The orthogonians

>> Sunday, March 20, 2016

Deze post bestaat uit een lang citaat uit het boek Matter van Ian M. Banks. Het zijn de overpeinzingen van de Koning van de Sarl, Oramen die nog te jong is om de kroon te dragen. De Regent-Koning neemt zijn taken waar. Oramen weet niet dat deze zijn vader heeft vermoord en van plan is om hem ook uit de weg te ruimen voordat hij daadwerkelijk kan regeren.

De wereld van Oramen is een onvoorstelbaar grote wereld: een kunstmatige planeet, miljoenen jaren geleden gemaakt door een nu verdwenen intelligent ras. De wereld is hol en bestaat dus uit meerdere concentrische bollen die door pilaren gestut worden. In elke tussenlaag wonnen volken: mensen, maar ook andere, intelligente wezens met namen als de Morthanveld, de Oct en de Nariscene).

Lees eerst het citaat, daarna licht ik het toe.

Matter, Ian M. Banks. Pages 116 – 121

There was, here, he thought – standing looking out over the people collecting in the great drawing room – genuine sadness as well as an undercurrent of apprehension regarding what would happen now with the great king gone ( is father’s stature had risen all the higher with his death, as if he was already passing into legend), but there was too a kind of excitement; everyone knew that the preparations for the attack on what was thought to be the now near-defenseless Deldeyn were being stepped up and the war – perhaps, as the late king had believed, the last ever war – was therefore approaching its conclusion.
The Sarl would achieve a goal they had been pursuing for almost all the life of their departed king, the Deldeyn would be defeated, the loathsome and hated Aultridia would be confounded, the WorldGod would be protected – who knew? Even saved – and the Oct, the long-term allies of the Sarl, would be grateful, one might even say beholden. The New Age of peace, contentment and progress that King Hausk had talked so much about would finally come to pass. The Sarl would have proved themselves as a people and would, as they grew in power and influence within the greater World and eventually within the alien-inhabited skies beyond, take their rightful place as one of the In-Play, as an Involved species and civilization, a people fit – perhaps, one day, no doubt still some long way in the future – to treat even the Optimae of the galaxy (the Morthanvelds, the Cultures, and who knew what alien others) as their equals.
That had always been his father’s ultimate aim, Oramen knew, though Hausk had know that he’d never see that day – neither would Oramen, or any children he would ever have – but it was enough to know that one had done one’s bit to further that albeit distant goal, that one’s efforts had formed some sturdy part of the foundations for that great tower of ambition and achievement.
The state is small but the audience is great, had been one of King Hausk’s favourite sayings. To some degree he meant that the WorldGod watched an hopefully somehow appreciated what they were doing on its behalf, but there was also the implication that although the Sarl were primitive and their civilization almost comically undeveloped by the standards of, say, the Oct )never mind the Nariscene, still less the Morthanveld and the other Optimae), nevertheless, greatness lay in doing the best you could with what you were given, and that greatness, that fixity of purpose, strength of resolve and decisiveness of action would be watched and noted by those far more powerful peoples and judged not on an absolute scale (on which it would barely register) but on one relative to the comparatively primitive resources the Sarl had available to them.
In a sense, his father had told him once – his contemplative moods were rare, so memorable – the Sarl and people like them had more power than the ungraspably supreme Optimae peoples with their millions of artificial worlds circling in the sky, their thinking machines that put mere mortals to shame and the billions of starships that sailed the spaces between the stars the way an iron warship cruised the waves. Oramen had found this claim remarkable, to put it kindly.
His father had explained that the very sophistication the Optimae and their like enjoyed acted as binds upon them. For all the legendary size of the great island of stars that existed beyond their own world of Sursamen, the galaxy was a crowded, settled, much-lived-in place. The Optimae – the Morthanveld, the Culture and so on – were self-consciously well-behaved and civilized peoples, and existed hip-by-hip with their fellow inhabitants of the great lens. Their realms and fields of influence – and to a degree their histories, cultures and achievements – tended to intermingle and overlap, reducing their cohesiveness as societies and making a defensive war difficult.
Similarly, there was little or nothing they ever needed to compete for and so might come to arms over. Instead, they were bound by numerous treaties, agreements, accords, conventions and even never fully articulated understandings, all designed to keep the peace, to avoid friction between those who were entirely alien in form to one another, but entirely alike in having reached the plateau of civilizational development where further progress could only take one away from the real life of the galaxy altogether.
The result was that while their individuals had what appeared to be complete freedom within their societies, the societies themselves had very little freedom of movement at all, certainly not that seemingly implied by their colossal martial potential. There was simply not much left for them to do on any grand scale. There were no – or at least very few – great wars at this level, no vast tusslings for position and power except by the slowest and most subtle of maneuverings. The last great, or at least fairly substantial conflict had been a millennium of Eight short-years ago, when the Culture had fought the Idirans, and that had been, bizarrely, over principle, at least on the Culture side. (Oramen suspected that if it had not been Xide Hyrlis himself who had confirmed the truth of this, his father would never have believed anything that seemed to him so decadently preposterous.)
The Optimae had no kings to move whole people to a single purpose at once, they had no real enemies the felt they had no choice but to fight, and they had nothing they valued that they could not somehow produce, seemingly at will, cheaply and in whatever quantities they chose, so there were no resources to fight over either.
But the, the Sarl, the people of the Eight, this little race of men, they and their like were fee to pander to their natures and indulge in their disputes untrammelled. They could do, in effect, and within the limits of their technologies, as they liked! Was that not a fine feeling? Some of the treaties the Optimae indulged in amongst themselves were framed so as to allow people like the Sarl to behave like this, unfettered, in the name of non-interference and resisting cultural imperialism. Was this not rich? Their license to fight and lie and cheat their way to power and influence was guaranteed by space-alien statute!
The King had found this thoroughly amusing. The stage is small but the audience is great, he had repeated. But never forget, he had told Oramen, that you might be in more of a theatre than you thought. The abilities of the Optimae easily encompassed watching all that was going on amongst people as defenseless to such technologies as the Sarl. It was one of the ways that the Optimae refreshed their jaded palates and reminded themselves what a more barbarous life was like; the watched, for all the world like gods, and while various agreements an treaties where supposed to control and restrict such spying, they were not always observed.
Decadent it might be, but it was the prince a people like the Sarl had to pay, perhaps, for their sanction to behave in ways that the Optimae might otherwise find too distasteful to allow. But never mind; maybe one day the descendants of the Sarl would spend their time flying between the stars and watching their own mentored primitives dispute! Happily, by then, his father had informed the youthful Oramen, they would both be long and safely dead.
Who knew to what extend the Sarl were observed? Oramen looked about the great room and wondered. Maybe alien eyes were watching this great mass of people all dressed in their deep red clothes. Maybe they were watching him, right now.
The orthogonians

