Author Topic: Do Vasudans have an Oral Culture?  (Read 780 times)

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Offline 0rph3u5

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Do Vasudans have an Oral Culture?
A tough occurred while I was filling in the wide field of blanks about the Vasudans for Of Shivans and Men - I already have an answer that works for the purposes of the story I wish to tell, but it's always good to pool some resources:

Do the Vasudan practice primarily oral tradition, written tradition or a combination of both in which neither has a higher standing?

Most of us are propably most familiar with written tradition (considering the Internet is a written medium, we learned from books etc etc), despite the fact that in grand scheme of things oral tradition has been more prevalent both in geographical spread and throughout the past. The very concept of History is rooted in written tradition as well: History and pre-History are traditionally distinguished by the emergence of written records.
Oral tradition encompasses all mean of passing knowledge from one generation to the other, through any mean that do not require any physically permanent means for tradition. In oral tradition knowledge is passed down and in a generation by means of speech, song, practice etc etc (as long as nothing of it is ever written down - which leaves a awkward spot for imagery, architecture and other physical artifacts).

As I look on the -very slim- body of information we have on Vasudan culture, I am left to wonder if it can be assumed that they are a primarily written culture.

Firstly, the Vasudans' different attitude toward time is to be considered. From FS1 onwards we are informed that the Vasudans do not subscribe to a concept of linear history but that their "temporal predecessors" are not considered as "gone": "history [...] as a space inhabited by both the living and the dead".
The implications of this are weird to say the least,  :v-old:'s writers might have been looking at the phenomenon of Ancestor Worship here and tried to make it sound less "primitive" - and incidentally have a reason for the Hammer of Light to form. But many cultures which observe ancestor worship actually do not subscribe to a concept that puts their ancestors in the same sphere of action as the currently living - they can have opinions, intervene and/or be consulted by the living but they do essentially inhabit a different "space" to living, contact to the ancestors is mediated by ritual, an "ancestor professional" or natural forces as they are not like the people you meet day by day.

Secondly, the alien definition the Vasudans have of history could mean that they have a very different perception of or may not even be subscribing to the causality as we understand it.
Concepts of causality (be it idealistic, i.e. Causality is a true fundamental of reality pre se, or sceptic, i.e. Causality is a fiction to make sense of non-human world) all are based on the linear passage of time: For A to cause B, time between A and B has to pass. Even in instances where the passage of time between A and B is shorter than the observational span of the human mind, there has to be a time when A is but B is not, otherwise there would be no possible or clear distinction whetever A caused B.

Thirdly, Vasudan language is said to be the most celebrated achievement of their (mainstream/Imperial) culture, with a plenty of forms of expression and inflections of meaning amounting to great complexity. Additionally observance of that complexity is considered at least socially undesirable.
Taking a utilitarian approach to this suggests that all these complexities serve a distinct purpose, one of which is already given in the information we have as the structuring of the social system. However said social system, as we are informed as well, is not structuring their political system in either games era, merely supplementing it: the PVE's main governmental body is a parliament - of unknown composition and requirements of and to its membership - and in the GTVA the Vasudan Imperium is suggested to be in equal standing with the Security Council and the General Assembly - both of unknown membership and barrier of entry.

Fourthly, Vasudans are said to "immerse themselves in the teachings of those who came before them".
They are not said to study and adapt them to their circumstance, as you would if you read, say, Plato. "Immersion" may to refere here to the attempt to abstract as much of the contingent circumstance as possible to gain insight in the message that is facilitated by language across time, but embrace the circumstance and therefor the message whole. This would imply that the decay of meaning a message undergoes as its context becomes "not current", might not happen. Considering the circumstance of any given person is in is more often than not a blindly accepted matter - as we tend to observe the exceptional and new instead of regular and ordinary - much of information about the circumstance of message is not transmitted along with the message across time as the change to the regular and ordinary things tends to be small and incremental that it passes below the threshold of notice.

The first and second points are open and can be used for either side of the argument. The third point supports both sides, as a highly structured language can be both a medium to transfer fine points in written or spoken form, even preventing a decay of the original meaning by the preservation of original structure. The fourth point comes down to a matter of logistics - just how much information can you make accessible and package over time - and there it appears point towards written tradition.

So what do you think, HLP community? What did I miss? Where am I (unreasonably) biased/culturally blind?

For you convenience:
Quote from: FS Wiki
At their core, the Vasudans are a civilization of philosophers, artists, and scholars rather than warriors. They immerse themselves in the teachings of those who came before them, perceiving history not as a linear chronology of events but as a space inhabited by both the living and the dead.[...]

Vasudan society is complex and filled with peril for the outsider ignorant of their culture. Vasudans have a range of social tests and protocols, such as The Conversation. [...]

The crowning achievement of the Vasudan civilization is its language. For the average Terran, the formalities governing its usage are beyond comprehension. Syntax and vocabulary are dictated by such factors as the speaker's age, rank, and caste, the time of day and the phase of the Vasudan calendar, and the relative spatial position of the speaker to the Emperor. This is further compounded by the existence of several alphabets, dozens of verb tenses, and thousands of dialects.

"When you work with water, you have to know and respect it. When you labour to subdue it, you have to understand that one day it may rise up and turn all your labours into nothing. For what is water, which seeks to make all things level, which has no taste or colour of its own, but a liquid form of Nothing?" - Graham Swift, Waterland


"As you sought to steal a kingdom for yourself, so must you do again, a thousand times over. For a theft, a true theft, must be practiced to be earned." - The terms of Nyrissa's curse, Pathfinder: Kingmaker

"...because they are not Dragons."


Offline Firesteel

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Re: Do Vasudans have an Oral Culture?
The way  :v-old: describes the complexity of the Vasudan language makes me think of a mixture of Latin and Japanese. Latin was one of the most structured languages I am aware of and, while not subscribing to the number of variables the Vasudan language uses, the noun declensions and sentence structures provide a sizeable increase in complexity. Throw in more traditional Japanese writing, where words require both Kanji and Kana to be fully understood and spoken when read and you'd already have the basis of an extremely complex language.

Since language is both a written and spoken creation and the Vasudans value it as highly as  :v-old: describes, then I would argue that the spoken and written in their culture would be of near equal importance, as they may have a writing system even more complex and nuanced than what I am aware of with Japanese. If a culture were to devote enough resources to developing written language, as presumably the Vasudans have done, then I would make the argument that their writing would be able to capture the nuance of their spoken language, ie. sarcasm, without resorting to shorthand as often seen online ( /s for example). A simple version of this could be something similar to quotation marks to specifically denote the tone of what is being said.

Cultures start off with oral tradition and then translate that into the written. With enough care and desire as I believe the Vasudans have, they would most likely strive for a balance between the two and would likely have historians passing down both the oral and written versions of their culture.
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