Might Makes Right, Right? Wrong!
When I first heard my travel hosts tell of acts of quiet defiance during the German occupation in Norway I had no doubt these would make a compelling story. In other posts and on the FAQ pages I describe a bit of the journey that kernel of a story had to travel to become ODIN’S PROMISE.
The ironic timing of that decades-long process to publication does not escape me. This book will be published on the 200th anniversary of the signing of Norway’s Constitution, the genesis of Syttende Mai, the MAY 17 celebration equivalent to America’s Fourth of July. As you’ll read, in 1941 Syttende Mai was the occasion that allowed Mari’s family to stage their personal resistance to the Nazi occupation in public.
I couldn’t have predicted the events unfolding in Ukraine and Crimea, nor did anyone else. That this would play out in world news during the publication year of Odin’s Promise is even more ironic. An article by Bruno Waterfield and Peter Foster (The Telegraph, 3/27/14) included this report:
“In a passionate speech delivered in Brussels, the American president warned that indifference to Vladimir Putin’s attempt to redraw Ukraine’s borders by force risked undermining the sacrifices of those who had died in two world wars.
‘Russia’s leadership is challenging truths that only a few weeks ago seemed self-evident: that in the 21st century the borders of Europe cannot be redrawn with force, that international law matters, that people and nations can make their own decisions about their future,’ he warned. … ‘But that kind of casual indifference would ignore the lessons that are written in the cemeteries of this continent. It would allow the old way of doing things to regain a foothold in this young century.’ ”
The final irony is that I recently read an older title, CATHERINE, CALLED BIRDY. by Karen Cushman. Written as a series of journal entries in a medieval girl’s fourteenth year of life, we hear the hard truth about “might makes right”. Along with the rich, sometimes repulsive, details of daily life in a mid-level English manor house, social and political realities confront readers on every page. A girl of fourteen was a commodity, under the arbitrary power of her father. Her hand in marriage could forge a bond of two families in order to repay a debt or increase land, fiefdoms, influence, and outright wealth. Dowries were determined by perceptions of the family’s assets. A young girl, especially an attractive one, was a major asset at her father’s disposal.
Birdy’s rambunctious spirit and impressive intellect provided only temporary reprieves from her fate.
These were the times when border wars meant neighbor-wars, when entire countries changed hands at the turn of a battle or a betrothal.These days western societies, generally self-proclaimed civilized societies, view tribal battles, patriarchal dominance, and other power-plays as archaic and inhumane.
But the concerns of “civilized” societies too often reflect as much mercenary self-interest as medieval lords of the manor. Their economies drive their decisions today, as they did in the days of Hitler’s rise to power and forcible occupation of other countries. Corporate and investment dependency on the aggressor nation(s), then and now, limits the west’s willingness to take a firm stance against those who ignore international laws. Hitler’s efforts to disguise invasions with claims of protecting “friends” from western incursion eerily mirror events in Crimea and Ukraine today.
The layers of irony unfolding around the timing of the release of Odin’s Promise allows it to serve as a powerful trigger for discussions about the important question in the title of this post. I hope this occurs, and that readers will share thoughts on that question once they read the book.