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Is Horza a git?
One eternal argument that all readers of Iain M Banks' novels become embroiled in at some point focuses on Horza, and, in particular, whether or not he is a git. Here is a transcription of one of the many battles that make up this galactic war - ths war of githood!
ARTICLE INFO* brendan believes he can settle the Horza git/non-git argument once and for all
book by Iain M. Banks
rated 8.4/10 by 46 people
-brendan- by proving beyond reasonable doubt that horza is a git
-Ritu- -L- Okay, prove it.
-brendan- Well, he effectively kidnaps Yalson, Dorolow and Aviger and takes them to their deaths on Schar's World - and his mission on Schar's World anyway is to capture a refugee and pass it into the hands of torturers
-brendan- he's always reassuring the CAT crew that they'll be safe, when he knows they won't be, and they all end up dying. and they didn't even want to be in the war!
-Ritu- Right. So?
-brendan- and then on the second count, what he wants to do to the Mind is unethical and wrong; except he doesn't think so because he doesn't think Minds should be treated as sentient beings
-brendan- he's the equivalent of a 18th-century slavemaster who refuses to believe that african people have souls
-Ritu- Mmm, how do you make that leap?
-brendan- so these two things prove that he's a git! if he wasn't, he wouldn't forcibly drag others into his own little battles
-Adrian- Haven't read CP for a while, but I thought he did think Minds have souls, he just didn't like the way they'd run the universe
-brendan- and also, he wouldn't adopt such a speciesist view of who deserves respect
-brendan- I don't think he mentions souls specifically at any point, but he has an argument with Unaha-Closp in which the drone is trying to convince Horza it is a sentient being and should be treated as such
-brendan- he does do two good things in the book, though, which count against the Horza=git argument
-Ritu- Yes, so he has trouble with the concept of a machine sentinence. He is withholding information from the crew - he has to do his job.
-brendan- first off, he doesn't want to kill the CAT crew member he has to fight with; and second, he doesn't kill Balveda
-brendan- his job entails kidnapping innocents and leading them to their deaths
-Ritu- Yes, and the change in him when he learns of his incipient fatherhood.
-brendan- I think it's a sign of his githood that such a change had to take place...!
-Ritu- Well, that is his job - it may not be what you or I wish to do with our lives, but he was living his life.
-brendan- I know
-brendan- his life as a Git
-Ritu- -L- I don't agree.
-lex- What are you guys talking about?
-Ritu- A character in one of Bank's books. Horza.
-Ritu- I think he was an interesting character - on the cusp of emotional maturity but then he got killed.
-brendan- he's an interesting character
-brendan- but he's so full of contradictions
-Ritu- Aren't we all?
-brendan- the funniest is that he goes on about "real, biological life!" when he himself is engineered
-Ritu- I found that tragic.
-brendan- and one of the things he hates most about the Culture is that they don't have a god - as if that matters
-brendan- (I'm re-reading CP at the moment in case anyone hasn't guessed :)
-Ritu- Well, it matters to him. :)
-Ritu- Really? Talk about surprises! :)
-brendan- which makes him a git in my book - he wants to destroy an entire civilisation because it doesn't have a god...
-Ritu- No, he doesn't. His problems with Culture have a lot more to do with what he perceives as the Culture's tendency to believe that it has all the answers.
-brendan- and ironically enough he believes he has even more answers, one of which is to have the Culture wiped out of existence...
-Ritu- In that book, I had more of a problem accepting Culture's determination to wipe out the Idrians.
-brendan- they just want to stop the Idiran expansion
-Ritu- By wiping them out?
-brendan- nope - by resisting
-Adrian- They didn't wipe them out
-Ritu- Sounds like something that is being advocated today as well....
-brendan- the Culture at no point wanted to kill off the Idirans as such
-Ritu- Adrian: I know. A few stragglers survive and escape.
-brendan- bear in mind that throughout most of CP the Culture is actually falling back ahead of the Idiran expansion
-Adrian- My impression was that they wanted to neutralise them and make sure it would never happen again
-brendan- they have to resist the Idiran push
-Ritu- Yes - but also bear in mind what the historical foot notes say.
