Due to popular demand, here’s another place you can download Meta-MoR. Originally was up at Patreon.
The analysis podcast of the We Want MOR analysis podcast! Masterminded by April, bandwagon-ed by Eneasz. Is this a joke? Only one way to find out!
(full spoilers for all of HPMoR)
Where is the RSS feed?
I feel morally obligated to correct some misapprehensions you all appear to have about political and economic ideologies.
For one, Anarcho Capitalism is sort of like one of the unstable Lagrange points. It’s neat if you set things up exactly right and are in the exact right place, but functionally useless because you don’t stay there. For the hypothetical AnCap society, this unstable Lagrange point exists when everyone has access to exactly equal resources. At that point, it is true that a market is at least theoretically capable of distributing resources fairly, by determining who wants them more and giving them to those who will gain the most utility from them. But that breaks down instantly upon the opening of trade, as people consume resources they purchased with non-consumable currency. The people selling food, in other words, will be able to accumulate resources, while the people purchasing food will only be able to give those resources to the people with the food. This gives the people providing vital services enormous power over everyone else, which eventually descends into the stable form of feudalism: one guy who owns the land and the people on it, because they were all forced to sell everything they had in order to live.
Basically, if people only had wants, markets would be a fine way to distribute limited resources. However, we have consumable needs, and therefore the people who produce them will necessarily be able to hold everyone else hostage for them.
Furthermore, the whole “haha commie no food” meme is just a meme. For one, the CIA itself, in declassified documents, admitted that the average citizen of the USSR had access to about the same amount of food as a citizen of the United States…except the communist food was more nutritious. The famines which happened under communist regimes, most notably the Holodomor and the Great Leap Forward, absolutely happened, and they absolutely killed a lot of people, but they were largely caused by idiotic leaders who had no idea how farming worked and widescale mismanagement of land. Which, when you consider events like the Dust Bowl, are not exclusive to socialist countries. Furthermore, pointing out famines in socialist countries as evidence that socialism is bad ignores the many, many similar events in capitalist-run countries and colonies which killed far more people. For instance, as many as 50-60,000,000 people may have died in famines in India alone over the period of British rule. Famines caused in no small part by the British insistence that Indian farmers grow cash crops instead of, you know, food. The same thing happened in Ireland. Irish were forced to subsist entirely on potatoes, so when that crop failed people starved. Meanwhile, the entire wheat crop was owned and exported by the British Crown.
In addition, there is quite a lot of misinformation floating around out there. You’ll occasionally hear that socialism killed 100,000,000 people during the 20th century, but that number is…wildly inflated. It comes from a book called “The Black Book of Communism,” which has been widely panned by historians and philosophers alike as a deliberate attempt to make communism look worse than Naziism. Two of the book’s own authors have disavowed the third for his seemingly fanatical dedication to getting the 100,000,000 number, no matter how many scholarly corners he had to cut, wild overestimates of death tolls he had to include, or tenuous philosophical connections between very different movements he had to assume. One critic said that the book, “is to the study of communism what the [fabricated] Protocols of the Elders of Zion is to Judaism.” Generally, if you applied the same standards to Capitalism, it would look far, far worse than socialism.
I am clearly further to the left of you guys and I don’t intend to convert you to my own ideology. Largely because I haven’t quite nailed down what exactly that is yet. But you appear to have been fed quite a lot of misinformation, and I felt I needed to demonstrate that. I don’t blame you for that, largely because I once believed most of it as well. But, I encourage you to do some of your own digging into the history of labor movements worldwide and the actual effects of both capitalist and socialist policy on the people they rule.
Sources on the factual claims I made:
It would be very helpful to those of us catching up on the series to have labels on each episode stating which chapters they cover, as We Want MoR does. I’m trying to listen to the RSS feed that integrates the HPMOR audiobook with the WWM episodes after each group of chapters, and then listen to the relevant Meta-MoR episodes right after the last WWM episode they cover, but I can’t find that information either here or on Patreon, and you and April don’t state it right at the start of each episode, either.
