Night Watch - gave what help he could

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Holger Linge

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Jan 21, 2004, 3:40:36 PM1/21/04
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Hi

I've just finished Night Watch. And while i had no problems
with the most parts of the books there are few words that
make me upset.

It's when the watch investigates the Unmentionable HQ. They
find all these tortured and broken souls and then:

"Just in case, and without any feeling of guilt, Vimes
removed his knife, and...gave what help he could".

Boy, that's hard stuff. Does Vimes actually kill (better:
murder) them? A few sentences later DEATH has his appearance
- with a funny one very contrary to the scene before.

Have i got here something _very_ wrong, or did Vimes really
do it?
--
cu
Holger
.de


Vincent Oberheim

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Jan 21, 2004, 4:12:07 PM1/21/04
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"Holger Linge" <spam5478345...@gmx.de> wrote in message
news:tfot0050r1qdfb3b6...@4ax.com...

I think it's a bit harsh to say that Vimes *murders* them. These poor souls
were so far beyond the help of a doctor that leaving them to die a slow
painful death (in the company of others who have already died that way)
would have far more cruel. And I don't think Vimes' concience would have
allowed him just to leave them.

This of course raises that tricky question of euthanasia, which I personally
haven't made my mind up about. It's one of those situations where you don't
really know how you would act unless you were in that position.

Vincent


Cath Unsworth

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Jan 21, 2004, 5:12:50 PM1/21/04
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"Holger Linge" <spam5478345...@gmx.de> wrote in message
news:tfot0050r1qdfb3b6...@4ax.com...
> Hi
>
> I've just finished Night Watch. And while i had no problems
> with the most parts of the books there are few words that
> make me upset.
>

Spoilers inserted...


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> It's when the watch investigates the Unmentionable HQ. They
> find all these tortured and broken souls and then:
>
> "Just in case, and without any feeling of guilt, Vimes
> removed his knife, and...gave what help he could".
>
> Boy, that's hard stuff. Does Vimes actually kill (better:
> murder) them? A few sentences later DEATH has his appearance
> - with a funny one very contrary to the scene before.
>
> Have i got here something _very_ wrong, or did Vimes really
> do it?
> --
> cu
> Holger
> .de

Yes, it is hard stuff. As it happens, I was rereading that passage last
night, and drew immense comfort from the preceding three sentences:

"And some were dead. Others were ... well, if they weren't dead, if they'd
just gone somewhere in their heads, it was as sure as hell that there was
nothing for them to come back to. The chair had broken them again and
again. They were beyond the help of any man."

Now perhaps I'm skewed by my own moral sense that it is possible to "put
someone out of their misery"; that there are worse things than dying. But -
even if I didn't believe that - the inference of "beyond the help/gave what
help he could" is that Vimes believes his act is merciful. He believes that
either his act has no effect on their awareness, or it ends their private
hell (unless you believe in an afterlife and also believe these victims
deserve to be in hell). It may condemn Vimes, but I for one hope I would be
able to do the same thing.

Alternatively, you can view this episode as a skilfull way of describing
just how awful the torture must have been, without having to think of
gut-turning episodes to describe. These people have been so badly treated,
there is no way back for them. What awful scenes would Pterry have had to
describe to give us the same understanding?

As an afterthought, the line I admire in this scene is young Sam saying he'd
found a woman in the last room and being unable to describe her state,
followed by (a page or so on):

"Vimes glanced at the door of the last room. No, he wasn't going in there
again."

Maybe it's just me, but this is the only time in the book that I can
actually feel Vimes's sense of dislocation at having some memories twice,
from different persepectives. Older Vimes hasn't been in the room, but
young Sam's memory of what was in there is still with him, decades later.
Masterful writing.

Just my view.

Cath


Alec Cawley

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Jan 21, 2004, 5:15:56 PM1/21/04
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In message <bumpv2$jmabd$1...@ID-204143.news.uni-berlin.de>, Vincent
Oberheim <norman....@ntlworld.com> writes

Feeling in a foolhardy mood, I'll take this up. I think there definitely
exist cases in which euthanasia is justified. And this, as the tale is
told us, is definitely one of them. Vimes has done the morally right
thing.

But the morally right thing is not necessarily the legally right thing.
The existence of laws which would allow the morally permissible forms of
euthanasia might have unpleasant side effects. One is the possibility of
the elderly and infirm being pressured into asking for a euthanasia they
do not really want because they feel that they are too much of a burden
on their carers. Another is the opposite - the fear of those who are
beginning to lose their mental faculties (a situation of which I have
closer knowledge than I would wish) may fear that euthanasia is being
planned for them by their carers - to the distresses both of the aged
person and the unjustly accused carers.

I find it difficult to form a good balance between these two
alternatives. I feel that the current compromise, in satisfactory as it
is, is not nearly as bad as the proponents of either extreme make out.
While it could possibly be improved, I don't think that the extremes of
outright legalisation or of total banning of "assisted deaths" would be
better.

--
@lec Šawley

Peter Ellis

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Jan 21, 2004, 5:31:44 PM1/21/04
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al...@spamspam.co.uk wrote:
>
>I find it difficult to form a good balance between these two
>alternatives. I feel that the current compromise, in satisfactory as it
>is, is not nearly as bad as the proponents of either extreme make out.

What compromise? To the best of my knowledge, it remains illegal to
assist a suicide in any way.

>
>While it could possibly be improved, I don't think that the extremes of
>outright legalisation or of total banning of "assisted deaths" would be
>better.

But it *is* totally banned!

Peter

Alec Cawley

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Jan 21, 2004, 5:43:00 PM1/21/04
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In message <MPG.1a790e2e1...@news.cis.dfn.de>, Peter Ellis
<pj...@cam.ac.uk> writes

No. Medication can be given for pain relief, even though the person
administering the pain relief may know that it will "shorten" life i.e.
end it quite soon.

Also, there is a lot of well understood turning of blind eyes which
could be stamped out if people wanted.


--
@lec Šawley

David Cameron Staples

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Jan 21, 2004, 5:57:19 PM1/21/04
to
In Wed, 21 Jan 2004 22:31:44 +0000, Peter Ellis <pj...@cam.ac.uk> in hoc
locus scripsit:

Where you are, maybe.

Some things that we think of as universal Truths, turn out to be local
traditions. The concept that anything which makes a death more likely is
tantamount to murder is one of them. How close the aid can be to actually
causing death outright before being murder, and how likely death was
before the aid are only two of the variables which make this so hard an
issue to debate calmly and reasonably. The existance of euthenasia laws in
several coutries around the world, however, shows that this is not an
insurmountable problem.

--
David Cameron Staples | staples AT cs DOT mu DOT oz DOT au
Melbourne University | Computer Science | Technical Services
"It's hard to negotiate when the client is sniffing at your
crotch and baying at the moon." -- Lord Julius

Paul Wilkins

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Jan 21, 2004, 5:58:10 PM1/21/04
to
On Wed, 21 Jan 2004 22:31:44 +0000, Peter Ellis wrote:
> al...@spamspam.co.uk wrote:
>>I find it difficult to form a good balance between these two
>>alternatives. I feel that the current compromise, in satisfactory as it
>>is, is not nearly as bad as the proponents of either extreme make out.
>
> What compromise? To the best of my knowledge, it remains illegal to
> assist a suicide in any way.

There is legal and there is moral, and sometimes the two don't meet.

--
Paul Wilkins

Peter Ellis

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Jan 21, 2004, 6:12:03 PM1/21/04
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al...@spamspam.co.uk wrote:
>In message <MPG.1a790e2e1...@news.cis.dfn.de>, Peter Ellis
><pj...@cam.ac.uk> writes
>>al...@spamspam.co.uk wrote:
>>>
>>>I find it difficult to form a good balance between these two
>>>alternatives. I feel that the current compromise, in satisfactory as it
>>>is, is not nearly as bad as the proponents of either extreme make out.
>>
>>What compromise? To the best of my knowledge, it remains illegal to
>>assist a suicide in any way.
>>
>>>
>>>While it could possibly be improved, I don't think that the extremes of
>>>outright legalisation or of total banning of "assisted deaths" would be
>>>better.
>>
>>But it *is* totally banned!
>
>No. Medication can be given for pain relief, even though the person
>administering the pain relief may know that it will "shorten" life i.e.
>end it quite soon.

I.e. you are not allowed to do anything specifically for the purpose of
assisting death. However you cut it, that's a ban.

>
>Also, there is a lot of well understood turning of blind eyes which
>could be stamped out if people wanted.

That's true - I'd like to see that "blind eye" formalised and regulated
a bit better, so the boundaries are clearer for all concerned.

Peter

Trevor Marsh

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Jan 21, 2004, 6:34:13 PM1/21/04
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"Holger Linge" <spam5478345...@gmx.de> wrote in message
news:tfot0050r1qdfb3b6...@4ax.com...

For me this one section marks NW apart (very far apart) from the rest of the
DW series. IMO it was handled much more in DW style in Small Gods. With
this one section TP moved the DW series to new "reality" level and made it
much closer to "Round World".


Trev

Mike Stevens

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Jan 21, 2004, 6:48:45 PM1/21/04
to

Depends what country you're in, shirley.


--
Mike Stevens, narrowboat Felis Catus II
Web site www.mike-stevens.co.uk
Me cogitare credo, ergo me esse credo. (Rainy Day Carts)


Peter Ellis

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Jan 21, 2004, 7:00:27 PM1/21/04
to
mike...@which.net wrote:
>Peter Ellis <pj...@cam.ac.uk> wrote:
>> al...@spamspam.co.uk wrote:
>>>
>>> I find it difficult to form a good balance between these two
>>> alternatives. I feel that the current compromise, in satisfactory as
>>> it is, is not nearly as bad as the proponents of either extreme make
>>> out.
>>
>> What compromise? To the best of my knowledge, it remains illegal to
>> assist a suicide in any way.
>>
>>>
>>> While it could possibly be improved, I don't think that the extremes
>>> of outright legalisation or of total banning of "assisted deaths"
>>> would be better.
>>
>> But it *is* totally banned!
>
>Depends what country you're in, shirley.

Well, yes, but Alex was posting in favour of (I assume) the current UK
system, since that's where he's based.

Peter

esmi

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Jan 21, 2004, 7:04:42 PM1/21/04
to
On 21 Jan 2004, "Vincent Oberheim"
<norman....@ntlworld.com> wrote
>"Holger Linge" <spam5478345...@gmx.de> wrote in
>message news:tfot0050r1qdfb3b6...@4ax.com...
>> I've just finished Night Watch. And while i had no problems
>> with the most parts of the books there are few words that
>> make me upset.


[spoiler space inserted]


>> It's when the watch investigates the Unmentionable HQ. They
>> find all these tortured and broken souls and then:

>> "Just in case, and without any feeling of guilt, Vimes
>> removed his knife, and...gave what help he could".

>> Boy, that's hard stuff. Does Vimes actually kill (better:
>> murder) them? A few sentences later DEATH has his appearance
>> - with a funny one very contrary to the scene before.

>> Have i got here something _very_ wrong, or did Vimes really
>> do it?

>I think it's a bit harsh to say that Vimes *murders* them.

Is it? My dictionary defines "murder" as:

<quote>
the unlawful premeditated killing of a human being by another
</quote>

What Vimes seems to have done (and I always assumed he had done)
would certainly have been premeditated in that he would have
thought carefully about what he was about to do, why he was doing
it and if it was the best solution.

>These poor souls were so far beyond the help of a doctor that
>leaving them to die a slow painful death (in the company of
>others who have already died that way) would have far more
>cruel. And I don't think Vimes' concience would have allowed
>him just to leave them.

I do appreciate what you mean. "Murder" is a harsh term to use
but I suspect that says more about a western society that prefers
to use slightly distant terms such as "euthanasia" than about the
actions themselves. I suppose we're trying to clarify the motives
behind the killings and whether these would be deemed Good or
Bad.

>This of course raises that tricky question of euthanasia,
>which I personally haven't made my mind up about. It's one of
>those situations where you don't really know how you would act
>unless you were in that position.

Which is probably why I found this scene in Nightwatch
reminiscent of an early scene in Carpe Jugulum where Granny has
to choose between a baby's life and that of its mother. There are
times when somebody has to take these really awful decisions when
it's not so much the choice between good and bad but between the
lesser of two evils. These are the situations that Granny often
finds herself in because everyone else has avoided them whilst
she is the one person who won't back away from a hard choice.

