Sunday, 24 July 2016


SM Stirling, Island In The Sea Of Time (New York, 1998).

With admirable technical expertise, Stirling's characters, "Cofflin's Council" (p. 45), discuss food production, machine engineering and other practical necessities for survival. Having always been entirely theoretical and impractical, I would be unable to contribute to such a discussion. However, I would not have to be coerced to contribute unskilled manual labor and would try to learn something useful. My ideal would be the restoration of a society in which it is possible to study something other than practical skills. I would prefer to visit Europe to study Bronze Age culture than as a deck hand - although we cannot always choose our economic status! And we can rarely influence the economic level of the society that we are living in.

An even higher ideal would be a civilization in which everyone has both practical and academic abilities, everyone enjoying the benefits of technology but also able to cope with a sudden loss of technology, everyone wealthy but also wise enough not to take their wealth for granted, everyone combining all the best qualities and none of the worst qualities of former aristocrats and laborers. That is what humanity is capable of (I think).

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I agree with what you said about "the restoration of a society in which it is possible to study something other than practical skills." Our civilization used to have that when universities and colleges focused on the Classics and humanities as much as they did on practical things like engineering.

And any attempt to study a Bronze Age culture before it inevitably changed or went under due to contact with Nantucket would need to be funded by a society wealthy enough to pay abstract studies.

Regretfully, I cannot agree with your last paragraph. Because I believe it's unrealistic about human beings. For one thing, I do not believe it will ever be the case any human society will have all its people combining the best qualities of aristocrats and laborers alike. Unfortunately, we will always have, at all levels, human beings who will be wise or foolish, generous or selfish, stupid or intelligent, cruel or merciful, etc. Absent the Second Coming, all human societies will be a frustrating mix of the good and bad. Which helps to explain both why we need the state and the equal need to restrain and limit the government.