Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Causes Of Conflict

Poul Anderson, Starfarers (New York, 1999).

A returned Envoy crew member asks his Terrestrial guide:

"'I gather that religions, customs, even laws vary from group to group, and each develops as it chooses, or splits off to start something new. Doesn't that lead to conflict?'" (p. 454)

Why should it? I think that social conflicts are caused only by contradictory material interests. Northern Irish Catholics demonstrated and rioted because of their social and political disadvantages, not because of their doctrinal disagreements with Presbyterians.

The guide replies:

"'All are Seladorian...Different deity or none, different usage, yes, but all accept the oneness of life. That means, too, the oneness of humans.'" (pp. 454-455)

I agree. There are at least three ways in which people of different faiths can live harmoniously, by accepting:

social customs and the secular laws of the land;
scientific procedures;
the rules of philosophical debate and civilized discourse.

We need and can have: difference without division; unity without uniformity. I don't know whether I heard or read that somewhere or invented it but I think it makes sense.

The Envoy man remains skeptical:

"Zeyd knew of no faith that had ever brought universal harmony. He wondered how meaningful these cultural uniquenesses were, and what measures were now and then necessary to maintain the global peace." (p. 455)

Why should any measures be necessary? Previous faiths existed in and reflected periods of economic and military conflict. Zeyd applies out-moded assumptions.


  1. Kaor, Paul!

    I am not so sure that Zeyd's skepticism and assumptions are that outmoded. What I recall from this part of STARFARERS is that Seladorian civilization was beginning to show ominous signs of decline. And that WILL lead to rivalries and conflicts.


  2. For the next few days, I will check the blog and respond to any comments but meanwhile pursue other projects rather than publish new posts here.

  3. Kaor, Paul!

    I quite understand and I certainly don't object! Gives me time to review the blog pieces you wrote while I was away and to possibly comment on them.


  4. Sean,
    I am impressed by the breadth of subjects covered and that is Anderson's doing, not mine.

  5. Kaor, Paul!

    Of course! I agree! But I also find your comments interesting as well, esp. when I compared them to what Poul Anderson had written, and have to decide how true they are or not to his thought. For example, I think you tend to be more optimistic about humanity changing for the better than was Anderson. And I lean more to agreeing with him as well on that!