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Stormed Fortress (Wars of Light and Shadow, #8)
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Wars of Light and Shadow > Stormed Fortress: War and violence

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John | 136 comments I started commenting in the "favorite lines" topic, but I want to expand on what I was saying there.

Lysaer and the Alliance seem to have an almost medieval sensibility about war, at least as an official position. They want to go and fight against what they see as evil in a "fair" fight, with the righteousness of their cause carrying the day (oh, and superior numbers... those don't hurt either, I suppose--but then, they probably think they have superior numbers because their cause is just!).

As I said, though, that's the official position, and the basic ethos that seems to bring them crying and complaining every time they've gotten mauled in a campaign against Arithon and the clans in previous books. At the same time, the headhunters leagues are deeply threaded into their military, and bring an underhanded viciousness at odds with their supposed righteousness.

The clansmen, on the other hand, 1) truly do seem to be on the "right" side, fighting to uphold the charter that allows humanity to live on Athera and 2) are fighting what amounts to a defensive war. While they may raid caravans, they do not actively make war against the towns, and as I recall from CotM, their raids are against property, not against people, in the sense that they let their victims live. In the earlier books, Arithon and the clansmen take a very pragmatic approach to war: whatever it takes. They're vastly outnumbered and so they use whatever they have at hand--traps and terrain, sorcery, Shadows, and sheer cunning.

All well and good, but of course Janny doesn't let it rest there. Arithon moves beyond these understandings. I'm reminded very strongly of Howard Zinn here. Briefly, Zinn examines the idea of "just war," an idea that goes back centuries, and finds (at least by his light) that there's no such thing. His test case is the Allies in WW2, under the assumption that if ever there was a just war, surely that was it. Yet what he concludes is that war--even those that appear most justified by one side or the other--by their very nature lead to horrifying acts by both sides. In the case of WWII, the examples that come most quickly to mind are the bombing of civilians in Germany, internment camps in the US, and the dropping of the atomic bombs, again on civilian targets. Despite our best attempts, he argues, war is always a terrible, terrible thing. This seems, too, to be Arithon's understanding.

And so he has been working over the past couple books to avoid it in new and creative ways. In the modern world, non-violent protest is an option, but I think that's primarily the case because we have such relatively good public media: it's much harder than ever before to conceal brutal repression. Consider the civil rights movement: especially in a democracy, police beating protesters, releasing dogs on them, shooting them (Kent State)... all these things play rather badly on TV. Even in places that are not democracies (Egypt, etc), non-violence supported by public awareness can have profound success.

And ultimately, the point isn't simply that non-violence can get things done but that the alternative is all but unworkable. Thinking about MLK's legacy, one of the points that struck me was to consider where the U.S. might be today if Civil Rights had been a violent struggle, with African Americans bombing white churches in retaliation, bombs in public places, shooting rampages, assassinations... race is still an issue in American society, but try to imagine where we could be under other circumstances.

And to bring it back around to Athera... Arithon may be motivated primarily by his s'Ffalenn compassion, but the larger issue here is that for humanity to survive on Athera, there needs to be reconciliation between townsfolk and the clans, they all need to start living in a way that will allow them to continue living. I guess what I'm saying is that clan survival is a necessary condition but not a sufficient condition, and real progress can't be made with a constant need by both sides to retaliate for the latest retaliation.

Other thoughts on war and violence?


Sandra  (sleo) | 1059 comments Well, I agree that war is always wrong, as is violence. It has seemed to me, for years now, that countries that go into war with each other are emotionally like two year olds throwing temper tantrums, except that the power and ability to destroy is magnified to the nth degree.

Likewise, politics and diplomacy are a macrocosm of family dysfunction - lies, manipulation, sound bites, appearances being foremost - to the nth degree. Both are sick and disgusting. When Bush went to war with Iraq, I said the Bush family needs family therapy. George seemed to be trying to outdo his father by beating Saddam Hussein.

As far as Athera goes, I'm not sure where the 'magic' balance lies. There seems to be something wrong with the original balance, as so many clans people were lost to insanity and death in trying to deal with the Paravians. The towns people were under an unrealistic restraint to contain and not grow. Growth has to be a natural result of healthy balance. I'm not sure what Davien's beef with the F7 was about and why he fomented the rebellion, but clearly he saw something that he didn't like.

