[LMB] Ezar and Yuri, was: Villains

beatrice_otter at haugensgalleri.com beatrice_otter at haugensgalleri.com
Sat May 11 15:32:26 BST 2013

> *Awfully* interesting stuff, villains. Karen Hunt raises these points:
> (Snip from Fri, 10 May 2013)
>>Have I missed anyone who belongs on the villain side? If one plays
>> strange
>>head-games, one might talk about Aral (for agreeing to play for Ezar) and
>>Cordelia (for shipping nasty weapons and then for not talking to her
>> people
>>about what the real situation was), but I'm not keen on that line.

"Sue Pittak" <sukiyaki531 at gmail.com> wrote:
> Aral knew what he was doing - "when all choices are evil" sums it up - but
> unhappily saw the necessity of it. He offered to kill Serg himself and face
> certain death in the attempt or execution later if he succeeded, as an
> alternative to the bloodbath. Cordelia's actions, on the other hand, have
> *always* bothered me greatly. She had to know that Aral would, in one
way or
> another, be involved in the invasion. Although she tells herself she's
> gotten over him, she realizes otherwise as soon as she sees him in Ges'
> quarters. So essentially, she's put him in harm's way - in a big way! - by
> bringing those nasty weapons. She didn't know when she delivered the
> weapons that he WOULD NOT be at the front, so she's not off the hook as far
> as I'm concerned. Not good. At all.

Wait, what?  You want to let the guy off who is knowingly plotting murder
and the destruction of his own people and lots of the enemy as a political
maneuver (however good his intentions are) and want to blame the woman who
is acting to defend innocent people whose only crime is to get in the way
of Ezar's plot?  ?????  AND you are saying that she shouldn't have done it
*because they might hurt Aral*?  Wow.  So, you're thinking Cordelia should
abandon her duty and allow an interplanetary bully to conquer a planet
(said bully being known for brutality in such affairs, regardless of
whether it was Aral or someone else who ordered the Massacre) simply
because she's in Twu Wuv with someone on the other side?  So if, say, the
USSR had invaded France during the Cold War, a US officer would have been
justified in refusing to follow orders and assist the French because if he
loved a Russian?  I am absolutely boggled by the logic involved here.  I
just ... wow.

> And as for those nasty weapons, yes, I realize war isn't pretty, BUT the
> plasma mirrors tipped the balance so far, the Barrayarans were doomed from
> the get-go. There simply was no defense against them. They didn't have a
> chance. It was like shooting fish in a barrel. The Betans knew that. The
> picture that comes to mind for me is the US Cavalry using gatling guns
> against NatAm women and children at Wounded Knee. Truly vile and
> reprehensible. IIRC, the US government tried to get the Japanese high
> command to view a test of the new atomic bomb before dropping them, to let
> see what they'd be up against. Not the Betans. I wonder, do Betans sell
> *any
> and all* weapons to just *anyone, *no questions asked? Sounds kinda
> Jackson's Whole-ish to me...  I've never been all that keen on Betans, and
> that notion nudges the scale even further off.

Er.  Uh.  So.  You would prefer months of slogging battles with both sides
evenly matched and lots of people dying on both sides, to a single battle
where one side has heavy casualties, realizes it's hopeless, and retreats?
 I guarantee you that months or years of slogging battles to either
conquer the planet or repulse the conquerors (first in space, and then on
the planet's surface, followed by mopping up) would have resulted in a
far, far higher body count.  Shooting fish in a barrel *is a good thing*
when it results in your enemy giving up and going home.  The point of war
is not to be chivalrous.  The point of war is to win and protect your
people, because in the long run that results in a far lower body count. 
In the First World War, both sides were very evenly matched.  That was not
a good thing for *anybody*, all it did was result in higher casualties in
the long run.

Let us take a look at what makes truly reprehensible military conduct. 
Hint: it has very little to do with what weapons you use against enemy
soldiers.  The first and foremost thing that is against the rules of war
is how you treat enemy civilians--gunning them down (as you mention),
raping them, all sorts of things.  The plasma mirrors *cannot* under *any*
circumstances be used against a civilian target, they don't *work* that
way.  They can *only* be used against targets that are actively shooting
at them because the Plasma Mirror takes the shots against it and sends it
back.  In an infantry battle, it's the equivalent of grabbing a grenade
that the enemy has thrown at you and launching it back at them.  That's
not a war crime, that's called self-defense.  The other things that make
war crimes have to do with treatment of prisoners (and the Barrayarans are
the only ones violating those, and doing it horrifically) and certain
weapons such as mustard gas whose aim is to mutilate rather than kill,
which cannot be said of the plasma weapon.  Or rather, if it can, it is
only because the weapons being fired upon it (i.e. the Barrayaran weapons)
fit into that category.