Similarly Vimes seems to have the same "grit" that won't allow
him to back away from difficult choices simply because he doesn't
like the alternatives on offer or doesn't want to take on the
responsibility. He's aware that *someone* has to do *something*
and, if no one else is willing, he'll do it.

So, I see both Granny and Vimes as realists to the extent that
they can make others, who prefer a more rose-tinted reality,
somewhat uncomfortable.

esmi
--
AFP: www.blackwidows.org.uk/afp/
Internet Guide: www.imp-guide.blackwidows.org.uk
Graphic Art: www.deitydiva.co.uk
Web Design: www.blackwidows.org.uk

Duke of URL

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Jan 21, 2004, 9:37:46 PM1/21/04
to
In news:tfot0050r1qdfb3b6...@4ax.com,
Holger Linge <spam5478345...@gmx.de> radiated into the
WorldWideWait:

> I've just finished Night Watch. And while i had no problems
> with the most parts of the books there are few words that
> make me upset.
>
> It's when the watch investigates the Unmentionable HQ. They
> find all these tortured and broken souls and then:
>
> "Just in case, and without any feeling of guilt, Vimes
> removed his knife, and...gave what help he could".
>
> Boy, that's hard stuff. Does Vimes actually kill (better:
> murder) them?

Trust me, I speak from situational experience. Mercy killing of
irrevocably-slowly-dying torture/disaster victims is NOT murder.
Although it will give you screaming nightmares for years...

Duke of URL

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Jan 21, 2004, 9:39:10 PM1/21/04
to
In news:MPG.1a790e2e1...@news.cis.dfn.de,
Peter Ellis <pj...@cam.ac.uk> radiated into the WorldWideWait:

Not in the Netherlands.


Crowfoot

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Jan 22, 2004, 2:37:41 AM1/22/04
to
In article <MPG.1a79179e1...@news.cis.dfn.de>, Peter Ellis
<pj...@cam.ac.uk> wrote:

I don't think it's possible, though, not really. Seems to me that each
death is too indelibly individual and personal in its details and
implications to be fairly regulable by one set of rules for all; unless
you are Death, of course, in which case --

SMC

--
Crowfoot

Crowfoot

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Jan 22, 2004, 2:34:55 AM1/22/04
to
In article <bun36r$jg3dv$1...@ID-170573.news.uni-berlin.de>, "Mike
Stevens" <mike...@which.net> wrote:

> Peter Ellis <pj...@cam.ac.uk> wrote:
> > al...@spamspam.co.uk wrote:
> >>
> >> I find it difficult to form a good balance between these two
> >> alternatives. I feel that the current compromise, in satisfactory as
> >> it is, is not nearly as bad as the proponents of either extreme make
> >> out.
> >
> > What compromise? To the best of my knowledge, it remains illegal to
> > assist a suicide in any way.
> >
> >>
> >> While it could possibly be improved, I don't think that the extremes
> >> of outright legalisation or of total banning of "assisted deaths"
> >> would be better.
> >
> > But it *is* totally banned!
>
> Depends what country you're in, shirley.

And what community, and what persons are involved. More discretion is
exercised about such incidents than it might at first appear, since the
effect of the discretion is to mask incidents in which great suffering
has been relieved by mercy-killing despite whatever laws happen to
obtain.

It might be worth remembering that on medieval battlefields an amored
European knight often carried a very slim, finely-pointed dagger called
a "miserecordia" which was designed to be stabbed through a chink in a
downed foe's armor to give him the quick death a fallen fellow warrior
was entitled to when survival was just not going to happen, only lots
of pain. These guys were mostly devout Christians, but they took it
as a given that under extreme circumstances, providing a quick dispatch
trumped a smug certainty of one's own reglious uprightness.

Does anyone know whether men with such actions behind them were expected
to go and confess having killed in this manner to their priests or not?

SMC
--
Crow

Scott Elliott Birch

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Jan 22, 2004, 5:28:47 AM1/22/04
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Peter Ellis <pj...@cam.ac.uk> wrote in message news:<MPG.1a790e2e1...@news.cis.dfn.de>...

Lucky for Vimes he wasn't in England, eh?

Scott

Scott Elliott Birch

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Jan 22, 2004, 5:48:02 AM1/22/04
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"Cath Unsworth" <Cat...@btopenworld.com> wrote in message news:<bumth1$qdm$1...@titan.btinternet.com>...


[spoiler thingy]


>
> Alternatively, you can view this episode as a skilfull way of describing
> just how awful the torture must have been, without having to think of
> gut-turning episodes to describe. These people have been so badly treated,
> there is no way back for them. What awful scenes would Pterry have had to
> describe to give us the same understanding?
>

Absolutely.

Clue: Pterry hinted when he wrote about the "ginger beer treatment".
In the real world, it might not be ginger beer, but the bottles are
not necessarily in one piece, either. Vimes did the best thing that
could be done under the circumstances. There are no torture chambers
in England - so English readers can witter on about euthanasia laws
if they want.

Scott

Lesley Weston

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Jan 22, 2004, 11:52:42 AM1/22/04
to
in article 64Cn46Mc...@cawley.demon.co.uk, Alec Cawley at

I guess I'm foolhardy too (shirley not!). There is one situation in which,
IMO, there is no question as to the propriety of euthanasia. The final
stages of Alzheimer's disease leave the patient simply not there - there is
no apparent response of any kind to any stimulus, but they are still
breathing and if water and nutrients are give by IV they can continue to
"live" for year or more. The usual solution in North American hospitals,
and I imagine elsewhere, is to deny an IV and also to stop trying to give
food or water by other means. The patient then takes anything up to two
weeks, or possibly even longer, to die. One can be almost certain (but not
100% certain) that the patient is not aware of what is happening, and so
can't be said to be suffering, but the people who care about the patient are
fully aware and their suffering is appalling. This "treatment" was applied
to the mother of a friend of mine; the effect it had on him explains why I
feel so strongly about this.
The hospital staff who do this are convinced that they are not killing
the patient (which would, of course, be against the law), so they won't give
a quick shot of whatever at the point where they decide to stop trying to
give food and water, which would spare everybody concerned this horror. But
if people left children or animals, or anyone else who couldn't prevent it,
to die like this, everybody else would be outraged and would certainly
consider it murder. Since they are killing the patients anyway, it would be
far better to do it humanely; and if euthanasia is proper in this situation,
perhaps it is in *some* others.
So, wrenching this back to being relevant to abp, IMO Vimes did the
right thing.
--
Lesley Weston.

Brightly_coloured_blob is real, so as not to upset the sys-apes, but I don't
actually read anything sent to it before I empty it. To reach me, use lesley
att vancouverbc dott nett, changing spelling and spacing as required.


Lesley Weston

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Jan 22, 2004, 12:08:21 PM1/22/04
to
in article bunuav$etq$1...@iruka.swcp.com, Crowfoot at suz...@swcp.com wrote on
21/01/2004 11:34 PM:

Perhaps at the same time as they were confessing their deadly assaults on
the victims that originally caused the condition which made killing them
necessary. I don't see any moral difference between trying your very best to
kill someone and succeeding, though they should be given credit for not
prolonging the death.

Duke of URL

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Jan 22, 2004, 12:39:19 PM1/22/04
to
In news:140bc527.04012...@posting.google.com,
Scott Elliott Birch <scott...@hotmail.com> radiated into the
WorldWideWait:

Seen the basement of the Tower?


Rgemini

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Jan 22, 2004, 2:39:59 PM1/22/04
to
<spoiler for Night Watch inserted>

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9
0

1
2
3
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5
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0
Holger Linge wrote:
<snip>

> It's when the watch investigates the Unmentionable HQ. They
> find all these tortured and broken souls and then:
>
> "Just in case, and without any feeling of guilt, Vimes
> removed his knife, and...gave what help he could".
>
> Boy, that's hard stuff. Does Vimes actually kill (better:
> murder) them? A few sentences later DEATH has his appearance
> - with a funny one very contrary to the scene before.
>
> Have i got here something _very_ wrong, or did Vimes really
> do it?

Yes he did - and I hope that I never have to make that choice.

I believe there is a very long tradition of 'ministering to the fallen' on
battlefields, killing those who are so badly injured they will certainly not
survive rather than leaving them to suffer. At that time and in that place,
he and they were in that situation.

For me, the moral issue is not what does the law say, or what does the
established religion say, but what is the least bad outcome that the
protagonist can bring about in an awful situation:

Vimes had two choices only: do nothing about these suffering people, or kill
them quickly. It is clear from the context that none of them could be saved,
or (given his character) he would have done so.

What I don't really understand is that we see mercy-killing as the humane
thing to do with animals but not with people, even in extremis. And I've
known animals that were considerably more self-aware than some hopelessly
ill people. Ah well.

Rgemini


David Cameron Staples

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Jan 22, 2004, 6:04:58 PM1/22/04
to
In Thu, 22 Jan 2004 11:39:19 -0600, "Duke of URL" <macbenahATkdsiDOTnet>
in hoc locus scripsit:

s/no torture chambers/no active torture chambers that anyone knows about/

--
David Cameron Staples | staples AT cs DOT mu DOT oz DOT au
Melbourne University | Computer Science | Technical Services

Laugh while you can, Monkey Boy!

Philip Constable

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Jan 23, 2004, 1:30:33 AM1/23/04
to
David Cameron Staples <sta...@cs.mu.oz.au.SPAM> wrote in message news:<pan.2004.01.22....@cs.mu.oz.au.SPAM>...

> In Thu, 22 Jan 2004 11:39:19 -0600, "Duke of URL" <macbenahATkdsiDOTnet>
> in hoc locus scripsit:
>
> > In news:140bc527.04012...@posting.google.com, Scott Elliott
> > Birch <scott...@hotmail.com> radiated into the WorldWideWait:
> >> "Cath Unsworth" <Cat...@btopenworld.com> wrote in message
> >> news:<bumth1$qdm$1...@titan.btinternet.com>...
> >>
> >> [spoiler thingy]
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>> Alternatively, you can view this episode as a skilfull way of
> >>> describing just how awful the torture must have been, without having to
> >>> think of gut-turning episodes to describe. These people have been so
> >>> badly treated, there is no way back for them. What awful scenes would
> >>> Pterry have had to describe to give us the same understanding?
> >>>
> >>>
> >> Absolutely.
> >>
> >> Clue: Pterry hinted when he wrote about the "ginger beer treatment". In
> >> the real world, it might not be ginger beer, but the bottles are not
> >> necessarily in one piece, either. Vimes did the best thing that could be
> >> done under the circumstances. There are no torture chambers in England -
> >> so English readers can witter on about euthanasia laws if they want.
> >
> > Seen the basement of the Tower?
>
> s/no torture chambers/no active torture chambers that anyone knows about/

A torture chamber is a real-time on-line information retrieval system

Phil

Martin Fleming

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Jan 23, 2004, 4:23:25 AM1/23/04
to

"Holger Linge" <spam5478345...@gmx.de> wrote in message
news:tfot0050r1qdfb3b6...@4ax.com...


If you ever get the chance - take a look at the two signatures in the Tower
of London (I think) that Guy Fawkes gave before and after being put on the
rack.
Before - the flowing script of an educated man in his prime.
After - a barely legible scrawl, that you have to really work hard at to see
the name as fawkes, but it is the same mans writing.
The torture reduced him to nothing, unable to do something a even 4 year old
child could do easily. I can't help but feel he'd have welcomed release at
that moment.
For me this was the most real indication of what torture does to a human. I
feel odd that hearing live testiomany from victims of Pinochet, the Nazis or
PolPot didn't have the impact that little bit of writing did.

Aother point is - if they were rescued, given the 15th Century nature of
Ahnk Morpork(even with it's 21st C overtones), what would their prospects
be? No reconstuctive surgery, no therapy sessions, no welfare state, the
Beggars Guild might have a use for them....... or perhaps they and their
families would be glad to see them mad, or broken dying slow painful deaths
over the coming years.

Boy - that was a lot more serious than I thought it would be.
Oh, and.......... It's a bloody good book.