Natural processes seem to be a continuing cycle of an event that causes chaos, followed by a period of practicing dealing with the new situation, followed by a level period of status quo, followed by an event that causes chaos, and so on.... over and over and over. Ideally through this cycle, we, as humans grow and develop. Or the earth after an earthquake or other disaster settles back into a status quo until pressures begin to build again and there is another upheaval.

The thing that seems to me to be unique about Athera is the quality of sound and its ability to refocus, to bring people back to what's really important in life - family, home, love, work... Alithiel has the ability to do this. And Arithon, as its owner, has the ability to wield it so that even Lysaer is brought out of his insanity and is able to see what he is doing.

And perhaps that is the secret to the reconciliation between townsfolk and the clans. But I'm not sure how that fits in the natural model I've cited above, of stasis followed by building pressure, followed by chaos, followed by the development of new coping strategies, followed by a new stasis.


message 3: by Janny (new)

Janny (jannywurts) | 414 comments Sandra aka Sleo wrote: "Well, I agree that war is always wrong, as is violence. It has seemed to me, for years now, that countries that go into war with each other are emotionally like two year olds throwing temper tantr..."

There are several things to consider - or discuss, here - firstly, humans are living on a world never designed for them....resonance and frequency play a huge part here - anyone is quite free to speculate.

The second - chaos cycle - there are other roads to growth, too seldom taken. Anyone is quite free to speculate on that, too.

When 'growth' is constricted in one way, it often will evolve in another direction.

The Fellowship do have a plan and did have a purpose - anyone is quite free to speculate - what do you think it might be? And why might Davien disagree?


message 4: by John (last edited Mar 04, 2011 07:57PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

John | 136 comments First point: interesting. My suspicion had been that every world was more or less like Athera but that the sensitivity of the Paravians to these frequencies, resonances, harmonies had awakened the talents and potential that the humans already had and from there had a tendency to select for those traits in future generations. My assumption was that they had just been generally deaf to the same things on their former worlds, but the reality is that Athera is a very different world, even apart from the Paravian presence? But then, I suppose this would also account for the way that direct contact with these forces can drive human beings out of their minds.

Second point: good point. :) I guess I'll venture to say something in response. The chaos cycle model of growth is essentially reactive: we blindly stumble into something, chaos ensues, and with great difficulty we grow from the experience (or, perhaps just as often, are broken by the experience, damaged or even destroyed). Alternatives? One that comes to mind, perhaps put there by your last point about the Fellowship having a plan and a purpose, is that someone "higher" leads one in a more proactive direction of growth. Isn't that essentially what parents and teachers do, in their own ways? Often enough, of course, parents and teachers get out of their depth all too quickly or are stuck in their own "chaos cycles." One can also, even without a teacher, be more proactive in their growth and less reactive, but that requires a certain amount of vision (both in the sense of a plan and of being able to see things as they are and as they will be more clearly than others) and creativity. In some ways, this is what I see Arithon trying to do, and he sometimes succeeds.

But the difficulty that Arithon faces--and I think it's fair to say this of the Fellowship too--is that he is trying to keep too many different promises and/or uphold conflicting principles. Davien, pragmatically, sees the conflict as inevitable and irreconcilable (or nearly so?), which led him to oppose allowing humans to settle on Athera and, I suspect, leads him to push hard on humanity--at least, I'm assuming that's what he's doing with Arithon, willingly risking Arithon on the hope of making him into someone better than he was, someone potentially capable of resolving the dilemmas facing them all. Is it because of their own experiences with the redemption they received from the Paravians that lead the F7 to hope that something unexpected may allow for grace for humanity at large.


Sandra  (sleo) | 1059 comments Well, one of my favorite quotes is from, I think, John Lennon: "Life is what happens to us while we're making other plans."

So, of course we can take more proactive approaches to growth, but in my long experience, there's always something (in life, at least) that comes along and throws a kink in the works and we're thrown for a loop no matter the plans. In fiction, we have someone like Sethvir who tracks everything.

