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PostPosted: Fri Apr 24, 2009 4:23 pm 
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Your obvious resistence to seduction in honor, Zander but I hope you do realize that there are other people who may not be as "strong" as you seem to consider yourself.

Obviously you have never been seduced - but just speak for yourself... There are very subtle ways to make people believe in something and at a certain point they would find that they missed the point to make a choice and at that point there would be no more way to return to your old ways. The way the Nazis gained power is one of the best examples for it.

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I simply don't believe in dangerous thoughts. Dangerous people, yes, there will always be those, and chief among them the moral cowards who do not take responsibility for their bad choices. But dangerous ideas? Only in the sense that people say "dangerous" to mean "potentially liberating."


What is dangerous about "potentially liberating"? Dangerous thoughts DO exist - I could turn this into a very philosophic discussion about how and why they started but i won't. If you don't think that "I want to kill this person, just to see him/her die" is a dangerous thought...

Dangerous thoughts can make people dangerous and then they can do dangerous things.

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We always have choice, and if we choose the bad then we do so knowingly. Is that a reason never to make the choice? I don't think so.


Yes, choices are there to be made. There's no way to hide from them because they are part of life; so you might as well die if you don't like to make choices. I don't think that people ALWAYS choose the bad and know what they do. Remember that a choice you take might turn out bad after a lot of happenings you could have never taken into account!

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Refusing power is not the answer: it does not prove anything about you, it helps nobody and it can leave the power for someone else to claim.


Refusing power if it doesn't "belong" to you and might turn into something bad in your hands, is the right answer. It proves that you know the power is not for you or the world you live in. But you can't just leave that power behind, you got to make sure that it finds a safe place. Whether the claws of a Bahro were a safe place for the Tablet is something we'll hopefully find out one day. Whether the hands of a man were a safe place for an atomic bomb we have already found out about. There are powers that should have never come into being.

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 24, 2009 4:42 pm 
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zander_nyrond wrote:
As for the other examples, the One Ring is a device from a different kind of fantasy, but even there it's made perfectly clear that allowing yourself to be seduced by it is a choice, not an inevitability.

I disagree... It's not always a choice. Don't forget that Gandalf didn't want to take the ring, because it was inevitable he would use it, even though he wouldn't want to. And Frodo has a hard time resisting the will of the Ring. And don't forget Boromir!
There are exceptions. Galadriel makes a choice, and the Ring has no effect on Sam and Tom Bombadil. It's not about choice but races actually. Hobbits can resist magic pretty well. Men are easily corrupted. Tom Bombadil is just a completely different kind of creature. The only one who really did make a choice was Galadriel.

And Hitana is right... and you can't argue with history. :P

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 24, 2009 6:08 pm 
Hitana: I'm no stronger than anyone else, and I'm sure I am just as vulnerable to being seduced as the next male. But if I allow myself to be seduced (in a sexual sense), there is little point in my then screaming "it was her fault!" or saying "no-one should ever be allowed to have sex (or perhaps: no woman should be allowed to dress as she pleases) in case this happens again!" I'm responsible. That's all there is to it.

The point about the atom bomb is precisely what I'm saying: there are powers. If the West had pretended atomic energy didn't exist, or decided that it didn't belong to them and they shouldn't use it, another power would have got it and used it.

I think we may have wandered a little off the original point of the thread here, which as I recall was "does Writing an Age Book create the Age (or merely link to a pre-existing one)?" I believe that it does create the Age (because OOC I think it makes a better story, and IC I equate Age Writing with story writing--which is creative--as I've already explained). The main argument against the proposition seems to boil down to "no, because it would make humans equal to Yahvo." I've already explained why this isn't actually so. There was something about what a big job it is to create a universe, but I'm not convinced that that's relevant. If a butterfly flapping its wings can move storm clouds about over another continent, then I don't see any particular reason why words formulated by a mind and set down on a page can't rearrange mass and energy in another dimension.

