CosmereScholar

Awakening: The Dark Art

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Is it just me who sees Awakening as the most sinister magic of the Cosmere? It relies on the existence of Drabs, who have a reduced immune system and reduced enjoyment of life. For each Awakener, there are literally hundreds of people who have been crippled for life. It is no wonder Vasher moved to Roshar.

Also, it creates automatons which the annotations indicate have some self awareness, but are killed instantly. And most diabolically, it employs necromancy: the Lifeless we have been told also have some awareness, but are made into slaves.

 

Here is what makes Awakening worse than other magic systems:

Hemalurgy-Requires killing people, probably, and it creates abominations, but it strikes me as less sinister: it is used by very few people and does not inspire the long term mass exploitation of the masses. Also, no necromancy.

Bloodsealing-Necromancy, but skeletals seem less alive than lifeless automatons to me, though as alive as an Awakened object perhaps. But, it requires no sacrifice.

Dahkor-Lots of sacrifices here, but again, it’s violence against the few, more brutal and overt, while Awakening is far more insidious.

Note: Awakening is my favourite magic system in the Cosmere, in part because it is the most ethically complex.

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I am technically a drab and I have the expectation of living a long healthy fulfilling life.  Yes people with breath tend to have longer lives but many of us can attest that you do not need to be invested to be happy. 

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1 minute ago, Karger said:

I am technically a drab and I have the expectation of living a long healthy fulfilling life.  Yes people with breath tend to have longer lives but many of us can attest that you do not need to be invested to be happy. 

You are not a drab. A Nalthian with one breath is the same as a normal person everywhere else. It's a but like a person who somehow survived having part of them stolen with a Hemalurgic spike, though not as drastic.

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Actually, Drabs have been confirmed to be worse than regular people, while regular Nalthians are better.

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1 minute ago, CosmereScholar said:

Actually, Drabs have been confirmed to be worse than regular people, while regular Nalthians are better.

Thanks for the correction, but it doesn't change the idea I was conveying.

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7 minutes ago, CosmereScholar said:

It relies on the existence of Drabs, who have a reduced immune system and reduced enjoyment of life. For each Awakener, there are literally hundreds of people who have been crippled for life. It is no wonder Vasher moved to Roshar.

 

3 minutes ago, Karger said:

I am technically a drab and I have the expectation of living a long healthy fulfilling life.  Yes people with breath tend to have longer lives but many of us can attest that you do not need to be invested to be happy. 

Thing is, while having a reduced immune system in a tropical region before modern medicine might not be a death sentence, you will be sick a lot more then most people leading to a much more miserable life.

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15 minutes ago, SwordNimiForPresident said:

Thanks for the correction, but it doesn't change the idea I was conveying.

I was writing as you posted yours.

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9 minutes ago, Snipexe said:

 

Thing is, while having a reduced immune system in a tropical region before modern medicine might not be a death sentence, you will be sick a lot more then most people leading to a much more miserable life.

We also have to consider that the average Nalthian might have an enhanced immune system and slightly extended life on account of their breath. So while drabs might have weakened immune systems, it's probably less drastic than we think, and Nalthian pathogens are probably substantially stronger than average to compensate. While I agree that there are some ethical questions in making someone into a drab, it's also worth noting that the only perspective we really get is Vivenna's, who both comes from a culture where it's seen as a horrible thing, and was basically starving and homeless during that time which made it seem far worse. People like Jewels seem to cope with it, and the citizens of T'Telir generally seem to see it as an unfortunate thing that can happen, but that is by no means the end of the world.

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Just now, HSuperLee said:

We also have to consider that the average Nalthian might have an enhanced immune system and slightly extended life on account of their breath. So while drabs might have weakened immune systems, it's probably less drastic than we think, and Nalthian pathogens are probably substantially stronger than average to compensate.

Wouldn’t this make things worse for drabs, who now have a weaker immune system to deal with more powerful pathogens then normal humans. We know that being a drab weakens the immune system, and they’re always sick,

Quote

Brandon Sanderson

Vivenna's Thoughts on Being a Drab

A lot of what happened to Vivenna—how she saw the world and how she acted—was influenced by being a Drab. As I've said before, the Hallandren aren't right when they say losing your Breath does nothing to you. Most Drabs struggle with depression, and the fact that they're almost always sick doesn't help either.

