Robert Jordan Was a Civically Active Person

July 25, 2008

Robert Jordan was a civically engaged person, but before that can be discussed his life must be examined. Robert Jordan is actually the pen name for James Oliver Rigney Jr., but he will be referred to by the pen name most people know him by.
Robert Jordan was born October 17th 1948. He had a brother twelve years older than him, who would read to him while baby sitting. His brother read him novels by famous authors such as Mark Twain and H. G. Wells. As a consequence he was exposed to a lot of classical fiction and by the age of eight was reading it himself.
Jumping ahead twenty years would find Robert serving a two year service in Vietnam from 1968-1970. During this period he earned several medals. Among these were the Flying Cross and the Bronze Star from the U.S. and two Crosses of Gallantry from the Vietnamese. Following his tour, he earned a degree in physics from the Citadel, a South Carolina military collage. Later he worked as a nuclear engineer for the navy. After a severe injury he began his writing career. He wrote many series under various pen names, the most famous of which is the Wheel of Time series.
Until he died Robert has been living in the Old historic District of Charleston in a house built in 1797. Unfortunately he passed away this year on September 16th 2007 from Amyloidosis. During his life his hobbies included hunting, fishing, sailing, poker, chess, pool, and pipe collecting. ("dragoncon")

Civic Engagement

Though there does not appear to be any specific reason for his doing so, Robert Jordan includes in the Wheel of Time series many aspects of real world civic problems. His characters must deal with and overcome sexism, racism, in order to overcome evil. He also was civically engaged during and after his death from his battle with Amyloidosis. ("Helium")

The word Racism means “the hatred of one person by another, because of skin color language, customs, place of birth, or any factor that supposedly reveals the basic nature of that person.” Racism is one of the many vices of man. No matter what time period, what country, or what social class one looks at, there has always been racism. The most infamous of which would be the enslavement and latter segregation of Africans in the United States. In this time period African Americans were brutally abused and mistreated. ("adl") Even today this inexplicable hatred to those of other races exists. Walk into a modern school and one would see flagrant examples of racism. It may be kids using racial slurs. One may observe a gang of one race beating up a kid of another. Or as in the news, nooses hung outside schools in Connecticut. It is a major flaw in society even today. Robert Jordan addresses this civic issue in several ways.

One of the major obstacles characters of the wheel of time encounter is difference in race. There are many different countries and ethic groups that affect the political and social interactions within the series just as in the real world. There are several races that it is necessary to interact in order to defeat evil. Essentially what happens is several peoples that hate each other are slammed together in a cultural clash, and must cooperate in an era where communication is made with letters and pigeons across thousands of miles.

One example of this situation is the Aiel. This is a race which customs and lives revolve around a system on honor called Ji’e’toh. This is a complex system which few non-Aiel understand. As such this warrior based culture is at odds with the rest of the world, often resulting in political misunderstandings. One misunderstanding caused a war that added to the stereotypes and hatred between the Aiel and the peoples west of the Waste.

These stereo types evolved on both sides. The Aiel who invaded the western nations developed the stereotype that non-Aiel are weak, and a sense of disgust towards them. This came from the way in which the Aiel were extremely skilled in combat and completely destroyed most resistance to their invasion. It also came from the difference of the environment in which they lived. The Aiel live in a desert where it is kill or be killed, where one kills for a glass of water. From this difference the derogatory term “wetlanders” referring to the “soft” way in which they live was created for the people living west of the waste. Of the peoples to the west their own hatred was developed also. The Aiel are known as uncivilized, and savages among the “wetlanders.” This stems from the lack of knowledge about the Aiel culture, and from the Aiel war when family members were killed. (Jordan and Patterson 179-189)

Another example of racism can be found between commoners and the Tuatha’an. The Tuatha’an are a people that follow a belief called the way of the leaf. This belief can most easily be explained as belief in peace. The way of the leaf says that no person should harm another person even in the defense of ones own life. On many occasions the men of this society have been known to sacrifice their own lives to save women and children, by acting as a barrier of bodies to an attacking force. Commoners hate the Tuatha’an for their beliefs, for the affect it has on other people. The way of the leaf has the tendency to draw people, especially children towards its simple, nonviolent ways. Thus they are given names such as “children snatchers”, and “Tinkers.” Robert Jordan shows that people with different beliefs have no reason to be hated; he does this by having characters interact with the Tuatha’an. He gains the reader an inside snap shot at what is really behind the derogatory terms. (Jordan and Patterson 189-190)

One of the main cultures that heavily influence the plot is that of the Seanchan. This race is technologically advanced in comparison to the rest of the world, but possibly has the most flaws. The social structure revolves around the idea of each person having a rank with in what ever class they belong to. This leads to heavy discrimination between classes. Though there is a class incorporating slaves, there are many worse social positions. One which is the worst is the “Damane.” In this class one is viewed as less than a slave, as dirt. But one is treated as if a weapon merely existing to be used in combat. At the same time as using the Damane, the upper class also fears them. Damane are women who can channel, they are connected with a trainer with a leash that allows the trainer to control them. It allows the trainer to either reward or punish the person by causing any sensation desired to be passed through to the Damane, this could mean a pat on the head or a flogging. They are not controlled because they are women, but because they are of a lower rank, as if they are rabid dogs that could turn on the rest of society. So they are cruelly punished through hate. (Jordan and Patterson 156-152) Robert Jordan shows that those of a lower rank should not be treated differently by revealing the feelings of one who is. At one point one of the main characters is captured and subjected to this treatment, this gives the reader a personal connection with the situation because they already feel they know the character as if a friend.

Robert shows the reader that racism is wrong. He shows that it can be over come.

