Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Repost From February 2010- Johann Hari Guest Post

The Lies You've Been Told About Mordor.

The shadow looming over Middle Earth – the shadow of Sauron– furrows his big, non corporeal brow, pats my knee, and tells me about the night he knew he was going to die. “I will never forget – in the early hours, I said goodbye to my ringwraiths. I kissed them goodbye and blessed them.” He knew in his gut he was not going to survive that long, bloody day in the third age, when he and his allies finally decided to stage a revolution against the hated Elvish order. However he survived and since that day he has felt blessed.

Now the Middle Earth armies are once again beating the drums of war against Sauron and his people. They say he is a tyrant but tell that to Gogdush, a 14 year old Orc whose life has been transformed Sauron’s social housing policies. He sobs as he shares his recollection of life before Sauron over dinner- “Before Sauron we were marginalised and kept from enjoying our share of the resources of Middle Earth, we weren’t even able to get food”. He hands me some of the casserole he heats on a small stove whose warm glow is easily outshone by the radiance of my self righteousness, I chew into the tender yet hard to identify meat, by the look of the small yet furry primate foot it isn’t anything I’ve tasted before. “It’s a native delicacy, which we weren’t allowed to touch before Sauron”, Gogdush tells me.

Yet Middle Earth leaders frequently describe Sauron as being a source of pure evil intent on dominating the world. “This is nonsense” Sauron says angrily, "just because we are using our natural resources to construct giant towers that overshadow the entire planet and to raise Orcish armies that doesn’t mean that we are the bad guys”. He’s right of course, the tower building programme is actually one of Sauron’s great success programmes, the towers are capable of sustaining more people than the sprawling individualistic burrows that dominate the Shire, and have a much lower environmental impact.

The second lie told about Sauron’s Mordor is that it is a place of misery and joylessness. In fact it has a flourishing arts and crafts scene, even Sauron himself likes to make jewellery! However I’m here to ask probing questions, such as his record on gay rights:

“Orcs are soulless and sexless creatures who are not borne of the fruit of love but raised asexually from the barren earth of Mordor, since they are neither male nor female homosexuality is a conceptual impossibility, very much like Independent journalists in that sense.”

Quite, it goes without saying that neither Rohan or the Shire have achieved such perfect gender balance yet. But what about Mordor’s labour laws, under which many citizens have to work up to 60 hours a week?

“Look we are a developing country, some of our labour laws need improving and who is likely to accomplish that, me or a Gandalfian puppet?”

Indeed and it is true that labour relations have greatly improved since Sauron returned from his 3000 year exile.

No Mordor is not perfect, yes the relationship between Sauron and Saruman- who was of course backed by the West until he switched sides, is troubling but as I sit in the middle of an Orc camp surrounded by hideous inhuman creatures, I ask myself who are we to condemn these people and the leaders striving to improve their situation?

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