The rest of the counter-arguments I've seen so far support the proposition that maybe it is possible to create Ages, but we must lie to ourselves about it and pretend it isn't true, because otherwise the Evil Lust For Power will get us. This is, of course, the line Yeesha peddles non-stop: power equals pride equals evil equals destruction. If you take her journals in EoA as canon, she accuses her own father of this slide into depravity because--wait for it--he put buildings on Myst island so that he and Catherine had somewhere comfortable to live. This, by Yeesha, is unacceptable pride.

I don't buy it. If anyone here is unbalanced, it's the lady. I don't believe self-deception is either effective or beneficial, and the history of the D'ni's relationship with their Ages stands in my favour: they believed, because they were told, that they did not create their Ages, and they still messed up, because they did not take responsibility. I don't share Yeesha's (or your) jaundiced view of humanity, and I believe that in situations like this the truth serves better than a comforting lie. The truth (IC still, of course) is that we don't know the answer to the question, but that it's entirely possible that when you Write an Age Book you are creating the Age. Which means that anything bad that happens to that Age or its people is your responsibility to sort out, and if possible to prevent. If the D'ni Writers had taken that line at the outset, and drawn up a sensible set of rules to prevent exploitation of an Age and mistreatment of its people, things might have been quite different. But they chose the lie. Like the Victorians, putting coverings on the legs of pianos in case they inflamed the sinful lusts of men, they evaded responsibility and shrouded the truth in a falsehood, and we know what happened.

There are dangerous powers in the universe, and I'm sure we haven't found them all yet. To deny their existence is to give them free rein. Watson (assuming EoA is canon) chose to give the Tablet to the bahro, and according to the official story the outcome was a bloody war between the bahro that is still going on. For that war and its consequences, he is in part responsible. Whether he should have done something else is not for me to say: the options as the game is set up aren't good. But it was his choice.

Erik: Gandalf chose not to take the Ring. Frodo, at the end and after resisting the whole way, chose to yield to it. Boromir decided before he ever even saw it that he was going to get it and use it. Faramir chooses, having seen it, not to give in to it. Aragorn travels with it from Bree to Rivendell and from there to Lorien and doesn't even consider it. And the Ring has a profound effect on Sam (in the book: it's not shown in the film) but he chooses not to listen to it. it's all choice, all down the line, and not one of those people, if asked, would say "it wasn't my fault: the Ring made me do it." Only Smeagol says that.

That line "men are easily corrupted" raises my hackles, because it seems to set the speaker on a higher plane than the rest of humanity. Tolkien shows us a range of men, and elves, and hobbits, and dwarves, and no single race can be written off so lightly (whatever the elves say). That's one of his strengths.


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 Post subject: Creavisiting
PostPosted: Fri Apr 24, 2009 7:28 pm 
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I do not intend to get drawn into the debate, but I believe the concept Cyan is going with, is probably the old the-possibility-for-any-age-exists-but-not-until-observed-will-it-actualize cop-out.

This would make for something halfway between the "visiting" and "creating" extremes and still leave a huge chunk of responsibilty in the lap of the writer.

Whether Schrödinger's age exist or not, may have been debated among the Ronay - I keep imagining a group of writers, convinced of the all-ages-already-exist take, that set out on a futile mission to purposefully write unstable ages, in order to be able to save them.


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 Post subject: Re: Creavisiting
PostPosted: Fri Apr 24, 2009 7:39 pm 
Jojon wrote:
I do not intend to get drawn into the debate, but I believe the concept Cyan is going with, is probably the old the-possibility-for-any-age-exists-but-not-until-observed-will-it-actualize cop-out.


Well, I can live with that, as long as there's a firm distinction drawn between "possible" and "real."


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 24, 2009 9:55 pm 
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I was thinking the other day that most of the discussion so far has been from "we only link to Ages, prove me wrong" side. What if we flip it around? Let's assume that we do create the Ages, can we poke holes in that theory?

The biggest hole I see is in BoA. When Gehn "fixes" the 37th Age, Atrus ends up linking to a completely different instance of the Age. If Gehn was really creating Ages, wouldn't he have been able to fix the Age and still link to the same instance?

