The Gorean Compass is a class given every Thursday by Master Gorm Runo. Classes are held at the Gorean Campus and are given at noon and 6pm SLT. All are encouraged to come and join in the amazing discussions. This class was held on August 30, 2018
Tal and Greetings
I had said that I was going to do a class on each of the three most influential parts of the Gor novels. At least,these are my three choices, and I am sure others have their own favorites.
The first one is from the book, Raiders of Gor, which is the 6th book of the series.
The scene is set in the city of Port Kar and in a paga tavern. I will give the quick version of what happens first, and then will try to explain the impact that it has had on my understanding of the novels and the development of what I like to call “the Moral High Ground” theory of Gor.
Tarl Cabot has just come through a low point in his adventures on Gor. He had been enslaved by the Rencers in the marshes, humiliated by a female, and although safe in Port Kar now, he was despondent over his lost honor and showing clear signs of what we would now call clinical depression.
As he sits drinking in the tavern in the early hours of the morning, and after a long and harrowing night, he muses on how disgusting everything in Port Kar is and becomes annoyed even by the cries of a slave from the alcoves.
Then, a large pirate named Surbus emerges from the alcove with a skinny blond slave girl over his shoulder and takes her to the proprietor of the tavern.
“I am not pleased with her, ” he said to the proprietor.
“I am sorry, Noble Surbus,” said the man. “I shall have her beaten.”
“I am not pleased with her!” cried Surbus.
“You wish her destroyed?” asked the man.
“Yes, ” said Surbus, “destroyed.”
“Her price is five silver tarsks.”
Page 121 Raiders of Gor
Tarl steps in, and ends up mortally wounding Surbus. The slave girl, surprisingly moves to comfort the dying the Pirate, and then begs Tarl to help her carry him up to the roof of the tavern so that he might see the ocean one more time before he died. Although clearly confused by the girl’s reaction, he helps her. On the roof, Tarl sees Thassa, the sea, for the first time, and the dying man for the last time. Surbus’ last words are, “Thank you.”
When Tarl returns downstairs, he finds 70 or 80 pirates waiting for him. They are members of Surbus’ crews and their only question is: Did you let him see the sea?
When Tarl says he did, the leader tells him. “Then we are your men now.”
Just about six pages in all, and yet I know I could talk for hours and do a whole series of classes on the ramifications of that short encounter.
But, since this is supposed to be a “short talk” to introduce the subject, I will try to limit myself to making three important points.
Point #1 Get over it
As Tarl sits drinking in the tavern, and sees what is happening, he has the opportunity to make several excuses and justifications for inaction. All of us are familiar with them, and our society on Earth is raising the idea of victimization to loftier heights all the time. Your mother was to thin, and your father was too fat. You are the wrong color or the wrong gender or live in the wrong place. Other people did that, and still other people did this, and poor, poor, pitiful you.
There is such a thing as an absolute right and there are absolute wrongs. If you disagree with me on this, I will be more than willing to listen to the pro-throw a girl into the canal and let her be eaten alive by giant urts for being displeasing in a sexual encounter- argument during our discussion today.
I understand and have sympathy for people’s troubles. My own life has been marked by some horrible events. I understand how poor health, and societal pressures, and discrimination, and a host of other factors can beat a person down.
However, none of those things are excuses for not doing the right thing. And none of them are justifications for doing the wrong thing.
Point #2 Violence should be the last option, but, sadly, it is sometimes the only option.
Tarl attempts to outbid Surbus first. He offers a higher price to buy the girl. But, Surbus refuses, and the proprietor , representing what I call the immoral legality of Gor, defends Surbus by saying that he paid for her fair and square, and often destroys girls that displease him, establishing a precedent, and even suggests that Surbus is a very tough cookie, appealing to the “might makes right” idea.
In this seminar, I have often advanced the idea that the lesson of the books is that Earth sucks for being too soft, and Gor sucks for being too hard, and we need to find the middle ground. The proprietor is the poster child for the “Gor sucks” idea.
He is advocating three important justifications for immorality. It is legal. It is traditional. Doing anything about it might be risky.
When there is no other options available, Tarl says, “No”, and draws his sword and kills Surbus to save the girl.
It would be nice to imagine a world that had no evil. It would be nice to have no need for weapons, or armies, or wars. It would be nice to confront violence like the hippy girl in the 60’s sticking a flower in the barrel of a rifle.
In the book, Excalibur, by Bernard Cornwell, a warrior makes this comment about war, and explains a bit about why we have made warriors into heroes and even a bit about why we have tended to sometimes focus more on the glory and honor involved rather than the tragedy and horror of it.
“Only a fool wants war, but once a war starts then it can not be fought half-heartedly. It cannot even be fought with regret, but must be waged with a savage joy in defeating the enemy, and it is that savage joy that inspires our bards to write their greatest songs about love and war. We warriors dressed for battle as we decked ourselves for love; we made ourselves gaudy, we wore our gold, we mounted crests on our silver-chased helmets, we strutted, we boasted, and when the slaughtering blades came close we felt as if the blood of the Gods coursed in our veins. A man should love peace, but if he cannot fight with all his heart then he will not have peace.”
Page 192 Excalibur by Bernard Cornwell.
Although one might abhor the violence of his act, Tarl fights with all his heart and with a savage elation, to save the life of the innocent slave girl
Point #3 It is the duty of the strong to protect the weak.
One of the points of this story is the contrast between the big bully Surbus and the skinny blond slave girl. Nothing I am saying calls for butting into a dispute between two idiots about to have a fight, and Tarl was not involved when the girl was crying and being mistreated in the alcoves. He considered that she was paying the dues of a slave girl.
The moral high ground is not the place to fight over every little social injustice that you encounter. However, once again, there are certain times where the issue is no longer in doubt and obvious bullying brutality is most likely one of those times.
The interesting thing about the paga tavern story is that Surbus becomes the weak one in the end after he lays dying on the floor. Sure, he was a pirate, a brute, an asshole, and got what he deserved, but now he is just a human being about to stop living. That changes everything.
Tarl, with a bit of blood lust still pumping adrenaline through his veins is a bit slower to pick up on this, but the slave girl understands. It is no longer a time for hate or revenge. It was a time for respect and for compassion. Tarl’s act of compassion and respect for tradition, even to grant the dying wish of an enemy, ends up changing his life and leads to great wealth. This is John Norman’s rather blatant morality tale.
Do the right thing and good things will follow. Actions have consequences and they can be both good and bad.
Goreans talk about strength and honor, and there is no model or myth where using strength to bully the weak is honorable. It is the duty of the strong to protect the weak, and many have discovered much about honor and true strength in doing so. And defeated enemies who no longer pose a threat, but are bleeding out on the tavern floor are now ‘the weak”, just as the helpless slave girl was the weak one before the fight.
I read this story again and again, and think about it more and more. I question myself, too. Would I have the courage to stand up for the girl against “the best sword in Port Kar?” Would I have the compassion and self control to not gloat over my victory, but help him up the stairs to see the sea one last time? And would I stand proud with my actions and deed, even in the face of many of his former crew?
Those are the questions you ask yourself when you take on the mantle of Gorean man, and take it seriously. It sets a high standard of behavior and demands you become a warrior for the moral high ground and a seeker of truth and protector of the weak, and it doesn’t let you make any bullshit excuses for falling short of that standard.