I just finished listening to the WWM episode for chapters 76-77, and then the Meta-MoR episode that covers the SPHEW arc and also (I found out some forty minutes into the episode) the first three chapters of Taboo Tradeoffs. There’s a point that both Brian and Steven misunderstood, which didn’t surprise me that much, but I was quite surprised that you and April also seem to have missed it. All of you seemed to think that, with Snape’s dressing down of Hermione in Chapter 75, the administration had actually put a stop to bullying, as Harry predicted in his earlier conversation with Hermione. That is not what I saw happen, and I’m quite certain it’s not what Harry saw happen.
In Snape’s private conversation with the leading bullies, of which Dumbledore may or may not have been aware and Harry definitely wasn’t, he didn’t tell them to stop bullying people; he only told them to stop going after the SPHEW witches. Then, by only addressing Hermione and banning SPHEW at dinner, and saying nothing about the bullies, what he effectively told all the bullies was that their SPHEW problem was over, and they could carry on bullying people as they had done before Hermione started SPHEW. The Hogwarts administration did the exact opposite of what Harry had predicted to Hermione it would do as a result of her efforts: it banned heroing and licensed bullying. Instead of Hermione having made a difference, as Harry predicted, all her efforts were rendered null and void and the school was restored to status quo ante. That’s why Harry was so righteously pissed at Dumbledore, and the fact that that went completely over Brian’s head was part of the reason he was so critical of Harry and sympathetic to Dumbledore in their subsequent argument. (He also, as FeepingCreature observed in the r/HPMOR thread for that episode, pulled in a vast amount of extra-textual speculation and outright wishful thinking to make Dumbledore’s position look better.)
There’s another aspect that reflects better on Dumbledore, but that also went unmentioned in either podcast (for obvious reasons in WWM, since it involves parts of the book Brian hadn’t read yet, but it seemed like an oversight in MM). By doing what he did (through his reluctant catspaw, Severus Snape) to Hermione, Dumbledore gave her an object lesson in exactly the kind of heroic responsibility that Harry was trying to explain in their earlier conversation. He taught her, in a way so brutal that she couldn’t possibly misunderstand the lesson or ever forget it, that no, the adults cannot in fact be relied upon to help — nihil supernum. The thing that broke inside her as she stood before the head table was that trust in the wisdom and goodness of higher authorities that, as Harry had correctly pointed out, was blocking her from achieving her true potential as a heroine.
It seems likely, in light of the ending, that this act of calculated cruelty was something that Dumbledore believed he had to do based on his interpretation of one or more prophecies — that the prophecies were steering him to shape Hermione, as well as Harry, into the person she needed to be to help steer the future history of the world along the one narrow path that would not lead to the extinction of humanity. He probably didn’t fully realize the purpose of that action, however, just as he had no idea why he had to smash Harry’s pet rock, since it’s clear from his actions at her trial that he did not regard Hermione as indispensable in the way that Harry was — from his point of view, her life was an acceptable sacrifice, not even to save Harry’s life but merely to avoid drastically weakening his political position vis-a-vis Lucius Malfoy.
Another thing that I didn’t hear discussed much in either podcast or on the relevant discussion thread is that the first conversation between Harry and Dumbledore, in Chapter 74, subtly illustrates a flaw in Dumbledore’s intellect that mirrors one of Harry’s: he appears to be suffering from a kind of tunnel vision, in which he underestimates the agency of people other than himself, Harry, and Quirrell. He assumes that all of SPHEW’s improbable victories were the result of Harry and Quirrell’s interference, rather than only the last one as was actually the case. The possibility that Snape might interfere apparently never occurred to him, nor the possibility that Susan Bones had been replaced in the penultimate fight by the one Metamorphmagus currently attending Hogwarts, a seventh-year student, aspiring Auror, and protegé of Mad-Eye Moody with the combat chops to take on Reese Belka, Randolph Lee, and Robert Jugson III all at once, and a Hufflepuff like Susan, and who McGonagall had told him was already assisting SPHEW by enchanting the buttons they were selling.