Martin


robert craine

unread,
Jan 24, 2004, 5:58:03 PM1/24/04
to
"Martin Fleming" <martin....@ntlworld.com> wrote in message news:<lK5Qb.25239$OA3.7...@newsfep2-win.server.ntli.net>...

>
>
> If you ever get the chance - take a look at the two signatures in the Tower
> of London (I think) that Guy Fawkes gave before and after being put on the
> rack.
> Before - the flowing script of an educated man in his prime.
> After - a barely legible scrawl, that you have to really work hard at to see
> the name as fawkes, but it is the same mans writing.
> The torture reduced him to nothing, unable to do something a even 4 year old
> child could do easily. I can't help but feel he'd have welcomed release at
> that moment.

I'd seen that as evidence that they'd broken his fingers or something
similar- i could be wrong.

incidently, although I don't ever want to be euthanased (whatever the
word is). In my opinion existance os better than non-existance, no
matter what the form. Although I except the possibility that there
could be literaly uninmaginable (by me) situations where I might
change my mind.

rob, shuddering slightly at reading, and adding to, this thread.

Stephen Taylor

unread,
Jan 25, 2004, 10:37:52 AM1/25/04
to
In article <bumth1$qdm$1...@titan.btinternet.com>, Cath Unsworth
<Cat...@btopenworld.com> writes
I found this one of the most moving episodes in the book.
Coincidentally, while I was reading NW at home, when I was out in the
car I was listening to a full cast recording of Philip Pullman's His
Dark Materials Trilogy. There's a scene in the first book (Northern
Lights/Golden Compass is you're merkin) where the villain, Mrs Coulter,
is torturing a witch to gain vital information.

The torture is described in part; how, almost casually, Mrs Coulter
breaks one of the witch's fingers. Others have already been working on
her, and this new pain will break her, and force her to reveal the
secret. She cries out for the Witches' Death to come to her. One of the
witches' leaders has been watching, invisibly. Now she steps forward
and, smiling (because the witches believe their Death is a smiling,
joyful woman) kisses her sister as she tenderly slides a dagger into her
heart. It's an act of love, of kindness. The gift of release.

In the same way, I feel Vimes is giving these people the only kindness
he can. We _know_ he hates killing. It's a counterpoint to Carcer.
Carcer kills strangers with no reason to do so, the implication is that
often he doesn't gain anything, except the thrill of killing. Vimes
gains nothing from killing these strangers (except, perhaps, the ability
to sleep at night?), it's a selfless act.

It is strong stuff, but I think it's right that Pterry is leading us
into new places with his writing. Discworld is world and a mirror of
worlds. We can all think of a roundworld version of the Unmentionables.
Often the Dungeon Dimensions are not somewhere else, they're in the
spaces behind our eyes, in our memory and the thoughts that come when
we're alone in the dark. Vimes will always remember what he saw, and
what he did.

I agree with Cath. Under those circumstances, I can only hope I'd have
the courage to do the same as Vimes.

--
SJT Librarian, Bass player and furry person

Peter Ellis

unread,
Jan 25, 2004, 11:19:44 AM1/25/04
to
ste...@hedgehogco.demon.co.uk wrote:
>In article <bumth1$qdm$1...@titan.btinternet.com>, Cath Unsworth
><Cat...@btopenworld.com> writes
>>
>>"Holger Linge" <spam5478345...@gmx.de> wrote in message
>>news:tfot0050r1qdfb3b6...@4ax.com...
>>> Hi
>>>
>>> I've just finished Night Watch. And while i had no problems
>>> with the most parts of the books there are few words that
>>> make me upset.
>>>
>>
>>Spoilers inserted...
>>
>>
>>1
>>
>>
>>2
>>
>>
>>3
>>
>>
>>4
>>
>>
>>5
>>
>>
>>6
>>
>>
>>7
>>
>>
>>8
>>
>>
>>9
>>
>>
>
>I agree with Cath. Under those circumstances, I can only hope I'd have
>the courage to do the same as Vimes.

I don't. This is because I have the humility to realise I'm not
equipped to judge who's going to be traumatised and catatonic for life,
and who's going to rebuild their lives and carry on. No way can you
make that call about someone's future mental state on 5 seconds'
acquaintance, particularly not if they're still in physical pain or
unconscious at the time. I'm in favour of euthanasia in some
circumstances, but it has to be the person's own choice, clearly
articulated when in a fit state to make that decision, not mine.

Now, "In pain, beyond medical help, going to die anyway", I might stand
a fighting chance of guessing. That's why Vimes is in a different
situation, since the medical technology to assist really badly
physically injured people isn't available to him. However, in his
natural timeline, he ought to challenge those impulses now the Igors
are around.

Peter

Baba Yaga

unread,
Jan 25, 2004, 12:10:07 PM1/25/04
to
Holger Linge <spam5478345...@gmx.de> wrote, in
alt.books.pratchett:

>Hi
>
>I've just finished Night Watch. And while i had no problems
>with the most parts of the books there are few words that
>make me upset.
>

>It's when the watch investigates the Unmentionable HQ. They
>find all these tortured and broken souls and then:
>
>"Just in case, and without any feeling of guilt, Vimes
>removed his knife, and...gave what help he could".
>
>Boy, that's hard stuff. Does Vimes actually kill (better:
>murder) them? A few sentences later DEATH has his appearance
>- with a funny one very contrary to the scene before.
>
>Have i got here something _very_ wrong, or did Vimes really
>do it?

He did.

I think how one understands the act hinges on whether one believes
death is the worst thing, and to be delayed by any means - and on
whether that's self-evident. If you hold that it is self-evident,
then Vimes committed murder, in the full meaning of the word.

If it's arguable that death is sometimes preferable to life, or at
least that a decent man might believe so, then I can see no other
reasonable way of reading the passage than that Vimes did what he
believed to be the best thing for the tortured and broken souls. It
seems to me that even if you disagree with him, the episode reveals
something about Vimes' understanding of life and death, and about the
workings of his moral code. There's generosity and a sort of bravery
in such an act, even if it's wrongheaded.

Baba Yaga

--
The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which
there's no good evidence either way.
Bertrand Russell

Terry Pratchett

unread,
Jan 25, 2004, 5:35:11 PM1/25/04
to
In message <32t710h9bqdrgjptk...@4ax.com>, Baba Yaga
<spam...@phonecoop.coop> writes

>Holger Linge <spam5478345...@gmx.de> wrote, in
>
> It
>seems to me that even if you disagree with him, the episode reveals
>something about Vimes' understanding of life and death, and about the
>workings of his moral code. There's generosity and a sort of bravery
>in such an act, even if it's wrongheaded.

And it's arguable -- no, in fact, it's *not* arguable how wrongheaded
this could be in the Ankh-Morpork of the time (which would be barely
Georgian -- today, we'd think differently, and as has been pointed out,
Vimes with an Igor in tow might, too. But this was then.) Vimes ,
veteran of a thousand street fights, would surely know what's survivable
and what is not. These aren't people who've merely met with a nasty
accident, but have been patiently dismembered by inventive experts.
Death would be a release.
--
Terry Pratchett

get starbucks cards

unread,
Jan 27, 2004, 11:01:45 AM1/27/04
to
get_starbucks...@rock.com

and go buy coffee the pain will go away

Baba Yaga

unread,
Jan 28, 2004, 2:51:26 PM1/28/04
to
Terry Pratchett <tprat...@unseen.demon.co.uk> wrote, in
alt.books.pratchett:

Well, drat it, I go out of my way not to step on H. Linge's feet, &
land squarely on yours. Ain't this communication lark fun?

For the little it's worth, my non-hypothetical view is that Vimes'
actions are morally necessary. (& dramatically, but that's another
matter.)

Terry Pratchett

unread,
Jan 28, 2004, 4:07:47 PM1/28/04
to
In message <kg4g10t7sf896crm7...@4ax.com>, Baba Yaga
<spam...@phonecoop.coop> writes

>Well, drat it, I go out of my way not to step on H. Linge's feet, &
>land squarely on yours. Ain't this communication lark fun?

I don't feel trodden on:-) It's just worth keeping in mind that Vimes
isn't operating in 'modern' society and 'wrongheaded' really isn't
really the word.

--
Terry Pratchett

Martin Gradwell

unread,
Feb 2, 2004, 9:18:08 AM2/2/04
to
Spoiler for NW and Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials"
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>

"Stephen Taylor" <ste...@hedgehogco.demon.co.uk> wrote in message
news:Z4IFQ2BQ...@hedgehogco.demon.co.uk...
..


> I found this one of the most moving episodes in the book.
> Coincidentally, while I was reading NW at home, when I was out in the
> car I was listening to a full cast recording of Philip Pullman's His
> Dark Materials Trilogy. There's a scene in the first book (Northern
> Lights/Golden Compass is you're merkin) where the villain, Mrs Coulter,
> is torturing a witch to gain vital information.

Actually it's in the second book of the trilogy,
"The Subtle Knife".

>
> The torture is described in part; how, almost casually, Mrs Coulter
> breaks one of the witch's fingers. Others have already been working on
> her, and this new pain will break her, and force her to reveal the
> secret. She cries out for the Witches' Death to come to her. One of the
> witches' leaders has been watching, invisibly. Now she steps forward
> and, smiling (because the witches believe their Death is a smiling,
> joyful woman) kisses her sister as she tenderly slides a dagger into her
> heart. It's an act of love, of kindness. The gift of release.

Not quite the same as the situation in NW, though it is close.
Serafina, the witch leader, is invisible, unexpected, and she has a knife.
She could take out the chief torturer, at least, and it is unlikely that
the other persons present would want to continue the gratuitous
torture without Mrs. Coulter pressing them on (and it is gratuitous.
The villains believe that their alethiometer can tell them anything they
want to know, so it doesn't matter if the witch tells them nothing).
Instead, Serafina chooses to give "the gift of release" to a victim
who admittedly has broken legs and at least one broken finger,
but broken bones can heal.

>
> In the same way, I feel Vimes is giving these people the only kindness
> he can.

Not quite the same. The injuries suffered by the torture victims
in NW are really just hinted at, but the hints are bad enough.
"In pain, beyond medical help, going to die anyway", as Peter
Ellis puts it. That's more than a broken bone or two.

On every level, His Dark Materials is far "darker" than anything
by Pratchett, including NW even though NW is one of Pratchett's
darkest. I would call it evil, since it is all about taking evil acts and
pretending that they are good. In book one Lord Asriel kills an
innocent young boy, deliberately, merely as a means of opening a
portal to another world i.e. out of curiosity, not out of necessity.
Of course Pullman can't depict that as anything other than an
act of villainy in book one - the readers have to be softened
up before Asriel can be transformed into a would-be deicidal
"hero", but by the end of book three he is so transformed. Will,
the hero of book two, is described as a murderer both by himself
and by Lyra, though the first killing he performs is both accidental
and in self defence (he pushes an assailant who trips over the
cat and falls down the stairs). The church (every church) is
descibed as a gang of "child cutters": "they cut their sexual organs,
yes, both boys and girls - they cut them with knives so that they
shan't feel. That is what the church does, and every church is the
same: control, destroy, obliterate every good feeling."
(book 2, p52 in the Scholastic Press hardback edition).

The episode in His Dark Materials that comes closest in
spirit to the episode in NW is in book three. The ancient
and decrepit god, in his crystal litter, has been ambushed
by cliff-ghasts.

'..the crystal was stained and smeared with mud and the
blood from what the cliff-ghasts had been eating before
they found it. It lay tilted crazily among the rocks, and
inside it -
"Oh, Will, he's still alive! But - the poor thing ..."'

and so on. The expectation is built up that Will will
perform the traditional "act of love, of kindness" but
in fact he can't bring himself to do it. Of couse the
ancient one dies anyway. And that is what would have
happened to the victims of Cable Street too, so that
Vimes's help hardly made any difference, and Will's
inaction hardly made any difference.

HDM is, especially in its latter parts, a torrent of hatred
and twisted thinking. I think something terrible must have
happened to Philip Pullman to push him over an edge.
I am not at all surprised that the trilogy did well in the
Big Read. It is a tale for our times, perfectly suited for
an age and culture which believes in the merits of pre-
emptive war. Still, I can't help feeling a twinge of regret
that our libraries are stocking it in the children's section,
that it is being pushed generally as children's literature.
I can't help thinking that we might have fewer warped
children if such dark materials were reserved for adults
who are equipped with a healthy dose of scepticism,
and aren't likely to accept claims as true merely because
they're embedded in an initially gripping (but later
faltering) story.


