[LMB] media and politics ; then OT

Tel teluekh at yahoo.com
Mon Mar 29 03:54:48 BST 2010


--- On Sun, 3/28/10, John Lennard <john.c.lennard at gmail.com> wrote:

> From: John Lennard <john.c.lennard at gmail.com>
> Subject: [LMB] media and politics ; then OT
> To: lois-bujold at lists.herald.co.uk
> Date: Sunday, March 28, 2010, 9:33 PM
> Tel said:
> 
> 
> > The problem isn't that the political change we see on
> Barrayar is slow.
> > It's that the political change is nonexistent to
> retrograde. What slight
> > liberalization has taken place is socio-economic. It's
> not that there's no
> > revolution, it's that there's no reform. Good grief,
> -Ezar- did more for
> > introducing democracy into the Imperium with the terms
> of the Komarr
> > annexation than all his heirs have done since!
> >
> > Historically, it does not actually take that long to
> write a constitution
> > if the people in power are interested in having one.
> Certainly not thirty
> > years and change. More oppressive governments than
> Barrayar have managed
> > some sort of token popular participation in the
> political process. Aral and
> > Gregor are simply not interested, much to Cordelia's
> apparent frustration.
> >
> > There's a hundred other little things they could be
> doing too. For one:
> > Aral ends up living on Sergyar full time after Mirror
> Dance, no longer
> > running the government unable to personally carry out
> the political portion
> > of his duties. Why not, instead of going the usual
> route and appointing
> > someone, arrange elections in his District to choose
> his voting deputy in
> > the Counts for the duration of his extended
> absence?  Could even allow
> > female candidates, if he were really daring. Wouldn't
> step on anyone else's
> > feudal toes, doesn't mess with the entrenched civil
> service bureaucracy...
> > but real, tangible change if he then allowed the
> deputy to act
> > independently. A different way of doing things.
> >
> 
> And John, after declutching what's left of his hair, said:
> 
> Wrmstfl! Of course Aral and Gregor aren't interested -
> Barrayar is an
> absolutist imperium and apparently wants to stay that way.
> They think
> autocracy is better than democracy, providing only that the
> autocrat is
> sane. Not necessarily good, just sane. And as there hasn't
> been a successful
> revolution, nor apparently much that you could really call
> an unsuccessful
> one (only attempted or successful coups).

Well (not counting the Conservative-aligned Pretendership) there's the Komarr Revolt, which was definitely an unsuccessful revolution with extremely broad popular support. There's the republican uprising in one of the defeated districts in Barrayar after the Count suicides. The pro-galactic faction that wants a constitution is mentioned every so often. Cordelia's definitely pro-constitution and I take her part. 

 the system seems
> to be working
> quite well. 

It's one heartbeat from collapse the entire length of the books, freq

Which means Miles will become the eleventh
> count, and pretty
> much automatically begins to follow in Aral's shoes as
> voting deputy.
> 
> You can argue they somehow *ought* to want democracy (and
> I'll observe list
> rules and not go off about the use of such *ought to want*
> as an element
> in some very aggressive contemporary foreign policy),

no, it's that there's textev. 



 but
> ultimately that's
> a Barrayaran decision and they're not making it. The view
> that you need a
> 'strong man' autocrat to control an unruly polity may be a
> distasteful one,
> or even an immoral one, but it isn't necessarily a stupid
> one. There's solid
> textev of ImpSec working as a counterinsurgency force, but
> also that quite a
> lot of what they're dealing with is personal plotting and
> in the case of
> Komarr terrorist resistance; while there's no textev of
> deep *public*
> dissatisfaction on Barrayar. Counts and high Vor, yes,
> grumbling away - but
> Gregor's and Aral's popularities seem to remain pretty
> high.
> 
> So I think you go astray Watsonically. But Doylistically,
> it's also what
> Lois does and doesn't include, which brings us back to
> genre and the
> modalities of reading.
> 
> Genuine question: the same event, factually speaking,
> occurs in two
> narrations - one treating it comedically, desensitising
> readers to its
> violence, the other tragedically, insisting on various
> costs and evils
> involved. *Should* a reader come to the same moral
> conclusions in each case?
> 
> I ask because I would say 'no', firmly, to the *should* - a
> reader might,
> but the generic slant is not irrelevant. But I think in
> practice you
> repeatedly imply the answer is and ought to be 'yes', that
> 'fact' is always
> 'fact', regardless of context. In the matter of Cordelia's
> rights and
> responsibilities, frex, I'm intrigued and admiring of the
> balance Lois finds
> between suffering and comedy, and while I credit Cordelia's
> suffering at the
> hands of Betan political functionaries who care only for
> electoral advantage
> (cf. Flags of Our Fathers), I don't really credit Steady
> Freddie's, not
> because a kick in the balls isn't very painful, but because
> in context it's
> funny - no permanent damage, save electorally, and a
> selfish politician
> getting a come-uppance ; also a bit of wish-fulfillment
> [list here the
> politician you'd like to render temporarily falsetto].
> Similarly, in Mehta's
> case, the fact that the offensive weapon is a fishtank is
> in some
> unavoidable measure risible - which I think was in part
> Lois's intent. If,
> say, a heated utensil was used to threaten Mehta with
> blinding or scarring,
> the legal and moral offence might be the same - but the
> literary offence
> would be way greater.
> 
> Reading the list arguments over the last few weeks I think
> they've gone in
> circles (or roared off towards infinity) partly, and
> frequently, because of
> this factor. It's not the facts per se, or what they imply
> when arranged
> thus, but *why* one would want to arrange them thus given
> their narrative
> presentation in books that are, ultimately, comedic. And
> romantic. And
> adventures. For me, the kinds of implications and
> conclusions you often draw
> out would be bounce-issues if I were clocking them in
> reading, but I'm not -
> and not because I couldn't, from textev, if I squinted and
> went all
> prosecutorial, but because the narrative doesn't press me
> to, and I'm happy
> for it not to, because of the generic mix being managed.
> 
> This doesn't mean I think the books aren't serious, but
> it's a matter of
> what they're serious about. And within that (circling home
> at last) one of
> the givens is that Barrayar is an absolutist autocracy -
> accepting which,
> I'd no more tax Aral and Gregor with being undemocratic
> than I'd tax the
> Council of Counts for failing to commission opinion polls.
> To do so is to
> damn them for being imperial - and that's plain pointless,
> nu?
> 
> John
> 
> 
> -- 
> John Lennard, MA DPhil. (Oxon.), MA (WU)
> General editor, Humanities-E-Books Genre Fiction Sightlines
> and Monographs
> www.humanities-ebooks.co.uk
> 
> AVAILABLE NOW FROM HEB
> Ralph Thompson, View from Mount Diablo: An Annotated
> Edition
> --
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