In Regards to Chapters 10 through Chapter 16 of
Jonathan Letham's Girl in Landscape
10 February 1999
Letham suggests, via the Archbuilders, that English is a language of names. He was not the first to suggest this. Crowley and other mystics prefer to talk about "labels" and how "labels are not the thing itself". It seems odd that Letham would single out English of being unique in this "crime". Perhaps it is because I only speak English and my education towards other languages is at this point extremely limited, but I can not imagine a language which communicates without labels or names.
Strip all the names out of the preceding paragraph and you have:
|suggests, via the , that is a of . was not the first to suggest this. and other prefer to talk about and how "are not the itself". It seems odd that would single out of being unique in this. Perhaps it is because I only speak and my towards other is at this extremely limited, but I can not imagine a which communicates without or .|
The above makes no sense (or if it makes sense, it's only from memory of the former paragraph). Thus names, however misleading, are a necessity to facilitate communication. And while we can easily work to show that labels are not true knowledge since we rely on other labels to define each label and the arguments eventually become circular, there is no way to get away from labels if we wish to communicate.
The settlers did try to apply old and known words / names / labels to their new life. This was to be expected. Labels are power. When we name something, we gain control of it, thus Adam's naming spree in Genesis and various conventions about magickians / warlocks / witches hiding their true names. The settlers would of course label from the language they were already familiar with (English) rather than invent a new language without etymological roots. And of course the labels should fail because they were inherantly inaccurate.
And it also seemed inherent that Clement should do "Clement things" while Pella would seek to do "Pella things". Clement, being an adult and set in his ways, ways which didn't do very well for him on the Earth where they were developed was bound to fail because he made little effort to adapt. Pella not having had any particular defining habits was more inclined to adapt to the planet's needs - her ways did not come from Earth.
The houses and money, like names, are also a carry over from Earth with little function beyond helping the humans adjust to an unusual environment. They have no functional value.
I agree that the Archbuilders did have a mild air of Shakespearean jesters, however they didn't really communicate as much information nor have the sort of license a jester might have to say otherwise forbidden things.
The issue of other sex was inherent within the setting of the novel, although most other novelists seem to avoid the issue. A small group of humans, lacking females, lives among extra terrestrials. One need know very little about men before seeing where that formula goes. Being of liberal disposition, I have little problem with that, although there are a few related issues that come up.
First, there is a question of "What is perversion"? The idea of taboo is culturally defined. There are no universal definitions. And "modern civilization" today seems prepared to accept most any (non-harmful) action between two consenting adults. But what is consent and what is an adult? Can a young person or a beast give consent? In America, it is legally declared they can not, but is this true? Other cultures have come to different conclusions. And so what of a consent from an alien whose perspective seems youthful in comparison with our own "mature" views?
In many ways, a human having sex with an open minded hermaphrodite alien leads to issues involving homosexuality, pedofilia, and bestiality.
I'm not going to argue homosexuality on the grounds that (A) if you don't believe it be now, you probably never will and (B) I've argued it elsewhere.
About bestiality, all I can say is the practice is ancient and has been accepted by some cultures (it is even discussed in Kama Sutra) and often occurs between non-human animals. An animal might not understand what is happening, but that doesn't mean it doesn't enjoy it even more than we do (for example, a pig's orgasm can last an hour, while a male human orgasm lasts for one 6 second and a female's for an hour.) Thus, we can say that animals are always unwilling participants. If we agree that animals may give consent, then all we can argue is our personal disgust - which then brings us to an extention of the argument in favour of accepting homosexuality.
Pedofilia is a bit of a trickier subject to discuss since people can be very emotional in their handling of the matter. There are really two issues to discuss. The first, age of consent, is really arbitrary and I shall throw it out the window. The second, is really the backbone of the first - what does consent mean? If I promise a greedy young kid a nickel for the right to chop his finger off and he unwittingly agrees, most would agree that the consent was not valid.
The question is, what must a young person understand about the way their body functions and the risks (mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically) they take before they can be sexual creatures? Age limitations are built upon presumptions that people develop these awarenesses at a similar rate.
Some cultures will even allow parents / adults to sexually stimulate their children so long as it is for the pleasure of the child and not for the pleasure of the adult; in the former case this would be considered positive, while in the latter a perversion. Who is to say this is wrong? Indeed, it can be argued that this attitude makes a great deal of sense, though it may sometimes be difficult, particularly in a society quick to condemn each other, to distinguish positive sexual contact with perversion.
The household deer raise issues of privacy and voyeurism. These creatures (and those who should see through their eyes) are invading the privacy of those they might see. But what is this need for privacy? If people only act acceptably, they should have nothing to hide or be condemned for, and people can experience a greater amount of life's lessons if they can participate vicariously in events that might not ordinarily include them.
I think the unwillingness to be seen and accepted is a reflection of an unwillingness to see and to accept. We know that we look out, see others, and condemn them. We expect the same treatment. Learn to change our perspective and we may someday do away with our incessant need for privacy.
Is this world with it's free food and inclement weather a Utopia? Well, as the food is limited in variety and not especially pleasing and there are few people to interact with, one would say not.
But does that mean that without a motive to develop a serious work ethic it should always remain a boring hell? That's an absurd, slippery slope, argument. The fact that a world afford a minimum of comfort even to those who are not industrious, does not mean people can not find a way to make the world better for themselves.
On the contrary, rather than being slaves to their bodily needs, they can now put their work efforts towards higher, mental, emotional, or spiritual pursuits. They may take the time to develop art, be social, find a meaningful relationship with the world beyond an exhausting 9 to 5 job. Or if labour is their delight, this world also afford opportunity for that.
I think it's rather disgusting that anyone, particular someone who's livelyhood is a matter of useless intellectual pursuits, would condemn a culture that does not foster a ridiculous enslaving work ethic.