Your comparison to the Wounded Knee massacre boggles my mind.  So you
believe there is no functional and moral difference between a defending
army turning an invading army's guns against them and an invading army
gunning down civilians?  Really?  REALLY?!?

> On Sat, 11 May 2013, Gwynne made some typically thoughtful points about
> Ezar.
>>Ezar killed thousands but I don't see him as a villain. He was desperate
> to stop an
>>even greater disaster that he foresaw down the track. Not just a civil
>> war
> that would >have killed as many or even more, but the continued abuse by
> the political ministry, >and the horrific impact on the Empire of years of
> Serg, Ges and Grishnov.
> I couldn't agree more. Despite his deeds, and particularly the scale of
> them, Ezar was no villain, no more than a surgeon who amputates multiple
> limbs to save the patient's life is a villain.

This is true ... but only if you accept that Ezar's worst fears of what
would happen if he didn't would come true.  A surgeon knows what will
happen if he doesn't amputate; it's clear-cut.  But nobody could possibly
have that kind of clarity about what would happen if Ezar hadn't launched
his war plot; there are far too many variables, and people are less
predictable than gangrene.  If someone in real life made and carried out a
plot as bloody as that and said "But in the long run I saved lives,
because now X, Y, and Z won't happen!" I would be extremely skeptical. 
First because what guarantee that X, Y, and Z *would have* happened, and
second because given something that bloody and violent, chances are what
happens because of the plot to get rid of X, Y, and Z will end up being as
bad.  So for example Barrayar didn't launch another war of aggression in
the Nexus, and the Ministry of Political Education was gutted so Aral and
Gregor didn't have to deal with them.  And Serg and his cronies were dead.
 But instead of having a civil war against Serg, they had the War of
Vordarian's Pretendership.  And a war against Serg would have been
"everybody sane" against "Mad Emperor Serg."  Instead they got a true
civil war with good and reasonable people supporting the Pretender because
they genuinely believed he'd be a good ruler and/or had the better right! 
If that war hadn't been cut short by Cordelia's hand on Bothari's, it
could have been longer and worse than a war against Mad Emperor Serg!  So,
yeah, Ezar stopped one possible civil war by setting up perfect conditions
for a different one, with Vordarian stepping into the "Opposition" shoes
left by the War Party.  That doesn't exactly scream to me that the body
count of the Escobaran War was justified by being necessary to prevent a
different war.

> Yuri as a villain? He did some truly villainous things in the murders of
> his family members, including women and children, but just how much was
> his
> paranoia *really* responsible? Was he truly mad, or just unreasonably
> suspicious? It seems to me he could have achieved the same effect -
> keeping
> himself on the campstool - by exiling the whole family, either off-planet,
> or, let's say, to some far corner of Kyril Island, wretchedly isolated and
> always under military guard. Or going old-school and confining the whole
> lot of them - the women and children at the very least - to Barrayar's
> equivalent of the Tower of London. If he *was* truly mad, for whatever
> reason - those nasty Vorrutyer genes kicking in, perhaps? - or
> post-traumatic stress - then, no. Not a villain. His words to the boy Aral
> don't seem indicative of much remorse on his part, though. Yuri is a hard
> one to call, IMO. We just don't have enough information to go on.

There are many kinds of madness, and some of them are quite capable of
also counting as villainy.  If he was a sociopath who knew what he did was
wrong but did it anyway, he would be both mentally ill and a villain at
the same time.  But his illness (if he had one) could have been of a sort
that would, as you say, prevent him from being truly responsible for his
actions, heinous as they were.  But we only see him from his enemies'
point of view, and they have written the history books.  I'll take their
word for it that he needed to be stopped, but I'd prefer a more
independent angle of view before saying anything more about him.  (Hey, we

> *My* choice for Most Villainous Villain is Ser Galen

I don't know if he would be *most* villainous on my list; I'd rank Ryoval
higher.  But Galen would definitely be way up there on the list.

> My, I do tend to ramble on when I'm up past my bedtime.... Up keeping
> watch
> over my mother again. More medical mayhem all day - blood pressure up and
> down and all points in between, plus a very rapid heartbeat. She's been
> resting comfortably for about the last hour, so I just might try and get a
> few hours sleep before the sun comes up. If my participation here is
> spotty
> for the next few days it will because of more of the same.

I'm so sorry to hear that!  I will pray for both of you.

Beatrice Otter

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