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 25, 2009 5:33 am 
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If we're to return to the original topic, while I currently believe the creationist school is accurate, I think we should come to that conclusion for the same reasons. It's insufficient to merely say that it's an act of creation because writing itself is a creative act: linking technology has always hinged on the multiverse theory (or the "great tree of possibilities", as the D'Ni called it); and thus, because there's an infinite amount of universes that already exist, you can easily describe whatever it is that you want and there will just so-happen to be a universe exactly like that. Just because you're creative when you describe that age doesn't mean you create it, any more than I create a piece of candy by going to an enormous candy store and asking for a very particular sweet.

But nevertheless, this all assumes the multiverse school is accurate. The 37th-age example still acts as quite a brick wall.

To continue our discussion on free will under duress, I can assure you it is only through the privileged position of being in full faculty and calm state that you enjoy such unhindered ability to judge and act. Having spent a few years now with people who work with the impoverished and the drug-addicted, I've developed a new, less optimistic perspective on what philosophers refer to as "the ability to do otherwise". When there's something in your body demanding of your reptilian brain that something absolutely must happen, only patriotic rhetoric tells you that the ability to choose is never hindered. And, moving away from that extreme example, either being told from childhood that you are a maker of worlds or being given the ability to decide the destiny of an entire species... well let's focus on the latter example. Never mind the choice to be "evil"; that's too obvious, and I tire of storylines that merely have antagonists that are evil for evil's sake. Good storytellers know that the greatest evils come from good intentions, and that only later (if ever) does it become apparent that the means pursued to reach one's end was corrupt or immoral. The quest-taker is given the ability to shape the destiny of an entire species, and the options he can perceive are to keep it for himself, give it to another individual, or give it to another individual still. But either keeping it for himself or giving it to Yeesha would lead to an honest attempt to make good that goes awry, for to outsource the well-being of another species to a single individual, a caretaker, is inherently hegemonic; and soon, one would begin to fight further and further for this goal, through the accumulation of more power. Thus, the tablet is given not to the general of the Bahro, but to all of the Bahro; diversification of power is the way the extortion stops.

The LOTR analogy would be to create a dozen or two rings of power, as they did in the beginning, to diversify control and sovereignty. And, by the way, those noble choices you attribute to the fellowship were done in various positions of ease in respect to the ring: Aragorn may have refrained from taking the ring, but that's the difference between saying "No thanks, I don't do drugs" and saying "it's been 10 hours since I've had a hit, my body is screaming". You can complain as long as you want about the original choice to get addicted, but if it happened at 9 (and it often does), then you begin to consult the environmental causes such as home and role-models, rather than the concept of a free will. You sit down and have a conversation with Frodo about free will around the time when Sam offers to take turns being the pack mule; he'll bite your head off. While drugs are, yes, a far more direct example of the exceptions to the ability to do otherwise, the more subtle example of presented power manifests in what you perceive as noble choices but which have disastrous results, as the power slowly creates paradigm shifts in your very soul.


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 25, 2009 5:52 am 
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Oh! I forgot to ask: Someone mentioned Watson; did you mean to say that it was he that took the quest for the tablet? Was that specified some time in Uru Live? I'd be terribly excited to hear how the canon history panned out.

Shorah!


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 25, 2009 6:31 am 
FB: my take on that, and it is only a theory, is that whereas additive changes modify the Age as it exists, subtractive changes--crossing stuff out, as Gehn did with 37--roll back the timeline of the Age to a point before the changes happened, possibly before the Book was Written. Hence, in Riven, we don't see Atrus going back and crossing out bits of the Riven book, but doggedly adding more and more to it in an effort to prop up his father's cobbled-together structure. And thus, the Age remains directly under the control of the Writer, which argues for the idea that the Writing creates the Age.

Ro'Mallinson: while I would be the last person to deny the validity of your experience working with people on drugs, I simply don't buy the "power is a drug" analogy that you take as read. I think that drugs create a real dependency that requires sympathetic treatment. I don't believe that is true of power. If people abuse it, it is not because some substance gets into their brain and affects their judgment, it's because they choose to. This, of course, is where all the Ring analogies also break down, because the Ring was a semi-sentient thing which actively worked to addict people to it. The Art, as conceived, does not. (I also don't believe playing slot machines, or watching telly, is an "addiction," unless you choose to make it so.)

