I’m currently listening to Visitors, the third novel in the Pathfinder series by Orson Scott Card. Although I’m not versed in philosophy, human interaction fascinates me. Orson Scott Card’s writing is full of variations of how groups of people work with or against each other, and it’s often the case that he will phrase something that resonates deeply with me. I’m using this post to share an excerpt from the book that speaks about collaboration.
There’s no need to be familiar with the plot of the novel; however, I will set up the general context. One of the main characters, Rigg Noxon, is traveling with a guide, Ram Odin, to visit the 19 colonies of a planet. Each colony began with the same starting blocks, and was allowed to develop independently, almost as an experiment to see how civilization would structure itself and develop. The following dialogue takes place as Rigg and Ram Odin enter the Singhfold colony, which is comprised of small agrarian tribes (as opposed to large cities with monarchies, etc.).
Ram Odin: It’s in human nature to come to blows sometimes. Every few generations, one of the cities of the plain weary of the struggle to live with little water gets the grand idea of conquering the mountain valleys.
Rigg: But they fail?
Ram Odin: Oh, they succeed easily. The valleys don’t have enough people to defend them against a relentless enemy. But the valleys farther in take the refugees and the people of the plain don’t know how to work the land, or what crops grow. And when do you stop? Which valley is the last one you’ll conquer? Whatever place you choose, the people in all the nearby valleys will shun your trade. And if you’ve been particularly brutal, the neighboring valleys conduct a relentless guerrilla campaign. If the conquerors leave a small force, it will be killed one by one. If they leave a large one, it will starve or freeze.
Rigg: So, their history is the same thing over and over.
Ram Odin: All history is the same thing over and over. The technology may change, but the behavior is still human. We are who we are. Individuals learn, grow up, get better, wiser, stronger, healthier, kinder… or the opposite. As a group, though, we keep inventing the same behaviors; some work, some don’t. In the valleys of Singhfold, most of the villages and hamlets have found and held on to customs that allow the most happiness for the most people.