Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The High Crusade

I recently read The High Crusade, a science-fiction novel by Poul Anderson.  Anderson was an agnostic but his story is a paean to medieval Christendom.  The novel is written in the style of a medieval chronicle and concerns a 14th Century army that becomes involved in an intergalactic war.  I don't want to spoil the story so I won't say much more about it.  I do want to quote a passage about the politics and culture of the alien Wersgorix empire.  When Anderson wrote the novel in 1960, I suspect he was thinking not only of  the Soviet Union in this critique of the egalitarian Wersgor, but also of Western democracies. 
No one was born to his place in life.  Under the law, all were equal, all free to strive as best they might for money or position.  Indeed, they had even abandoned the idea of families.  Each Wersgor lacked a surname, being identified by a number instead in a central registry.  Male and female seldom lived together more than a few years.  Children were sent at an early age to schools, where they dwelt until mature, for their parents oftener thought them an encumbrance than a blessing.

Yet this realm, in theory a republic of freemen, was in practice a worse tyranny than mankind has known, even in Nero's infamous day.

The Wesgorix had no special affection for their birthplace; they acknowledged no immediate ties of kinship or duty.  As a result, each individual had no one to stand between him and the all-powerful central government.  In England, when King John grew overweening, he clashed both with ancient law and with vested local interests; so the barons cubed him and thereby wrote another word of two of liberty for all Englishmen.  The Wersgor were a lickspittle race, unable to protest any arbitrary decree of a superior.  "Promotion according to merit" meant only "promotion according to one's usefulness to the imperial ministers."
Read the High Crusade.  Its good.

4 comments:

  1. Never really got into Poul Anderson. Now you have peeked my curiosity.
    Have to admit some of this could be describing the USA today.

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  2. BTW Shouldn't you be studying for your classes? ;)

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  3. I thought you might like it.

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