Back on topic, you dismiss my argument by merely restating the opposing theory. We do not know that all possible universes are equally existent, and neither did the D'ni; it was a part-theory, part-religious doctrine of theirs, and it's one of many possible interpretations of quantum theory here, and not one without some flaws.

And I'm sorry, but describing a place you have never seen, never heard of from anyone who's been, never learned about from other sources, that in your experience has never existed outside your own imagination...has got to be creative. It can't be anything else. This is literally making stuff up. If you go to a candy store and ask for a bag of curried vole surprises, the man will look at you somewhat askance--in order to buy a sweet, you must know that the shop stocks it or can get it. But it's quite clearly stated that anything you Write, as long as it's stable and makes sense, will become an Age. If Yahvo handed the D'ni a list of available Ages to Write, I'm not aware of it, and I'm fairly sure Catherine's first wouldn't have been on it.

If you start with nothing, and end with something, if you formulate a new idea in your head and write it down, thus giving it existence in the outside world--you are creating. It's that simple.

It was revealed during the run of MOUL that Myst V was "based on" the experiences of Doctor Watson--that he had done whatever it was he actually did to complete the liberation of the bahro (and thus cause the war).


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 25, 2009 2:20 pm 
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I think the problem we're going to have is that which ever side you support, all you will ever have is a theory. Both sides can come up with support for their theory, but it is ultimately impossible to prove. How do you conclusively prove that the new Age was or was not created by the Writer? Anyone know the Maker's KI number so we can PM him/her/it? :P

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 25, 2009 10:18 pm 
It's true, you can't, and I for one am very glad of it. :D As I said earlier in the thread, the fact that these things are left open for us to theorise and debate and disagree about is one of the many things that endears me to Cyan's multiverse.


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 26, 2009 12:46 am 
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zander_nyrond wrote:
It's true, you can't, and I for one am very glad of it. :D As I said earlier in the thread, the fact that these things are left open for us to theorise and debate and disagree about is one of the many things that endears me to Cyan's multiverse.

Agreed! :D

I also agree that what happened with the 37th Age was determined by the difference between additive and subtractive changes. If we assume that Gehn made the ocean warm by simple writing "warm ocean" (or whatever phrase was needed) then the way he "fixed" the Age is what forced the link to change, not simply the fact that he tried to change it. Specifically, his change was to add the D'ni negative to the phrase, changing it from "warm ocean" to "not warm ocean". Since the 37th Age, as Gehn and Atrus knew it, already had a warm ocean, changing the Descriptive Book to "not warm ocean" forced the link to another eerily similar, but all together different, Age. Had Gehn "fixed" the Age by adding phrases that made the ocean cold again, the link would have remained the same. I think this is why when Atrus is trying to stabilize Riven, all of his changes are additions.

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 26, 2009 6:10 am 
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You make excellent points here, Zander. As for linking theory, understand exactly where I was going with my argument: you're right that I cannot prove that linking is just a transporter, I don't have the evidence right now; I was merely saying that your reason for believing in the creation school didn't take into account the full theory: given that their full hypothesis is based on the idea of there being infinite universes, your assertion that writing of any kind is an act of creation does not confirm against linking theory, because their possibility that there are infinite universes provides that anything you conceive of will already exist in another universe; I'm not saying that theory in itself is evidence, but if you and I are actively taking the theory to task, we ought to attack it where we find real contradiction... which we have: the examples of Age 5 and Age 37 are prime examples of age-modification with a continuity of experience throughout those changes, indicating an ontological power over ages on the part of the writer. That's the hinging point of this debate, rather than the power of coming up with ideas. (It's funny actually: the prime examples of this debate come from Gehn's screw-ups specifically.) I don't mean to say that it's not a creative act... just that the act of creativity doesn't demonstrate that the universe didn't already exist. Rather, I think that there's other evidence that linking creates ages, and that's where our intellectual battle ought to be fought.

