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How Harry Potter and the magical world of J.K. Rowling might begin the long process of reconciliation and reform.
August 12, 2011 5:26 PM   Subscribe

Post-Conflict Potter, living and rebuilding the world after Voldemort, by Foreign Policy Magazine.
posted by blue_beetle (37 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
The last thing the wizarding world needs is a witch hunt.
posted by juv3nal at 5:30 PM on August 12, 2011 [10 favorites]


It occurred to me the other day that the adult Harry Potter wouldn't be able to buy himself a drink in any pub in England.
posted by Trurl at 5:30 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I just started reading and saw the conflation of Joe Lieberman and Neville Longbottom and had this immediate, knee-jerk reaction of being REALLY offended.
posted by NoraReed at 5:39 PM on August 12, 2011 [10 favorites]


the recent experience of American Muggles in Iraq and Afghanistan...transitional governing authority

This doesn't sound much like Harry Potter's world. The Ministry of Magic teetered but did not fall. I can see why a truth and reconciliation commission might be a good way of dealing with the Death Eaters, but it would be wrong to think we're dealing with a failed state.

It's a fun article but pretty sloppy. The authors seems to want to use Rowling buzzwords to talk about standard COIN theory rather than consider whether COIN theory would be usefully applicable to the Potterverse. The authors are certainly not looking to fiction as a way of challenging their own beliefs.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 5:41 PM on August 12, 2011 [8 favorites]


I had always figured Harry would just start a counter-revolutionary program of mass imprisonment for death eaters and then "accidentally" allowing the Dementors to eat their souls. Or at least one of the Weasleys would have at it.
posted by GuyZero at 5:44 PM on August 12, 2011


I can see why a truth and reconciliation commission might be a good way of dealing with the Death Eaters...

I confess that I've enjoyed a fanfiction story or two along these lines.
posted by muddgirl at 5:44 PM on August 12, 2011


Yeah, I'm with you there, justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow. I've read a lot of fanfic in the past month or so takes on the whole building the magical community back up after the Second Wizarding War much better than this piece by Real Journalists.
posted by NoraReed at 5:45 PM on August 12, 2011


I've read a lot of fanfic in the past month or so takes on the whole building the magical community back up after the Second Wizarding War much better than this piece by Real Journalists.

A friend of mine needs some links to that.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 5:48 PM on August 12, 2011 [13 favorites]


Snarl Furillo: Send your friend to the TVTropes Harry Potter Continuation fanfic recommendations page. I fled Harry Potter fandom for greener pastures* for like 10 years and only started about 3 weeks ago when Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality got mentioned in the Pottermore mefi thread and that's where I started.

*okay, by greener I mean, like, JRPGs and Bioware games
posted by NoraReed at 5:56 PM on August 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


The existence of a parallel shadow society of elite wizards is ultimately the source of Voldemort's eliminationist ideology - why are we talking about repairing wizard society when it has finally shown its true colors and ought to be destroyed completely? Wizards should be integrated into muggle society and all wizard institutions either permanently dissolved or forced to admit muggle members.

Wizard separatism turns the supposedly triumphant virtues of "tolerance, pluralism, and respect for the dignity of all magical and non-magical creatures" into empty platitudes, and the complicity of muggle leaders keeping a secret of this magnitude is shockingly undemocratic.
posted by AlsoMike at 6:10 PM on August 12, 2011 [7 favorites]


I saw the last Harry Potter movie just a couple of days after the terrorist attack in Norway, and watching the (spoilers?) assault on Hogwarts I could not help being struck by the parallels between what was happening on screen and what had happened just days before on Utoya. Children being attacked and murdered by those who burned with hatred for the open society and any sort of racial or cultural diversity. It was an intensely and unexpectedly powerful experience.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 6:15 PM on August 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


"The Painful Process of Economic Reform - What We Can Learn From Pooh's Efforts to Get the Hunny Jar Off of his Head."
posted by pyramid termite at 6:23 PM on August 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


"When will President Pooh stop getting his head stuck in the honey jar? How much honey is in your jar, America? None! Because that bear keeps eating it!"--John Boehner.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 6:35 PM on August 12, 2011 [9 favorites]


"The debate continues; is President Pooh a real bear, or just a Republican Heffalump?"
posted by pyramid termite at 6:51 PM on August 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


" A proper rissolution can be found, um, somewere for all americans, oh, to enjoy"

-Eeyore

"If you follow, ah, the plan laid out by the, ho, elephants, the honey pot will be, ay, dry
posted by clavdivs at 6:54 PM on August 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


AlsoMike : Wizards should be integrated into muggle society and all wizard institutions either permanently dissolved or forced to admit muggle members.