Craig A. Finseth

unread,
Feb 2, 2004, 10:46:53 AM2/2/04
to
In article <bvlpkg$685$1...@newsg3.svr.pol.co.uk>,

Martin Gradwell <mtgra...@btinternet.com> wrote:
>Spoiler for NW and Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials"

>HDM is, especially in its latter parts, a torrent of hatred


>and twisted thinking. I think something terrible must have
>happened to Philip Pullman to push him over an edge.

...

I disagree strongly: it is a book that has depth and richness. It is
ultimately about two young people having to grow -- very quickly -- to
the point where they need to make a decision that literally affects
their worlds.

It is also a story where the traditonally "good" organizations are
shown to be not good at all and where someone thought to be very "bad"
was in fact very good. Sort of. Its complicated. For example, he
made it clear that many people who are part of the Church would be
aghast if they knew what Mrs. Coulter was doing. So the Church isn't
a monolithic "evil" organization. There are lots of shades of gray and
explorations of good, bad, innocence, control, and other topics.

I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this series to anyone old enough to
comprehend it. Which includes one of my children but not most adults
(:-)(:-(.

Craig

Mike Stevens

unread,
Feb 2, 2004, 1:06:42 PM2/2/04
to
"Martin Gradwell" <mtgra...@btinternet.com> wrote in message
news:bvlpkg$685$1...@newsg3.svr.pol.co.uk...

> Spoiler for NW and Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials"
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
>
> HDM is, especially in its latter parts, a torrent of hatred
> and twisted thinking. I think something terrible must have
> happened to Philip Pullman to push him over an edge.

He read William Blake. The whole trilogy is redolent of Blake's ideas.


--
Mike Stevens, narrowboat Felis Catus II
web site www.mike-stevens.co.uk

"I'm not an old fart, and I'm not an old bore,
Or a grumpy old b*gg*r like Evelyn Waugh"
(Christopher Matthew)

Jago Illustration

unread,
Feb 2, 2004, 1:13:04 PM2/2/04
to

"Craig A. Finseth" <ne...@finseth.com> wrote in message
news:401e70ed$0$41283$a186...@newsreader.visi.com...


I'd second this opinion, I think HDM are some of the best books I've ever
read. They truly can be read on many levels. My younger brother read them
when he was about 10 and thought they were great, but completely missed out
on the 'love story' element of the books, which for me was one of the most
poignant aspects of the story. I also love the way that there are very few
wholly good/bad people/organisations, which is of course rather like real
life, it aint black and white.

jago


---
Outgoing mail is certified Virus Free.
Checked by AVG anti-virus system (http://www.grisoft.com).
Version: 6.0.573 / Virus Database: 363 - Release Date: 28/01/2004


Rollasoc

unread,
Feb 2, 2004, 3:50:28 PM2/2/04
to

"Mike Stevens" <mike...@which.net> wrote in message
news:bvm3mc$u9f20$1...@ID-170573.news.uni-berlin.de...

> "Martin Gradwell" <mtgra...@btinternet.com> wrote in message
> news:bvlpkg$685$1...@newsg3.svr.pol.co.uk...
> > Spoiler for NW and Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials"
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> >
> > HDM is, especially in its latter parts, a torrent of hatred
> > and twisted thinking. I think something terrible must have
> > happened to Philip Pullman to push him over an edge.
>
> He read William Blake. The whole trilogy is redolent of Blake's ideas.
>

I read HDM about the same time as I read the last Harry Potter book. Given
the amount of publicity about the main character death
in the last HP book and the fact that it was a real anti climax the way it
happened, I hope Rowling learns something from HDM about how to kill off
most of the main characters (which I really think she needs to do over the
next two books). I thought she wimped out quite a lot with the last HP
book.

Stephen Taylor

unread,
Feb 2, 2004, 5:25:03 PM2/2/04
to
In article <bvlpkg$685$1...@newsg3.svr.pol.co.uk>, Martin Gradwell
<mtgra...@btinternet.com> writes

>Spoiler for NW and Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials"
>>
>>
Should have put this in before, many apologies.

>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>
>"Stephen Taylor" <ste...@hedgehogco.demon.co.uk> wrote in message
>news:Z4IFQ2BQ...@hedgehogco.demon.co.uk...
>..
>> I found this one of the most moving episodes in the book.
>> Coincidentally, while I was reading NW at home, when I was out in the
>> car I was listening to a full cast recording of Philip Pullman's His
>> Dark Materials Trilogy. There's a scene in the first book (Northern
>> Lights/Golden Compass is you're merkin) where the villain, Mrs Coulter,
>> is torturing a witch to gain vital information.
>
>Actually it's in the second book of the trilogy,
>"The Subtle Knife".
>
>>
My mistake, sorry.

>> The torture is described in part; how, almost casually, Mrs Coulter
>> breaks one of the witch's fingers. Others have already been working on
>> her, and this new pain will break her, and force her to reveal the
>> secret. She cries out for the Witches' Death to come to her. One of the
>> witches' leaders has been watching, invisibly. Now she steps forward
>> and, smiling (because the witches believe their Death is a smiling,
>> joyful woman) kisses her sister as she tenderly slides a dagger into her
>> heart. It's an act of love, of kindness. The gift of release.
>
>Not quite the same as the situation in NW, though it is close.
>Serafina, the witch leader, is invisible, unexpected, and she has a knife.
>She could take out the chief torturer, at least, and it is unlikely that
>the other persons present would want to continue the gratuitous
>torture without Mrs. Coulter pressing them on (and it is gratuitous.
>The villains believe that their alethiometer can tell them anything they
>want to know, so it doesn't matter if the witch tells them nothing).

But the alethiometer is only as accurate as its user. My impression from
this scene is that the aletheometrist of the party has to work slowly,
checking his books for guidance. It's only Lyra who has the gift of
reading the instrument intuitively.

Mrs Coulter is in a hurry.

I did hope that Serafina would kill Mrs Coulter, although even as I
hoped, I realised it'd be a rather short story without her!

>Instead, Serafina chooses to give "the gift of release" to a victim
>who admittedly has broken legs and at least one broken finger,
>but broken bones can heal.
>

I don't think it's just broken bones that the witch suffers. As in NW, I
think more, and worse, torture is inferred. I read this piece as the
witch having suffered more hurt than was visible.

>> In the same way, I feel Vimes is giving these people the only kindness
>> he can.
>
>Not quite the same. The injuries suffered by the torture victims
>in NW are really just hinted at, but the hints are bad enough.
>"In pain, beyond medical help, going to die anyway", as Peter
>Ellis puts it. That's more than a broken bone or two.

As above.


>
>On every level, His Dark Materials is far "darker" than anything
>by Pratchett, including NW even though NW is one of Pratchett's
>darkest.

I agree.

> I would call it evil, since it is all about taking evil acts and
>pretending that they are good.

I disagree.

I'm not going to try to argue the theological case. Others are more
qualified, and feel more strongly than I ever will. I don't have the
knowledge, nor do I have the strength of faith in any god. I am
disturbed by HDM, in the same way as parts of other books (including
some of Pterry's) disturb me; because they challenge my view of the
world, and they show differences between how I want the world (real or
imagined) to work, and the way it actually does work.

>In book one Lord Asriel kills an
>innocent young boy, deliberately, merely as a means of opening a
>portal to another world i.e. out of curiosity, not out of necessity.

My reading differs from you here. I haven't yet reached the end of Amber
Spyglass, so I don't know how Asriel ends up, but at this point I
understand him as a man driven by an obsession to reach the other world,
and thence to a battle with a God he sees as evil and oppressive. He
sees Roger as a sacrifice, a means to an end that justifies an
"insignificant" death in order to achieve a great goal. I don't think
he's right, but I don't think Roger's death is as gratuitous as you
suggest.

>Of course Pullman can't depict that as anything other than an
>act of villainy in book one - the readers have to be softened
>up before Asriel can be transformed into a would-be deicidal
>"hero", but by the end of book three he is so transformed.

I think you're underestimating both Pullman's writing, and the
intelligence of his readers in this assertion of a cynical "softening
up". In the sense that Asriel commits this first murder as a step to a
greater and more "significant" murder, then of course you're right. But
I don't believe that it's as crass a process as Pullman writing the end
of book one, thinking "If they swallow this, I can get them to swallow
the rest".

>Will,
>the hero of book two, is described as a murderer both by himself
>and by Lyra, though the first killing he performs is both accidental
>and in self defence (he pushes an assailant who trips over the
>cat and falls down the stairs).

Surely the important aspect of that first death is the way that Will
sees himself. In any court, he's guilty of accidentally killing a man
while defending his home. In the UK that's manslaughter at worst. In
Will's mind, he is a murderer. And it's his opinion of himself that the
alethiometer reports to Lyra.

The second death, in the struggle for the subtle knife, is again caused
by Will, but not inflicted directly by him. In both cases, the person
who dies does so because they have allowed their greed to overwhelm
them. In the first case, harassing Will and his mother and trying to
steal Will's father's letters, in the second, by trying to steal the
knife, when Will is the true bearer. Even then Will doesn't kill him,
he's consumed by the spectres.

>The church (every church) is
>descibed as a gang of "child cutters": "they cut their sexual organs,
>yes, both boys and girls - they cut them with knives so that they
>shan't feel. That is what the church does, and every church is the
>same: control, destroy, obliterate every good feeling."
>(book 2, p52 in the Scholastic Press hardback edition).

Setting aside the question of whether Pullman's overt atheist propaganda
(in attributing the worst actions of some and specific churches and
religions to all of them) is any more flawed than C.S. Lewis' Christian
allegory in the Narnia series, or Tolkein's manufactured mythologism,
this church is the church of Lyra's world, not ours. That world is a
different place, where gypsies travel by water, not by road, where
amberic energy, and not electricity flows, and witches fly.

Isn't the idea of fantasy to take the known and twist it, sometimes by
180 degrees?


>
>The episode in His Dark Materials that comes closest in
>spirit to the episode in NW is in book three. The ancient
>and decrepit god, in his crystal litter, has been ambushed
>by cliff-ghasts.
>
>'..the crystal was stained and smeared with mud and the
>blood from what the cliff-ghasts had been eating before
>they found it. It lay tilted crazily among the rocks, and
>inside it -
>"Oh, Will, he's still alive! But - the poor thing ..."'
>
>and so on. The expectation is built up that Will will
>perform the traditional "act of love, of kindness" but
>in fact he can't bring himself to do it. Of couse the
>ancient one dies anyway. And that is what would have
>happened to the victims of Cable Street too, so that
>Vimes's help hardly made any difference, and Will's
>inaction hardly made any difference.
>

I haven't got this far yet, so can't comment in detail. Dragging
ourselves back to the vaguely relevant, I think Vimes' action _does_
make a difference. Your comparison (not mine, because I haven't got to
this bit yet!) between his offering help to the torture victims, and
Will apparently failing to kill The Authority seems to me (on limited
knowledge) to be a false one. The Cable Street victims were innocent
(insofar as anyone is innocent when, as Vimes knows, everyone's guilty
of something), in Pullman's terms, the Authority is the torturer,
fallen.

>HDM is, especially in its latter parts, a torrent of hatred
>and twisted thinking. I think something terrible must have
>happened to Philip Pullman to push him over an edge.
>I am not at all surprised that the trilogy did well in the
>Big Read. It is a tale for our times, perfectly suited for
>an age and culture which believes in the merits of pre-
>emptive war.

It's also a disturbing and thought provoking read. Surely, if it were
not at least reasonably well-written, it would not provoke such debate.

>Still, I can't help feeling a twinge of regret
>that our libraries are stocking it in the children's section,
>that it is being pushed generally as children's literature.

If you worked where I do, you'd know that "pushing" literature at
children has about the same effect as trying to herd cats! If children
read it (and, I grant you, it's a difficult read) they read it on their
own terms. Marketing and peer pressure might account for book one being
read, but after that, it's down to whether they enjoy it, or get
something out of it.

