Monday, 8 August 2016

Watchmen

An agent of a repressive regime says:

"'-It was my task to detect emerging humanness in men and uproot it. But there is a very ancient saying which asks, 'Who shall watch the watchmen?'"
-Poul Anderson, "A World Called Maanerek" IN Anderson, The Collected Short Works Of Poul Anderson (NESFA Press, Framingham, MA, 2009), pp. 231-258 AT p. 257.

Anderson could have quoted the original Latin. The phrase usually means something like "How can the police be kept uncorrupt?" but Anderson's character changes it to mean "How can repressive police be kept repressive?"

If the entire population were to be under twenty four hour surveillance, then every individual, including even the watchers, would need three watchers working eight hour shifts - which is impossible. (I am here thinking of 1984 or The Prisoner rather than The Republic.)

Alan Moore makes brilliant use of the "...watchmen..." phrase. His "Watchmen" are superheroes, who have traditionally had names ending in "-man," but the characters in his Watchmen also include a watchmaker.

1 comment:

  1. Kaor, Paul!

    And I recall Anderson saying in either one of his stories or essays that some of the most effective enemies of a tyrannical regime were among those who served it! A good example of him using that idea being PA's "Sam Hall."

    Sean

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