Thursday, September 17, 2009

"Shadow", Chapter 5, Part 2

"Thought so. Nobody never talks about [the torturers], though. You're angry about those armigers and I don't blame you. But you ought to know how it is with them. They're supposed to be like exultants, only they're not. They're afraid to die, afraid to hurt, and afraid to act like it. It's hard on them." "They should be done away with," I said. "Vodalus would set them quarrying. They're only a carryover from some past age - what possible help can they give the world?" The old man cocked his head. "Why, what help was they to begin? Do you know?"
According to an appendix of the second volume "The Claw of the Conciliator," the exultants are a hereditary ruling class. The armigers "seem much like exultants, though on a lesser scale. Their name indicates a fighting class, but they do not appear to have monopolized the major roles in the army; no doubt their position could be likened to that of the samurai who served the daimyos of feudal Japan." "Exultant" means joyful or triumphant, and the original Latin essentially means "jumped up," which may be a little joke on Gene Wolfe's part, but I couldn't find a record of the word being a person's title. "Armiger" literally means "armor-bearer," and "In high and late medieval England, the word referred to an esquire attendant upon a knight, but bearing his own unique armorial device." There are a number of irritating things about the quote. It implies that these hereditary leaders are somehow braver and better than other people, which in my opinion is an old fairy tale stretching back to Plato's Republic (or farther). Of course, Plato envisioned himself as one of these supreme leaders, so they come off looking pretty good. Also, through much of history, those were the people killing anyone who implied they deserved the same rights as their lords. So public opinion of them remained good (or else). Nowadays, we elect these people, and surely we wouldn't elect anyone but the very best human beings to a high office? That's one theory. Another is that we'll pick the best liar, or the one whose face we've seen the most. It also reveals a contempt for middle management, which is too pat. Lots of us probably agree, but maybe that's because our bosses are middle management, and we think we're "doing all the work." No one that I've ever heard rag on managers has ever suggested how things would be run if they didn't exist, though. What would a hierarchical organization with no middle of the tree be like? My guess: total f***ing chaos.

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