Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Can't We All Just Get Along?

False Gods: Plague Moon (VII)

Davinite Priests. Would you trust them to heal your sick?
(Copyright Games Workshop)

Welcome, citizens, to the Truth.

Loken's sudden realisation of how far the Davinites have strayed from humanity's flock presents us with a difficult problem.  How are we to maintain vigilance against the encroachment of Chaos without giving ourselves over to the most vile forms of guilt by association?

The hard realisation here is that Loken is can be completely correct about the dangers of the Davinites and completely wrong about the reasons he has reached that conclusion. All you need do to ensure you never fail to spot an enemy is to assume all are working against you. The problem is that this level of paranoia will make enemies everywhere anyway. The mathematical terms of relevance are sensitivity; the chance an actual enemy will be noticed by you, and specificity; the chance you will recognise a friend when you see one.  The kind of barefaced racism practised by Loken and his comrades ramps up the sensitivity, but as a result the specificity nosedives, with potential catastrophic results.  Just consider the calamities that followed Fulgrim's refusal to heed the dire warnings of the Eldar for a concrete example of the dangers of this narrow thinking.

That's an argument of pragmatism, of course. One even the legendarily blinkered Legions of the Astartes might be able to grasp.  For the rest of us, there are other considerations.  We can roughly divide them into two criteria - the problems with assuming a race that is too different from us is automatically hostile, and the problems with assuming that because the leaders of a race are hostile, the same must be true of all their people.

The first of these is so obvious a problem as to not require further comment, it is simply one more example of the Astartes belief that any problem brought about by their violence can be solved by more violence, and we have dissected that foolishness before.  The second is a little more seductive on the surface, but all the same, it cannot withstand our scrutiny.

We do, after all, have no problem recognising this when the Eldar offer comment on our own species with their characteristic arrogance.  It is not that brutal mendacity and a lust for violence are unheard of in mankind (nor even, if we're entirely honest, particularly uncommon). It is that the Eldar have consciously chosen the worst features of the worst of our race and applied them to us as a whole. If we can see the ridiculous and self-serving nature of that, how can we think it any different when we apply the same rhetorical trick?

We are not suggesting blind trust. If an Ork lumbers up to you and promises eternal friendship, healthy scepticism is obviously necessary.  But that is not the same as profound and automatic hostility. If humanity can birth The Emperor and Lord Solar Macharius and Lorgar and Torris Vaun, is it really impossible to imagine a cordial Ork or a humble Eldar?  Are we unique in our variance? Or - to fall into maths terms once more - is it simply that alien races have a mean so far from our own that the variance around that mean gets lost unless we consider it carefully enough?

It is hardly difficult to see that our position on this subject is somewhat rare in the 41st Millennium. Much of this is for the same reasons men have always believed those that differ from them are worthy of nothing but suspicion and dislike and - if at all possible - persecution, all that has changed being the definition of what it means to "differ" (once upon a time humans would separate themselves by the colour of their skin, if you can believe that, back before "different" came to mean eight foot tall or possessing horns). But in contemporary society it has grown new teeth in the name of keeping humanity free of the taint of Chaos.

Above and beyond the obvious, there are two aspects to Chaos that makes it so hideous a force.  First, it promotes the idea that failure is easy and redemption is impossible.  As with so many other issues that we have discussed before, this is a theory that benefits the most wealthy. If people cannot be redeemed, then justice needs no rehabilitation aspect; we can simply execute anyone guilty of the mildest transgressions and head out for our next banquet.  Second, it reinforces the suggestion that there is some link between physical dysmorphism and sinister intent.  Not only is this wretched and lazy thinking - only a psyker can tell whether someone is bad just by looking at them, and we're busy burning most of them in any case - but it's horribly hypocritical as well.  Kill the mutant; kill the mutant; kill the - actually these ones are quite useful, given them some fancy clothes; kill the mutant.

These are not trains of thought any one of us should be proud to entertain. Chaos has made us all worse people. But then every threat does, if we let it.  There is ultimately nothing mankind likes more than making itself miserable to make sure no-one else get the chance to do it.

Some of us end up more miserable than others, of course.  Maybe we should think about that a little more.


What Was

There's not much here to talk about in the past tense, other than the non-extermination of the Davinites, which mainly raises questions about delegation of responsibilities between the Luna Wolves and the Word Bearers.

What Is

That's the second part of False Gods finished.  How did it comport itself compared both to "The Betrayer" and to "Brotherhood in Spiderland"?

It's certainly a lot faster than the first part of the book, though that isn't saying much. It follows on a lot more easily than did "...Spiderland", too. In fairness, though, I have an issue with authors who have gaps between chapters or books, so I'm probably the wrong person to ask.  

Now you've read the second part, does the first part come across any better? Does it feel more like a ramp-up than just messing around.

