

Ender’s Game (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


5 thoughts on “Ender’s Game: Politics and Fantasy, film and literature

  1. Pingback: Politics, Oratory & The Teleprompter: Cicero on the Orator | The Leather Library

  2. gardengirl92

    I read Ender’s Game a few years ago and really liked it. It was very thought provoking and I’ve been meaning to read it again. I actually didn’t let my kids read it until they were older and I felt that they were ready to understand the issues it brought up. Thanks for the reminder!




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