The Perfect Governor

Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: & / Teaching / Society / NoHier / Kleptocracy /
@ K. 2000 10 10

The theory used to be that aristocrats made the best governors because, being landed, being creditors of rents, being “independent,” they were less corruptible than some son of a guildsman. Now the theory is that since “the people” pay the taxes, if taxes pay the legislator, then the legislator works for the people, not for himself (not for the lobbyists who also pay, sometimes paying more than “the people”).
Of course these are “theories” as in “untested hypothesis” (or an in tested hypothesis where the test results are ignored), not as in rational or scientific theory.

If you’ve read at least a module or two before clicking on this one, you can already anticipate the kind of points I’ll make here. Here’s the deal: you make those points yourself; I’m going to make a point that I doubt three people in the world could guess. This will be real information: unpredictable.

I’m going to repeat someone else’s story. If he were reading this I doubt if at this point he’d be able to predict whose story or which one (simply because if he knew me enough to trust my intelligence, I’d have heard from him by now). (He would instantly think of his story, the exact right one, but not believe that I would know or mention it.) It’s a story of a perfect governor.

The story is fiction of course. I don’t believe there ever have been any actual perfect governors: unless you mean by perfect that they lived in a big house and had lots of people scurrying around for them. In that case, perfection is common. (I wish the author of the story did know me and my work since my third novel (Dark Beacon) was inspired by the coincidence of reading his story of torture the night before going to the dentist and being tortured there myself.)

The story is not only fiction, but science fiction: real science fiction from a man rich and famous for science fantasy (“science” in the latter phrase meaning little more than pure bullshit). Both science fiction and science fantasy are appealing to authors, not only because sometimes the stuff gets published, sometimes the stuff sells, sometimes the author gets paid (“promptly upon lawsuit” was the phrase with Campbell) … but because you can freely invent the culture, the characters, and hell: the science too.

Guy, the protagonist, is a guard at an interstellar penal colony. No bleeding heart busybodies looking into how he runs his block. Mean bastard. Sadist. In a position of immunity.
Ambitious bastard too. Has a fiancée somewhere. Could marry her if only.

He sees his chance when the kleptocrats want a volunteer for a dangerous mission. No diplomat has ever returned alive from such-and-such a planet. The kleptocrats and the merchant-other-side-of-themselves want this planet to join their common market: before the other side seduces them. (In other words the story takes place in a cold-war “civilization”: could get hot at any moment.)

Guy arrives at the designated planet. The governors there show him torture devices. Those governors doing the showing are themselves horribly mutilated. He’s invited to leave unharmed. If he stays, he goes into the machine.
“Will you join our common market?”
“Then I can’t leave. I can’t leave until you join.”

Into the machine he goes. There’s a cup of poison there to drink any time he wants to reach for it. Once he can no longer reach for it, they’ll understand his signal and pour it down his throat for him: if he still has a throat. If not they can pour it directly into his exposed inner whatever.
The torture begins. They remind him of the cup at regular intervals. At the end of the day they ask if he’s had enough. “Are you ready to join our common market?”

Same day two, day three. There’s very little left of the guy. He’s got no eyes, no ears, no tongue … no dick, no balls … no toes, no feet, no legs, no finger nails, no fingers … Somehow they know how to keep him alive, just able to hear, just able to gurgle. Finally there’s a cessation. He expects to be asked if he’s had enough. The question doesn’t come. So he repeats his.

“… Uh … uk … a … ‘mun … ‘…et?”
“We don’t know, my Lord. That’s entirely up to you.”

Turns out the torturers are the planet’s governors under a constitution: having experience nothing but torture from the galactic imperialists they evolved a governor test of tolerance for torture. This torture victim, our hero, is now their absolute dictator. No native has ever endured torure like him. If you’ve passed up the poison so many hours, they take the poison away and dress you in ermine. None of them have lost as much of everything as he has: so he’s become their ruler.

Logic? It seems the planet had never had torture in its long past. Never imagined it. It was only after contact with our hero’s culture that they learned: the hard way. So, to attempt to survive, they attempt to learn to discipline themselves to torture. [2016 02 13 A dozen plus years of hasty revisions have sabotaged the prose, one more may fix it.] They know of no other way to withstand the colonizing culture. And now they’ve lost — by their own rules: to one of the colonizers. Their hypothesis had been that the guy most victimized by the loss of the things through which he could enjoy power, be corrupted, would be the most objective.

It turns out they’re not entirely wrong. The new king decides that he will invite a merchant, or two at a time. He’ll summon his fiancée. These rubes were clever at torture for beginners, but they don’t know what the Persians did, the Chinese … He’s going to be a good king here.

Piers Anthony, you brilliant bastard. It’s nice that you make millions upon millions selling unicorns to kiddies of all ages, but the science fiction you wrote first is astonishing. (Geodyssey makes up for a lot of sins.)

The poor bastards on the doomed planet never dreamed that they couldn’t take away the sadist’s lust for sadism no matter what they tore off. But they were right: their king was as objective and as incorruptible as he could be made to be.

2006 09 22 I had originally promised to come back here bringing bibliographical details with me. It took a while but here I am, book in hand: Piers Anthony Anthology, 1985. The story in question is “On the Uses of Torture,” 1981. When there make sure you see his first short story published, “Possible to Rue,” 1963!!! How the torture story [and now we’re back in my sentence from 2000] ever got published is beyond me. But then I don’t understand how lots of things ever got published: Joyce? Lawrence? Beckett? … Arthur Conan Doyle is no mystery.

keywords governor, objectivity, man, mankind, kleptocracy, society, government


About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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