Agent of Chaos
Norman Spinrad

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Agent of Chaos

“Gregor Markowitz” quotes


science fiction

index pages:

This novel has many quotations, including its chapter headings, from “Gregor Markowitz,” a fictional political philosopher. Just for the fun of it, I’ve given that material its own section. Chapter references therein refer to the novel, and therefore appear in brackets.

Unfortunately, my copy lacks a copyright statement.

Agent of Chaos

Submissiveness, apathy, bovine indifference, were ideal traits in a controlled populace—and the Wards moved further in that direction every day—but they would be intolerable in the paramilitary organization designed to control that populace. The Guards had to be alert, ruthless, possessed of considerable initiative, and tough.

In a word, it was necessary that they be dangerous.

But one thing the Hegemony could not tolerate was a tough, armed elite group of men with an internal esprite, a Praetorian Guard.

Wasn’t it one of the old suppressed philosophers, Plato or Toynbee or Markowitz, Johnson thought, who had posed that old paradox: “Who shall guard the Guardians”?

Johnson grimaced inwardly. Whoever he was, he had not lived under the Hegemony! The Hegemony had the answer. . . .

The answer was fear. Institutionalized and carefully created paranoia. The Guards guarded the Guards. They were conditioned to distrust every human being but the Councilors themselves [...] They were conditioned to kill anyone that seemed the least bit out of line, and that included their own pack brothers.


Rule by fear

Fear, prosperity, and iron control were enabling the Hegemony to reduce the Wards to nothing more than well-fed, well-housed, well-amused domestic cattle. They lacked nothing but freedom, and the very meaning of that word was rapidly becoming obscure.



3 He wondered if he really wanted to learn more of the cause he served. Wasn’t it enough to serve a cause, men, one could believe in, without being expected to comprehend the incomprehensible?

Some things it was better, perhaps, not to know.

It was enough to follow those who knew them. It was enough to follow the Way of Chaos, good to have faith in the triumph of something greater than Man. But it was something else again to try to understand the force called Chaos.

4 The time to worry about just what Democracy was was after the Hegemony was destroyed and there was leisure to argue about the fruits of victory. And that was a long, long way off. Action was what counted now. Too much thinking about ends led only to confusion. . . .
5 To him, the Chaos he served was a simple matter—the sowing of confusion, fear and doubt in the enemy camp. But as he listened to the Prime Agents, it seemed to him that to these men Chaos was a living thing, a thing which commanded them as they commanded him. As he was but an instrument of the Prime Agents, so it seemed that the Prime Agents were instruments of something else, something great, superhuman, invincible. And the mystery, the incomprehensibility of this thing called Chaos only increased his dedication to its service. It made him feel he was on the side of something far greater than mere men, something so awesome that in the long run it could never fail.

“To rationally oppose religious fanatics,” Gorov said evenly, “one must understand the dogma which they serve. Otherwise, their actions become totally unpredictable.”

7 Did a religion need an anthropomorphic god? Or merely the certain knowledge that there was something bigger than Man and his works, something that would always, in the end, frustrate the absolute, certain Order that Man was forever trying to imprison himself in? Did it matter that that omnipotent something was not a god, was not any being, but the ultimate tendency inherent in everything in the universe, from atom to Galaxy, toward ever-increasing entropy, Chaos itself? Perhaps, in its own way, Chaos was a god-immortal, infinite, omnipotent. . . .
8 There was a certain freedom to be gained by considering yourself already dead. Every man had to die someday, and by thinking of today as that day, one was free to think of giving one’s death meaning, of making it count.



9 “A most peculiar psychology—a man who believes what he wants to believe. It was all a trap, Mr. Boris Johnson, and you walked right into it.”

“What about Freedom?”

“Well what about it?” Khustov said blandly. “What is it but a word? Freedom from what? From disease, from poverty, from war? We’ve already achieved that. Or do you mean freedom to? To starve? To kill? To suffer? To wage war? To be unhappy? What is this freedom? What but a meaningless, obsolete word! What a fool you are, to throw your life away for a word!”

“It’s not just a word!” Johnson insisted shrilly. “It’s . . . it’s. . . .”

“Well?” said Khustov. “What is it then? Do you know? Can you tell me? Can you even tell yourself?”

“It’s . . . it’s Democracy . . . when the people have the government they want. When the majority rules. . . .”

“But the people already have the government they want!” Khustov exclaimed. “They want the Hegemony.”


Johnson found that he felt no fear. Having tasted victory, defeat and salvation in such rapid and dizzying succession, he could feel nothing at this point, nothing at all. His world, his life, was in ruins and now he was ready to face anything with a fearlessness born of total indifference. When you’ve got nothing, he thought, you’ve got nothing to lose.

Boris Johnson felt like a slate, wiped clean and waiting for fate to write upon it what it would. It was not an altogether unpleasant feeling. It was, in fact, that for which he had fought, the rarest of all feelings in the Hegemony of Sol—freedom.

“I can believe in Chaos, and that makes me . . . makes me . . . makes me feel, well, taken care of.”

“And just what is this Chaos that gives you such a sense of security?”

Duntov shrugged. “Something much too big and powerful and eternal for me or any other man to really know,” he said. “Something greater than Man, a force which rules the universe. . . . Surely, even you have felt the need to know that there was something, somewhere greater than the human race. . . ?”