-brendan- many Idirans chose death over defeat
-brendan- *grabs copy of CP*
-Ritu- Yes, but in my book, if you base your actions on what might happen in the future, you are just rationalising your actions.
-Ritu- But I am a sappy, non-violent idealist. What do I know? :)
-Adrian- I never fully understood *exactly* why the Culture went to war
-Ritu- Neither did I. And their net gain calculations just made me wary.
-brendan- well, huge numbers of Culture citizens left in protest
-Adrian- Something to do with their entire cultural ethos being geared around helping people and if they stood by and let the Idirans blow everything up, they wouldn't be able to live with themselves
-brendan- they didn't want the Idirans to subjugate the rest of the galaxy under stifling religious rule
-Adrian- They weren't physically threatened, but they felt that ethically, they wouldn't be the Culture if they did nothing
-Ritu- Would they have? There were many more superior civilizations round. Culture could have just boxed them in.
-Adrian- I don't know about there being 'many more'
-Ritu- YEs, so they went ahead and decided that their way is the better way - now and for all conceivable future.
-Adrian- Pretty much, yes
-Adrian- But that was effectively the decision of each and every Culture citizen
-brendan- and the Idirans were no different
-Ritu- Fine. It still doesn't make it more palatable, especially for those who believe in different things.
-brendan- the Culture can't be criticised for thinking "our way is the better way" when their enemy was thinking exactly the same thing
-Ritu- Neither can they be lauded for thinking so.
-Adrian- However, those in the Culture were raised in an environment where they had the best education and could do anything they wanted - and they chose to go to war
-Adrian- The Idirans didn't have that choice
-Adrian- And so I would say that the war mattered 'more' to the Culture
-Ritu- And in that universe, they never would.
-brendan- I just checked the end - the Culture did not even attack Idir
-brendan- Idir never technically surrendered - the Culture had no intention of actually wiping out the Idirans
-Adrian- Why do you say that?
-Ritu- Yes, it does matter more to the Culture. I never understood why.
-Ritu- Who, Adrian?
-Adrian- Ritu, about 'they never would'
-Ritu- Well, their entire society gets wiped out. They never would have a chance to grow to the point where they'd choose to be non-violent.
-brendan- the Idirans saw the war, long before it was even declared, as a "continuation of the permanent hostilities demanded by theological and disciplinary colonisation"
-Adrian- I'm speculating here, but I might say that it matters more to the Culture because they're doing it for a more abstract yet intrinsic belief of 'goodness' whereas the Idirans did it for effectively religious reasons
-Adrian- Which *to me* aren't quite as good
-brendan- religion inspired the Idirans to initiate hostilities - the Culture felt bound to respond, especially since the Homomdans had joined on the Idiran side also
-Ritu- I don't disagree with that Adrian. But I think that if you can, you ought to box them in. Otherwise, a belief in goodness leads you to do the same things that a religious dogma would.
-Adrian- But is it possible just to contain them? Ultimately it might end up with more casualties
-Ritu- Yes, and when the Idirans offered truce, Culture felt compelled to keep on attacking.
-Adrian- Since if you didn't destroy their warmaking capability, they could be attacking all the time
-Ritu- It might, but how would you know if you never try.
-Adrian- I admit that I found the Culture's refusal to be strange
-Ritu- And we are not talking about a limited economy here.
-Adrian- Who knows, perhaps a conclave of the Minds decided that it was too likely to fail
-brendan- when did the Culture refuse to recognise a truce??
-Ritu- Read the footnotes about the Idiran history of the war.
-brendan- as I said earlier, the Culture didn't even get round to attacking Idir - the planet never even surrendered
-brendan- I have them open in front of me now... :)
-Adrian- Yes, but to be fair there is more to the Idirans than just their homeworld
-Ritu- Ok, somewhere in those pages there is a line tht starts with something like, "what the Idiran policy makers failed to realise was how essential this war was to Culture and its self-esteem'.
-brendan- In the latter phase of the war: "Despite Homomdan recommendations, the Idirans refused... even to discuss peace"
-brendan- that's true
-Ritu- Yes, what I mentioned is right in the beginning, I think. I don't remember, don't have the copy [Ani does]. So you have the grunt duty, Bren.
