mordicai caeli (mordicai) wrote,
mordicai caeli

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All Yumens Must Die! (9; 3:6)

The Word for World is Forest by Ursula Le Guin.

The Dreamers don't shout:
"the Sleeper has Awakened!"
as they never Slept.

This is a pretty explicit condemnation of colonialism, with a tempered view of insurgency. I also have this theory that it is Ursula Le Guin's Homo floresiensis story, but that is because her science-fiction has-- so far-- reminded me a lot of Oubliette, & as you may or not be aware, my fantasy "races" are in fact different hominins. The Word for World is Forest is another story told in alternating chapters-- Le Guin loves that trick-- cycling between characters. "New Tahiti" is what the Earthlings call it; their representatives in the story are the jingoistic racist military guy-- who is all the more plausible because history is littered with his type-- & the treehugger scientist who tries to help. His story is the most interesting because it involves a lot of complicity on his behalf while he tries to work for a greater good; the native Athsheans are being raped, murdered & enslaved, & the best way he can stop that is to be a good little soldier & to keep trying to get his superiors back on Earth to intervene. Is that the best way to do it? What about when directly confronted with the atrocities? Good questions all around. Selver, our viewpoint Athshean-- "creechie" is the Earthling slur for them-- is the first to embrace "asymmetrical warfare." His story is of justice, revenge, freedom, mercy &...well, being a god, the god who said for the first time "let us kill them." & I mean, the Athsheans are not angels; the crux of their bloody plan is...pretty bloody. & the consequences for embracing that cultural shift, in creating an "us versus them" mentality, are quite possibly dire. This isn't a straight forward story of heroes versus oppressors; that is the frame, but the guts of the tale show how simplistic that viewpoint is, while at the same time showing that it is a better paradigm than "colonists versus subhumans," which is still the dominant Western view.

So I make it a habit to sort of poke holes in Le Guin's utopias. Because well...I'm a genuine utopian, but I'm also a nihilist, so I'm well aware of the pitfalls in optimism. Like, The Dispossessed gets around a lot of trouble from the Problem of Others by...being in outer space. The commune is more or less safe from force is on the moon. Hey, that was true of the planet Earth for periods of history, if you substitute "ocean" for "space." The Dispossessed also makes some reference to guerrilla fighting, which is an interesting counterpoint, but not a fully convincing one. The Word for World is Forest featured a criminal justice system I've seen Le Guin bring up in a bunch of the other Hainish novels; criminals are exiled. In The Left Hand of Darkness it can be a death sentence, but in other stories it essentially just makes hermits out of them (...Forest, again Dispossessed). That is another one of those environmentally driven options; the developed Earth doesn't have very good spots left for "exile," unless you want to start a gulag in Siberia or Alaska, or create a penal colony...which are both options with their own problems. The Problem of Others again, this time in the guise of crime, not war.
Tags: books, haiku, hainish cycle, le guin

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