WIKIMEDIA.COM "Xenocide" by Orson Scott Card
WIKIMEDIA.COM
“Xenocide” by Orson Scott Card

If I were asked to describe in words the entirety of Georgetown’s campus life, I doubt that I’d ever be able to stop writing. The university is home to a hodgepodge of cultures that are continually encountering and adapting to each other. The community is passionate and motivated; each person adds to the diversity of the campus. Sometimes personal beliefs mesh well together, and sometimes they clash, but by the end of the day a small part of us changes in response to such an impressive jumble.

In Orson Scott Card’s “Xenocide,” this cultural community is stretched to an intergalactic scale. On the planet Lusitania, everyday life for Ender Wiggin involves interactions with multiple sentient species. First there are the pequeninos, a species that falls somewhere between being a pig and a tree. Then there are the buggers, an eerie colony of insect aliens ruled by a powerful hive queen. Next there’s Jane, a life form that is accidentally created within the computers. Then there’s the descolada, a possibly intelligent virus manufactured by yet another alien species.

There is an old expression, which claims “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” For Ender and his family, this holds especially true when dealing with such strange species. Where one person sees the insect buggers as appalling flying creatures slicked with grime, the other sees a compassionate angel with translucent, oiled wings.

When we are on campus, we too witness events and share beliefs that we may find beautiful or hideous, just or cruel, inspiring or shocking. We won’t ever see eye-to-eye on every single one of these moments, and so it is our job to find ways to tolerate the new ideas being introduced to us. Like Georgetown, Lusitania forces its residents to confront diversity on a daily basis. Each alien society is founded on traditions that stretch thousands of years back across the galaxy, bringing with it a distinct, foreign culture.

In some cases, the cultural gap comes as a shock. Upon gaining an honor, the pequeninos (the alien pigs) carefully dissect their friends alive in order to pass them on into their life as a tree. To human outsiders that don’t take the time to understand the ritual, this seems like slaughter. But to those witnessing the event within its cultural context, the sacrifice takes on a beautiful and inspirational significance.

There will be times where somebody can suddenly make you feel uncomfortable. Their words can sting and their attitudes may be offensive, but at Georgetown we’ve been taught an invaluable and often overlooked lesson about this kind of situation. It’s not enough just to blast your own opinions back into the face of the person who disagrees. The process of fighting fire with fire eventually smolders out and leaves behind no progress, because you both run out of fuel running on the same age-old arguments.

Instead, the solution is created through hard-won compromise. On Lusitania, each species must find a way to come to terms with the values of the other sentient species while maintaining a cohesive individual identity. At first, the pequeninos struggle to accept human gender roles, but slowly they come to tolerate the strange behavior. Similarly, humans see how pequenino sacrificial rituals are justified, and they are willing to preserve this tradition. A treaty is formed that respects the customs of both sides, no matter how seemingly repulsive the practices may have seemed to one another at first glance.

Georgetown has instilled in us this same passion for deliberation and understanding. Our instincts tell us to not stop at a simple answer of right or wrong; instead, we trace our reasoning back to the deceivingly simple question and then reveal it to be more complex. Campus issues on homosexuality, contraceptives, birth control and religion aren’t restricted to the black and white definitions of morality. Instead, they are dynamic concepts that require time and thought to reach conclusions that are hardly ever stable for long. Being part of the Georgetown community enables us with the power to debate, where we alone choose to shed our ignorance and truly listen to every possible argument before coming to a decision.

In this tech-savvy age, it’s not hard to lose this power through carelessness. Social media has made it easy to shout outlandish statements and spread controversial opinions without ever having to consider the backlash. In one second we can like a page that supports our favorite causes or rallies against our opposition. We follow famous figures that align with our interests and never once care for their critics. Our technology exposes us to less and less as it increasingly caters to our stubborn beliefs, and we risk becoming dangerously close-minded.

At Georgetown, we have been given a rare opportunity to test the limits of our comfort zone. We’ve all been thrown into this melting pot together, and everybody starts off as an alien with a diverse background. Your ideas will be constantly tested and questioned, and nobody will be persuaded by your words until you’ve persuaded yourself with reasons and counterarguments. In the end, diversity can’t be achieved through the mere click of a button; it must be created through interaction and adaptation.

Hannah Kaufman is a rising sophomore in the College. Back to Futures Past appears every other Monday at thehoya.com.

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