Monday, 7 November 2016

Into Battle

How do men and indeed beings prepare to go to war? In The People Of The Wind, Chapter VII, Poul Anderson presents a Terran Admiral and the two Marchwardens of the Lauran System.

Admiral Cajal

The Admiral thinks:

"Man's duty in this to choose the lesser evil." (Rise Of The Terran Empire, p. 514)

That is Krishna's teaching to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita. To summarize my understanding of Krishna's teaching:

Arjuna must carry out his duty as a kshatriya, a member of the warrior/ruler caste;
inaction is impossible;
there is inaction in action and action in inaction;
I (Krishna speaking as the supreme deity) act and My action sustains the universe;
at the Battle of Kurukshetra, the destruction of the enemy is a lesser evil than their continued existence;
act without attachment.

While I accept the teaching of nonattached action, I think that there are times when we can go beyond "the lesser evil." Sometimes canvassers solicit my vote with the argument that their political party is a lesser evil than its main opponent! I say offer me a higher good - or let's campaign for one.

Cajal, safe at the center of a superdreadnaught behind his fleet but all too conscious of sending others to their deaths, glances at a picture of his dead wife, listens to Bach's Passacaglia, which they had both liked, takes off his bonnet, kneels, signs himself and prays before a crucifix.

Second Marchwarden Holm

Daniel Holm, coordinating Avalonian defense, embraces his wife.

First Marchwarden Ferune

Although Ferune, in his superdreadnaught Hell Rock, is Ythrian, he remembers:

"The fear of a king is as the roaring of a lion..." (Proverbs 20:2)

Some human beings would empathize with Ferune more than with Cajal!


  1. Kaor, Paul!

    Unfortunately, in this Fallen world, backing the lesser evil will be all we can do most of the time. For example, I will vote for Donald Trump in the US Presidential election because, flawed as he is, Trump is still better than a woman who is not only utterly corrupt, but also evil and incompetent.

    And I empathize more with Admiral Cajal than with First Marchwarden Ferune. After all, Cajal is HUMAN, not an alien like Ferune. Which does not mean I don't consider Ferune to also be an admirable person.

    And I still think Ferune quoting to himself of Proverbs 20.2 was Amderson's way of hinting that the quarrel between the Empire and the Domain was at least partly blamable on Ythri.


    1. Sean,
      Sure. Many human beings would quote the Bible rather than kneel before a crucifix and thus might feel more akin to Ferune.

    2. Sean,
      If I were a US citizen, then I would vote for one of the minority candidates that no one ever hears of.That would express my views better than either of the big two.

    3. Kaor, Paul!

      Your first comment puzzles me. Catholics and Orthodox also read the Bible and quote from it as and when appropriate. I think you mean that many non Catholics think the Bible is more understandable and less disturbing than a crucifix?

      But why should I vote for, say, a Libertarian candidate with absolutely ZERO chance of winning? How is that NOT throwing away or wasting my vote? To say nothing, of course, of how I don't agree with everything the Libertarians advocate (for example, their pro-abortion views angers and disgusts me).

      Unsatisfactory and frustrating tho the Republicans can be, their views still fits mine better than those of a party, the Democrats, I consider evil. Also, from time to time, I've seen Republican politicians expressing SOME sympathy for a REAL space program--while the Democrats are hostile to such an effort.


    4. Sean,
      Some Christians emphasize Bible reading and nothing else.
      Of course you should not vote for a candidate that you disapprove of. I do not accept the electoral logic that says that we should only choose between the 2 main parties and ignore the rest. That is too few options. Bipartisan systems can be broken down. It just takes time. Minority candidates participate in the election and broaden the debate and we can campaign between elections. I don't think of (most) politics in absolute terms. Thus, I do not describe either Trump or Clinton as "evil."

    5. Kaor, Paul!

      Well, you are much more gentlemanly and temperate than I am! (Smiles)

      Yes, I agree many kinds of Protestants stress only Bible reading/study and nothing else.

      While I actually sympathize with your view or wish that more parties in the US had a real chance of winning office, the hard facts of life here says otherwise. Out of dread of political instability the view has become entrenched that only two major parties, the Republicans and Democrats, should hold office. Yes, this can has had bad consequences, esp. in major cities where only the Democrats have ruled for literally GENERATIONS (with the inevitable corruption and stagnation that brings).

      While minority party candidates can canvass and try to win office in the hope of winning in the future, what about NOW, when, realistically and for the foreseeable future, only the Republicans and/or Democrats will govern?

      I don't know how closely you have been watching US politics, but we have been seeing an endless stream of revelations about how corrupt and dishonest Hillary Clinton is. The fact that someone with as much bad baggage as she carries can seriously run for president is a grim sign for us in America.


    6. Sean,
      Someone said that it's better to vote for what you want and not get it than to vote for what you don't want and get it!

    7. Kaor, Paul!

      While I understand and even respect that principle, as meaning we should strive only for the best, I can't wholly agree. Instead of simply repeating that sometimes we have to settle for the lesser evil, I will say that we should not let the PERFECT become the enemy of the merely BETTER.


    8. Sean,
      In an Aldous Huxley novel: Don't let the best become the enemy of the good. A good comment.