And so, Vivenna's time on the streets was artificially made more dreary and terrible than it truly was. Being a Drab, being sick, the shock of being betrayed—these things combined to give you the person you saw in the previous two chapters. It's a way to cut a corner. I wanted Vivenna to feel like she'd been on the streets for months, but for it only to have been a few weeks.

She is able to make her hair change colors again. This is a representation of the fact that she has started to pull out of the nightmare. She's slightly in control of her world again, and the roughest time for her has passed. There's also a clue in that hair, one that Vasher mentions. Because of it, and her heritage, and something very mysterious in the past, every member of the royal line has a fraction of a divine Returned Breath in them. That makes it much easier for them to learn to Awaken than a normal person.

Warbreaker Annotations (Feb. 22, 2011)
Quote

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Forty-One

Vivenna, Sick and Disoriented, Gets Turned Away by the Restaurant Keeper

One of the ways I decided to make Vivenna's sections here work better was by enhancing the fuzziness of her mind. By giving her this sense of numbness, I hope to indicate that something is not right with her.

It's common for someone who suddenly becomes a Drab to get sick almost immediately. For a time, her immune system was magically enhanced and warded, in a way, to keep her from becoming ill. With that removed suddenly, sickness can strike. She hasn't built up immunities to the sicknesses going around, and by becoming a Drab, her immune system suddenly works far worse than that of other people.

These things combined made her come down with something pretty nasty the very day she put away her Breath. This would have killed her, eventually, if she hadn't done something about it. She would have grown so dizzy and confused that she wouldn't have even been able to walk.

By sending men to find her, Denth saved her life.

Anyway, I feel that these scenes work much better now. We can look at Vivenna's time on the streets in the same surreal sense that she does. They happened in the past, in a strange dream state. In that way, they can seem much longer than just two chapters and a couple of weeks.

Warbreaker Annotations (Feb. 7, 2011)

 

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34 minutes ago, CosmereScholar said:

Is it just me who sees Awakening as the most sinister magic of the Cosmere? It relies on the existence of Drabs, who have a reduced immune system and reduced enjoyment of life. For each Awakener, there are literally hundreds of people who have been crippled for life. It is no wonder Vasher moved to Roshar.

I think that this is partly due to their culture. If the elderly bequeathed their breath to their family before they died, there would actually be a breath surplus. I look at it the same way as Hemalurgic spikes. If you had one, and you were dying, would you leave it to a cherished family member? or would you tell them to slag it so no one else could benefit from it? I get that giving away your breath when you're old is pretty much a death sentence, but at least its on your terms and you get to give something to the people you love. I expect in future Nalthis breath will be traded like stocks in an exchange.

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2 hours ago, CosmereScholar said:

Is it just me who sees Awakening as the most sinister magic of the Cosmere? It relies on the existence of Drabs, who have a reduced immune system and reduced enjoyment of life.

 

Not necessarily. it is entirely possible, even extremely likely that someone would give their breath to there children while on their deathbed. everybody in the world could stop giving their breaths up, and all the drabs could magically get their breath back, and there would still be plenty of awakeners.

2 hours ago, CosmereScholar said:

 

Also, it creates automatons which the annotations indicate have some self awareness, but are killed instantly. And most diabolically, it employs necromancy: the Lifeless we have been told also have some awareness, but are made into slaves.

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The lifeless have SOME level of self-awareness. The sentience that they have is more of a memory of being alive than actually being living and feeling. they can't feel pain, nor do they care about the fact that they are slaves or even their own death. I fail to see what's wrong with making them slaves. 

 

2 hours ago, CosmereScholar said:

 

Hemalurgy-Requires killing people, probably, and it creates abominations, but it strikes me as less sinister: it is used by very few people and does not inspire the long term mass exploitation of the masses. Also, no necromancy.

 

I'm sorry, but I can't get around the idea that you think awakening is worse than hemalargy. 

First of all, you claim that it requires very few people. this is true for the inquisitors. but what about the Koloss, or even the Kandra. there are several armies of thousands of Koloss, and each one involves killing four people and turning one living, breathing, thinking human into a monstrosity against their will, that wants nothing more than to kill and destroy. there are several hundred Kandra, and each one has two spikes. 

Secondly, hemalurgy involves directly, brutally killing people, ripping their souls out against their will, and stabbing someone else with the very same spike you used to brutally kill someone else.

which do you think sounds worse: a large group of people willingly weakening their immune system so that they can feed their families, in the process creating a non-sentient, yet efficient working class and army to protect your nation. Or brutely murdering hundreds of thousands of people, ripping out parts of their soul against there will, and then using that to create an army of monstrosities who want nothing more than to free themselves so that they can kill and destroy as much as they can?

