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Culture specialization


Emperor Harkonnen
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I have been thinking alot about cultures lately, and I was thinking about the Fremen culture. Their's is entirely based on war/fighting, almost every aspect is focused on this, which obviously is what makes them so good at it. Specialization in other words.

Is anything mentioned why it turned out like this? Do you think this makes their culture lack other aspects?

And would this apply to almost all other aspects of society as well, I mean focusing so much on one thing that you get supremely good at it within a population. Practise hardly can't get you further than the best in your own population. But if everyone in one population focuses on one aspect, devoting all their time to it, they will get better than the best in other populations doing the same.

And this is pretty interesting about Dune, because it seems that this is exactly what they have done. Every population has it's own niche and specialization. Except for most of the houses. (Tleilaxu, Ix and Richese of course has their own. Is tleilaxu a house by the way?)

Today this would be the case for corporations only (yes again, I am comparing Dune to economics), but also to countries to some extent. But the thing is that it does not influence the whole culture, they are still keeping their other aspects. Could this be something we will see outside of purely economics as well?

Just a thought :-)

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I have been thinking alot about cultures lately, and I was thinking about the Fremen culture. Their's is entirely based on war/fighting, almost every aspect is focused on this, which obviously is what makes them so good at it. Specialization in other words.

Is anything mentioned why it turned out like this? Do you think this makes their culture lack other aspects?

I'd rather say that Fremen are focused on survival in the desert of Dune. Apparently, this includes battle prowess, which was necessary in face of unavoidable conflicts caused by scarcity of supplies, and this natural predisposition was only strengthened by Harkonnen oppression.

And would this apply to almost all other aspects of society as well, I mean focusing so much on one thing that you get supremely good at it within a population. Practise hardly can't get you further than the best in your own population. But if everyone in one population focuses on one aspect, devoting all their time to it, they will get better than the best in other populations doing the same.

I remember Socrates talking in some dialogue of Plato's about the people of a particular polis all practising playing the flute, but that was a metaphor for something else IIRC. Even the most mediocre flute player in such a society would be quite decent somewhere else where playing the flute wasn't that common. Something like that.

And this is pretty interesting about Dune, because it seems that this is exactly what they have done. Every population has it's own niche and specialization. Except for most of the houses. (Tleilaxu, Ix and Richese of course has their own. Is tleilaxu a house by the way?)

I think it is an established fact that Frank explored the problem of (a harsh) environment shaping a population when he created the Fremen. However, he never follows the Planet of Hats scenario with the different factions and populations he describes. The only real entity that is overspecialized is the Guild, which is discussed in Dune (in Paul's thoughts). Other factions, even though they have their peculiarities, are quite well versed in different specializations (BG aren't only seductresses and/or political philosophers, Tleilaxu do not only grow gholas, Ixians do not only tinker with machines etc. etc.). The reasons why those factions get their characteristic traits are also different: the Harkonnens all follow their totalitarian feudal lord who created a strict vertical hierarchy, and their industrial world's ecology is ruined because pollution is evil (that, at least, is what I believe is Frank's not-so-subtle message here ;)). The Tleilaxu are religious zealots with a distrust for machines, technology and logic, partly imposed by the Butlerian Jihad (I suppose), partly due to their Zensunni-Zensufi philosophy. The Bene Gesserit... well, it's pretty complicated :) We do not know much about other Houses, but I believe that the focus on specialization that is definitely present in the books is there to emphasize the idea that humans had to develop and improve their natural talents when most machines and advanced technology were banned.

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An important note here is the degree to which genetic selection plays a role in the tendencies of (in particular the Fremen) to show expertise in "x" area. With rats, it is possible to breed "maze-smart" and "maze-dumb" lines. Say you start with 20 rats, and perform a median split, with the ten fastest learners separated with the ten slowest learners. Then you breed only the fast half with the fast. Then you median split their offspring and select the fastest again, and again, and again. There will be slow learners in the fast group at the end of the final breeding cycle, but they will be nearly as fast as the fastest learner in the original group.

I can imagine that the best fighters, the best survivalists, and the most devout were selected amongst the Fremen starting early on. Therefore, if Fremen are incredible fighters, part of the reason is that that trait is what was selected, genetically speaking.

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Heh, nice observation! It is certainly implicit in the books that natural selection played an important part in Fremen history, due to the exceptionally hostile conditions of their environment. What I didn't think of before is that it can be viewed as a kind of a naturally occurred parallel to the Bene Gesserit breeding programme. In this respect, I think it is remarkable how the Fremen even had their wild Reverend Mothers, and the codes of the Missionaria Protectiva were deeply embedded in their mythology, if not psyche. That's something to think about.

Another thing to pay attention to IMO is how quickly the Fremen degraded over the course of DM and CoD, succumbing to luxury and corruption. Maybe this is a hint of the efforts the Bene Gesserit had to put into just staying at their heights? After all, Frank later showed what the Bene Gesserit and the Fish Speakers, both products of sophisticated breeding programmes, could degrade into when left uncontrolled.

