Speaker for the Dead
Prime Directive Response When dealing with foreign sentient species, it is crucial to maintain what is know as a prime directive. This is the notion that a species may explore distant planets, but must take certain precautions when dealing with other sentient species to prevent any change in their progression. In the novel Speaker for the Dead, the citizens of Lusitania go to great lengths to preserve their prime directive, but the indigenous species appear to benefit from their encounters with these humans, and begin to realize it themselves.
The natives of the planet Lusitania, known to the humans as “piggies”, have learned much from the humans in the brief time that they have lived together. The human languages, Stark and Portuguese, were necessary in order to be able to communicate with the piggies, but the piggies seem to be using it for more than just communication. Pages 142-143 show that the piggies can transition between Stark and portuguese as a sort of language game that they play with the humans.
The piggies already know four different languages, and the addition of two more can help their society express themselves in more ways. Besides language, the mere fact of making contact with another sentient species shows the natives that they are not alone in the universe and that they may not be the strongest or the smartest. If they realize this, it may help them to unite as a planet-wide species faster than they normally would have without outside contact. By seeing that the humans are more technologically advanced, the piggies may also focus more on striving to create new technologies themselves.
History has shown us that most inventions happen because they are necessary, and the addition of humans on Lusitania may increase the necessity of technological progression. At this point, the piggies are far from being capable of first contact and therefore cannot be contaminated by human society due to the Prime Directive. Their culture seems backwards to the humans, but that does not justify any interference, even if it would potentially benefit the piggies. The two species are simply too far apart in progression to be able to successfully interact with each other.
The fact that two humans have already been killed, and brutally so (at least in human standards), reinforces this idea. The piggies’ culture is still hindered by radical traditions that the humans do not understand and most likely never will. By even being around the piggies, the humans are inserting themselves into the piggies’ rituals and culture. The piggies may eventually realize that their culture is backwards and may abandon such rituals earlier than they would have. Or perhaps, they may even adapt their culture to human standards.
With this being said, it seems apparent that even minimal contact between the two species is having a subtle but profound effect on both societies. The cultural difference of the piggies is too vast to allow interactions with the humans if the Prime Directive is to be maintained. Already, as is seen on pages 144-145, one of the natives realized that the humans are using metals as a resource to accomplish greater tasks, such as flight. It may have taken decades for the piggies to have discovered metal as a useful resource on their own. The humans should have gone to far greater lengths to preserve the prime directive.
No resource that is not ready available or attainable should even be encountered by the natives until they discover it for themselves. The notion of a prime directive may seem considerate towards other species, but in the case of the piggies it appears to be almost impossible. The attempts to learn more about the natives of Lusitania without contaminating their culture has resulted in failure after failure. Even if the humans were to leave immediately, the piggies have still learned permanent information that they would not have even theorized for years.
Although it seems as though the prime directive has been compromised between the humans and piggies, the latter seems to still benefit greatly from the knowledge. They’ve learned new languages, discovered that traveling to distant planets is possible, and are now even considering searching for new materials to create better technology. Perhaps the humans should have taken more care to prevent technological contamination, but the colonization of Lusitania by humans has led to an inevitable progression of the native culture.