Edited by not an Evil Librarian
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Wouldn’t this make things worse for drabs, who now have a weaker immune system to deal with more powerful pathogens then normal humans. We know that being a drab weakens the immune system, and they’re always sick,

Yes, being a drab on Warbreaker Nalthian would be substantially less than pleasant. However, as medicines improve, drabs will likely have to deal with less sickness. I will continue to admit that creating drabs is not good, but I don't think it's unforgivable. But then again, if I was dropped into the Cosmere, one, I would want to he dropped into Nalthis, two, I would try to research ways to artificially create breath. Beyond drabs, there's not much unethical about awakening. Even with the lifeless, we get used to thinking about necromancy as evil, but to me it really just seems more like creating biological robots (which makes me wonder if you could 3d print cells and then turn them into a lifeless....that's another thread though.) Sure, it might be creepy to know your grandfather's corpse is now a member of the lifeless military, but I don't think it's evil.

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9 minutes ago, HSuperLee said:

 Even with the lifeless, we get used to thinking about necromancy as evil, but to me it really just seems more like creating biological robots (which makes me wonder if you could 3d print cells and then turn them into a lifeless....that's another thread though.) Sure, it might be creepy to know your grandfather's corpse is now a member of the lifeless military, but I don't think it's evil.

But, we know that

Quote

Lightsong Sees the Lifeless and Takes Command of Them

They keep them in the dark. This is a bad idea. They don’t realize it, but the Lifeless are far more aware than everyone assumes. Clod in this book is a foreshadowing of that, and there won’t be much more about it in the rest of the novel. It’s one of the focus points for the sequel, if I ever write it. (Which will actually have a Lifeless as a viewpoint character, if I can find a way to swing it.)

https://brandonsanderson.com/annotation-warbreaker-chapter-forty-seven/

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This implies the Lifeless are pretty aware. Though I admit I would find it creepy even if they weren't. But, I do not think most Awakening is objectionable. Just the creation of Drabs and Lifeless seems evil to me.

Edited by CosmereScholar
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Hemalurgy might start relying on exploitation of the masses very soon...

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Personally, I'd rather become a Drab than a victim of creating a hemalurgic spike, or powering a Dahkor spell.

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Awakening is exploitative, sure. Not very  pleasant if you're at the bottom of the social order. But Hemalurgy straight up kills people. Would you rather be a drab, sick and depressed all the time or would you rather be violently murdered, a piece of your soul serving to make a monster? And as far as Hemalurgy affecting very few people, well @not an Evil Librarian already brought up the Koloss army and Kandra. Even if you take that out of consideration though, Hemalurgy is about to be industrialized thanks to medallion tech. It's going to get exploitative and bloody on Scadrial in very short order.

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I agree that Awakening is bad, but is it evil? Is it really worse the murdering people to steal their powers as Hemalurgy requires? 

It's more akin to Systemic racism/sexism, in that it is part of the established Power structures of the world, so it's definitely bad in that regard because it can force economically distressed people into decisions they wouldn't make otherwise. BUT, no one can force you to give up your Breath. It has to be voluntary.

So in that way I'd say that it's not "evil", it still comes down to someone's choice to give up their breath, whether to a relative, or for sale. 

The game changer would/will be if people on Nalthis ever figure out how to split breaths when bequeathing them like Vasher and Denth know/knew how to do. 

So an inheritance cycle can begin. In a family with 4 grandparents, 2 parents (assume they are only children) and an only child, that child will eventually have 7 breaths, that they can then bequeath to their child/loved one. If they know how to split breaths then each can get a portion, otherwise just one will get them. But they'd also have them from their mom and those grand parents... you could easily have a surplus of Breath on Nalthis already. But people don't know how to effectively use that Surplus. 

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7 minutes ago, Bigmikey357 said:

Hemalurgy is about to be industrialized thanks to medallion tech. It's going to get exploitative and bloody on Scadrial in very short order.

I do not see how this would happen. On the contrary, Hemalurgy seems to be outdated, now that medallions exist. Even Suit says that he feels their experiments were wasted.

