Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Shadow Rising Read through #19 - The Measure of Rulership

The Measure of Rulership

by Linda

According to Leane Sharif, “to lead is neither to push nor to pull” (The Dragon Reborn, Punishments). Judging by events of the series, Jordan may not have agreed with her, but he did provide us with a variety of political structures to study.

The first we see is that of the Two Rivers, an ideal land of high literacy, stability and equity. Many fantasy series start off from just such a haven. Both men and women have their separate political structures: councils of elected ‘elders’ which interact dynamically. The position of leader of the women’s council, Wisdom, is for life, while that of the men, the Mayor, is re-elected regularly (The Eye of the World, Glossary). Everyone is free to discuss every issue. This works well for thinly-populated peaceful areas and is the system in other deeply rural regions on the mainland. However, in a time of crisis when the Trollocs invaded, the Two Rivers adopted a lord, Perrin, by popular decision.

Most other nations have monarchs, whether they are elected by merit, or are nobles or aristocrats who have inherited their position. In distant Shara, the rumour is of a puppet monarchy of alternating king and queens controlled by female channellers (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time and Lord of Chaos, Threads Woven of Shadow).

Among the Aes Sedai, leadership is based largely on an inherited quality (strength in the Power, and age, which again depends on saidar strength) with a lesser contribution from merit (eg speed of learning, skill).

The majority of Seanchan leadership positions are earned by merit, but position in the ruling Imperial family is based on inheritance and merit (one can be adopted into the Imperial family for great achievement (The Path of Daggers, A Time for Iron)). The Crystal Throne itself is almost a tombola gained through a war of attrition by the most ‘meritorious’ (defined as surviving) of the Empress’ offspring.

The Sea Folk monarchy has a strict meritocracy. The Aiel also have a meritocracy. In both societies, each member follows the law and customs of that society.

In complete contrast, Tear was ruled by a council of aristocrats and this oligarchy is probably the most extreme example of inherited power and its misuses.

It is instructive to compare the Tairen system with that of the Aiel. The Aiel prove themselves worthy before given leadership, yet still are never treated as nobles or monarchs. A clan chief is not a king. The law is applied equally to all.

Tairen leaders inherit their position, yet have absolute power. Their laws were not equally applied. Nobles could do whatever they liked to those lower in the social strata than they.

Until the advent of Rand, both Aiel and Tairen societies were bound by tradition and founded on falsehood. For the common good, the Aiel leaders kept secret from the ‘commoners’ that once they were as gai’shain and Tinkers now are. The Tairens had the illusion that nobles are different in kind to commoners and that the Stone was safe from invasion and channelling. As Juilin and Mat were invading the Stone, Juilin said of High Lord Darlin, newly knocked unconscious by Mat:

“He does not look so mighty lying there,” he said wonderingly. “He does not look so much greater than me.”

- The Dragon Reborn, Into the Stone

Once Rand takes the Stone, he changes the laws in an attempt to even out this imbalance. In both lands Rand stripped away all illusions.

At first Andor seems an ideal monarchy, with its sound legal system and proud, outspoken citizenry, but the War of Succession and lack of equal access of males to rule is a distinct minus. The Borderlands, who cannot afford politicking or uncertainty or disunity, may have the most sound monarchies.

The series firmly shows that those who are eager to lead are usually the last ones who should do so, especially those who would do anything to gain power. As for elected positions, no matter who is elected, the office-holder is always a politician even if only out of necessity. The best leaders are reluctant, accepting the role only out of duty.


Anonymous said...

Linda, I wanted to know your opinion on Cadsuane being raised to the Amyrlin Seat, considering her handling of events in Randland during the series and her treatment of other sisters, Asha'man and the Wise Ones and what this could mean for the White Tower. Love the blog. From Slugga.

Linda said...

Slugga, thanks!

Cadsuane is a very reluctant ruler, having tried to avoid the position for 50 years, so she is not likely to see it as an end in itself.

