Wednesday, 5 June 2013
Flandry's Theoretical Understanding
In his youth, Flandry supported the legitimate Emperor, however abominable, because, without legitimacy, the Empire is a convenience at best, force at worst. In his old age, the Empire is force. The Usurper tried but failed to restore the legitimacy of Imperial institutions which, however, have retained too little trust or loyalty.
Now power is claimed by strength, not by right. Fear makes the rulers oppressive but this increases unhappiness and motivates the ambitious. These are symptoms of the interregnum between the principate and dominate phases of the Empire and this interregnum is a critical stage of Imperial decline. Since speaking to Desai, whom he does not name here, Flandry has also spoken to other historians, psychodynamicists, philosophers and nonhuman observers, has read and meditated, and now expounds the theory that he had heard from Desai.
Like Isaac Asimov's Hari Seldon but far more plausibly, Flandry tries to make his period "'...less terrible than it'd otherwise be...buying years for sentient beings that they can live in ...'" (Flandry's Legacy, New York, p. 75) - a far nobler aim than van Rijn's although van Rijn, less directly, had also worked towards a civilization where beings live in peace rather than continued want and conflict.
Flandry expects the surviving sophont races to "'...build fascinating new civilizations...'" (ibid.), and we see some of these later in the Technic History, but these civilizations will be built, after the Long Night, by entire species and populations, not by any Andersonian equivalents of Asimov's mentally powerful social manipulators.
Flandry sees promise in cultures of mixed species like Avalon but this is one of the many aspects of the History that Anderson did not have enough time to develop any further. We see three later stages of human social development but not what has happened to any of the other species that were either ruled by or opposed to the Terran Empire.