The End Is Not Yet: Continuity

I replied to a reader commenting on the division between uptime and downtime Ynglings, and it turned into an essay.

Is anyone other than me rooting for the relatively-peaceful Norwegians rather than the ones whom Dovre has been manipulating? Seems to me that the Ynglings at Dovre are only half living in the world of reality, and half in Yngling power-fantasy-land – and that they’ve rejected some of the useful realizations that some of their predecessors had about what would make Norway strong in this timeline. Eugenics in Norway proper doesn’t do much good even if it works, for example, and is the sort of thing that only Ynglings of the bad old sort could dream would be useful. For me the squires and the American colonists (or the “liberal” branch of uptimers) are the more enjoyable bunch and the ones I’d like to see come out on top in the cultural struggle.

Well, you’re right: The Dovre-Ynglings have rejected those insights, or more accurately, they’ve forgotten them. Their strength, and their weakness, is that they have enormous institutional continuity. Most human organisations bend with the winds of time; the Catholic Church today, for example, is utterly unlike the early, almost orgiastic Christian cults – completely different from the only-literate-group that kept some sort of continuity in feudal Europe – totally diverged from the leader-of-Christendom that emerged in the High Medieval period and is the closest Europe has ever had to centralised leadership – entirely apart from its position as a prize and power in the the backstabbing politics of Renaissance Italy – and not really all that much like the world-spanning conservative organisation for which Vatican II was a radically progressive agenda. But it’s all one church! It has bent with the times, and has survived; but I rather doubt Peter – “upon this rock I shall build my Church” – would approve of it. Never mind the gates of Hell; time has done a much more thorough job.

The Ynglings at Dovre don’t work like this; every 25 years, their institutional memory is reset by the arrival of a new agent from the uptime. (Imagine the Church if Jesus popped back every 25 years to check up on them! I suspect there would be a bit less gold on the icons, and to be honest, I think there would be a rather smaller religion, too. The stuff that Jesus preached, whether or not you agree with it, is hard to live up to. Then again, who knows, maybe Jesus would find himself enjoying a bit of the worldly goods too.) “Yngling thinks like Yngling”, so the uptime saying goes, and the agents were all recruited for their ideological purity. Now, a lot of them found, after being hit hard enough with downtime reality, that they could bend or break; and, pragmatically, they chose to bend. But then they died! And were replaced, century after century. And at this time, the Ynglings are, as far as they can see, doing rather well. They control Scandinavia, and indirectly also the British Isles and the vast resources of North America. (That’s how they see it, anyway; the Ynglings at New Bergen might disagree.) Their ideology is taking hold among a large population, in its first or second generation of literacy; just as in OTL, they haven’t had two enormous wars to shatter their civilisation and break their self-confidence. So with no need to bend or break, they don’t bend, and they don’t learn, and they don’t take advantage of the wisdom their predecessors bought with blood.

And who knows? Perhaps they’re right. It’s a new century, and Norway goes from strength to strength. They are no longer trying to impose an uptime ideology on an illiterate peasant mass; the impedance mismatch between Ynglingism and the simple Christianity of the downtime is almost gone. It is the century of ideologies, of mass movements and elan and “making the Supreme Sacrifice”, with no irony or twist of the mouth. It may come, but in this year 1880 no generation has marched into the barbed wire and been cut down by the machine guns. Europe is young, and optimistic; all the world seems to lie at its feet.

And a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a Heaven for?

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