Good point as well on the difference between physical addiction and the seductive influence of power; and it's an enormous and valid debate. Now we're getting somewhere. I suppose the distinction is that while drugs have a more direct influence on your ability to make judicial decisions, immense power is merely an extremely difficult thing to choose what to do with. I mean, if you had an immense tablet of power, perhaps the just thing isn't an obvious matter. I think you've had the idea that we imagine a person having power and being seduced to do evil by it, but I don't think the perspective is as simple as that at all; it's more that it's very hard to know what the right thing to do is, and a choice to use the power for good is the cause of much suffering in history. While the atom bomb is the prime example, there are more subtle examples... some have said that institutional religion has a similar effect on people; it's been said that religion can make good people do evil things; and I think that can be true of any position of extreme power over people, though not immediately and not deliberately. I don't suggest that the quest-taker would instantly turn into Escher if he tried to use the tablet, but rather that if he used its power again and again, it would form a belief system that was inherently hegemonic. fiery abyss, that's largely how class systems begin: it isn't often a deliberate attempt to subjugate, but a belief system that slowly creates an unfortunate power relationship.

Frisky: I'd be glad to entertain objections, but as long as my counterexample of Age 37 stands, then the theory that linking is just a transporting mechanism is inconsistent, for there are civilians there who saw the changes happening to their age. If it was just a transporter, then even the initial, successful changes to the age would have caused a link to a brand new age, and the civilians would never remember the wall of mist ever being there. Inconsistency is proof against a possibility, so unless I've made a mistake (and please entertain arguments that I have), the pre-existing world theory is impossible. Thus, as hard a time as I've been giving Zander, so far I agree with him, reluctantly concluding that linking is an act of creation. Since the universe tends to like to do things simply whenever it can (the same way that a bullet fires forward when provoked by gunpowder because going backward is more difficult), and creating an entire universe of planets is an enormous ontological undertaking (which is far larger in scope than just imagining they exist), this conclusion is extremely counterintuitive, and I say again that I am willing to entertain objections. Anybody? I've been playing devil's advocate for a while here...


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 26, 2009 8:41 am 
Ro'Mallinson: you're right that the evidence of Riven and 37 is more immediately telling than my gut feeling about creativity. Like most people, I think, I select my beliefs, where certainty is not possible, based on a personal and often emotionally grounded preference, and in this way I choose to believe that while a very large number of universes are possible, only some are real, and that those real universes are unique in their reality. Thus there is one Myst, one Riven, one Atrus, one Gehn, one Catherine, one me, and so on. I find the alternative unbelievably messy and pointless.

But back to the points. I see what you're saying about power, and the argument is a lot clearer. However, once again the example of a stupid plot device such as the Magic Tablet of Fizzlypop (I'm sorry, I really hate that thing) doesn't really help us discuss the reality. Let's consider President Obama (I don't know what your politics are, so forgive me if he isn't your cup of tea). If there is anyone in the world who's just been handed a magic tablet of vast power, he's it: but how much power has he actually got? He's the head of the executive branch of a tripartite government, hedged about with checks and balances, limited by precedent and custom and very much aware of the possible consequences of his actions. So yes, you're right, it's going to be hard for him to know what the right thing is to do, and whatever he does will be seen by some as the wrong thing, including doing nothing at all.

So what should he do? According to Yeesha's absolutist views on power, he should step down, refuse the presidency, do nothing with it. Maybe, like the D'ni telling themselves that they were not really creating Ages, he should pretend that he isn't really the president at all, just someone who plays him on TV. I don't see either of those as valid alternatives. Power does not go away. It can't be ruled out of existence. Not using it does not relieve you of responsibility for it, especially if someone else gets hold of it and abuses it. There is no easy answer to the problem of power.

The key to the D'ni's treatment of their Ages lies in their assumption of their own moral superiority. A case could be made (and I'm surprised it isn't more often) that institutionalised religion is the cause of this, by establishing the model of a hierarchical universe in which every creature has its rank (and those who worship the god in question are, of course, directly underneath him and over everyone else). My lot travelled all over the world and made themselves obnoxious on the same basis; we were Top Nation and C. of E. and therefore a Good Thing. Undoubtedly our actions caused a great deal of suffering.

