[LMB] Ezar - - the hand he was dealt

Paula Lieberman paal at gis.net
Fri Sep 16 16:16:25 BST 2011


Staying AWAY from Banned Topic,
Consider Savonarola in Florence, who came to power excoriating the decadence 
of the di'Medici, and was such a ranting intolerant fanatic of a religious 
zealot, he was after a few years excommunicted by the Pope and the very 
people of Florence who had propelled him to leading the city, burned him at 
the stake for his extremism.  Initially they were swept up in his ideology 
and intensity and message, they took their luxurious goods and piled them 
high to be set fire to as "the bonfire of the vanities."  They promoted his 
extremist intolerant bigot agenda.  And eventually they broke with him, and 
put him to death for his inflexibility and continued extremism.

Being sensible sometimes not only doesn't get on into power, it gets one 
ostracized.  In the case of Savonarola, those who wanted paths of 
moderation, got thrown aside or trampled in the onslaught of citizens 
heeding Savonarola;s charisma and messages.  Over time his glamor dissipated 
enough that people grew severely disillusioned with him and their 
disenchantment mutated into lethal hostility....

Engineers tend to want to go on hard data and not Credo.  Appeals to emotion 
yanking work less well on technical types generally, who want "hard proof" 
and/or mathematical substantiation, and not silver-tongued oratory making 
people feel empowered by the words/speaking style of the orator, and by 
messages of the orator of uniting against common enemies, the strategy of 
identifying scapegoats and uniting in grabbing the hapless scapegoats 
and -propelling- them down onto the rocks to die in a bloody spectacle of an 
even Dionyistically full of emotion rite....

What that has to do with Ezar... hmmm.  Ezar needed to capture the if not 
loyalty, acquisence of the Council of Counts.  How much did -their- 
interests and preconceptions and prejudices and self-motivations affect 
Ezar's actions and reign, I wonder?   Aral ran into hidebound conservative, 
and hidebound conservatively ambitious and/or radical Counts in 
conspiracies... and that was after Ezar's rule, and Ezar's massive 
decapitation operation against the War Party.

-----Original Message----- 
From: Karen Hunt
Sent: Friday, September 16, 2011 7:10 AM
To: Discussion of the works of Lois McMaster Bujold.
Subject: Re: [LMB] Ezar - - the hand he was dealt

This is rapidly turning into the kind of thread I no longer want to
take part in, but....

As regards Serg's power to make things worse, that sort of thing is
easy to do and doesn't require the real use of power.  It simply
requires that he not make any attempt to be a good leader and he
collects vile people around him.  There are enough real-world examples
of success at such leadership as not to require more said than that.

As regards Aral's ability to make things better in general, regardless
of circumstances, I think he'd have had a very hard time if the war
party hadn't been taken out by Ezar.

As regards Ezar's power or lack thereof....

Ok.  There are severe limits to what I can discuss here, but I am a
techie who sometimes has had real power.  Note "sometimes."  I have
considerable expertise in certain fields, and I've been "right" at
enough strategic moments that people listen when I speak up.

Any power has limits and fluctuates considerably over time.

There is discussion of this simple fact in canon -- see Miles'
conversations with Galeni in BIA, Miles' conversations with Gregor at
the start of VG, and Cordelia's talk with Aral about what her power on
her Survey Ship is in SOH.  There are more places as well.

Basically, regardless of how autocratic a government system is, how
much power an individual person has when they speak up is a weird mix
of quite a few things:

1) How right they actually are in what they say.
2) How much other people want what they say to be right.  And which
other people.
3) How right they've been in the past when they've said other
(preferably similar) things.
4) Their actual job title and the assumed power and knowledge of said job.
5) How expensive it is if they turn out to be wrong.  (How expensive
it is to be right, too.)
6) How "strange" what they say is perceived as being.
7) Whether the person speaking "looks like" what an expert is supposed
to look like.
8) Whether the people who don't like what's being said have an agenda
that is harmed by these statements.  (This is a variation on 2,
actually.)
9) When you speak and who you speak to first can be extremely important.
10) Other factors exist, and I won't rule out phase of moon as mattering, 
too.

Whether Ezar could have made a Betan-style democracy appear looks very
questionable to me.  The counts won't like it at all, the people
underneath will view it as strange, and it'll be very expensive at the
start.  Further, he's got severely traumatized people beneath him, who
won't like any new systems at all.  (Mind you, I really doubt he'd
have favored anything of the sort anyway, as has been pointed out
above.)

Whether Aral could have done the same?  Not at first, that's clear
enough.  He certainly doesn't believe it's possible, judging from his
comments about that being a "prescription for civil war" at the start
of B.  Whether he could have done so later is a judgment call on the
part of the author, not me.  Considering that he gets three major wars
during his regency, I'd say no he couldn't if it were up to me.  This
sort of changing the world requires quite a few particulars of whether
there's a stable enough period with enough things being done "right"
to get away with such behavior.  You don't make strange changes while
people are still adjusting to your previous ones.

What Gregor is doing in these later books is headed nicely towards
English-style government, as far as I can tell.  He listens to people
below him and demands competence within their standard nepotism.  He
does not step into votes or perform visibly obvious "do this or else"
actions.  Instead he puts people in power around him who prefer
"progressiveness."

A system of sane leadership does not yet exist on Barrayar, but it's
gradually forming.  If a couple of generations go by without trouble,
who knows?  That's up to our illustrious author to answer that
question, not me.

Karen Hunt
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