Vergeet even dat het SF is, en lees bovenstaande tekst als een politiek statement van iemand die zich minderwaardig voelt. Hij of zij weet dat de groep waartoe zij behoort nooit tot de elite zullen behoren. De Optimae die haar eigen wetten maakt, zonder dat zij de hoi polloi daarin kent. Het zijn de politici in Den Haag, of nog erger in het verre Brussel, die niet weten wat er onder het volk leeft. Wat heeft de gewone man daar mee te maken? Hij voelt zich er toch niet minder om. Hij is er zelfs trots op.

In het boek Nixonland beschrijft Rick Perlstein hoe Nixon tijdens zijn studie werd geconfronteerd met studenten van de upperclass, waar hij, afkomstig uit de middenklasse met weinig geld, nooit toe zou kunnen behoren. De studentenvereniging van de rijkeluiszoontjes noemden zich de Franklins. Nixon richtte toen een alternatieve studentenvereniging op, voor jongens outsiders zoals hij: de Orthogonians. Perlstein schrijft:

[Nixon] realized [that he was] no longer alone in his outsiderdom: the student body was run, socially, by a circle of swells who called themselves the Franklins, and the remainder of the student body a historian noted, "seemed resigned to its exclusion. "So this most unfraternal of youth organised into a fraternity of his own. Franklins were well- rounded, graceful, moved smoothly, talked slickly. Nixons's new club the Orthogonians, was for the strivers, those not to the manner born, the commuter students like him, He persuaded his fellows that reveling in one's unpolish was a nobility of its own. Franklins were never photographed save in black tie. Orthogonians wore shirtsleeves. "Beans, brains, and brawn" was their motte. He told them orthogonians - basically, "at right angles" - meant “upright," "straight shooter." Also, their enemies might have added, all elbows.

Het is precies dezelfde kijk op het leven, van de outsider op politiek van de elite, die Banks ook verwoordt.


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