Thursday, 21 May 2015
A False Dichotomy?
Poul Anderson, Starfarers (New York, 1999).
Does any other author write texts that generate apparently endless discussion?
Yu and Sundaram discuss Tahirian society. Sundaram says:
"'...I do not think that we can properly call this a conservative society, like old China or old India. That is too weak a word. I think it is posthistoric. It has renounced change in favor of a stable order that apparently provides universal peace, plenty, and justice.'" (p. 258)
(Francis Fukuyama argued that history had ended because the Soviet Union had fallen? "Don't speak too soon because the wheel's still in spin and there's no tellin' who that it's namin'!" This seems like impressionistic history, thinking that the most recent significant change must also be the last such change or like thinking that the nearest telegraph pole is the biggest.)
In any case, surely Sundaram sets up a false dichotomy? I look forward to a human future of peace, plenty, justice and change. Change is fundamental to reality and humanity and is compatible with either peace or justice. Nor it is incompatible with plenty when the technology to produce plenty has been produced. Yu speculates that Tahirian society as described by Sundaram would not be tragic:
"'The riches and beauty of the world, the treasures of the past...'" (p. 259) are new to each generation;
one lifetime is never long enough to appreciate them all;
new artistic creations are always possible even if in "'Ancient, fixed modes...'" (ibid.)
But why should the modes be fixed? I accept that, within the fiction, the Tahirians have fixed them but why should we have to make the same choice as them? - which is the real issue here.