Typical Squib mentality... "I can't do it, so neither should anyone else".

Meanwhile, the rest of us stoically carry on with our tedious jobs at Bertie's factory so those unwilling or unable to do a proper day's spellcasting don't go without their vomit-flavored beans.
posted by pla at 6:57 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Ministry of Magic teetered but did not fall.
Not permanently, but Kingsley did specifically say, "The Ministry has fallen."
posted by soelo at 7:03 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


The existence of a parallel shadow society of elite wizards is ultimately the source of Voldemort's eliminationist ideology - why are we talking about repairing wizard society when it has finally shown its true colors and ought to be destroyed completely?

I would read fanfic where the whole point of the Holocaust was some sort of horrible necromancy (not too far from Stross there), which eventually becomes public somehow setting off a widespread war between humans and wizard-mutants.

You have to wonder what someplace like Los Alamos or Livermore could do with a crash program in whatever weird physics underly "magic," countermeasures against "magic," and so on. What awful weapons could Teller and Szilard have made if they had access to wizardry *and* thermonuclear reactions?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:57 PM on August 12, 2011


Not permanently, but Kingsley did specifically say, "The Ministry has fallen."

Correct. While "failed state" might be a little strong, the Death Eaters were able to seize control of both the Ministry and, by extension, Hogwarts, above the will of the populace. This is not a tenable system for the future. Changes will have to be made.

And there are larger issues at play here than the article points out. The Wizarding World of Britain, at least, suffers from massive disparity of wealth in a post-scarcity economy, something which makes no sense unless one is familiar with both the apparent economic stagnation of the society, wherein families like the Malfoys continue to enjoy untold wealth built almost entirely by the previous generations, while families like the Weasleys fall at the opposite end of the spectrum, when neither family should have to truly want for anything in an economic system which made any sense (for their community.)

The stagnation is only compounded by fierce isolationism and the retrograde, luddite attitude of the society at large.While not fully comparable to a madrassa, Hogwarts still grossly underserves its students by focusing exclusively on the fruits of its own culture, ignoring math, science literature, and almost all history and social studies. The handful of muggle-borns bussed in each year may provide some small insight into the goings on of the world at large, but they are indoctrinated so fully into wizarding culture and at such a young age that any such insights would be without a real understanding, and thus be nigh unto worthless.

I don't go so far as to call for forced integration of wizards into muggle society, an option which I fear could easily create a quickly-escalating conflict which neither side is prepared for, but increasing soft power from the muggle side could be very effective. The media of the muggle world beats the wizarding world's counterpart hands-down, and the youth will drive the future for years to come. As more Galleons are spent on High Street, perhaps the time will come for Pounds Sterling to be spent on Diagon Alley, shifting tides away from a culture of inherited wealth towrds a healthier wizarding economy, and crafting a belief in the benefits of multiculturalism, where muggles may one day enjoy charms, and wizards electricity.

It's not an immediate process, but this sort of thing very rarely is.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:58 PM on August 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


You have to wonder what someplace like Los Alamos or Livermore could do with a crash program in whatever weird physics underly "magic," countermeasures against "magic," and so on. What awful weapons could Teller and Szilard have made if they had access to wizardry *and* thermonuclear reactions?

I hope you have seen The Prestige.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:00 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


What awful weapons could Teller and Szilard have made if they had access to wizardry *and* thermonuclear reactions?

Turns out that LANL had such a hard time recreating FOGBANK because the first few scientists assigned to the project were Muggles.
posted by hattifattener at 8:08 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


A sorta-related link: Why I'm Glad I'm Not A Wizard, By A Muggle.

"The government sucks. Right now, nobody likes our two-party system. You know who would love our two-party system? Participants in the wizarding world's no-party system. In seven years among relatively engaged Hogwarts students, we witnessed exactly zero elections. The world is just run by incompetent career bureaucrats who lived through an epochal war between good and evil yet refuse to take precautions against another one unless goaded into action by a sky-eclipsing smoke tattoo. And even then, Plan A is "piss pants until some teenagers figure something out." As far as I can tell, the English wizarding government is comprised of a central administration and four coequal subsidiary branches: security, primary education, prophecy storage, and operation of after-hours public transportation. But you can't improve the government, because nobody can give the government a critical thought."
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:53 PM on August 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


What awful weapons could Teller and Szilard have made if they had access to wizardry *and* thermonuclear reactions?