She is not bound by tradition - in fact, she innovates. She ignores the traditional ranking system of the Aes Sedai and judges each sister on her merits. She likes men (and her counselling of gentled men was extremely effective) and sees the merits of non-Aes Sedai and Asha'man. She has stayed out of the Seanchan negotiations, so she can come to those fairly objectively. She is clever and politically savvy, but hasn't much patience for politicising. She keeps her word - the spirit of a promise/oath not just the bare wording, which is why the Wise Ones respect her so much.

These are really promising characteristics considering where the Aes Sedai are now after the Last Battle and the dawn of the new Age.

Her counselling skills are also going to be a real asset. As is her ability to assess of peoples' skills and faults.

She doesn't have much patience or tolerance, but she is aware of this weakness. So are the Aes Sedai and her reputation may make them careful!

I can see her continuing Egwene's agreement with the Wise Ones and Windfinders and extending it to the Asha'man.

I can also see her thinking about whether to drop the Oath Rod.

It's definitely a time to reassess the Tower's function and traditions and she is the best alive to do that. Nynaeve is another that could do well at it, but Cadsuane can devote all her attention to the job, and Nynaeve has to help Lan rebuild Malkier and establish a family.

Anonymous said...

Thanks. I also had similiar thoughts. Apart from Cadsuane do you have any thoughts who would've made a good leader for the white tower. I believe that Saerin and Pevara have proven themselves more than others. Would you include anyone else? Slugga.

Linda said...

I agree with you about Saerin and Pevara. Silviana is too narrow in her outlook. I was impressed by Tsutama's objectivity and acceptance of new ideas.

The only Blue I would consider is Moiraine.

I don't think any of the Ajah Heads would do.

This time the Amyrlin really needs to be someone who has spent time out of the Tower and mixed with all sorts of people.

Anonymous said...

So you'd agree that Lyrelle and Lelaine would be the worst options?

Linda said...

They would be! So would the Whites be, I think.

Incidentally, we don't know if Lelaine survived the Last Battle.

Anonymous said...

And lastly, do have any opinions on the rulers at the end of the series eg Darlin, Rodel, Logain and of course Elayne. And do you think it is possible that the Aiel will eventually allow for male channelers to become wise ones since the Aiel have always made good use of their people. Slugga.

Linda said...

Darlin will be pretty good, as will Logain now that he is redeemed. Galad will be exceptional. Roedran will be OK, which is good by Murandian standards.

Irony is that much of Rand's peace treaty was aimed at Elayne. She is the one who snapped up another crown - and definitely would have eyed off more. The Empress is another, and is even more unscrupulous because she has never had to share a continent with another nation.

As for Ituralde, if the sign of a good ruler is his care for the country, no one has done more for his land than he. Arad Doman is in good hands, I think.

The worst thing the Aiel did was basically avoid the problem of male channellers by sending them away elsewhere. It was a relic of their days as Da'shain, since the Da'shain would not kill, and this was probably extended to suicide. Now, of course, they don't have to avoid it. So chances are they will treat new male channellers rather better and find a space for them. Since their societies are divided by gender, there may be a male channellers society.

Anonymous said...

Linda, there was one other group I forgot to mention. How do feel the Jim would fare, Sumeko clearly has no interest in leading and Alise is incredibly competent. Slugga.

Linda said...

Sumeko intends to return to the Tower and Elayne promised to champion this, though she didn't have to do much persuasion of Egwene. (Unlike Egwene's reaction to Elayne wanting the services of the Kin.) I expect that Cadsuane will honour Egwene's commitment to the Kin, and with the other channelling groups, incidentally, with the underlying plan to bring the Wise Ones in particular under Tower influence. Cadsuane would also see the need or usefulness Yellows getting out in the world to Heal. She may 'encourage' the Yellows to send sisters to Elayne's hospital to lead the hospital and oversee the Kin. While Sumeko may be one of these when she gains the shawl, I think that Sharina will be a contender in the future. Cadsuane is not a fan of raising women quickly, so Sumeko and Sharina will take longer than Nynaeve, or Elaida to reach the shawl. In the meantime, Alise will do very well in charge of the setting up and the organising.