Lokis Net – OReilly Radar

02Jun09

In Lokis Net – OReilly Radar, Jeff Carr spins a Trickster myth to encourage Government 2.0 fans to use appropriate caution. It’s good story telling, except that I think he’s used the wrong central character. It should have been Odin.

Jeff’s myth features Loki, the Norse god who fills a role often known as the “Trickster.” There are several great references in Jeff’s post if you’d like to get to know Trickster better, but in short form: most indigenous myth systems include at least one identifiable Trickster character. Trickster is never one of the Big Boss Gods, but an imp: clever, often perverse, by no means always in the right, a counter-example more often than not. In Jeff’s myth, Loki spins a net that the other gods then use to trap him.

But Jeff’s warning, that we must not spin the web by which we are caught, is not the sort of story I would expect to find told about a Trickster. Trickster tales more often caution against hubris than mere folly. A simple oversight like this would not happen to Trickster, because he never does anything so simple as casual knitting. Trickster has plans, Trickster has dreams, Trickster’s plots are deep and convoluted, or they are brash, or greedy, or devious. Never casual. And Trickster’s downfall is foreshadowed and visible to us all from the first word of the tale.

The sort of mistake Jeff warns against, rather, usually falls to another character, the true boss-god, the one who bears the responsibilities of the world, and tries to execute them faithfully. This is the character whose slips cause disaster.

Consider, for example, Elder Brother of the Tohono O’odham, in his role as The Man In The Maze:

In ancient times, Se-eh-ha, who is also Elder Brother, needed a safe place to live. He still had a lot of work to do getting the world ready for the Pima and Papago people but he could not do his work because his enemies were always following him. …

Finally he decided to build a home underground in the center of a mountain. At the edge of the mountain, anyone could see the opening that led into his house, but … anyone who wanted to find Seeh-ha had to follow many narrow winding paths that went around and around. His enemies did not know which path to take. … The only trouble was that he wanted his friends to be able to come to him without getting lost. He made a map for them, and anyone who followed the map could make his way in without getting lost.

What’s the catch? Where’s the mistake? Take a look at the link and study the maze. It’s unicursal: there’s plenty of twisting going on, but only one path. Friend or enemy, you have only to keep going, and you reach Se-eh-ha. Sometimes, I worry about Se-eh-ha and the Tohono O’odham: their intended defenses are only a path for their enemies.

In Government 2.0, it’s not the advocates of openness who risk the future: they, like Jeff, are aware of the risks, and discuss them openly. Some may overstep their abilities, but others will be able to see, warn, and protect.

The danger to power is the arrogance of power, the one who supposes that his secret map is what keeps him safe.

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