9 minutes ago, Bigmikey357 said:

But Hemalurgy straight up kills people. Would you rather be a drab, sick and depressed all the time or would you rather be violently murdered, a piece of your soul serving to make a monster?

Of course not. But, I maintain that Awakening is more evil as a whole. It seems to me far more grotesque to give three hundred people a lifelong sickness (yes I know it's voluntary) so you can live forever, than to kill one person to gain a power. One is more brutal, it is true, but the other strikes me as more perverse.

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5 minutes ago, CosmereScholar said:

I do not see how this would happen. On the contrary, Hemalurgy seems to be outdated, now that medallions exist. Even Suit says that he feels their experiments were wasted.

Well, there is the theory that Hemalurgy is used in creating Medallions... 

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1 minute ago, CosmereScholar said:

I do not see how this would happen. On the contrary, Hemalurgy seems to be outdated, now that medallions exist. Even Suit says that he feels their experiments were wasted.

Of course not. But, I maintain that Awakening is more evil as a whole. It seems to me far more grotesque to give three hundred people a lifelong sickness (yes I know it's voluntary) so you can live forever, than to kill one person to gain a power. One is more brutal, it is true, but the other strikes me as more perverse.

I agree that Hemalurgy, at least on Scadrial is going to be outdated soon in their history with medallion technology. 

I guess I have a very different view of the structures of Breath economy than you do. Outside of the donations to the gods and the god-king, I have the impression that general Awakeners aren't buying the individual breath of one person at a time. There is an economy built up around it, so that means a supply-chain with middle men, etc. Maybe its just my profession horning in on my headcanon, but I can't imagine that each Awakener out there has personally bought each breath they own. It's too cumbersome a system to support outside of the religious version of that. And those are individual "sacrifices", not commerce per se. You can see that in Jewels reaction to Vivenna's "sympathy for her plight as a drab". She is truly indignant, and feels that she did a great thing for her religion, and her family. 

Maybe I'm trying to defend it because that is the magic system I'd most want to get in on, precisely because you can buy your way to immortality, rather than having to be chosen at random by an unconscious Shardic force, or murdering people to get access to a false immortality with Atium. 

I don't argue that its systemic, but there is no way that it's more evil than straight up murdering people to steal parts of their soul. At least the drabs get paid for the part of their soul they give up. 

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2 minutes ago, Green Hoodie Mistborn said:

I don't argue that its systemic, but there is no way that it's more evil than straight up murdering people to steal parts of their soul. At least the drabs get paid for the part of their soul they give up.

What if we were to tally the numbers and find there were five deaths per 100 Drabs because of their weakened immune systems? Which would you consider more evil then?

Also, I would argue the payment for fractions of peoples' souls is itself quite evil.

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10 minutes ago, CosmereScholar said:

What if we were to tally the numbers and find there were five deaths per 100 Drabs because of their weakened immune systems? Which would you consider more evil then?

Also, I would argue the payment for fractions of peoples' souls is itself quite evil.

The differentiator here is that the drabs get to choose to keep living after voluntarily selling part of their soul. Yes some % is going to die from their sicknesses, and some may kill themselves because of depression, but it was THEIR choice to sell their Breath in the first place.

PG-13 Spoiler - 

Spoiler

I kind of feel like we're debating "which is more evil, prostitution or rape/murder ?". To me, that is the baseline difference between selling your Breath and having your soul ripped out of you and killed for it. 

I'm not sure we're going to come to an agreement point since I know which in my opinion is more evil, and you have your opinion which seems pretty solidly formed. 

Edited by Green Hoodie Mistborn
clarity
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46 minutes ago, CosmereScholar said:

I do not see how this would happen. On the contrary, Hemalurgy seems to be outdated, now that medallions exist. Even Suit says that he feels their experiments were wasted.

58 minutes ago, Bigmikey357 said:

Odds are that you need Hemalurgy to create the medallions in the first place. Remember the Excisors referenced by Allik? A theory (I believe it was Calderis that created it) states that those are Hemalurgic spikes, from the fact that the title of Firemother and Firefather are "bestowed" and not just there by default and the Sovereign's own experiments with Hemalurgy.

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If Awakening was evil, it couldn't have created a sword (which is totally not evil) to destroy evil. I rest my case.

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2 minutes ago, SwordNimiForPresident said:

If Awakening was evil, it couldn't have created a sword (which is totally not evil) to destroy evil. I rest my case.

That would almost be a valid defense, except for the issues Nightblood has with what is actually evil.

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