>I can't help thinking that we might have fewer warped
>children if such dark materials were reserved for adults
>who are equipped with a healthy dose of scepticism,
>and aren't likely to accept claims as true merely because
>they're embedded in an initially gripping (but later
>faltering) story.
>

Oh dear, now you're beginning to make me nervous. To follow this line of
argument to its logical conclusion, should not any books that change or
challenge thinking be reserved for those "equipped" to read them? So
nothing for children except approved material, bland and
unexceptionable. And perhaps some test for adults, to check they have
reached the required ability to be able to healthily question and reject
the dangerous, the uncomfortable, the...heretical?

Anyway, why would children believe one part (the church and God are
evil) as true, when they know that there are no talking bears, witches
on cloud pine branches, etc.? It's also such a demanding read that I
would think that anyone not able to think for themselves about the
issues in the book would lack the ability to get beyond page 4 of the
first part.

I think you're blurring an objection to the book on grounds of faith -
which is your own and nobody should be able to gainsay it, and literary
criticism. You seem to be arguing that it's an evil book, and also that
it's a bad book, in the sense of badly written. If it's an evil book,
badly written, then it'll die a natural death. The novelty will wear off
and any evil it does will be transitory.

Martin Gradwell

unread,
Feb 2, 2004, 8:04:28 PM2/2/04
to

"Craig A. Finseth" <ne...@finseth.com> wrote in message
news:401e70ed$0$41283$a186...@newsreader.visi.com...
> In article <bvlpkg$685$1...@newsg3.svr.pol.co.uk>,
> Martin Gradwell <mtgra...@btinternet.com> wrote:
> >Spoiler for NW and Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials"
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
> >HDM is, especially in its latter parts, a torrent of hatred
> >and twisted thinking. I think something terrible must have
> >happened to Philip Pullman to push him over an edge.
> ...
>
> I disagree strongly: it is a book that has depth and richness. It is
> ultimately about two young people having to grow -- very quickly -- to
> the point where they need to make a decision that literally affects
> their worlds.

What decision? They cling together, "blindly pressing their faces
towards each other", they speak of love, and we cut away to
another scene. When we return, the children are no longer children,
and suddenly the terrible destructive outflow of vital dust has been
stemmed. Isn't it lucky that the world can be saved just by two
adolescent children doing what comes naturally? And, filled with
love, swearing undying love, the children return home to their
respective worlds and never meet again. Isn't it lucky that they
don't have to meet again, that a one night stand by two children
is entirely sufficient to transform an entire collection of worlds?
But they don't "decide" anything. "*Before they knew how it
happened*, they were clinging together." We are told they were
confused. They went with the flow. And the message is that if
only you too can go with the flow, you too can save a stack of
universes. As if. And they don't really decide to part afterwards
either, it's something forced on them by an implacable set of
natural laws. If you try to live in another universe, your life will
be short, just ten years or so. You can't pay brief visits to other
universes either, it seems, without terrible adverse consequences.
So pure pragmatism forces them to live apart. Only, why
doesn't one of them decide to stay with the other, and hang
the consequences? What's wrong with a short but completely
fulfilled life?

>
> It is also a story where the traditonally "good" organizations are
> shown to be not good at all and where someone thought to be very "bad"
> was in fact very good.

I still prefer my explanation. It's a story where people who
are indubitably extremely bad are *depicted* as if they are
good. And vice versa. Will is called a murderer, when he
isn't. Lord Asriel is a demented child-killer, and yet we're
expected to approve of him because he is anti-God too.
And for a "Republic of Heaven" too, it seems, though he is
always *Lord* Asriel, there's never any "just call me Azzie".
Mrs. Coulter commits every crime imaginable, but in the
end she has some feelings towards her own daughter, so
that's all right then .. and so on. Clergy are particularly
vilified, and their beliefs ridiculed, with God presented as
an incredibly decrepit and impotent usurper. And one
night stands and unfaithfulness are mandatory, dictated
by laws biult into the very fabric of the universe. Will's
father is killed because he refuses to be unfaithful to
Will's mother. Sister Mary gives up her vocation because
she remembers a long-forgotten brief encounter with
a boy, and she decides she wants another encounter
or series of brief encounters with men. And so on.

> Sort of. Its complicated. For example, he
> made it clear that many people who are part of the Church would be
> aghast if they knew what Mrs. Coulter was doing.

That's book one. In books two and three instead of bad
individuals we have bad institutions. "Every church is the


same: control, destroy, obliterate every good feeling."

And tha's not just true in Lyra's parallel universe. Will is
supposedly from our own universe, and though there
is said to be a vast number of universes they all share
the same Kingdom of Heaven, the same decrepit and
impotent "god", the same weak, vain and stupid angels,
the same dingy and undesirable afterlife. So all the agents
of every church in every universe must be liars and
deceivers. As well as being child-cutters and torturers
and so on.


> So the Church isn't
> a monolithic "evil" organization. There are lots of shades of gray and
> explorations of good, bad, innocence, control, and other topics.

Find a good churchman, anywhere in the trilogy. Otyets Semyon
does put Will up for a while and help him out, but he does also
try to get Will drunk, and would probably betray Will in an instant
if he knew what Will was up to. The Cardinal and his shipboard
entourage are party to torture. Father Gomez is an assassin who
thinks it's OK to kill because he's been given absolution in
advance. The "gobblers", the "child cutters" who inflict enormous
pain and degradation on children, and transform them into zombies
apparently for no better reason than because they can, they are
church-sponsored. And near the end: "It seemed that the power
of the church had increased greatly, and that many brutal laws had
been passed" .. the anti-church message is plugged obsessively.
There are shades of grey - in fact every evil action is shaded
grey, if it isn't painted white - but there are no shades of grey
where the church is concerned.

>
> I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this series to anyone old enough to
> comprehend it. Which includes one of my children but not most adults
> (:-)(:-(.
>
> Craig

We'll probably have to agree to differ on that.

Martin.


Martin Gradwell

unread,
Feb 2, 2004, 8:41:25 PM2/2/04
to

"Mike Stevens" <mike...@which.net> wrote in message
news:bvm3mc$u9f20$1...@ID-170573.news.uni-berlin.de...
> "Martin Gradwell" <mtgra...@btinternet.com> wrote in message
> news:bvlpkg$685$1...@newsg3.svr.pol.co.uk...
> > Spoiler for NW and Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials"
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> >
> > HDM is, especially in its latter parts, a torrent of hatred
> > and twisted thinking. I think something terrible must have
> > happened to Philip Pullman to push him over an edge.
>
> He read William Blake. The whole trilogy is redolent of Blake's ideas.

William Blake was a great metaphysical poet and artist.
Pullman wouldn't know what metaphysics was if it came
up to him and hit him in the face. For him, everything is
physical, so for instance the afterlife takes place in a
dingy set of underground caverns, and escape is simply
a matter of finding a place close enough to the surface
so you can dig a way out.

Blake can talk about the soul wandering through
caverns, but when he does he is using a metaphor.
He doesn't mean that you can inquire meaningfully
about whether the rock in the caverns is sedimentary
or volcanic.

Now I know Terry has Death's domain, but that's
not the same thing. Even when Death is behaving
exactly like a person, you know that in some sense
he is a metaphor too. And besides, he's funny, and
he isn't supposed to be analysed to himself.

You can find the complete poetry and prose of William Blake at
http://www.english.uga.edu/nhilton/Blake/blaketxt1/
and you can search through it all at
http://www.english.uga.edu/Blake_Concordance/

Can you find any idea of Blake that bears even the
slightest resemblance to anything from Pullman?
If you can, I'd be interested to know. I don't mean
mere coincidences of language, like where Blake
paints the "Ancient of Days" and Pullman describes
an "ancient of days". Blake's Ancient is depicted
as a strong and wise creator/designer, nothing like
Pullman's pathetic creature.


Graycat

unread,
Feb 3, 2004, 4:42:59 AM2/3/04
to
On Tue, 3 Feb 2004 01:04:28 -0000, "Martin Gradwell"
<mtgra...@btinternet.com> wrote:

>
>"Craig A. Finseth" <ne...@finseth.com> wrote in message
>news:401e70ed$0$41283$a186...@newsreader.visi.com...
>> In article <bvlpkg$685$1...@newsg3.svr.pol.co.uk>,
>> Martin Gradwell <mtgra...@btinternet.com> wrote:
>> >Spoiler for NW and Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials"
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>> >HDM is, especially in its latter parts, a torrent of hatred
>> >and twisted thinking. I think something terrible must have
>> >happened to Philip Pullman to push him over an edge.
>> ...
>>
>> I disagree strongly: it is a book that has depth and richness. It is
>> ultimately about two young people having to grow -- very quickly -- to
>> the point where they need to make a decision that literally affects
>> their worlds.

Personally I think it's about the importance of love and being human,
and the dangers of institutions where people think of other people as
things (to bring it slightly R :o) and think dogmatically.

>What decision? They cling together, "blindly pressing their faces
>towards each other", they speak of love, and we cut away to
>another scene. When we return, the children are no longer children,
>and suddenly the terrible destructive outflow of vital dust has been
>stemmed. Isn't it lucky that the world can be saved just by two
>adolescent children doing what comes naturally? And, filled with
>love, swearing undying love, the children return home to their
>respective worlds and never meet again. Isn't it lucky that they
>don't have to meet again, that a one night stand by two children
>is entirely sufficient to transform an entire collection of worlds?

It isn't just a one night stand. They are transformed into Adam and
Eve, again performinng the act that makes us human. The whole book is
about how being "impure" is not a sin but a sign of being human -
knowing the difference between good and evil is a good thing, leaving
the naiveté of childhood behind for the more nuanced thinking of
adults is a good thing.

>But they don't "decide" anything. "*Before they knew how it
>happened*, they were clinging together." We are told they were
>confused. They went with the flow. And the message is that if
>only you too can go with the flow, you too can save a stack of
>universes.

No, it says that if you are unafraid to be human and flawed you can
save yourself.

>As if. And they don't really decide to part afterwards
>either, it's something forced on them by an implacable set of
>natural laws. If you try to live in another universe, your life will
>be short, just ten years or so. You can't pay brief visits to other
>universes either, it seems, without terrible adverse consequences.
>So pure pragmatism forces them to live apart. Only, why
>doesn't one of them decide to stay with the other, and hang
>the consequences? What's wrong with a short but completely
>fulfilled life?

What's wrong with not being a sentimental sop? They are barely in
their teens. Of course your first love will always have a place in
your heart, but they usually aren't who you spend the rest of your
life with. In fact, they usually aren't who you spend the rest of the
year with either, let alone ten. Why would Lyra (who has so far been
the most life affirming person around) suddenly decide that, no, it's
allright to die in a few years. Or Will, who has just discovered that
maybe life is good after all?

>> It is also a story where the traditonally "good" organizations are
>> shown to be not good at all and where someone thought to be very "bad"
>> was in fact very good.
>
>I still prefer my explanation. It's a story where people who
>are indubitably extremely bad are *depicted* as if they are
>good. And vice versa.

It's more a story about how people are neither universally good or
universally evil. However, Pullman, like Pratchett, thinks that
treating people as things is evil (the ultimate sin if you like). Both
Coulter and Asriel are guilty of this, as is the church.

>Will is called a murderer, when he
>isn't. Lord Asriel is a demented child-killer, and yet we're
>expected to approve of him because he is anti-God too.
>And for a "Republic of Heaven" too, it seems, though he is
>always *Lord* Asriel, there's never any "just call me Azzie".

No, he is an overbearing and arrogant bastard, but that doesn't mean
that he can have good ideas, or good intentions. He has however, gone
so deeply nto his purpose that it's twisted him and he can see nothing
else.

>Mrs. Coulter commits every crime imaginable, but in the
>end she has some feelings towards her own daughter, so
>that's all right then .. and so on.

It's not all right, but she does see that Lyra is a person, not an
object to be manipulated, and that goes some way of redeemng her. She
feels love, and that goes further. As I said, the importance of love
is the message in all the books.

>Clergy are particularly
>vilified, and their beliefs ridiculed, with God presented as
>an incredibly decrepit and impotent usurper. And one
>night stands and unfaithfulness are mandatory, dictated
>by laws biult into the very fabric of the universe. Will's
>father is killed because he refuses to be unfaithful to
>Will's mother. Sister Mary gives up her vocation because
>she remembers a long-forgotten brief encounter with
>a boy, and she decides she wants another encounter
>or series of brief encounters with men. And so on.

