(urth) Honor

David Duffy David.Duffy at qimr.edu.au
Thu Dec 1 00:01:53 PST 2005

On Wed, 30 Nov 2005, Roy C. Lackey wrote:

> I don't know whether or not Able believed in the doctrine of might makes
> right. He is a jerk because he repeatedly used his superior might to push
> weaker people around in pursuance of his own ends, both petty and . . .
> 'heroic'. I have cited various examples of the petty -- and I haven't
> exhausted the list. Did he believe it was wrong to bully people? Apparently
> not. How did he rationalize his behavior, even to himself -- if he thought
> about it at all? By what "right" did he push people around? By his strong
> right hand.

I think he acts *exactly* as a knight "should" act in all these examples.
That is, men who *openly* carry weapons push around the lower orders, and
defend their honour to the death over the slightest infraction.  Peasants
bearing arms would be immediately executed in many cultures.  That the
captain doesn't believe Able a knight is sufficient grounds (in this
model) to immediately and literally beat him into submission -- and to
kill him if he fails to submit.  Force majeure is the lone knight's only
source of authority.  Furthermore, they may have affectionate relations
with particular servants/household members, but they must never forget the
gap ("familiarity breeds contempt").

The non-Christian knightly code we see is reminiscent of Bushido (although
there is no textual evidence of a direct link), and, having just finished
reading Perez-Reverte's "Captain Alatriste", machismo (he comments only
the Spanish would duel about not getting a good view at the theatre).
Some people approve of Heinlein's quip about politeness when the code
duello is in operation.

Wolfe has a rather jaundiced view of human nature in general and of
the power relations in past and present societies.  He always has power
coming from the barrel of a gun, which is relevant to the tone of his
recent short stories eg disarming of the US populace appears in a couple
in the last collection.

David Duffy.

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