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The Mahendo'sat

view full message >From: Lesley Grant <lgrant> >Subject: cherryhlist: forwarded by permission of author >Date: Tue, 20 Oct 92 8:34:58 BST
From: dani@netcom.com (Dani Zweig)
Newsgroups: rec.arts.sf.written
Subject: Chanur
Message-ID: <1992Oct16.225726.14372@netcom.com>
Date: 16 Oct 92 22:57:26 GMT

The Mahendo'sat are the most humanoid of the Compact's races. Their main quirks appear to be a mystical bent, and a quasi-religious respect for charisma. Yet it's very hard to tell the difference between their system of government (using the term loosely) and that of the Kif.
Dani Zweig

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>From: Jo Jaquinta <jaymin>
>Subject: CherryhList
>Date: Tue, 20 Oct 92 9:40:19 BST
> From: Dani Zweig <dani@netcom.com>
> Yet it's very hard to tell the difference
> between their system of government (using the term loosely) and that
> of the Kif.  
This had actually struck me before. In puzzling out what would happen if Mazian's fleed ran into Kif space or into Mahen space it didn't seem to be too different. Lesley's theory is that the Mahendosat most closely resemble pre-Davidic Israel. I.e. the time of Judges, where charasmatic leaders lead local regions. She also had the theory that building on Pyanfar's example that P* (the personage in Chanur's Legacy, sorry, I just can't spell Mahendosat :-) was on her way to rising and becoming the equivalent of Saul, i.e. moving to a monarchic position.
Maybe she would like to better explain herself. [And no, I'm not proposing that the Mahendosat are actually the lost 13th tribe of Israel :-]
					Jo Jaquinta

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>From: Lesley Grant <lgrant>
>Subject: cherryhlist
>Date: Wed, 21 Oct 92 10:00:50 BST
Jo has asked me to clarify a theory about charismatic leadership in regard to the Mahendo'sat. [First, let me say I'm a postgrad studying the ancient Near East, esp. ancient Israel, which is where the examples will come from].
Basically, charismatic leadership is personal, and not catered for by legal structures. The leader's charisma (in the case of Israel, and, I would suspect mahen culture described as the favour/spirit of God) allows them to act in ways ordinary mortals cannot -- they can lead armies, prophesy, inspire others, etc. This charisma is purely personal -- it CANNOT be passed on to a successor. If a successor does become a charismatic leader themself, this is normally at the expense of the first leader. In ancient Israel, the 'judges' were local charismatic leaders who arose in times of local difficulty, solved it, and then sank back into obscurity. Due to the later editing of the texts, this is somewhat obscured, as the editors are concerned to give a pan-Israel feel to the whole thing. Now Saul also started as a local charismatic leader, freeing the city of Jabesh-Gilead from its Ammonite besiegers. However, he didn't sink back into comfortable middle class obscurity, but was made king -- in effect his charisma didn't go away. This can be traced to a threat that was long lasting and affecting a lot of people -- the Philistine expansion into the hill country. Eventually, Saul's star sank, and David's rose -- this is explicity portrayed as the charisma going from one to the other. As long as the leader can successfully carry out actions this is a sign they still have charisma. Shouls a leader start losing, however, it will be taken for a sign of divine displeasure/loss of charisma (which must needs go elsewhere).
Well, fine and dandy, but what about our mahen pals? First and foremost, they very obviously have a system of leadership that is intensely personal. They are also (a lot of them) filled with a religious fervour that can only be described as fanatical (How about a book set on Iji, hey?). The Personages rule absolutely, but only in their own areas -- there are Persnages for each station, each world (and presumably for each religious faction). The Personages have some quality, only once explicity described ("the Personage at Iji whose serenity is undisturbed") but is referred to implicitly -- the Personage at the end of _Chanur's Homecoming_ sees Pyanfar has "the Personage- thing". Personages can apparently recognise this quality in others and it is from her charisma being recognised that Pyanfar _becomes_ a Personage (at the expense of Sikkukkukt, whose charisma has passed to her). We are given no clues as to what leads to the rise of a Personage normally -- it doesn't seem to be a crisis, although a crisis would probably lead to a number of Personages rising and falling. All Personages seem to have a sense of their charisma being temporary, which is presumably why they pursue opposing solutions to every problem -- one solution must be right, therefore proving they still have charisma! There is also the idea of "Momentum" -- either a Personage is going up or down -- and while they're going up, people won't get in their way.
When it comes to Pa-hasma-to or whatever her name is (I can't spell mahen either :-), she seems to be aggressively on the rise. Specifically, she wants *Pyanfar's* charisma. If Pyanfar fails at something or can be embarrassed, her charisma will leave her, and go elsewhere. By fouling up Hilfy, Pa-hasma-to will also foul up Pyanfar, who would therefore be discredited as Personage of the Compact. As charisma seems to abhor a vacuum, Pa-hasma-to presumably wanted to step in and become Compact Personage herself. This is why she was working so diligently to make links with other races, and why she had her agent run off his feet. Sadly, (for her) it would seem she was fairly inexperienced at the Personage game -- Hasi (sp?) certainly didn't seem to hack it as a secret agent. By losing her Momentum, Pa-hasma-to effectively wrote herself out of the race. (Of course, the activities of that most cosmopolitan of Kif, _Ambassador_ Vikktakkht an'mukku, who could see past his own sfik, were a great help...)
Are we all confused yet? I'll refrain from discussing cultural similarities between sfik and personageness, so...:-)

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