-Ritu- oh, ok. *** Rich[away] is now known as Rich
-Rich- You guys should write this up for the List.
-Ritu- :) And type it all out again?
-brendan- that line about self-esteem of the Culture maps to this one:
-Rich- That's what logs are for.
-Ritu- :) I believe that you and Kim are the only ones here who keep these logs.
-brendan- "The Idirans universally assumed that having made their point the people of the Culture would back down..."
-Rich- Probably Brendan does too.
-Adrian- I do as well :)
-Ritu- So you guys decide :)
-Ritu- I am still free :)
-brendan- but "they had comprehensively misapprehended the forces of belief, need - even fear - and morale operating within the Culture"
-Ritu- YEs, that is the one.
-brendan- was in essence a weak one. They were wrong.
-Adrian- I think it is hard for people to believe that such a seemingly decadent culture as the Culture could get so worked up over war
-brendan- whoops! mIRC just lost lots of text for me
-Ritu- I don't know though. I never supported the Idirans but was never comfortable with the Culture philosophy as well [at least in this instance].
-Rich- The thing that gets me is the debate over Vavatch. *Much* worse things would've happened to the people there if the Culture hadn't evacuated and destroyed the Orbital. Witness the fusion bombing of major cities on that neutral planet at the start of the book, an attack with no strategic purpose.
-Rich- Anyway, I'm going to get lunch.
-Ritu- :) Right
-brendan- The Idirans underestimated the resolve of the Culture. They believed that an undisciplined society was inevitably going to be a weak one. They were wrong.
-Ritu- So I never had too much trouble understanding Horza's ambivalence. He acted in ways I wouldn't have, but so did Culture.
-brendan- a big thing for Horza was his hatred of machine life
-brendan- that was one of his prime motivations
-brendan- he also had a kind of respect for Idiran devotion to their religion
-Ritu- Well, they had no experience of an undisciplined society and failed to understand the strength required to maintain one.
-Ritu- Yes, but that I considered to be a case of needing some moral/emotional/psychologica grounding in his own life.
-Ritu- When the book starts, he is already feeling lost and unsure about his life, his actions, his entire existence.
-brendan- they didn't understand the Culture at all - this being the problem of a strongly religious civilisation, an utter inability to objectively analyse. The Idirans felt that their religion guaranteed inevitable victory, that it made them the strongest species going
-Ritu- People tend to cling to silly things at points like that. * Adrian is on the phone right now...
-Ritu- :) ok, you may pipe in later. :)
-brendan- I think it's wrong of him to allow his emotional immaturity to have such a deep effect on others, though
-Adrian- I think that perhaps Horza was just looking for some direction in his life
-brendan- if he was sitting around on a remote planet, fine - but in acting on his directionlessness, he was stepping outside the boundaries of decent conduct
-Ritu- Direction, stability and a sense of belonging.
-brendan- it's like excusing a murderer solely because s/he's a paranoid schizophrenic
-brendan- he was definitely looking for discipline etc, which is why the Idirans appealed to him so much
-Ritu- Bren, of course you are right. But my point is that in that book, he comes across about as morally ambivalent as the Culture.
-Ritu- They both do what they think is right, for their own reasons, dragging others into it.
-brendan- but he's smug enough to think he's morally superior to them. But do they think they're superior to him? I don't pick that up from Balveda, the only Culture agent who talks to Horza
-Ritu- Well, Culture inhabitants don't think in terms of individual superiority, just moral/ideological superiority.
-brendan- Balveda sighs on the CAT, and says that maybe he's right about evolution winning out
-brendan- He says, 'a bit too cheerfully', "we'll get you on the side of the good guys yet!!"
-Ritu- His opinion.
-brendan- it's all black-and-white for Horza - as you say, though, this is most likely a sign of immaturity
-Ritu- It is almost always a sign a immaturity. Or so, I have found.
-Ritu- Well, I need to go now. Koko is home.
* brendan is looking for his lighter, which has gone missing
-Ritu- You just keep one lighter next to you?
-Ritu- I need at least 3!
-Ritu- Bye guys, have a nice day. :)
-brendan- bye Ritu! :)