Swing of the Pendulum

From: Martin Dick (Martin.Dick@fcit.monash.edu.au)
Date: Tue 27 May 1997 - 08:17:32 EEST


While I will be the first to admit that characterising the Lunar Empire
and its citizens as a bunch of chaos-loving scum whose sole purpose
is to bring doom, chaos and death upon the world to the cost of the
freedom-loving Orlanthi peoples is a load of nonsense.

I also think that to represent them as just this bunch of really
nice guys and gals whose aim is merely to bring balm to the souls of
those poor unfortunate barbarians who don't yet worship the Red
Goddess is swinging the pendulum far too far. The relationship between
the Orlanthi of Dragon Pass and the Lunars is far more than just bringers
of civilisation versus hairy smelly barbarians who couldn't recognise a good
bottle of red if it was smashed over their heads.

Let's look at what the Lunar Empire has done. It has attacked Sartar several
times prior the conquest of Sartar without as far as I can see any real
provocation in political terms. It uses horrific magics such as the Skyburn
and the Crimson Bat. To my mind, such acts are the equivalent of the USA
using nuclear weapons against Baghdad in the Gulf War. It employs people
like the Char-Un barbarians in its army who from what I have seen eclipse
any Dragon Pass Orlanthi in savagery. It assassinates rulers who are
inconvenient for their plans of conquest eg. the Pharoah and the King of Tarsh.
It forcibly removes and enslaves the red-headed children of Pent. It
supports the Yelmic system of Dara Happa which oppresses the vast majority
of the population in those areas and privileges the few. It employs and
gives positions of high power to men like Gim-Gim who would definitely be
executed in the Gloranthan equivalent of the Nuremberg trials. One of the
key cultures in the Empire (Alkoth and the Shargashi) are dedicated to the
destruction of all things and maintain practices which are far more "barbaric"
than those practiced by Sartarites in the 1500s and 1600s. Others could
probably come up with many more examples.

Let us then look at the country established by Sartar amongst these supposed
natural savages and barbarians. He established the Kingdom with a minimum
of bloodshed, he built cities and established libraries, he built magical
roads, he provided a means of settling disputes beyond the blood feud.

He made peace between the Telmori and the Orlanthi. He seemed to maintain
good relationships with all of his neighbours, he definitely increased the
prosperity and peacefulness of Dragon Pass. As far as terrible magics etc
went, he doesn't seem to have used any.

Overall on quite a few scales, it would be reasonable to consider Sartar's
Dragon Pass as a more civilised and just society than that of the Lunars and
on other scales the reverse.

But the point of this is not to once again set the Lunars up as the bad guys,
they as far as I can see from existing material are not inherently evil,
perhaps arrogant and hubristic in assuming they can handle Chaos but far
from the equivalent of the Nazis. What they are I think is an Imperialistic
society dedicated to the spread of their doctrine whatever the cost for both
spiritual and economic reasons. As such they are in many ways the "bad guys"
for the Orlanthi of Dragon Pass, if Argrath doesn't show up, perhaps in the
1700s this would have all passed into history, but in the Dragon Pass of the
early 1600s, Sartar is an occupied and conquered country with all the hate
and violence that such situations always engender. On the other hand, from
a Lunar perspective, they are the good guys and can provide significant
justification for their beliefs.

As far as a comparison with the Balkans, I think that the analogy is far from
perfect as the various communities in the Balkans at that time never really
had a common heritage to build on, whilst Sartar has prior to the Lunar
conquest had 120 years of such a common heritage built up. In fact if the
potential for common action was not in the culture of Sartar, then I can't
really see how Argrath could have succeeded, Dragon Magics not withstanding.

To dismiss the Sartarites as merely barbarians without recognising their
civilised elements and to consider the Lunars as a benevolent civilising force
without recognising their militaristic, imperialistic side is a reversion
to good guys/bad guys with just the sides changed.

Martin

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