Monday, 27 February 2017

Two (Or Three) Kinds Of Order

If civilization collapsed, then some people would try to restore order for the common good whereas others would seek to enforce order for the sole purpose of empowering themselves over everyone else.

Examples of the first kind are:

Poul and Karen Anderson's Gratillonius, the former King of Ys, responding to the withdrawal of the Roman Empire from Brittania and Gaul;

Mike Havel, "Lord Bear," in SM Stirling's Dies The Fire.

An example of the second kind is the self-styled "Protector" in Dies The Fire.

Why are some people like that? When we have a society in which everyone seeks the common good, then many problems will have been solved and we will have a better chance of solving any that remain.

Both kinds of people exist now. In your workplace or community are potential Lord Bears and Protectors. They are obliged to work together although they sometimes pull against each other. Conflicts and rivalries are not settled with spears or crossbows but they remain conflicts and rivalries that can devastate lives, careers and organizations. In fact, they might reduce us to the level of spears and crossbows.

Apparently, the negation of technology in Dies The Fire has been an act of war against humanity. By whom? And will the culprits be confronted? One character suggested that it was "the Lord," as in the Biblical Flood. I will continue to read the Emberverse series and to reflect on what it tells us about existing society.

A third response to social collapse is that of Roan Tom in Poul Anderson's Technic History. Tom seeks neither the common good nor personal power but mere survival. However, in the process of protecting himself and his wives, Tom forges alliances that do help to restore order.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

Besides Gratillonius, I suggest Manuel Argos was another example of a good ruler trying to restore order. In this case, bringing an end to the Time of Troubles after the collapse of the Polesotechnic League/Solar Commonwealth.

Yes, I agree, Lord Bear and the Protector are examples of good and bad rulers in DIES THE FIRE. To some degree, because of his charisma and sheer ability, Mike Havel had power thrust on him. The Protector, Norman Arminger, deliberately sought power and showed himself a tyrant (caution, we need to remember he was not a STUPID tyrant).

We need to remember that in times of chaos and anarchy many people might well become so desperate that they will accept even the rule of a tyrant--if he can restore order and bring some predictability back into people's lives. A point stressed by Poul Anderson in OPERATION CHAOS.

Considering how flawed and imperfect the human race is I don't think we will ever have a society where "everyone seeks the common good." There will always be some who seek power. About the best we can do is channelize such ambitions into ways and means which will do the least harm possible. When such efforts fail we get, at the extreme end, the collapse of civilizations, nations, empires, etc.

I even thought of Roan Tom! But not quite the way you did. But your comment made sense. Pity we only see him once, in "A Tragedy of Errors." The alliances he was forging would not only lead to increased order, but probably for Roan Tom rising to power himself.