The building blocks of an empire

24 March 2020 | Columns

Justicia Shipena

Imagine a world where every day you have to worry about the threat of a second alien invasion. Military officials plug a monitor into the back of your neck and watch your every move from a remote distance. If you pass their test on personality and intelligence, you’re whisked away to an international battle school where you learn the techniques to conquer your foes.

I recently read Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card and it seems far removed from reality, a Hogwarts of the science fiction world, and maybe it really is just another implausible future made up in some author’s head. But then again, maybe it’s not.

Currently, we can feel safe in the knowledge that we don’t have to worry about a swarm of otherworldly insects taking over the planet. We’re not being individually observed through strange, minute devices, and I’m guessing that most of us will never learn the strategic ins and outs of zero-gravity combat. However, when you peel back the layers of sci-fi that blanket Ender Wiggin’s greatest struggles, what you get is a story that applies to each and every one of us.

Like Ender, we’re all raised according to certain societal standards of education. For the first couple of years, it’s about learning the basics, but then you graduate to battle school. For the next four years of high school, you’re introduced to chaos as tests become more rampant and the competition intensifies.

Ender was just a child when he was whisked away by the military. He learnt mind and combat games to enhance his education, and he was forced to experiment with the balance between tradition and innovation. He knew that the games of war were just simulations of the real thing, but they still held real, tangible importance by determining his scores and ranking among his peers.

Haven’t we all gone through this process already? That stressful period of completing multiple university applications and striving to make our dreams a reality before we actually set foot in a university classroom seems all too similar to the struggles Ender must contend with. We’ve all played the game, taking classes that didn’t even seem particularly interesting just to compete with thousands of other kids. We struggled with every essay we sent out, wondering if we were one of the lucky ones who had an attention-grabbing idea that broke the norm without completely overstepping it.

So, what comes afterward, when our painstaking efforts are recognised at long last? For Ender, it was Command School, where all he had ever learnt would prepare him to lead others in the real world. For us, it’s university and we’re taught just the same. Most of us have heard the notion that we are the leaders of tomorrow, and as scary and uncertain as it seems, it’s more or less true. High school was the game, and university gears you up for what’s beyond it. The cost, however, remains to be seen.

We definitely still have some teenage shortcomings, like when we ignore long-term consequences and do what we want on impulse. However, from high school through university, we’re bred to look, think and act like adults. We shed our light-up sneakers for business appropriate shoes and pile a stack of textbooks in place of our old stuffed animals.

This change is arguably good. We’re adapting to the future and growing up. We’re getting a head start by maturing early on so we’ll be ready to face anything and everything. Yet we lose something in the process. We bounce our legs, drum our pencils and twist in our seats during class because we want to be somewhere and do something that stimulates our entire selves rather than just our brains. Our minds are ageing faster than our bodies, and we run the risk of burning out too soon.

There is a moment in Ender’s Game when Ender reaches breaking point. He can’t face the world of Command School and refuses to continue his training. He builds himself a simple raft on a lake that reminds him of Battle School, where everything was still just a game and not yet bordering on reality. For his superiors, this is a scary turn of events because it meant the possible end of his brilliance and hard work; for Ender, it meant the prolonging of his childhood.

As he lies there basking in the sun, Ender is just another kid again. He could at once be criticised for his lack of responsibility or admired for his purposeful backlash of untroubled repose. Beyond our own amazing yet stressful summer internships, the season itself is waiting to be enjoyed. We can all find at least one moment during the next few months where the only thing we want and should do is throw on a swimsuit, and, like Ender, rediscover our simplest selves. In the end, it’s our dollhouses and our Lego castles, our freedom and our imagination, that create the true building blocks of an empire.

Similar News


The price of envy

5 hours ago | Columns

Octavia TsibesWhat is it about people that makes it hard for us sometimes to feel happy for others? We want to be good friends, good...

Leading without a title

1 week ago - 09 October 2020 | Columns

Until you arrive at the level where you desire to be, lead where you are. Leadership is not a position; it is a combination of...

Leading without a title

1 week ago - 09 October 2020 | Columns

Until you arrive at the level where you desire to be, lead where you are. Leadership is not a position; it is a combination of...


2 weeks ago - 06 October 2020 | Columns

Monique Adams Ever since I was young, listening to old-school music, watching old movies, I would be in awe when I saw the characters...

Long is the road and short is the life

2 weeks ago - 06 October 2020 | Columns

Ecclesiastes 3:1-2: "There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to...

The fear of being alive

3 weeks ago - 29 September 2020 | Columns

Elizabeth Joseph Namibia, and the world in general, is anything but safe right now. Every morning when you open newspapers, listen to the...

In God geanker!

3 weeks ago - 29 September 2020 | Columns

Rume Coetzee Grootfontein Agri College is ’n gelowige skool wat glo in ons hemelse Vader se leiding en beskerming. Sy hand van beskerming was gedurende...

Spread your financial wings

4 weeks ago - 22 September 2020 | Columns

Irene-Mari van der Walt I don’t know much about money but I know that they say it can’t buy happiness. I also know that people...

Self-care wrapped in a bow

1 month - 15 September 2020 | Columns

Justicia Shipena I thought shooting stars were a myth. They may be astronomically proven, and relentlessly depicted in popular culture, but one had never...

Who is an authentic leader?

1 month - 11 September 2020 | Columns

Modestus HDarkness is the absence of light, and truth can never be hidden. It is at this juncture that one should know the authentic leader,...

Latest News

Girl (3) raped by uncle

5 hours ago | Crime

ELLANIE SMIT WINDHOEKThe rape of a three-year-old girl by her 49-year-old uncle at Mariental is among the latest sexual attacks on children...

Young, Wild and Free Nikhita

5 hours ago | People

Ester Kamati “I am unique because my journey is unique, my experiences in life, my thoughts, my words, and my actions make me unique.”Known for...

Etosha fire still raging

5 hours ago | Disasters

ERWIN LEUSCHNER SWAKOPMUND After more than a week, a fire in the Etosha National Park is still raging. The fire has destroyed a...

Celebrate cancer awareness month

5 hours ago | Opinion

As we celebrate Cancer Awareness Month, My Zone visited Delta High School and asked the learners what they know about breast cancer and what they...

Democratic regime change is permissible

5 hours ago | Opinion

President Hage Geingob drew wrath in some quarters when he tore into white Namibians who, in his own words, are deserting Swapo and essentially plotting...

The price of envy

5 hours ago | Columns

Octavia TsibesWhat is it about people that makes it hard for us sometimes to feel happy for others? We want to be good friends, good...

As we celebrate Cancer Awareness...

5 hours ago | Opinion

Corlia LiebenbergBreast cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the breast tissue and lymph nodes of females and males. You could assist a...

Ongwediva urged to create SGBV...

5 hours ago | Crime

TUYEIMO HAIDULA ONGWEDIVA Demonstrators who participated in the #ShutItAllDown protest at Ongwediva on Friday have asked the town's municipality to create relief centres for...

Locust outbreak worsens

5 hours ago | Agriculture

ELLANIE SMIT WINDHOEK An outbreak of African migratory locusts has worsened, with the entire Zambezi Region now affected.This is according to regional governor Lawrence Sampofu,...

Load More