If our languages won’t divide us, our values will.
This is the ultimate lesson that I learned from reading Divergent by Veronica Roth, another post-apocalyptic young adult fiction. In this latest dystopian book that I read, the known world has become divided into five factions according to the values that they uphold: Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Dauntless and Erudite.
Abnegation is all about being self-less. A member of this faction must strive to blend in and must not attract attention to oneself. One must not talk about oneself too much nor wear anything that would draw attention. They would rather take ten flights of stairs if it would mean everyone else would be comfortable in the elevator. They are willing to stay behind meetings to stack chairs without anyone telling them to do so. But being self-less also makes them better leaders, going all out in the service of their brethen. Favorite color: grey.
Amity, meanwhile, would do everything to make everything peaceful. They are polite and would sugarcoat truths if it means appeasing another person. They make good counselors and caretakers. Favorite color: yellow.
Those of Candor are supposed to be honest and frank, to tell the truth at all times. They are the trustworthy and sound leaders in law. Favorite color: black and white.
Being Dauntless means being fearless, unafraid of anything, proving bravery by doing all sorts of daredevil acts: jumping on and off moving trains, ziplining across the city and jumping off buildings into possible death. They are thrill seekers who value bravery and see cowardice as the root of all evil. They are tasked to provide protection for the city, against some hinted enemies beyond the border. Favorite color: black.
Last but definitely least are the Erudite – those having great knowledge or learning. They are the intelligent ones who have the tendency to be arrogant and self-righteous, according to those in Abnegation. They are the teachers and the researchers in this little dystopian world. Favorite color: blue.
But aside from the factionless who roam the streets, there are the Divergent. They are those who supposedly have a little of everything. They seem to mostly come from the Abnegation faction where our heroine came from. And because of her divergent nature, she was forced and liberated to choose another faction, other than the one she was born into. But the knowledge of being Divergent weighed heavily on her despite the inherent advantages it affords her.
Reading this book made me reflect a lot about these values. The first thing that came to mind was that I would probably end up Erudite, what with my evident love for learning… and that I could not possibly end up as Abnegation. It seemed too foolish for me to have this concept of utter self-lessness amidst this me-centric world. People, I think, should always be pragmatic, practical, not inflict unnecessary harm to oneself if it can be avoided. My second choice would probably Candor, having valued honesty and truth above all else (well not really above all else, maybe just somewhere there). I could see myself flourishing in a place where my candidness would not be frowned upon and considered as callousness. Amity might not be the best for me because of this. Yes, I am polite but I generally do not conform to the desires of other people. They usually have to flatter or deceive me into doing their biddings. Sugarcoating is also something that I avoid. I even speak directly to my 6 year old niece, so why can’t I do the same to adults? And really, my third choice is Dauntless. The adrenaline rush and martial arts training are all very attractive to me. Unfortunately, I think I share the same limitations as Tris. Fortunately, I can imagine myself thinking and psyching myself up the way she did.
Towards the end of the book, the Erudite were shown as the bad guys, while the Dauntless were used as pawns. It sadly seems resonant of our current reality – knowledge, put into the wrong hand is dangerous, while those who are very eager to display their bravery are willing to do it for the wrong cause.
And who do they target? Of course, it’s the Abnegation.
It’s a really depressing non-parody.