Knowingly Fighting a Lost Cause

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

Poul Andersen’s science-fictional hero, Dominic Flandry, had a problem, Pseudo-Polymath notes:

Mr Flandry’s problem was he was knowingly fighting a lost cause, his people (a large human dominated stellar empire) was failing due to cultural decadence. He knew it was a lost cause, but soldiered on regardless. This post reminds me of that. As does this one. And this one.


  1. Toddy Cat says:

    We all know that feeling, but, at the risk of sounding overly optimistic, I can remember how utterly indestructible the USSR looked — right up until it crumbled. As Jerry Pournelle always says, “despair is a sin”. And besides, the enemy is hurting too. The lies are getting harder to defend.

  2. William Newman says:

    To me an even more impressive case is how dismal things looked in the 1600s for open societies, rule of law, and representative governmental institutions. It makes an interesting overture to their subsequent performance, growing to crush all their rivals en route to dominating the world over the next few centuries. It’s hard to get into the minds of people at the time — before Newton and Darwin and before the Industrial Revolution economic growth rate outran the birthrate, thoughtful people tended to make very different foundational assumptions about the world than we do today — but trying to imagine myself back then I think I might’ve been pro-rule-of-law but I probably wouldn’t've been at all optimistic about it.

    To me the USSR didn’t quite look indestructible, but what failed-USSR ideas I had were mostly about stagnant irrelevance rather than disintegration: North Korea on a large scale. And disintegrating without a hot war seemed so unlikely that I don’t think I ever considered the possibility before it happened. Ending the USSR didn’t necessarily have to coincide with WWIII, but that seemed all too likely, and the less-horrible alternatives that seemed plausible were still somewhere between scary and horrible, involving at least some hot regional or civil war.

  3. Toddy Cat says:

    Yes, it was very hard to see any good way out at the time. Looking back, the late 1980′s were an incredibly dangerous time. The leaders of that time – Reagan, Thatcher, even old Gorby – deserve a lot of credit for guiding humanity out of what looked like a nightmarish dead end. There’s always a way forward.

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