As before, it's not about the sex. Pullman is against a faith and a
church that is not life affirming (as he sees it), it calls human
drives and pleasures evil, and praises self-denial. To him, that is
evil and any god who wishes that is a false god. A true god would wish
the happiness and fulfillment of his children. He sees the christian
god as a sort of vampire, feeding on our prayers and belief and the
life force and hapiness the church makes us deny ourself by calling
them evil.

>> Sort of. Its complicated. For example, he
>> made it clear that many people who are part of the Church would be
>> aghast if they knew what Mrs. Coulter was doing.
>
>That's book one. In books two and three instead of bad
>individuals we have bad institutions. "Every church is the
>same: control, destroy, obliterate every good feeling."
>And tha's not just true in Lyra's parallel universe. Will is
>supposedly from our own universe, and though there
>is said to be a vast number of universes they all share
>the same Kingdom of Heaven, the same decrepit and
>impotent "god", the same weak, vain and stupid angels,
>the same dingy and undesirable afterlife.

The afterlife was caused by humans interupting the way the worlds were
supposed to work, wasn't it? The cutting up of the fabrc of the
universe with the subtle knife. That's why they can't go between the
worlds any more, because it drains the world of life force (dust) and
dooms the people to an eternity in hell. Meaning that we shouldn't try
to unravel the world, and things should sometimes not get poked.

>So all the agents
>of every church in every universe must be liars and
>deceivers. As well as being child-cutters and torturers
>and so on.

No, because we do have free will. The teachings of christianity, yes,
Pullman is strongly opposed to them, especially I get the feeling,
catholicism. But I doubt that he thinks that the original message of
Christ is evil. He feels that istitutionalising faith makes it rigid
and unhuman, dogmatic and destructive because it will grow in such a
way that favours the institution and it's members (in this case
priests) rather than the believers themselves. To him, that is evil,
and a corruption of the message of god.

>> So the Church isn't
>> a monolithic "evil" organization. There are lots of shades of gray and
>> explorations of good, bad, innocence, control, and other topics.
>
>Find a good churchman, anywhere in the trilogy. Otyets Semyon
>does put Will up for a while and help him out, but he does also
>try to get Will drunk, and would probably betray Will in an instant
>if he knew what Will was up to. The Cardinal and his shipboard
>entourage are party to torture. Father Gomez is an assassin who
>thinks it's OK to kill because he's been given absolution in
>advance. The "gobblers", the "child cutters" who inflict enormous
>pain and degradation on children, and transform them into zombies
>apparently for no better reason than because they can, they are
>church-sponsored. And near the end: "It seemed that the power
>of the church had increased greatly, and that many brutal laws had
>been passed" .. the anti-church message is plugged obsessively.
>There are shades of grey - in fact every evil action is shaded
>grey, if it isn't painted white - but there are no shades of grey
>where the church is concerned.

See above.

But it's not just the church with is vilified, science too get's a
fair thrashing. The people who capture children and try to purify them
by cutting away their souls are very much like the scientists of the
30s who thought they could improve people by cutting up their brains.
Pullman says that being human is a good thing, and humans, with all
their failings, are beautiful, and especially our ability to love
_with_ it's carnal expression (which is where he most strongly differs
from the church). We are both soul and body, and unlike the church
teaches, both are equally good. We aren't a pure soul trapped in an
unclean and imperfect body - soul and body are one and both neccesary,
take one away and we are no longer human. Being a physical and carnal
creature is a good thing, it's how we were created and how we were
supposed to be. Any attempt to remove our humanity by "purifying" or
"perfecting" us, be it by decree or by knife, religion or science, is
by default evil because it denies the beauty of what we are.

I would be rather surprised if Pullman isn't a quite deeply spiritual
and believing man. He just doesn't like the christianity of the
church.

If you happen to be deeply christian, I can understand how you would
feel strongly against this book. If you, like me, are vaguely spritual
and strongly anti-institution, then it's a very life-affirming ode to
love.

--
Elin
The Tale of Westala and Villtin
http://www.student.lu.se/~his02ero/index.html

From adress valid, but rarely checked. Use Reply-To to contact me

Mike Stevens

unread,
Feb 3, 2004, 5:16:50 AM2/3/04
to
Martin Gradwell <mtgra...@btinternet.com> wrote:
> "Mike Stevens" <mike...@which.net> wrote in message
> news:bvm3mc$u9f20$1...@ID-170573.news.uni-berlin.de...
>> "Martin Gradwell" <mtgra...@btinternet.com> wrote in message
>> news:bvlpkg$685$1...@newsg3.svr.pol.co.uk...
>>> Spoiler for NW and Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials"
>>>>
>>>>
>>>>
>>>>
>>>>
>>>>
>>>>
>>>>
>>>>
>>>>
>>>>
>>>>
>>>>
>>>>
>>>>
>>>>
>>>>
>>>>
>>>>
>>>>
>>>>
>>>>
>>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>> HDM is, especially in its latter parts, a torrent of hatred
>>> and twisted thinking. I think something terrible must have
>>> happened to Philip Pullman to push him over an edge.
>>
>> He read William Blake. The whole trilogy is redolent of Blake's
>> ideas.
>
> William Blake was a great metaphysical poet and artist.

He was also a highly idiosyncratic political philosopher. Actually I'm
not sure I'd call Blake a metaphysician - more of a mystic. And
certainly not a "metaphysical poet" in the sense in which the phrase is
used in Lit.Crit. - but that may well not be what you meant. There's
a lot of apocalyptic style in Blake's writing.

> Can you find any idea of Blake that bears even the
> slightest resemblance to anything from Pullman?
> If you can, I'd be interested to know.

Well, I was only part-way into the first volume when I'd started spotted
lots of Blake influence. The whole "innocence and experience" thing -
a major theme in the first volume of HDM and the title of a set of Blake
poems.

But most of all, the identification of the Churches with the exploiters.
Blake saw an evil alliance between the Church, the industrialists, the
financiers and the scientists. Read his "Milton" (whose subject was
another great anti-clerical writer) and his "Jerusalem" (not the song
generally known under that title, which is from the preface to "Milton",
but the epic poem called "Jerusalem"). Blake's "dark satanic mills"
refer just as much to churches as they do to factories. In this, Pullman
is very close to Blake. Blakes prime representatives of evil are the
Churches and Isaac Newton, both of which se sees as prime sources of
exploitation.

All in all I felt after reading the whole HDM trilogy that there was so
much of Blake in it that it must have been deliberate on Pullman's part.

But we're getting off-topic for this list, so if we want to continue the
discussion, perhaps we'd better to go e-mail.

--
Mike Stevens, narrowboat Felis Catus II

Web site www.mike-stevens.co.uk
No man is an island. So is Man.


Craig A. Finseth

unread,
Feb 3, 2004, 9:54:44 AM2/3/04
to
In article <bvmvg3$vcm$1...@newsg2.svr.pol.co.uk>,

Martin Gradwell <mtgra...@btinternet.com> wrote:
>
>"Craig A. Finseth" <ne...@finseth.com> wrote in message
>news:401e70ed$0$41283$a186...@newsreader.visi.com...
>> In article <bvlpkg$685$1...@newsg3.svr.pol.co.uk>,
>> Martin Gradwell <mtgra...@btinternet.com> wrote:
>> >Spoiler for NW and Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials"
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
...
>> I disagree strongly: it is a book that has depth and richness. It is
>> ultimately about two young people having to grow -- very quickly -- to
>> the point where they need to make a decision that literally affects
>> their worlds.
>
>What decision? They cling together, "blindly pressing their faces
>towards each other", they speak of love, and we cut away to
>another scene. When we return, the children are no longer children,
>and suddenly the terrible destructive outflow of vital dust has been
>stemmed. Isn't it lucky that the world can be saved just by two

I didn't read the stemming of the dust as having anything to do with
what the children did just then. The children were "taking a break"
so to speak and events just carried on. This probably explains a lot
of our difference in viewpoint.

>adolescent children doing what comes naturally? And, filled with
>love, swearing undying love, the children return home to their
>respective worlds and never meet again. Isn't it lucky that they
>don't have to meet again, that a one night stand by two children
>is entirely sufficient to transform an entire collection of worlds?

See above.

>But they don't "decide" anything. "*Before they knew how it

Yes, they do. How many 12 year olds do you know that are willing to
make decisions like this? How many adults? I think you're selling
them short.

I agree that we will differ.

Craig

Martin Gradwell

unread,
Feb 4, 2004, 11:23:36 AM2/4/04
to

"Graycat" <gra...@passagen.se> wrote in message
news:a5pu10528cgau6rhe...@4ax.com...

> On Tue, 3 Feb 2004 01:04:28 -0000, "Martin Gradwell"
> <mtgra...@btinternet.com> wrote:
>
> >
> >"Craig A. Finseth" <ne...@finseth.com> wrote in message
> >news:401e70ed$0$41283$a186...@newsreader.visi.com...
> >> In article <bvlpkg$685$1...@newsg3.svr.pol.co.uk>,
> >> Martin Gradwell <mtgra...@btinternet.com> wrote:
> >> >Spoiler for NW and Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials"

Just HDM now, but with some references to Small Gods.

> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
..


> >Isn't it lucky that they
> >don't have to meet again, that a one night stand by two children
> >is entirely sufficient to transform an entire collection of worlds?
>
> It isn't just a one night stand. They are transformed into Adam and
> Eve, again performinng the act that makes us human.

.. and doing it just the once, and parting irrevocably, but that's
OK because they will no doubt do it with others. Not quite the
same as the original Adam and Eve.

> The whole book is
> about how being "impure" is not a sin but a sign of being human -
> knowing the difference between good and evil is a good thing, leaving
> the naiveté of childhood behind for the more nuanced thinking of
> adults is a good thing.

But what they do is not nuanced thinking. It hardly qualifies
as thinking at all. It is a surrender to instinct. They are far
more adult, and far more aware of the distinction between
good and evil, in the earlier books.

>
> >But they don't "decide" anything. "*Before they knew how it
> >happened*, they were clinging together." We are told they were
> >confused. They went with the flow. And the message is that if
> >only you too can go with the flow, you too can save a stack of
> >universes.
>
> No, it says that if you are unafraid to be human and flawed you can
> save yourself.

More than that, surely. A whole planet is dying, because the "dust"
is flowing out of it. The giant trees on which so many creatures depend
are falling, one by one. And all the dust needs, to stem the flow, is a
focal point. And children don't attract dust, only adults do that. So
by "becoming adults", by, you know, stroking each other's daemons,
the children provide the focal point. And they only need to do it the
once. Which is just as well because there are implacable laws of
nature which ordain that every human relationship must be fleeting,
and anyone anywhere who tries to go against those laws is visited
with terrible punishments.

.
> > .. So pure pragmatism forces them to live apart. Only, why


> >doesn't one of them decide to stay with the other, and hang
> >the consequences? What's wrong with a short but completely
> >fulfilled life?
>
> What's wrong with not being a sentimental sop? They are barely in
> their teens. Of course your first love will always have a place in
> your heart, but they usually aren't who you spend the rest of your
> life with. In fact, they usually aren't who you spend the rest of the
> year with either, let alone ten.

But a few lines ago they were the new Adam and the new Eve.
So which is it? Puppy love, or the ushering in of a Brave New
World? Both?

Why would Lyra (who has so far been
> the most life affirming person around) suddenly decide that, no, it's
> allright to die in a few years. Or Will, who has just discovered that
> maybe life is good after all?

Earlier Lyra had been willing to undergo terrible risks,
any one of which could have resulted in death in seconds,
never mind years. She had even courted death, quite
literally, in order to make her personal "Death of Lyra"
appear and conduct her to the underworld; where she
parted with her daemon, which is the mark of being alive.
She had the remote prospect of returning, but in every
other respect she was dead. And she had argued strongly
and eloquently for this "death". But at the end of the
story, after all she has been through, she becomes just
a careful conservative whose biggest adventure will be
re-learning how to use the alethiometer.

..


> It's more a story about how people are neither universally good or
> universally evil. However, Pullman, like Pratchett, thinks that
> treating people as things is evil (the ultimate sin if you like). Both
> Coulter and Asriel are guilty of this, as is the church.

