Monday, 24 February 2014

A Clash Of Systems

Poul Anderson, Time Patrol (New York, 2006).

In the eighteenth century, French Republicanism challenged European monarchies. In the twentieth century, market capitalism and state capitalism waged Cold War. That was in our timeline.

In the twentieth century of an altered timeline in Poul Anderson's Time Patrol story, "Delenda Est," there is another clash of systems:

"'...the monarchy of Hinduraj against the sun-worshipping theocracy of Huy Brasael.'" (p. 195)

I prefer our problems to theirs! Anderson is making the point that that timeline is way behind ours in several important respects. If I lived there, I would have to support secularism and church-state separation as against theocracy. I would also argue for a constitutional, as against an absolute, monarchy. Thus, maybe there is always a way forward however bad the situation?

I remarked in a previous post that that timeline and the one guarded by the Patrol parted company so long ago that the only common language is classical Greek. Other common features are the names of gods, Bishop Ussher's creation date, Babylonian-derived units of time measurement and nationalism:

"This culture might not have the ruthless will and sophisticated cruelty of Western civilization; in fact, in some ways it looked strangely innocent. Still, that wasn't for lack of trying." (p. 203)

And the crucial difference, as with two later divergent timelines in the series, is:

"And, in this world, a genuine science might never emerge, man might endlessly repeat the cycle of war, empire, collapse, and war. In Everard's future, the race had finally broken out of it." (ibid.)

I think that it would be sufficient to end this line of thought there but Anderson and Everard continue:

"For what? He could not honestly say that this continuum was worse or better than his own. It was different, that was all." (pp. 203-204)

I think that ours is better - unless we manage to destroy the Earth in this century, of course.

"And didn't these people have as much right to their existence as - as his own, who were damned to nullity if he failed?" (p. 204)

Yes, these people have as much right to existence as Everard's but I have argued before that I do not think that any further temporal paradoxes will result in "nullity" for either population. In fact, when Everard tells Deirdre that the spells he used to work the timecycle prevent him from taking her home, this lie is unnecessary. He could return her to her twentieth century where she would continue to live even if her whole timeline becomes a past one from the point of view of an observer in another timeline.

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