Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Abolition of (the Imperium of) Man

The future generations, for all their technology, shall hold the least power of all.  So it is according to C.S Lewis in the Abolition of Man, a most excellent work on the folly and absurdity of trying to exist with purpose outside of universal and yes, traditional, morality (Tao, Lewis calls it, and I shall too).  Now Lewis is a great thinker, and what he writes has application even to this day and for generations to come.  Yet at the same time, I can't help but to be reminded of the history of the Imperium of Man as a fulfillment of Lewis's "planner society".

Now in a planner society, humanity has advanced itself so that via totalitarian government and the removal of tradition and a liberal education to foster morality and critical thinking a small group of planners are able to shape humanity into whatever they desire with an artificial Tao.  At first, this may be well intended, base upon the planners' airy notion of good and ideal societies.  Eventually, however, this gives way to whims and impulses, as the society's planners exist outside the society and do not share in its' members purpose and morality, they create it, being of the same nature but ultimately separate.  If the brain washing and the eugenics is good enough, the individual man is indeed in a stranglehold and has no power over his future or self, he is no man at all.  Does this sound familiar to anyone?

Hello friends, the Emperor protects!  Pay no mind to the cyborg slaves.... 
Gosh I love John Blanche's art, but it's dark.

It ought to, because it's the Imperium, not quite blow for blow, but in effect.  Horus Heresy stories like "the Last Church" show us the Emperor's dark side (which is most of him), destroying human traditions and societies to better fit his vision of a unified and powerful mankind.  Being an ├╝bermensch rather than Superman, the Emperor knows he is powerful and uses it it to gain more power, ostensibly for the betterment of mankind.  Eventually, the time before the Emperor is all but forgotten, as 40k fans know well, and the people of the Imperium are molded into fanatics from birth.  All mankind's amazing technological prowess of course is granted to the Mechanium, backwards agents of the Emperor, our 'planner' in this case.  They are able to carefully control it's impact on mankind, but in an interesting reversal of Lewis's fears have mystified technology rather than reducing anything simply to what is physically apparent and observable.  Anyone who's reading this blog should be able to fill in with more details himself, unless he has somehow fooled himself into believing that the Imperium as a monolithic faction is good.

Lewis was a medievalist, not a feudalist mind you, but a medievalist.  Not only in the sense that he was a medieval historian, but also in that he would have preferred for society to pace itself and would not so much have minded a more distant government that allowed local communities to flourish.  So it is somewhat ironic that his dystopia should be so well illustrated by a neo-feudal fantasy.  Now there isn't a greater point to this, I simply could not find any writing on the subject at all, but thought it was well worth pointing out.  (Having recently received a new collection of C.S Lewis's greatest writings for Christmas to replace my old copy that had been damaged, the Abolition of Man was fresh in my mind.)

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