It hadn't occurred to me that Athera wasn't designed for humans, duh. Sometimes I am blind to the most obvious things (to my point above). So, as to the F7 having a plan, I'm sure they do. @John, I wasn't aware that Davien opposed humans settling on Athera. Can you point me to where it says that? And he didn't foment the revolt until several hundred years after they settled, did he? Or is my memory faulty? That certainly could be.

Resonance and frequency... I am wondering if the F7 knew that Arithon would become masterbard? They didn't mention it originally. Their plan was to put both princes on their respective thrones after the Mistwraith was conquered. The whole curse upset their plans tremendously. Actually, that whole process and the wars following it illustrates my point about chaos after unforeseen events, does it not? So serendipity came along and allowed Arithon time to develop his talents as masterbard, thus benefiting the planet a hundredfold, as from the sneak peeks, his talent is working even (view spoiler).

@Janny, you're absolutely right that when growth is constricted in one way it proceeds in another. So keeping mankind in the technical status quo can create intriguing possibilities in other directions. And, of course, sorcery creates other possibilities and can be a substitute for technology.

It's obvious in Stormed Fortress that one thing Davien rebelled against was the constraints put on the Fellowship by the contract. And one of the things he didn't like about the old system was the human sacrifice to exposure to the Paravians.

@John, I do think he created the maze to weed out and find someone who could withstand facing the consequences of their actions and being able to find forgiveness. I'm sure that's a piece of it. Beyond that I can't imagine.

But I'm sure Janny has something planned, the creator, after all, of this whole thing. :D


John | 136 comments Naturally, there will always be things that blindside us. Arithon, between his creative intelligence and his visions of the future still can't foresee everything that will come up, but he is better able than most to see the bigger picture and navigate his own destiny through life.

Re: Where Davien opposes humans settling on Athera -- He makes reference to it in a passage I cited during the discussion of Traitor's Knot, in the threat "Secrets of the F7 continuing to be revealed," but there was a more explicit statement of his desire to offer the human refugees supplies to continue their journey rather than settle on Athera, even though it seemed pretty clear that more supplies would just prolong the inevitable. And that was probably also in Traitor's Knot. Maybe.


message 7: by Janny (new)

Janny (jannywurts) | 414 comments Athera IS a very different world. The reason it is different is staged, and demonstrated in several telling scenes; outright, and not a bit hidden. It's one of the many sorts of detail that often tend to get obscured, because the reader's focus (perhaps) is on the survival of a character, or a crisis of some sort in the story.

And sometimes it's the little stuff happening in a line here and there that just gets overlooked....look to the scenes where the Fellowship Sorcerers are interacting with each other, or Ath's adepts.

I will let you readers find this one - and say this much: it will come to play VERY much front and center at the appropriate time and place in the story.

Athera as it is governed by the compact avoided an industrial revolution; the purpose of this is also in the story, and will open out very vividly as the layers continue to peel back. There was a twofold reason for this 'constriction' - and more, so feel free to speculate on that, too. It was not arbitrary in the least, and isn't an idyllic attachment to the past; not one bit. It has everything to do with how Athera will come to be, with mankind still inhabiting, in the future.


Sandra  (sleo) | 1059 comments John wrote: "Re: Where Davien opposes humans settling on Athera -- He makes reference to it in a passage I cited during the discussion of Traitor's Knot, in the threat "Secrets of the F7 continuing to be revealed," but there was a more explicit statement of his desire to offer the human refugees supplies to continue their journey rather than settle on Athera, even though it seemed pretty clear that more supplies would just prolong the inevitable. And that was probably also in Traitor's Knot. Maybe. "

Okay, I'll have to look it up. Am actually planning on a reread of the last 5 in prep for Initiate's Trial.


Sandra  (sleo) | 1059 comments Janny wrote: "Athera IS a very different world. The reason it is different is staged, and demonstrated in several telling scenes; outright, and not a bit hidden. It's one of the many sorts of detail that often t..."

Well, obviously, I missed it, although it should've been self evident. One of my quirks is missing the obvious.


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