Pratchett certainly sees that. Which is why I like Pratchett
as much as I dislike Pullman. And you think Pullman is like
Prachett, but I can't see it. I'd like to get back to relevance
by explaining how I can like Small Gods and dislike HDM
when both are highly critical of a corrupt church, but I can't
find my copy of SG so I'd have to work from memory.
The best I can do is mention the Unorthodox Potato Church,
the one presumably inspired by a certain Mr. Tulip. It may
be a bad church, it may be ridiculous, but it isn't real and
we know it isn't. The Omnian church may have a lot of
resonances with real churches, but again we know it isn't
real. And any implied criticism of real churches in Pratchett
is justified because real churches have done reprehensible
things, such as the inquisition. The failings Pratchett focuses
on are real failings.

Pullman begins by describing an imaginary church, but
in books 2 and 3 he makes it clear that the criticism extends
to every church, and it is not focused un any real flaws, but
on unsupported assertions. All churches are child-cutters,
child-torturers, child molesters, destroyers of freedom and
initiative, built on a lie, pretending to serve God but actually
self-serving. And God is "at some inconceivable age, decrepit
and demented, unable to act or think or speak and unable to
die, a rotten hulk". And the afterlife is actually a cruel and
dreary prison camp.instituted by God in his younger, fitter
days just so we can know that he is cruel as well as decrepit
and demented and impotent. And there is no Christ anywhere,
and not even the hint of one, so that Will and Lyra are the
closest thing anyone has to a saviour.

Can you see the difference?

>
> >Will is called a murderer, when he
> >isn't. Lord Asriel is a demented child-killer, and yet we're
> >expected to approve of him because he is anti-God too.
> >And for a "Republic of Heaven" too, it seems, though he is
> >always *Lord* Asriel, there's never any "just call me Azzie".
>
> No, he is an overbearing and arrogant bastard, but that doesn't mean
> that he can have good ideas, or good intentions. He has however, gone
> so deeply nto his purpose that it's twisted him and he can see nothing
> else.

You see through him, at least partially (I presume that the
first can should be can't). But being an overbearing and arrogant
bastard is the least of his crimes. Thinking that the end justifies
the means, that it's OK to kill kids if your purpose is "high" enough,
that is the worst of his crimes, and in book 1 that seems to be
clear enough. But in book 3 we have all this nonsense about the
"Republic of Heaven", which isn't worth the death of a fly never
mind the death of a child. It's all intended to confuse, to defend
the indefensible.

>
> >Mrs. Coulter commits every crime imaginable, but in the
> >end she has some feelings towards her own daughter, so
> >that's all right then .. and so on.
>
> It's not all right, but she does see that Lyra is a person, not an
> object to be manipulated, and that goes some way of redeemng her. She
> feels love, and that goes further. As I said, the importance of love
> is the message in all the books.

Love certainly helps, but for someone who has committed
as many crimes as Mrs Coulter a little remorse too wouldn't
be amiss. And love for one's own offspring is only what
comes naturally to most people. It does transform Mrs Coulter
back into a human being, where previously she was some
sort of monster, but that's as far as her redemption goes.
Had she lived beyond the end of the book, the suspicion has
to be that she would still have been a scheming torturer

>
> As before, it's not about the sex. Pullman is against a faith and a
> church that is not life affirming (as he sees it), it calls human
> drives and pleasures evil, and praises self-denial. To him, that is
> evil and any god who wishes that is a false god. A true god would wish
> the happiness and fulfillment of his children. He sees the christian
> god as a sort of vampire, feeding on our prayers and belief and the
> life force and hapiness the church makes us deny ourself by calling
> them evil.

Yes, that's how he sees it, or at least how he tells it. And you don't
see anything wrong with that? But, just suppose that the churches
weren't all entirely composed of deluded pleasure-hating monsters.
In that case, wouldn't there be something wrong with such divisive,
hateful and hate-inspiring labelling of entire huge sections of society?
Suppose Pullman was to say the same things about Jews that he
says about Christians? Don't you think there'd be an uproar?
And yet he does. "I have travelled in the south lands. There are
churches there, believe me, that cut their children too .. they cut


their sexual organs, yes, both boys and girls - they cut them with

knives so that they shan't feel" is a reference to the jewish practice
of male circumcision, and the practice in some animistic and muslim
tribes of female circumcision. "And every church is the same".
To Pullman, Christian, jew, muslim or whatever, it's all the same,
it's all "the Church", and all to be tarred with the same brush.
Only atheism, devil-worship and maybe wicca are exempt.

> >..Will is


> >supposedly from our own universe, and though there
> >is said to be a vast number of universes they all share
> >the same Kingdom of Heaven, the same decrepit and
> >impotent "god", the same weak, vain and stupid angels,
> >the same dingy and undesirable afterlife.
>
> The afterlife was caused by humans interupting the way the worlds were
> supposed to work, wasn't it?

No. The world of the dead "is a prison camp. The
authority established it in the early ages" according to
Balthamos. See the "Balthamos and Baruch" chapter
in book 3.

> The cutting up of the fabrc of the
> universe with the subtle knife. That's why they can't go between the
> worlds any more, because it drains the world of life force

It was never possible to go between worlds without adverse
consequences. There are only two known ways for humans to
traverse between worlds, in Pullman's universe. 1) using the
subtle knife, and 2) sacrificing children. Both have their drawbacks.
Pullman's message is there's millions of fascinating worlds, and
for a while huge vistas seemed to open up, with the possibility
of free travel between them all, but in reality you're stuck in
whatever dead end you're presently occupying. And when you
die you die, and that's the end of it, and you should think yourself
lucky because it used to be worse. Or you could sacrifice
children, or have the knife reconstituted and never mind the
terrible consequences. Why not, if it's for a noble purpose?

..


>
> No, because we do have free will. The teachings of christianity, yes,
> Pullman is strongly opposed to them, especially I get the feeling,
> catholicism. But I doubt that he thinks that the original message of
> Christ is evil.

I don't see how you can infer this. He never mentions Christ.
He presents a "Christianity" without any Christ, without even
the slightest hint of one. And Christ's message wasn't just
"be nice to one another - why not?"; it was rooted firmly in
a belief in a loving Father/Creator God, which Pullman explicitly
rejects.

..


>
> But it's not just the church with is vilified, science too get's a
> fair thrashing. The people who capture children and try to purify them
> by cutting away their souls are very much like the scientists of the
> 30s who thought they could improve people by cutting up their brains.

.. and they are described by Pullman as "experimental theologians".

..


>We are both soul and body, and unlike the church
> teaches, both are equally good. We aren't a pure soul trapped in an
> unclean and imperfect body

I don't know of any religion that says that we are.

- soul and body are one and both neccesary,
> take one away and we are no longer human.

In other words

"Body and Soul but Truly One
The human person, created in the image of God,
is a being at once both corporeal and spiritual"

From the "Catechism of the Catholic Church". p82.


> Being a physical and carnal
> creature is a good thing, it's how we were created and how we were
> supposed to be. Any attempt to remove our humanity by "purifying" or
> "perfecting" us, be it by decree or by knife, religion or science, is
> by default evil because it denies the beauty of what we are.
>
> I would be rather surprised if Pullman isn't a quite deeply spiritual
> and believing man. He just doesn't like the christianity of the
> church.

Believing in what? In a vicious and depraved but fortunately
impotent god? In a meaningless and implacable universe that
forces people to live in their own little islands and destroys or
at best thwarts them when they try to reach out? In grabbing
as much experience as you can while alive, because when
you're dead you're dead? In a terrible world packed full of
child-torturers and killers who don't even realsie that that's
what they are?

>
> If you happen to be deeply christian, I can understand how you would
> feel strongly against this book. If you, like me, are vaguely spritual
> and strongly anti-institution, then it's a very life-affirming ode to
> love.

We really will have to agree to differ.


Martin Gradwell

unread,
Feb 4, 2004, 11:38:47 AM2/4/04
to

"Craig A. Finseth" <ne...@finseth.com> wrote in message
news:401fb634$0$41291$a186...@newsreader.visi.com...

> In article <bvmvg3$vcm$1...@newsg2.svr.pol.co.uk>,
> Martin Gradwell <mtgra...@btinternet.com> wrote:
> >
> >"Craig A. Finseth" <ne...@finseth.com> wrote in message
> >news:401e70ed$0$41283$a186...@newsreader.visi.com...
> >> In article <bvlpkg$685$1...@newsg3.svr.pol.co.uk>,
> >> Martin Gradwell <mtgra...@btinternet.com> wrote:
> >> >Spoiler for NW and Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials"

Just HDM now.

> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> ...


> > we cut away to
> >another scene. When we return, the children are no longer children,
> >and suddenly the terrible destructive outflow of vital dust has been
> >stemmed. Isn't it lucky that the world can be saved just by two
>
> I didn't read the stemming of the dust as having anything to do with
> what the children did just then. The children were "taking a break"
> so to speak and events just carried on. This probably explains a lot
> of our difference in viewpoint.

Maybe I'm misunderstanding some aspects of HDM, but
this one is actually pretty well signposted.

As I've just said in another post in this thread:


"A whole planet is dying, because the "dust" is flowing out of it.
The giant trees on which so many creatures depend are falling,
one by one. And all the dust needs, to stem the flow, is a focal
point. And children don't attract dust, only adults do that. So
by "becoming adults", by, you know, stroking each other's
daemons, the children provide the focal point."

This explanation is reaffirmed several times, in the book
e.g. "The Dust pouring down from the stars had found a
living home again, and these children-no-longer-children,
saturated with love, were the cause of it all".

>
> >adolescent children doing what comes naturally? And, filled with
> >love, swearing undying love, the children return home to their
> >respective worlds and never meet again. Isn't it lucky that they
> >don't have to meet again, that a one night stand by two children
> >is entirely sufficient to transform an entire collection of worlds?
>
> See above.
>
> >But they don't "decide" anything. "*Before they knew how it
>
> Yes, they do. How many 12 year olds do you know that are willing to
> make decisions like this?

Only confused ones, who don't really know what they are getting
into. That's why it's so important not to confuse 12-year-olds.


Rgemini

unread,
Feb 4, 2004, 1:27:08 PM2/4/04
to
Bravo Martin! You have expressed exactly my own feeling about HDM and in a
far more cogent and clearly reasoned form than I ever could.

In matters of faith I am humanist and a-gnostic, but know well enough the
teachings of Christ and how they have been corrupted over the years by
deluded or self-seeking people, and how that corruption became the
established church. But that does not make Pullman's HDM worldview in any
way acceptable to me, and I recognise the good things that have been done as
well as the repellant.

What I don't understand is how the religious zealots who see evil in Harry
Potter and try to ban it don't make a much bigger fuss over HDM, which as
far as I can see promotes every heresy that's ever been!

On a different tack, I was given HDM for christmas and read the entire
trilogy in one, seven-hour sitting. OK I finished at 3am and wasn't up to
much next day, but I wanted to see how it all ended and you know how it is
...

Rgemini


weirdwolf

unread,
Feb 4, 2004, 1:43:20 PM2/4/04
to
"Martin Gradwell" <mtgra...@btinternet.com> wrote in news:bvr9np$qdv$1
@newsg1.svr.pol.co.uk:

>
> "Graycat" <gra...@passagen.se> wrote in message
> news:a5pu10528cgau6rhe...@4ax.com...
>> On Tue, 3 Feb 2004 01:04:28 -0000, "Martin Gradwell"
>> <mtgra...@btinternet.com> wrote:
>>
>> >
>> >"Craig A. Finseth" <ne...@finseth.com> wrote in message
>> >news:401e70ed$0$41283$a186...@newsreader.visi.com...
>> >> In article <bvlpkg$685$1...@newsg3.svr.pol.co.uk>,
>> >> Martin Gradwell <mtgra...@btinternet.com> wrote:
>> >> >Spoiler for NW and Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials"
>
> Just HDM now, but with some references to Small Gods.
>
>> >>
>> >>
>> >>
>> >>
>> >>
>> >>
>> >>
>> >>
>> >>
>> >>
>> >>
>> >>
>> >>
>> >>
>> >>
>> >>
>> >>
>> >>
>> >>
>> >>
>> >>
>> >>
>> >>
> ..
>> >Isn't it lucky that they
>> >don't have to meet again, that a one night stand by two children
>> >is entirely sufficient to transform an entire collection of worlds?
>>
>> It isn't just a one night stand. They are transformed into Adam and
>> Eve, again performinng the act that makes us human.
>
> .. and doing it just the once, and parting irrevocably, but that's
> OK because they will no doubt do it with others. Not quite the
> same as the original Adam and Eve.