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I'd rather say that Fremen are focused on survival in the desert of Dune. Apparently, this includes battle prowess, which was necessary in face of unavoidable conflicts caused by scarcity of supplies, and this natural predisposition was only strengthened by Harkonnen oppression.

Acctually it is explicitly said in Dune that their culture is based on war. (I'm not gonna spend 60 minutes trying to find the exact page where it is mentioned, somewhere after they met the Fremens)

Yeah I guess there are not that many factions entirely devoted to their specialization. I would say Tleilaxu to some extent. Maybe the Ginaz swordmasters?

Fremen degraded in MD and CoD similar to people when machines started thinking for them before the butlerian jihad. I think this was a major point about the Dune books, what happens when one is no longer shaped by the environment one was previously part of. ;)

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Acctually it is explicitly said in Dune that their culture is based on war. (I'm not gonna spend 60 minutes trying to find the exact page where it is mentioned, somewhere after they met the Fremens)

A simple text search for "war", "warfare" and "warrior" only produced these contexts that are related to the Fremen (emphasis added):

The pattern of the Fremen war on Arrakis began to take on new shape in Gurney's mind. My Duke! A place that had been dead within him began coming alive. Only part of his awareness focused on Paul's ordering the smuggler crew disarmed until they could be questioned.
And it came to pass in the third year of the Desert War that Paul-Muad'Dib lay alone in the Cave of Birds beneath the kiswa hangings of an inner cell.
It was Fremen that worried him here. They didn't mind trading for all the spice you could afford, but they were devils on the warpath if you stepped foot where they forbade you to go. And they were so devilishly cunning of late.

It annoyed Gurney, the cunning and adroitness in battle of these natives. They displayed a sophistication in warfare as good as anything he had ever encountered, and he had been trained by the best fighters in the universe then seasoned in battles where only the superior few survived.

Yet the meanest and smallest of the Fremen warriors could do a thing that he had never done. And Paul knew his leadership suffered from the omnipresent knowledge of this difference between them.

None of this seems to suggest that Fremen culture is based on war. In fact, I think it can be said that the Fremen participated in nothing close to a war in the proper sense of the word before Paul organized large-scale resistance to the Harkonnens that culminated in the siege of the Emperor's palace. Before that, the Fremen employed mostly guerilla tactics against the Harkonnens, and it can hardly be said either that their culture was based on guerilla warfare IMO.

On the other hand, of course, Fremen lifestyle involves a lot of fighting, but that's not the same thing as war.

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OMG do you have to take everything so litterary? It might have been culture devoted to fighting or something, I don't remember the exact word. That's why I didn't search myself. You are just going to have to take my word for it. I'm not gonna spend time finding it, because it is pretty obvious that fighting/war is an aspect in their culture that pretty much is included in many aspects of their society. Such as leadership is taken by killing the leader etc.. (like the harkonnens ;) )

Sorry, I can't think of and write down every possible little thing you might try to find, just to prove me wrong. I'm simply trying to put down a view I though was interesting about dune.

And now I guess you're going to try to get this discussion over to "war is not the same as fighting blablabla", so please don't.

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Page 188(just searched for culture) (military order is what I meant)

Jessica nodded, conserving her strength, sensing the terrible fatigue she

held at bay by force of will . . . and, she admitted it: by the force of

elation. Her mind focused on the value of this troop, seeing what was revealed

here about the Fremen culture.

All of them, she thought, an entire culture trained to military order. What

a priceless thing is here for an outcast Duke!

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Thanks for finding the quote :) It is definitely beyond dispute that Fremen society was, on the whole, very warlike, and its organization resembled a military order, but I'd still say that the primary driving force behind Fremen culture and society was survival. Which is probably not to say much, since every society strives to survive, and social organization in the societies of both past and present often resembled, and partially coincided with military structure. Going back to the question of whether such specialization resulted in shortcomings in other areas, I suppose that the perhaps the Fremen weren't perceived as very "cultured" by the "more civilized" peoples of the Imperium, yet their culture can be said to be as sophisticated as any other.

BTW, since the arrival of Pardot Kynes, the Fremen were intensely focused on transforming the ecological system of Arrakis (all the while avoiding exposition of their activities to the rest of the Imperium), and taking into account that it was part of the prophesy the Fremen devoted their lives to, I guess that on the big scale, their warlike state was, at least in theory, temporary. In the Appendix I, it is said that the Fremen were ready to wait for generations until the transformation of Arrakis was complete, so that they could return their "normal", pre-refuge state and live peacefully. From this perspective, their training as fighters could be regarded as a means to an end.

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I agree. I guess their shortcomings in other areas, would be because most resources were used to survive. So they were spending their resources on fighting before what is considered "more civilized" by the imperium. In all societies there are limited resources, and one has to choose what to focus on. Like you said driven to survive, the Fremen had to focus on fighting, because of the constant threat of houses mining spice on Arrakis.

But when not motivated by survival, maybe the cultural focus is toward self realization? (I'm thinking Maslow's pyramide)

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