Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Nicholas van Rijn

Adzel accuses Nicholas van Rijn of "'...dangerous pride...'" in unilaterally assuming responsibility for deciding how to respond to the Shenna threat.
-Poul Anderson, David Falkayn: Star Trader (New York, 2010), p. 519.

Van Rijn replies:

Adzel is too naive and trusting;
most other people are too stupid, hysterical, ideological, greedy (!) or cruel;
van Rijn can pray for the intercession of St Dismas;
he is in fact informing and conferring with other good people as far as possible, although discretely;
he does go on to discuss the matter further with the "naive" Adzel.

Adzel acknowledges that he himself does not want the responsibility. We might laugh at van Rijn saying that some others are too greedy but, in fact, he knows better than to enjoy luxuries while Rome burns, so to say. It is others who wreck the Polesotechnic League by doing that. Van Rijn's faith in saintly intercession seems superficial but turns out to be sincere. It is his last point that clinches the argument. He does in fact "'...make connections in this life too...'" (p. 520), as he puts it. And, as he also says, even if he did hand the decision-making to someone else, that itself would be a decision of his for which he would be responsible.

I am sure that most of us see the Shenna as nothing but a threat but van Rijn has the imagination to realize that they are an entire race and even to recognize potential customers among them! Mercantile, but better than militarist. Finally, his faith in St Dismas turns out to have a practical application when his small statue of the saint becomes a weapon in a fight against an individual Shenn. Poul Anderson draws out every possible implication of his fictional premises.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

By and large, I agree with Old Nick's arguments given to Adzel. Given his uique position, knowledge, and abilities, my view is that van Rijn was in a position to act more decisively and effectively than almost anybody else.

Moreover, consider how DISPERSED power was at the time of the Shenn/Satan crisis: The Solar Commonwealth, independent colonial planets, the Polesotechnic League, etc. Of these, only the League could truly act effectively on an interstellar style. And even then only up to a degree, because the firms which made it up often had opposing interests E.g., the Home Companies, the Seven in Space, and independents like van Rijn's Solar Spice and Liquors Company.

The system worked, altho barely, to cope with the Shenn/Satan crisis. But it broke down 19 years later during the Mirkheim/Baburite war.