[LMB] Political discussion

David McMillan skyefire at skyefire.org
Fri Jan 28 15:23:42 GMT 2011

On 1/23/2011 11:42 AM, Jeff Shultz wrote:
> On Sun, Jan 23, 2011 at 6:04 AM, Judy R. Johnson<jrj at fidalgo.net>  wrote:
>> ====================================
>> NEW from JRJ>  OK, now it's getting boiled down to where it makes some sense.
>> First, a point that must be made:  Aral was committed in his Regency to turn
>> an undiminished Imperium over to Gregor at his majority.
> As I see it, Aral managed an interesting hat trick - he turned over to
> Gregor a government who's authority was undiminished over the
> Imperium, while simultaneously increasing the power of the Counts over
> some areas of Gov't (at least the ministries seem to fade into the
> background) - and lessening their control over the populace. (Right to
> move to another district was probably only one of many "minor"
> reforms.
     Aral is a master of "indirect" power, and he and Cordelia seem to 
synergize in that area.  Rather than simply instituting civil rights 
reforms for subjects and riding out the ensuing firestorm, they instead 
created an self-perpetuating *incentive* for the Counts to compete 
against each other in a process that would, slowly but surely, head in 
the direction of increasing civil rights.  And do it at a naturally 
"safe" rate, moving not so fast as to generate violent reactionary 
resistance from the old guard, but still creating a safety valve to ease 
the pressure of prole unrest.
     To put it another way:  Aral and Cordelia didn't make *changes*, 
they made *mechanisms.*  Rather than try to change Barrayar to be the 
way they thought it should be (and how much do Aral and Coredlia agree 
on that in the details, anyway?), they created a "gravity well," so to 
speak, that would keep pulling Barrayar in the general direction they 
thought it would go, over the long term (and well after they were gone), 
while leaving the tactical-level maneuvering to each generation to 
handle as the "commanders on the scene."
     Witness also Aral's heading of the "Centrist Coalition."  A society 
under the stresses that Barrayar's is under can easily oscillate out of 
control one way or the other -- Aral stands in the middle, playing 
fulcrum, less interested in driving the pendulum than in keeping the 
oscillations from catastrophic positive feedback... and all the while, 
he's redirecting the ocean so that the tide will slowly, gradually erode 
the ground out from under his opponents' feet.  Those opponents are 
going to be fighting Aral long after he's dead, and most will probably 
never even know it.
     Gregor learned from this example.  He's not a "weak ruler," as some 
have implied.  Rather, Gregor is a master of moments, rather like 
Miles:  "one maneuvers to the limit, but when the golden moment comes, 
you *strike*."  Gregor's simply far more subtle than Miles -- he has to 
be, living in a fishbowl.  Gregor's "wait and see" approach conserves 
his fragile political capital until the moment when he can effect the 
most change with the least expenditure, while also giving him time for 
his array of amazingly competent subordinates to redirect the flow of 
events  in ways that he wants, without (generally) looking like Gregor 
was orchestrating things.  "When you've done something right, no one 
will ever be sure that you did anything at all" might well be one of 
Gregor's defining sayings.
     "Brute force is the final refuge of the incompetent" might also be 
one.  From Gregor's POV, if it comes down to the point that he has to 
use the naked power of the Imperial Throne directly and openly, it'll be 
because he failed to do his job properly.  If Barrayaran politics is a 
game of Blackjack, Gregor is counting cards at the table, but 
deliberately losing just enough to keep from getting caught at it.  
Because the casino furnace has a gas leak and is liable to blow up if 
anyone starts shooting.  Gregor is playing a long game -- he has to come 
out ahead over the long term, but his short-term goal is mostly to keep 
the casino from burning down, or coming under new management.
     (yeah, I think that metaphor was mangled enough, don't you?  :)  )

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