The question that remains, though, is: would fewer people have suffered, would they have suffered less, if we had not done what we did? Is it arguable that what we did was not so much to increase the net level of human suffering as to centralise the responsibility for what suffering there was, squarely upon our own heads?

We'll never know what would have happened if. For better or for worse, we had the power. Some of us used it for purely selfish motives (dealers in slaves and such), and the suffering they caused was avoidable and should have been avoided. Some of us used it for good, and the suffering they caused may have been offset by suffering alleviated elsewhere. The suffering caused by the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima may have prevented other suffering that would have been caused by the continuation of the war.

This is an eye-wateringly long-distance view of things, of course, and on the individual level it's not easy to see one's own suffering as a good thing. The fact that someone else has a job, and therefore a regular income, is scant consolation to me who have none.

I'm starting to lose my thread. What I am saying is that yes, wielding power is difficult, and whatever evil may result is the responsibility of the wielder, but I do not believe that that is a sufficient reason not to strive to do the best one can with the power one has. After all, when Watson (or whoever) handed the Magic Tablet to the bahro, he was in fact wielding that power (in the sense of deciding what to do with it) and even though great evil resulted (in the form of the war), it was the "right" decision. If he had held on to it, other evil might have resulted, but that evil would not. And whatever evil did result, it would have been clear whose responsibility it was.


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 26, 2009 7:14 pm 
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The United-States presidency is a good example: but if I may quote you,


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how much power has he actually got? He's the head of the executive branch of a tripartite government, hedged about with checks and balances, limited by precedent and custom and very much aware of the possible consequences of his actions.


This process of limiting direct power is largely what democracy is based on, and it is for that reason that the analogy helps Yeesha's case and not... erm, Eschers? What I mean is this: the tablet has some sort of ambiguous, though direct, power over the Bahro, such that its owner can turn the Bahro into their servants. Your full analogy would only help your case if the U.S. constitution dictated that citizens were the servants of the president, whose rule was unquestioned. Your full analogy would only help if the U.S. president believed that he was responsible for the existence of all U.S. Americans. But the U.S. presidency is a leadership model based on the same sorts of limitations and diversifications of power that I was detailing. If the tablet is in the hands of the Bahro, they could destroy it and form their own fair government, or use it in a fair and diverse way, or find some other way to be free. This is Yeesha's preferred solution. Yeesha's paradigm doesn't dictate there should be anarchy; just that there should be no one person who has a pyramid-style type of power.

I strongly agree with your position on institutionalised religion and its hegemonic power by establishing a hierarchical universe; I've been tempted more than once in the scope of this debate to use that analogy, but chose not to because I've noticed before that this community is a very sensitive one, particularly sensitive to religious matters, and if you yourself were religious you might throw the baby out with the bathwater and reject my whole case because of my perceived connection between extortion in linking and institutionalised religion.

I regret to say I don't understand your question "that remains", because I'm not sure what you're referring to when you describe your "lot". I think something flew over my head. But at least in regards to the bomb that the Enola Gay dropped on Hiroshima, while experts do predict that the war would have gone on for longer without the atom bomb, there's something to be said about the distinction between military losses and civilian losses. The purpose of a nuclear bomb is to shut down a country's ability to produce goods by killing so many civilians, that the infrastructure and economy cannot support itself. Was it truly justifiable to kill so many thousands of civilians to stop short the military deaths and come to a mighty end?

In any case, Yeesha's decision was largely based on a realisation that control over the "Least's" destiny should no longer be outsourced, in the hands of another species or class. Even if you're that confident in yourself and your goodness, what becomes of the kingdom when you die? This is why even a "benevolent dictatorship" is dangerous: even if you resist selfishness your whole life, who's to say your child or successor will? If you cannot believe in the seductive influence of power (even power to do good), I think we can agree that the safest thing to do, in terms of freeing the Bahro, is to give them control over their own destiny, and not risk that some successor to that rule would never plant the seed of hegemonic domination again. [/quote]


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