Maybe, but what happened could have been done in a much shorter space of time.  The first part here felt a lot like Feast For Crows. There were advantages to the quiet, though.  Particularly with the remembrancers; I appreciate having a human viewpoint in there, though I think it could have been taken further.

Which are cooler: giant spider deathbeasts or rotting Cyclopean gibbermonsters?

The former.  They're more original than the zombies, which kind of overshadowed the swamp monster things.  I'm a bit over-zombied right now.

Zombie fatigue. Got it.  I shouldn't have asked this after this week's Walking Dead, really.

How wise do you think Garviel's strategy regarding Erebus is?  Is he right to not rush in and gather more intel instead?  Or might he be leaving things too late?

I think he's right to do it.  If he tries to cast shit about now, people will never believe him.  They'll just accuse him of jealousy, because how everyone loves Erebus in the lodge. They exploded just because Tarik doesn't think Horus should have been taken to a fane.

Mind you, Loken isn't really thinking diplomatically.  He should at least have filled in his own men.  Maybe think about organising an arrest?  Do Astartes do arrests?

Well, that's an interesting question, but I don't think it matters.  Loken has Torgaddon and one squad, against, what, five captains? Maybe four - I can't remember what Kibre is.

So they call down Sindermann.  He's an expert in explaining what the Emperor's intentions are.

In quiet rooms.  Down here, you're just asking for a dead Sindermann.

Then get ahold of the Titans.  Or maybe try to get through to Aximand. He seems the least convinced by all this.  He had to have Abaddon respond for him when Loken challenged him.

Might work. He seems the least convinced, though apparently he's coming around.

He might feel he's come too far to turn back, though.  Also, it's interesting Abaddon has so completely gone for this fane idea when he was so hostile to the Interex. I think he knows how hypocritical he's being as well, which is why he's trying to put the blame on Loken. I mean, at this point he's basically saying he doesn't think they can rely on the Emperor to save his son.

I'd note that the current law on this is pretty clear.  If a patient doesn't want a treatment, you can't give it to them just because they've passed out and can't object any more. Though of course it's complicated here because Horus hasn't specifically refused this procedure, we're just extrapolating, however sensibly.

You'd have to consult the family or his priest, I guess. Abaddon would claim to be the first.  The second might be Sindermann, but again I can't see that ending in much but the old man's death.

Compared to the rest of this chapter, Karkasy's new-found muse seems kind of incongruous.  But is there a link to what's going on elsewhere?

I think with Loken as Karkasy's sponsor, Karkasy's plan is liable to get him into trouble. 

My thing was that you've got a new organisation starting up, the artists are joining in; it's a pretty classical picture of a revolution.

Karkasy isn't joining in; he just wants a printing press.

I'm not saying he's sympathetic to the Lectitio Divinatus, I'm just saying he's signing up for similar levels of disobedience.

I think he's underestimating Loken, actually.  I think he'd be more open to radical ideas than Karkasy is giving him credit for. To say nothing of how Loken's going to need allies pretty badly very soon. It's hide to follow this train of thought too far until we know what he's written. It depends whether his friendship with Loken has worked against his horror over what the Mournival did.

What Will Be

What exactly is going to go on inside the Serpent Lodge?  Will we ever see Horus again, and if so, how will his experience have changed him?

Well, we know the Warp considers Horus to be their largest enemy. And it seemed to me that they wanted to get his approval before he could join them.

You mean when he confronted Temba.

Yes.  You have to volunteer yourself.  So I guess it comes down to whether his fear of death will overcome his belief in the Emperor.

You think Horus fears death?

Maybe. Who knows? He's probably never thought about it before. Though plenty of immortals wish for death, I suppose.

That's just literary convention, though. What with their being no actual immortals (except Christopher Lee, perhaps).

That's my point, though. There's no way to figure out which way it's going to go in there, because we have to base our thinking on the reactions of a type of person that doesn't actually exist.

But you're sticking with the idea Erebus has put Horus in there so as to get a job interview from the Warp?


Any ideas on the likely fallout over the Mournival effectively splitting in two? If Horus does manage to make it through the next nine days, will he even have a Legion to come back to?

I assume Loken is going to try to force the gate open. Horus can probably be easily persuaded that what the others have done is unacceptable. And I think Loken is in the stronger position even if he refuses to act - even if Vipus is a Lodge member. 

As is Torgaddon.

But he's already committed himself against them.  Actually, that's a good point.  Now it's clear Tarik isn't on board, does that mean they have to go get him back.

But how can they - or Loken - if the gates only open from the inside?

Do they? Do they really?

You think they should just give it a go?

Well he's not gonna be happy sitting around doing nothing.  Though he might get pulled up short by Abaddon calling him a traitor.  That just came out of nowhere.

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