Sexism “is treating a person differently because of their gender.” This is found through out the English language with in terms referring to men as if better than women. An example can be found in many prefixes and suffixes. A master bedroom, forefathers, craftsman, congressman, statesman and landlord are but some examples. ("") Sexism can also be found in the salaries of women. As Mr. Yeo said, “It is a glass ceiling; a limit to the amount of money a woman can make that doesn’t formally exist. A man could be making this much and a woman right down the hall doing exactly the same job would be making less.” This unfair treatment is also found with in the Christian religion. Women can not be priests or many positions higher than just a nun. Even though god is believed to be genderless and ageless, he is referred to as god the father, indicating that a man would be more fitting for the creator of everything. ("")

Just like in the real world, sexism is a huge problem in the wheel of time series. Among local governments in most of the towns in the series there are two groups that hold power for the local government. Though each has a different name for each group, one is comprised of men and the other of women. Each governing group has the belief that the other is incompetent or has lesser ability to govern. As a counter balance to these difficulties Robert Jordan balances federal governments. There are many countries that are ruled by women such as Andor, Tar Valon, and Mayene. As these are highly successful and extremely powerful countries. Robert manages to subconsciously show the reader that women are equally capable of holding power as men are. (Jordan and Patterson 234-243, 286, 211-212)

Perhaps the largest influence is through the One Power. This is a form of energy that is partially controlled by the laws of physics, and is used similarly to how magic is in other series. The One Power is a staple of the whole series with most of the plot influenced or designed around it. Because of its importance readers are forced to pay special attention to it. The non physics part that controls it is gender. The One Power is split into a female (Saidar) and male (Saidin) half. People who use the One Power use their corresponding gender of the One Power. As it can be imagined each side has different strengths and weaknesses. The concept that is developed is that each gender is equal but different. Men are stronger in fire and earth, women in air and water, and both are equal in spirit. Men are stronger in sheer power, but women can “link” into a circle of 13 that can over power any man no matter how powerful. Yet these circles are limited to a size of 13 that can only be increased if a man links into the circle. This energy or power reflects how society should be, even though genders are different, they should have equal opportunity. As an additive, when men and women are linked (working) together they are performing even greater tasks such as when the taint is cleansed from the male half of the One Power. (Jordan and Patterson 17-25) ("Wotmania")

Through these concepts Robert is capable of subconsciously influencing the reader into start believing that the sexes are equal.

In 2006 Robert was diagnosed with a rare blood disease called amyloidosis. This blood disease manifests itself in 22 forms that are very different, yet of the same illness. Robert got primary amyloidosis with cardiomyapathy, this is caused from a misfolded protein. 5% of Roberts’s blood marrow was producing these misfolded proteins also know amyloids. The form that Robert Jordan had caused these amyloids to collect on the wall of his heart which then would cause his heart to stop beating because of the stiffening of the heart wall. With out treatment he had a life expectancy of one year, with treatment he had an expectancy of four years. At the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota he received chemotherapy after his bone marrow stem cells were harvested, to wipe out his bone marrow. They then re-implanted the bone marrow stem cells to re-grow bone marrow. He also underwent a lot of experimental procedures. (Jordan)

After his diagnosis Robert held many fundraising programs. One of these included an art contest for a 2009 calendar. From this contest a calendar will be made. Roberts’ royalties and a portion of his publishers proceeds will then be donated the Mayo clinic. (Al'Landerin )

Robert knew his days were numbered, and unlike most people who may have been demoralized, he kept through to the very end. He asked that after he died that instead of his millions of fans sending flowers for condolences, that they should instead send donations to the mayo clinic. He wanted to help people that would be suffering in the future even if he was dead. (Howard) He also had it arranged so that a successor could finish the last book in the Wheel of Time series if he died, by leaving his notes and plans for the plot. In ensuring the continuation of his work, he will continue being civically active from beyond the grave. He will continue to educate and teach others not to be racist, sexist and to help those that are suffering from amyloidosis.

In conclusion Robert Jordan was a very civically active person. He has helped further the research of amyloidosis. He communicated to millions about the importance of not being sexist or racist. Though he did not do this in the traditional public speaking that we have all heard of, he has communicated more successfully. Most people will simply ignore one preaching of a topic that they oppose; Robert makes them listen by capturing their attention with a fascinating saga.

Al'Landerin , Eleyan. "Wheel of Time Calendar Contest Live." May 22, 2007. 23 sept. 2007 .

Howard, Melissa. "Deceased - Robert Jordan." suite101. Sep 19, 2007 . 23 sept. 2007 .

Jordan, Robert. "Robert Jordan is ill ." Pat's Fantasy Hotlist . 24 March 2006. 20 Sept. 2007 .

Jordan, Robert, and Teresa Patterson. The World of Robert Jordan's The Wheel Of Time. New York: Tor, 1997.

redstar, "Book reviews: The wheel of Time (WOT) ." helium. 20 Sept 2007 .

Unknown, "Racism." adl. 20 Sept 2007 .

Unknown, "Robert Jordan." dragoncon. 2006. 19 sept 2007 .

unknown, "Sexism - Notes." 20 Sept 2007 .

unknown, "The One Power." wotmania. 2007. 13 Dec 2007

Join the Discussion

This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

georgia said...
Jan. 8, 2009 at 2:04 pm
This is for the piece (Robert Jordan,Anonymous,Lebanon,CT

This piece was awsome!! I loved the way it flowed...was easy to read, most informative, and left me wanting to read the books....
I would love to read more pieces of work from this person, and will be looking for more pieces from him/her. Don't lose this person...him/her is a fantantic writer and should be incouraged to write more...!!!!!
CLB62 said...
Dec. 9, 2008 at 10:19 pm
This was/is a very interesting and intellectually stimulating piece. You should continue to write and submit many more pieces.
Good job!!
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