Tuesday, 28 October 2014

How To Revolutionize A Planet

Dominic Flandry says that he is against revolutions and, because by this he means military coups, I agree with him. However, "revolution" can and does mean a more fundamental social transformation. The Wars of the Roses merely settled which aristocrat would be the King of England whereas the Civil War and the Glorious Revolution of the seventeenth century replaced aristocratic rule and absolute monarchy with bourgeois rule and constitutional monarchy. The American Civil War revolutionized economic relationships by transforming slaves into free workers. Further, science has completely changed Terrestrial society.

Nicholas van Rijn similarly changes Diomedean society:

"'I made a new way of life here,' said van Rijn expansively. 'It is not this machine or that one which has already changed your history beyond changing back. It is the basic idea I have introduced: mass production.'"
-Poul Anderson, The Van Rijn Method (New York, 2009), p. 418.

Because van Rijn needs to return home and because the Flock cannot help him to do that until they have won a war, their earliest mass production is of new weapons like repeating dart-throwers and ballistas; also flame throwers, for which they must gather sulfur and oil and develop distillation. Van Rijn also introduces these winged beings to the crucial military role of the infantry (lesson from Terrestrial history: air power alone is never enough), who, however, must wear shields against missiles from above - another item to be mass produced.

Van Rijn also urges the Flock to prioritize military necessity over religious observance. Although he does not quote this example, the Maccabees fought on the Sabbath. A chance remark at this stage discloses that van Rijn has a chaplain back home! No doubt his life-style necessitates frequent recourse to the confessional?

It is clear that Diomedean society will remain changed after van Rijn has completed his personal objective of returning home. Each chapter of The Man Who Counts significantly advances the narrative. We wonder how van Rijn will achieve his apparently impossible objectives but we soon learn how he does it.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

I am not convinced the English Civil war and the dictatorship of Oliver Cromwell were good things. I think it would have been far better if something like what we see in Poul Anderson's A MIDSUMMER TEMPEST had happened in real history.

Moreover, I don't think Dominic Flandry had merely military coups alone in mind. His comments about why he dislilked revoloutions, because of thevast harm they cause, better fits the French and Russian revolutions.

And I really need to reread THE MAN WHO COUNTS, if only to find the comment about Old Nick's chaplain! (Smiles)


Paul Shackley said...

Flandry was referring specifically to the Magnusson Rebellion although I agree his comment could have a wider significance.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

Exactly, while Flandry did have the Magnusson Rebellion in mind, I also think he was including a wider meaning as well.

Revolutions so often brings only ruin, devastation, untold misery and tyranny. Actually beneficial revolutions can be counted on fewer than the fingers of one hand!