Saturday, 15 October 2016
Thinking Outside The Box
"But they don't operate under capitalism, under anything that human history ever saw, or so I've heard. Therefore they may consider it an investment in ...empire? No doubt they can expand their foothold here, once we're out of the way -" (p. 535)
But, of course, "empire" is just as much a human historical construct as "capitalism." And Anderson does go on to show the Baburites as imperialistic. However, he also shows us an entirely alien species on Sphinx. The natives of that planet pay Imperial tribute but otherwise go about their inexplicable business. When an Imperial pretender lands on their planet, they remain unemotional, offer no resistance and give him what he wants but nothing more. Their structures, resembling giant 3D spiderwebs, twinkle and change color in the dark. Human beings named the planet "Sphinx" because they did not understand it.
Back to the Baburites: the word "investment" transcends human economics. If the Baburites expend effort and energy on Suleiman, then they must expect some corresponding advantage or benefit - unless they are a dysfunctional race that will not survive.