Hmm well the mythical adam and eve didn't really have much of a choice of
partners did they?
Unless of course you include Lillith as the earliest divorce...
They parted because they had to, the kingdom of heaven had been overthrown
and the gaps between the realities were allowing the erm wraith thingies
through.
They never gave up there love for one another, but circumstances forced
them apart. They chose to live apart for the good of the creatures who
inhabit the multiverse, to try and form a better reality for all people, a
greater cause I couldn't imagine.
I would imagine that as a catholic the giving up of the transient love
between two people in order to dedicate a life to a faith and pupose of
creating a better world, after all isn't that what catholic priests are
supposed to be doing.
Ted


--
Evil is such a negative term........
I prefer differently moraled.
\ /
0 0
°
~
Y

Mengmeng Zhang

unread,
Feb 4, 2004, 4:07:25 PM2/4/04
to
Martin Gradwell <mtgra...@btinternet.com> wrote:

[snip]

> To Pullman, Christian, jew, muslim or whatever, it's all the same,
> it's all "the Church", and all to be tarred with the same brush.
> Only atheism, devil-worship and maybe wicca are exempt.

Ok, I too am not terribly fond of the unsubtleness of HDM as compared to
for example SG, but I certainly don't hate the trilogy like you seem to.
But this statement of yours just has me going WTF?! Atheism I can see,
Wicca I can see. But devil-worship? You can't really worship the devil
if you don't think he exists.

Or am I one of those hapless people being tricked by the devil into
doing his work by not embracing Christ? Sorry for the straw man, but
there's _nothing_ in HDM to suggest approval of "devil-worship". Geez.
(no pun intended)

MZ

weirdwolf

unread,
Feb 4, 2004, 4:19:14 PM2/4/04
to
Mengmeng Zhang <meng...@math.utexas.edu> wrote in news:bvrmud$m0k$1
@geraldo.cc.utexas.edu:

Even the wiccan aspect is strained to say the least, just because it
says witch doesn't mean to say that it's wicca.
Wicca is a modern "religion" not more than what 100 years old.

Graycat

unread,
Feb 4, 2004, 6:05:11 PM2/4/04
to
On Wed, 4 Feb 2004 16:23:36 -0000, "Martin Gradwell"
<mtgra...@btinternet.com> wrote:

>
>"Graycat" <gra...@passagen.se> wrote in message
>news:a5pu10528cgau6rhe...@4ax.com...
>> On Tue, 3 Feb 2004 01:04:28 -0000, "Martin Gradwell"
>> <mtgra...@btinternet.com> wrote:
>>
>> >
>> >"Craig A. Finseth" <ne...@finseth.com> wrote in message
>> >news:401e70ed$0$41283$a186...@newsreader.visi.com...
>> >> In article <bvlpkg$685$1...@newsg3.svr.pol.co.uk>,
>> >> Martin Gradwell <mtgra...@btinternet.com> wrote:
>> >> >Spoiler for NW and Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials"
>
>Just HDM now, but with some references to Small Gods.
>
>> >>
>> >>
>> >>
>> >>
>> >>
>> >>
>> >>
>> >>
>> >>
>> >>
>> >>
>> >>
>> >>
>> >>
>> >>
>> >>
>> >>
>> >>
>> >>
>> >>
>> >>
>> >>
>> >>

I think you are looking too much at the text, and failing to see
through it, it's like when you drive a car, you can't look _at_ the
windshield, you have to look through it. Now, just so you know, I
don't think Pullman is as good as Pratchett, and I thought the series
got clumsier and more self serving as it went, but I still liked it
well enough.

>> It isn't just a one night stand. They are transformed into Adam and
>> Eve, again performinng the act that makes us human.
>
>.. and doing it just the once, and parting irrevocably, but that's
>OK because they will no doubt do it with others. Not quite the
>same as the original Adam and Eve.

No, but it's symbolical. That one act is all that is required, for
those few minutes they are Adam and Eve, and then they are Will and
Lyra again. They are performing a function which is not dependent on
them being them, just them being two people.

>> The whole book is
>> about how being "impure" is not a sin but a sign of being human -
>> knowing the difference between good and evil is a good thing, leaving
>> the naiveté of childhood behind for the more nuanced thinking of
>> adults is a good thing.
>
>But what they do is not nuanced thinking. It hardly qualifies
>as thinking at all. It is a surrender to instinct. They are far
>more adult, and far more aware of the distinction between
>good and evil, in the earlier books.

Yes, but Pullman has chosen to use sex as the boundary between child
and adult, a distinction he is hardly alone in making.

>> No, it says that if you are unafraid to be human and flawed you can
>> save yourself.
>
>More than that, surely. A whole planet is dying, because the "dust"
>is flowing out of it. The giant trees on which so many creatures depend
>are falling, one by one.

Yes, but how do you write a children's adventure story without an
adventure? The grand plot of saving the worlds is narrative
causuality, a device to underscore the importance of what he saying.
The words aren't supposed to be taken literally.

>And all the dust needs, to stem the flow, is a
>focal point. And children don't attract dust, only adults do that. So
>by "becoming adults", by, you know, stroking each other's daemons,
>the children provide the focal point. And they only need to do it the
>once. Which is just as well because there are implacable laws of
>nature which ordain that every human relationship must be fleeting,
>and anyone anywhere who tries to go against those laws is visited
>with terrible punishments.

Where do you get that? Human emotion often is fleeting, but I can't
remember him saying that they have to be, or that it's a good thing,
it just isn't neccesairly the end of the world.

>> > .. So pure pragmatism forces them to live apart. Only, why
>> >doesn't one of them decide to stay with the other, and hang
>> >the consequences? What's wrong with a short but completely
>> >fulfilled life?
>>
>> What's wrong with not being a sentimental sop? They are barely in
>> their teens. Of course your first love will always have a place in
>> your heart, but they usually aren't who you spend the rest of your
>> life with. In fact, they usually aren't who you spend the rest of the
>> year with either, let alone ten.
>
>But a few lines ago they were the new Adam and the new Eve.
>So which is it? Puppy love, or the ushering in of a Brave New
>World? Both?

Yes, both. Through their puppy love, if you like, they perform the act
that makes the dust flow stop, making them symbolically Adam and Eve.

> Why would Lyra (who has so far been
>> the most life affirming person around) suddenly decide that, no, it's
>> allright to die in a few years. Or Will, who has just discovered that
>> maybe life is good after all?
>
>Earlier Lyra had been willing to undergo terrible risks,
>any one of which could have resulted in death in seconds,
>never mind years. She had even courted death, quite
>literally, in order to make her personal "Death of Lyra"
>appear and conduct her to the underworld; where she
>parted with her daemon, which is the mark of being alive.
>She had the remote prospect of returning, but in every
>other respect she was dead. And she had argued strongly
>and eloquently for this "death".

First of all, I don't think that she really for a second thinks that
she willactually die - she believes in stories, and in stories the
hero aöways comes through. Secondly, she had a purpose that was larger
than herself at the time, she was saving the world.

>But at the end of the
>story, after all she has been through, she becomes just
>a careful conservative whose biggest adventure will be
>re-learning how to use the alethiometer.

No, her biggest adventure will be life, with all that it brings of
joy, sorrow, love, exploration, hate, sex, food and everything else.

>> It's more a story about how people are neither universally good or
>> universally evil. However, Pullman, like Pratchett, thinks that
>> treating people as things is evil (the ultimate sin if you like). Both
>> Coulter and Asriel are guilty of this, as is the church.

> And any implied criticism of real churches in Pratchett


>is justified because real churches have done reprehensible
>things, such as the inquisition. The failings Pratchett focuses
>on are real failings.

>Pullman begins by describing an imaginary church, but
>in books 2 and 3 he makes it clear that the criticism extends
>to every church, and it is not focused un any real flaws, but
>on unsupported assertions.

Unsupported assertions which he believes are true, it's a work of
fiction, not a work of science. You don't agree with his opinion, as
is your right, but he is entitled to his opinion. And I don't think
that he is all wrong. Yes the church has in the past been guilty of
great crimes, but it is not all clean now either. Many evils have been
done in the name of the church in quite recent times - read up on the
Magdalene Convents in Ireland or the child abuse accusations against
priests just recently for some highly relevant examples. The christian
faith as taught by the church and religious schools can be (and often
is, even more often was a few decades back) very opressive and
life-denying.

>All churches are child-cutters,
>child-torturers, child molesters, destroyers of freedom and
>initiative, built on a lie, pretending to serve God but actually
>self-serving. And God is "at some inconceivable age, decrepit
>and demented, unable to act or think or speak and unable to
>die, a rotten hulk". And the afterlife is actually a cruel and
>dreary prison camp.instituted by God in his younger, fitter
>days just so we can know that he is cruel as well as decrepit
>and demented and impotent.

No. The entity the _church_ thinks is God is cruel, decrepit, demented
and impotent. Meaning that the _teachings_ of the church as an
institution are that way.

>And there is no Christ anywhere,
>and not even the hint of one, so that Will and Lyra are the
>closest thing anyone has to a saviour.

Yes, and what is so awful about that?

>> >Will is called a murderer, when he
>> >isn't. Lord Asriel is a demented child-killer, and yet we're
>> >expected to approve of him because he is anti-God too.
>> >And for a "Republic of Heaven" too, it seems, though he is
>> >always *Lord* Asriel, there's never any "just call me Azzie".
>>
>> No, he is an overbearing and arrogant bastard, but that doesn't mean
>> that he can have good ideas, or good intentions. He has however, gone
>> so deeply nto his purpose that it's twisted him and he can see nothing
>> else.
>
>You see through him, at least partially (I presume that the
>first can should be can't).

Yes, it should :o)

>But being an overbearing and arrogant
>bastard is the least of his crimes. Thinking that the end justifies
>the means, that it's OK to kill kids if your purpose is "high" enough,
>that is the worst of his crimes, and in book 1 that seems to be
>clear enough. But in book 3 we have all this nonsense about the
>"Republic of Heaven", which isn't worth the death of a fly never
>mind the death of a child. It's all intended to confuse, to defend
>the indefensible.

Which is? The opinion that the church as an institution teaches
opressive and spirit-killing things? I don't think that's an
indefensible opinion at all. I mightn't always agree with it, but I'm
pretty sure I could defend it f I tried.

>> >Mrs. Coulter commits every crime imaginable, but in the
>> >end she has some feelings towards her own daughter, so
>> >that's all right then .. and so on.
>>
>> It's not all right, but she does see that Lyra is a person, not an
>> object to be manipulated, and that goes some way of redeemng her. She
>> feels love, and that goes further. As I said, the importance of love
>> is the message in all the books.
>
>Love certainly helps, but for someone who has committed
>as many crimes as Mrs Coulter a little remorse too wouldn't
> be amiss. And love for one's own offspring is only what
>comes naturally to most people. It does transform Mrs Coulter
>back into a human being, where previously she was some
>sort of monster, but that's as far as her redemption goes.
>Had she lived beyond the end of the book, the suspicion has
>to be that she would still have been a scheming torturer

Yes, probably. But see, Pullman says that being human is enough. You
can be a good human, or a bad human, but as long as you are still
human all hope is not lost.

>> As before, it's not about the sex. Pullman is against a faith and a
>> church that is not life affirming (as he sees it), it calls human
>> drives and pleasures evil, and praises self-denial. To him, that is
>> evil and any god who wishes that is a false god. A true god would wish
>> the happiness and fulfillment of his children. He sees the christian
>> god as a sort of vampire, feeding on our prayers and belief and the
>> life force and hapiness the church makes us deny ourself by calling
>> them evil.
>
>Yes, that's how he sees it, or at least how he tells it. And you don't
>see anything wrong with that?

No, not really. I don't live in accordance with what the church
teaches, nor have I ever wished to or ever intended to teach my
children to. I don't believe in christianity and the christian god. I
don't think sex is a sin, I don't think homosexuality is a sin - in
fact, I don't believe in sin at all. I don't believe in an afterlife
so I see no point in emotionally and sensually starving yourself in
this life just so you can have it all perfect in the next one. I don't
approve of complete hedonism and selfishness, but IMO the step from
here to there is quite a large one. I do however think tha