The final battle is not always between good and evil.

Of a Note in a Cosmic Song – response to the reader

Several people have commented on the “shocking outcome of the last trial” with the request I explain to them why this is justice done.

In response to that, I decided to write this post, because it is too complex for a simple yes or no answer.

First of all, it is not the objective of fiction to tell the reader what to think or to give them “the truth”. That is the objective of non-fiction, in which the text reflects the opinion of the writer. A fiction writer tends to have multiple point of view characters, each with a different opinion, because they represent the different personalities of real people. The writer does not necessarily share those opinions, but asks the reader to think about issues.

Of a Note in a Cosmic Song has nine regular point of view characters, each of which will appeal to some readers and not to others, depending on their own personality.

What the book asks the reader to think about, is whether the ideas about democracy (otacy) and justice – ideas most people today take for granted – are really justifiable and in order to present this question from as many angles as possible, the changes are addressed very slowly throughout the books.

The question whether justice was done in the last trial, is therefore left open, to be pondered over by the reader. Depending on your own personality and the cultural background you come from, you may have felt shocked or frustrated, along with Wilam and Aryan – the change too big or too alien. Or you may have slowly changed your viewpoint during the story and, like Jema and Nini, feel more satisfied with the outcome.

As Benjamar said, it took a whole council to convince him – he also struggled until the very end – but since the goal of the new justice was not retribution or teaching a lesson, but consensus for peace, in the end he conceded that justice was done.

Some people argue that, since the council was supposed to make sure that no force was used in getting an agreement, that it wasn’t really consensual because excessive pressure was used.

I can see that point, but she had the option of saying “no”. Had she outright refused, nobody would have forced it. Honour would have been lost, but not dignity.

That brings me to another aspect of works of fiction. We are all familiar with the story that has a good guy who has to be brave to defeat the bad guy. The stories tend to end in a battle between good and evil and the main character has to choose between doing the right thing and being afraid. These stories appeal to people who have a strict view of what is moral. So the inner struggle of the main character reflects the two aspects those personality types value highest: duty and courage – to do one’s duty in the face of danger.

But different personalities have different values and therefore write and read different stories. This is why people have preferences for certain genres.

In Of a Note in a Cosmic Song, the different characters each have their own struggle. Wilam, being of the personality type described above, must therefore choose between fear and doing the right thing. But Aryan’s issue isn’t about physical courage. It is about overcoming his inner self – the demons of his past – and duty has nothing to do with that. And Benjamar’s struggle is not about courage or duty either; it is between honour and truth, while Jema’s is between honour and dignity.

So the last trial, despite appearing to deal with the facts and motivations of the problems caused by the elections, is actually a different trial for each character, because they each have to make a different choice.

Therefore, whether justice is done, is not answerable as an objective question. It depends on who you are and what you consider justice.

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