Nation Shall Rise Against Nation: Biding Time

I conjecture that someone pointed out the separation of gameplay and story: Where, they perhaps asked, is the guerrilla resistance in Norway? I found an answer within the story.

In Norway (where Ecclesiastes is, these days, not highly regarded) there is a new thing under the Sun.

For 400 years, not only has the race been to the swift; bread, quite literally, has been to the wise – at least so far as that elusive quality is captured in the intellectual tasks set each year by the Eugenics Committee. Still, if wisdom is elusive, the Dovre Tests are well able to control for long time preferences, verbalisation skills, abstract thinking, and planning; the attributes of wisdom’s cousin, intelligence. Those few outsiders who know anything about the breeding program have long tended to focus on the flashier, more visually-obvious aspects: Speed, strength, long beards. But, as is often the case, it is the subtle changes to the mind that are the most profound. The Ynglings at Dovre do not think or react as others do.

The difference does not instantly jump out at one, in day-to-day dealings with individuals; there are limits to what can be done in a mere four centuries by selection within the natural variation, and the peak of the intelligence distribution has moved less than two standard deviations. Or, to put it differently, the dimmer Ynglings, the ones of whom their friends speak with eye-rolling impatience or good-natured condescension, would in any other society be counted perfectly normal. The large center of the distribution, the average plumbers and carpenters, might in England or France have been employed as middle managers or bureaucrats. But comparisons with other nations break down; how does society evolve, when its median member has the brainpower required for a degree in the hard sciences, yet must find a job otherwise performed by the un-intellectual? When the average, beer-swilling janitor, Olav Nordmannson whom you might see down at the pub and exchange rounds with, is as literate and articulate as a high-school English teacher? When its leaders, the ones at the upper tail of the distribution, who rise through the ranks almost without effort, are at least as intelligent as a first-rate scientist, with the equals of Neumann and Turing not too unusual?

The Finnish army of occupation does not know what it has got, and it is mightily puzzled. Where, they ask, is the fighting spirit of the Ynglings? The ancestors of these people once fought a hundred-year
guerrilla war to drive out the Germans. But now the rate of violent deaths among the occupation troops is less than it would be in their vodka-pacified home cities. Where is the resistance now? Are they not Ynglings? The Finns are not to know that the guerillas had binoculars and radios in the days of smoothbore muskets. The magic that moved troops like the fingers of a man’s hand, that always caught the Prussians in an unprotected flank, is gone now, swallowed up in progress. But even if that were not true, the Finns’ contempt is not completely without cause: These are, indeed, not the Ynglings who bled and sacrificed for that war. They are something much deadlier.

These Ynglings weigh the odds accurately, conclude that at the present moment resistance is futile, and go about their lives… biding their time, waiting for the moment when futility no longer restrains them. Not for them the hot-blooded taking to the mountains the instant an invader appears. Time preferences are one of the most heavily weighted parts of the Dovre Test, and the result is a nation which routinely thinks in terms of decades, and which will not throw away its life in any but the most effective resistance. (An incidental byproduct is one of the highest saving rates of any nation, contributing considerably to the industrialisation of the Americas.) The Ynglings do not intend to take any action until they have the support of a regular army, or until their occupiers grow fat and lazy with peace – whichever comes first; and they are prepared to wait for generations, if necessary, for their chance.

So when the dull-eyed conquerors march down the roads, the Ynglings pass on the other side, faces held still in neutral politeness. The Finns do not see their eyes when the column has passed; they do not see the notebooks that record unit blazons and numbers, or the quick sketches of officers to be entered in a growing database. The industrialists and farmers deliver requisitioned goods at dictated prices; the Finns know nothing of the network of insurance which ensures no man is ruined by their dictates, or of the care with which their needs are noted. When The Day comes, the logistics of the occupying army will be an open book to the resistance. The women draw lots, and the losers sleep uncomplainingly with soldiers they would have exiled or killed for slowness, had they been born in Norway. The Finns have yet to notice that there are never children of such unions; or that the jealousies among their soldiers do not break out into open fighting, but simmer slowly, driving deadly cracks in the cohesion of their best units.

There are many ways to resist, and while the Ynglings are by no means unwilling to resort to force, they have – at last, at enormous cost – learned patience. Theirs, now, is silence and stillness, not of the prey that cowers, but of the predator, waiting in ambush; the slow deadliness of the vine that strangles a great oak; the irresistible pressure of a flower pushing through rock. What do they care for the contempt of the Finns? The mountains and the sea absorb it without notice; it is beneath them. Foreign boots may tramp the streets of Bergen and Oslo; while the Hall of the Mountain King is inviolate, Norway remains unconquered. And the end is not yet.

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