Alternately, what could a team-up between Feynman and the Weasley twins produce? What if Dumbledore had befriended Oppenheimer instead of Grindelwald?
posted by NoraReed at 8:59 PM on August 12, 2011


I would read fanfic where the whole point of the Holocaust was some sort of horrible necromancy (not too far from Stross there), which eventually becomes public somehow setting off a widespread war between humans and wizard-mutants.

David Brin's "Thor Meets Captain America." There's a comic, too.
posted by Apocryphon at 9:09 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


You have to wonder what someplace like Los Alamos or Livermore could do with a crash program in whatever weird physics underly "magic," countermeasures against "magic," and so on. What awful weapons could Teller and Szilard have made if they had access to wizardry *and* thermonuclear reactions?

The aformentioned Harry Pottery And The Methods Of Rationality starts as a satire and then turns into pretty much exactly this and it is awesome

One super-neat thing that is implied but I don't think said outright is the reason why magic can upend the rules of physics is because the spell reflects the view of "how the world works" of the original spell-creator, so brooms work how we think flying sticks should work and not like how say, rockets or flying thing actually behave which is pretty counter-intuitive so THIS fanfic's Harry (who has a hard science background) can invent new spells that should be impossible cause his conception of how things should work is different - I:E he knows of and is able to conceptualize things as quantum phenomenon, leading one very small but very powerful tweak in transmutation magic.
posted by The Whelk at 9:19 PM on August 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


/me goes and looks that up
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:23 PM on August 12, 2011


The thing I found most awful about the final movie (and hit me much more than the final book) was this:
Children were basically the only people left who tried to fight the Bad Guys. Everyone else either ran away, joined up, or were unimpeachable Good Guys (the Aurors, the Good Hogwarts Professors...). How the hell do you rebuild a society that has completely and utterly failed its children, and in large part left them to die?

Also, a society that seems to have no actual defense against Grindelwalds/Voldemorts other than Heros who can defeat them in single combat, is pretty much screwed unless they've got a ready-made Hero around. And non-magical people are even more screwed, because if the Dark Lord beats the Good Guys, there's nothing to stop him from Hitlerizing the planet.
posted by BungaDunga at 12:12 AM on August 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


The Ministry of Magic teetered but did not fall.

Well, restoring government institutions after a war is pretty easy if the war was short enough that everyone still remembers them. Look at how easily the pre-war government of The Netherlands was restored after WWII, it was possible because everyone accepted that this was the legitimate authority .

How the hell do you rebuild a society that has completely and utterly failed its children, and in large part left them to die?

Indeed. We can once again look at the parallels of WWII Europe. In countries where collaborationists maintained government positions after liberation, it often took some time to restore full order. The members of the resistance were in some places quite furious that people who had sat on their asses for the last 6 years while they and their comrades were risking their lives went right on running society, while they went back to their unglamorous pre-war lives.

The children of Hogwarts would never easily accept adult authority after that, and the only thing that would keep the school from descending into anarchy is the fact that their teachers fought alongside them. Adults who weren't present would have no authority, probably even in their own eyes.

The ministry might even end up as tainted in their eyes as it did to German postwar youth. (You think you were rebellious because you thought the schoolmaster and police were "Like, fascists, and shit, maaaan"? Imagine how little you would have respected authority as a teenager if they had been actual Nazis, or at least worked for them.)

Before you know it, Luna Lovegood has joined the Baader-Meinhof gang.
posted by atrazine at 12:26 AM on August 13, 2011 [7 favorites]


You know who I want to see inserted into the world of Harry Potter and set free to do his thing? Bertrand Russell.
posted by No-sword at 1:02 AM on August 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Alternately, what could a team-up between Feynman and the Weasley twins produce?

Feynman would have disproven those guys in five minutes. If they weren't disprovable, he would have sat down and thought about it. By the time he was done thinking he'd either be at least a competent wizard himself, or he would have disproven it. An accurately-written Richard Feynman could not fit in a fictional world of wizards.
posted by JHarris at 3:02 AM on August 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


ROU_Xenophobe: What awful weapons could Teller and Szilard have made if they had access to wizardry *and* thermonuclear reactions?