This oversight, and also his wrong assumption that Harry had loaned Quirrell the True Cloak of Invisibility, rather than having Quirrell disguise himself in the same way the bullies did, seems consistent with Riddle’s contention that “Plotting does not come naturally to Dumbledore, but he tries because he must. To that task Dumbledore brings intelligence, dedication, the ability to learn from his mistakes, and an utter lack of native talent,” and that the Headmaster “has no native understanding of Slytherin’s ways.”
There are a couple of other things that seemed to me to be missing from the conversation in the podcasts about Chapter 75, and weren’t brought up in the Reddit thread either. In Hermione’s discussion with Harry, she keeps talking about how “it’s my life!” that Harry was interfering with, as though she was the only one at risk. I think both Brian and Steven are so fond of Hermione that they didn’t stop to consider that she was ignoring the danger to the other seven members of SPHEW. It was their lives as well, and one of them (Tracey) had accepted Harry’s offer of protection.
Given that Hermione and the rest of SPHEW had rejected the offer, and that protecting Tracey alone was sufficient reason for Harry to act against the bullies, it’s a lot less reasonable for Hermione to expect Harry to consult her and give her a veto over how he chose to go about protecting Tracey than either Hermione or Steven and Brian seemed to think. Admittedly, Harry didn’t really call Hermione out on that either, because he was primarily motivated to protect her, but he would have been entirely justified in saying, “It wasn’t just you that could have been hurt, and Tracey did accept my protection.” He did talk hypothetically about protecting Hannah Abbott, but Hermione brushed that off, unjustifiably I think, and kept bringing it back to it being about her life.
Also, in discussing the range of alternative ways Harry might have handled the situation, I think Steven, Brian, and Hermione underestimated the constraints (self-imposed, but not unreasonable) under which Harry was operating. Harry had two major parameters: first, the outcome of the plan had to be that none of the SPHEW witches would get beaten up by older bullies, then or later; asking for help from McGonagall, as Hermione suggested, would not assure that outcome, or even make it particularly likely. Asking Dumbledore might, but Harry didn’t have much reason to believe that; he didn’t have a close, trusting relationship with the Headmaster, and the bullying problem had been going on for years while Dumbledore had not chosen to do anything to stop it.
Second, once he’d settled on Quirrell as the best bet for an adult he could turn to for help devising and executing a plan that would satisfy that first criterion, the solution Harry came up with had to appeal to Professor Quirrell’s peculiar sense of humor. Quirrell wasn’t going to do anything just because Harry asked him to, or for the sake of Hermione; Harry needed to come up with a plan that Quirrell would be willing to carry out for the fun of it, because he wasn’t going to do it for any other reason.
One more thing I picked up on during this run through the story (I’m listening to the RSS feed that includes the audiobook interspersed with the WWM episodes after each group of chapters they cover) that I don’t think I ever noticed before, though the mention of Winston Churchill should have been a clue:
Dumbledore talks as though preventing the war from beginning sooner than it must and preventing it from lasting longer than it must are the same thing; in real life, those two objectives may well be mutually exclusive. Starting the war sooner may also mean that it ends up being shorter and having a better outcome, if your opponent’s strength is increasing faster than yours. Dumbledore’s answer is Neville Chamberlain’s answer, and it was the wrong answer in 1938. If Chamberlain had done what Churchill advocated and declared war to prevent the annexation of Czechoslovakia (whose substantial industrial base the Third Reich seized completely intact, dramatically increasing their capacity to produce war materiel), it’s likely that Nazi Germany and its Axis partners would have been beaten sooner and at much less cost in blood and treasure than it took in actual history. (Harry Turtledove has written a reasonably plausible alternate history in which World War II begins in 1938 over Czechoslovakia instead of in 1939 over Poland.)