Monday, 1 December 2014

"He In Uhunhu"

"'...shall freedom come from slave-masters, asked he in Uhunhu.'"
-Poul Anderson, Captain Flandry: Defender Of The Terran Empire (New York, 2010), p. 305.

In the abstract, that is a valid question. In practice, there are two problems with it:

(i) it is asked on Nyanza, where there are no slaves;
(ii) it is asked by A'u, an agent of Merseia.

(i) The question can be reformulated to apply to situations other than slavery:

Can conquerors liberate?
Can a military dictator establish peace and freedom?
Can perpetrators of injustice end injustice?

The question is more relevant on planets forcibly annexed by Terra or Merseia. Brae is an obvious example in the same story. Nyanza was forcibly annexed but that was a century ago and it suffers no current injustices.

(ii) This fact makes the question entirely cynical since A'u intends only to spearhead a Merseian invasion. Is it too much to ask that another spacefarer, shipwrecked for example on Brae, might ask exactly the same question but in complete sincerity? Anderson shows us both Avalonians and Freeholders successfully resisting the Terran Empire to preserve their distinctive ways of life and a National Liberation Army was one of the forces that emerged when Dominic Flandry sabotaged the Scothani Empire. A'u is a fake but not everyone who asks his question is.

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