The dynasties of Glourshin

Like most cultures, the Glourshin have barbaric origins. 2000 years ago if you’d asked one of us ‘why do you revel so orgiastically at the festival of Bjinfiggn?' we might have shrugged and said 'the gods tell us to; they drop trees on those who defy them'.

1000 years later if you'd asked why we still revelled so, we might have replied 'the gods enjoy revelling. They want us to enjoy ourselves. We drop trees on those who don’t.' Baby steps.

As recently as 100 years ago if you’d asked the same question, we would have said ‘most of us enjoy it. The others find something else to do.’ Civilisation came slowly to our savage land.

In the last century, a handful of wandering philosophers have come to the capital city. We know little of their culture, still less of where they came from, but they seemed to know what they were doing, the ones who walked into Lesoma.

Before I tell you of the change they wrought, let me further explain the squalor in which we lived before they came.

We had laws, most of them obsolete. Typically they protected the people making them, or even protected the laws themselves. A handful protected the common people - vestiges of the few times we’d successfully banded together to demand more comfortable conditions.

We had social progress, gradually. Over the centuries, raiding the neighbouring Kinewurthy settlements became socially frowned upon. Some of the raiders took Kinewurthi trophy spouses, and saw their young grow up among us; some of the villages found it more profitable to trade; as we grew more prosperous and had time to contemplate, more of us recognised in the Kinewurth the same frustrations, and joys we felt ourselves, and felt increasingly uncomfortable at the prospect of harming them. Eventually, this feeling became enshrined in law.

Similarly we came to consider the gestures of our larvae as representing conscious thought - after the great larval mathematician Gllgll communicated the law of large numbers to a panel of indulgent statisticians, almost no-one could countenance eating him.

We had surprisingly intricate science. A thriving pharmaceutical industry; advanced genetics; huge amounts of data on how people would react to being deceived by pretty researchers. Much of it was useless, and many Glourshai were harmed in the making of it, though on balance we were all thankful for its achievements.

Then we had the public outcry against proboscis-widening genetics, which just made the rich sexier and the poor unable to lift their snouts. After that, funding boards for scientific research had to include at least one impartial cost-benefit analyst. Mostly it didn't make any difference in all the ways you'd expect it wouldn't, but still... it made us feel better.

So yeah, things were pretty terrible.

But finally, in the third Meandering of the Taang dynasty, the Philosophers started arriving. Our ancestors largely ignored them at first, not from any direct hostility as far as we could tell, just from their insistence on strange concepts that they couldn't communicate. We wanted to accommodate them since they seemed to have been traumatised by a past of which they wouldn't speak, and we knew they disliked much of Lesoman tradition, but we couldn't understand why.

Fortunately, as we've learned, philosophy progresses one funeral at a time. As more of the philosophers arrived, and their children became our children, their teachings became our teachings. And eventually, without anyone quite understanding why, we learned that some things were wrong, even if they tended to make us all healthier and happier. We had discovered the world of norms.

So now, at last, our science is moderated by a need to do no harm. Our laws legislate that those who deserve it suffer more than is necessary to deter crime. People have the decency to cover themselves up more at our festivals. And finally our society is Good.

Topic

Fiction

Tags

short light reading fiction


Published

2021-07-30