Szilard would have counseled against making those weapons, as demonstrating the possibility of such weapons would be tantamount to giving them to the Russians. It was Ulam who had the idea for the Teller-Ulam configuration and gave it to Teller knowing that it would inevitably be built and most likely proliferate.

And Szilard was right about this, not just once but twice; after getting the A-bomb the Russians were pursuing fusion boosted A-bombs which were inherently limited in ultimate yield when we detonated Mike. Once they knew it was possible, it didn't take the Russians long to figure out what Teller and Ulam had figured out.

In the vein of this thread, I'd like to suggest that it was in fact Szilard who figured out that a Hecate Bomb could turn every living thing in a radius of twenty miles into solid gold, but he finally made the point that showing your enemy what is possible might not be such a good idea.
posted by localroger at 5:23 AM on August 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wizards should be integrated into muggle society and all wizard institutions either permanently dissolved or forced to admit muggle members.

That would be a rather bad idea. Because we know what happens to small minorities when they have something Muggles want. The wizards would end up on well, let's not call them reservations, but rather "Historical Wizarding Cultural Zones".

Dagon Alley, sitting on some valuable property in central London, would be seized and converted into high-rise apartments, but that's OK, the government will give the wizards some former industrial land in Hull, where they can recreate a "rather decent for what it's worth" imitation of the Alley. Dull-eyed wizards will try to sell "hand_crafted magical" knick-knacks, "wizzarding wands (tm)", and "wizzarding robes(tm) (made in China). The council group is publicly optimistic about increasing tourism, in spite of the drug use problem and the recent spate of police-on-wizard violence.

Though it's no longer a school, Hogwarts does better, for what it's worth; granted the chomping willow was cut down as a hazard, the centaurs died from that bout of mad cow disease, and a good chunk of the forest was converted into a parking lot. But the animal rides are popular with kiddies, the casino is doing well, and the "Wiz like a Wizard" seminars are popular with the New-Agey types (see professor Trelawney for reservations and information on the "Huffleclaw magyck degree vacation tours". Headmaster Lockhart proudly says that his institution maintains the highest traditions, while being "an absolutely ripping experience for the whole family".

Meanwhile, an alcoholic and bitter Harry Potter finds purely by chance an ancient legal document that seems to give the wizards full and sole ownership of East Finchley. Gathering a group of dissolute youth, he begins a drunken quest for justice, starting with stealing a train, and ending with a confrontation with the Metropolitan police....*


*(Synopsis of the novel, Nobody Loves a Drunken Wizard)
posted by happyroach at 12:05 PM on August 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Dagon Alley, sitting on some valuable property in central London

Surely Dagon Alley would be in Innsmouth...
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:17 PM on August 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Mankind will not be truly free until the last wizard is strangled with the entrails of the last werewolf!
posted by Grimgrin at 4:39 PM on August 13, 2011


Because we know what happens to small minorities when they have something Muggles want. The wizards would end up on well, let's not call them reservations, but rather "Historical Wizarding Cultural Zones".

Wizard society has decisive advantages over humans and the willingness to use them to dominate and enslave them, so the mental gymnastics necessary to portray wizards as victims of discrimination on par with weak human societies dominated by strong ones is quite astounding. The correct analogy is whites in apartheid South Africa, not Native American tribes facing a technologically superior invasion. The loss of cultural diversity that might occur from dismantling a society guilty of such enormous moral failings seems like a very small price to pay.
posted by AlsoMike at 6:13 PM on August 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


the centaurs died from that bout of mad cow disease

I'll just be over here, overthinking how that could happen. And crying.
posted by NoraReed at 1:11 AM on August 14, 2011


Wizard society has decisive advantages over humans and the willingness to use them to dominate and enslave them, so the mental gymnastics necessary to portray wizards as victims of discrimination on par with weak human societies dominated by strong ones is quite astounding. The correct analogy is whites in apartheid South Africa, not Native American tribes facing a technologically superior invasion. The loss of cultural diversity that might occur from dismantling a society guilty of such enormous moral failings seems like a very small price to pay.

Well yeah, that's the argument that the government will make. 'They are an imminent threat to our society and morals, so we MUST take them over!"

It's worked before, it will work again.
posted by happyroach at 9:39 PM on August 14, 2011


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