Fantastic! Gorov thought. Of course the man doesn’t realize it, but he’s talking about the concept the ancients called “God.” [...] Although all knowledge of the God-thesis had perished with the Millennium of Religion, was it possible that there existed in certain men an inborn need for this thing, a desire to discover and believe in some supernatural order or being, a desire that had no specific object, that was, in a sense,its own object?




“You! The Brotherhood of Assassins! Murderers! Madmen! Insane fanatic killers! You abhor violence!”

“I said I abhor pointless violence,” Robert Ching said mildly. “But the conditions of the Hegemony force violence upon even the most reasonable of men.”

“Our actions only appear illogical because they are Random.”

“The two words mean the same thing,” Johnson insisted.

“Yes, that is what the Hegemony would have you believe,” Robert Ching said. “Order is logical, Chaos illogical. Those who serve Order are pragmatists and those who serve Chaos religious fanatics. But consider the Law of Social Entropy. [...] The natural tendency in the physical realm is toward ever-increasing randomness or disorder, what we call Chaos or entropy. So too, in the realm of human culture. To locally and temporarily reverse the trend towards entropy in the physical realm requires energy. And so too in human societies—Social Energy. The more Ordered, thus unnatural, anti-entropic, a society, the more Social Energy is required to maintain the unnatural condition. And how is this Social Energy to be obtained? Why, by so ordering the society as to produce it! Which, as you can see, requires more Order in return. Which creates a demand for more Social Energy, and so forth, in a geometric progression that spirals as long as the society attempts to achieve Order.”

“You are the enemy—kill the enemy, eh? Certainly what you would do in my position. But you serve Order, and I am an agent of Chaos. Therefore, I do the Chaotic thing, and the Chaotic thing in this situation is to let you go.”
“My loyalty was never to the Hegemony as such—when conditions change, forms must change with them. [...] My loyalty is only to the truth, the truth and that social order which serves the interests of the greatest possible number under any given conditions. Until now, that has been the peace and prosperity secured by the Order of the Hegemony. But when conditions change, a logical man reforms his hypotheses and analyses accordingly.”

His war on the Hegemony had been a fight for Democracy, which to him had simply meant freedom, and now he knew that the deepest meaning of freedom was not freedom from any particular tyranny or indeed from tyranny itself, but freedom to. And for men to be truly free, that “to” had to be open-ended, had to refer to every possibility that could ever exist. Freedom was the right of every man to fulfill his own private destiny, and there were at least as many destinies as there were men. Freedom was infinity. And only the stars were a concrete form of this theoretical freedom.



“The extent of the knowledge to be gained by contact with a totally alien civilization is quite literally inconceivable, since such creatures must inevitably differ from ourselves in ways we cannot even imagine, must have formed thoughts that have never taken shape in human brains.”
“But now the context expands, and we must expand with it. For knowledge, once gained, cannot be thrown away, even if one were mad enough to want to. Knowledge alone is immutable and immortal.”



12 There would always be things in the universe that he could never understand, things he did not really yearn to understand. It was quite enough to know that there were men who did understand them, men, like Robert Ching, in whom he could place unquestioning, but not entirely blind trust. [...] It was important only to believe, and to be able to act upon that belief.



The way to make a man do what you want him to do, he thought, is to forbid him to do it.



text checked (see note) Sep 2010

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from works attributed to
“Gregor Markowitz”
The Theory of Social Entropy
[1] Every Social Conflict is the arena for three mutually antagonistic forces: the Establishment, the opposition which seeks to overthrow the existing Order and replace it with one of its own, and the tendency towards increased Social Entropy which all Social Conflict engenders, and which, in this context, may be thought of as the force of Chaos.
[3] Order is the enemy of Chaos. But the enemy of Order is also the enemy of Chaos.
[4] It is a simplistic error to equate Chaos with what is vaguely called the Natural State. Chaos underlies the increasing entropy of the raw universe, to be sure, but it also fills every interstice in that most defiant of anti-entropic constructs—Ordered human society.
[6] It is wise, upon occasion, to introduce true randomness into your actions when opposing an existing order. The problem is that randomness, by definition, cannot be planned. Human emotion, however, is a Random Factor, and thus it may be said that to serve the interests of one’s own endocrine system is to serve Chaos.
[8] The servant of Order, by the very fact that he strives to maintain an eddy of decreased Social Entropy in a hostiley Chaotic universal context must imagine dangers lurking around every corner. The servant of Chaos does not imagine such dangers; he knows that they are there.
[10] It is vain to search for solid ground on which to stand. The solid matter of the ground is, after all, but an illusion caused by a particular energy configuration—as is the foot which stands upon it. Matter is illusion, solidity is illusion, we are illusion. Only Chaos is real.
[11] Order, being anti-entropic, requires a fixed and limited context within which to exist. Chaos contains all such limited contexts within it as insignificant eddies temporarily resisting the basic universal tendency towards increased Social Entropy.
Chaos and Culture
[2] In a place with no past there is nowhere to conceal the future from the present.
[5] Paradox is the question of Chaos.
[7] If a man asks you, where can this Chaos of which you speak be detected by human senses, take him outside at night and point to the stars—for in the limitless heavens themselves, shines the countenance of Chaos.
[9] The servant of Order strives to force his enemy to accept the unacceptable. To serve Chaos, confront your enemy with the unacceptable—and he will eagerly choose any lesser evil you desire to make unavoidable.
[12] Man reaches for life and shrinks from death; Man reaches for Victory and shrinks from defeat. Therefore, what greater paradox than triumph through death? What act can be more truly Chaotic than victory through suicide?
source unstated

[the Law of Social Entropy]

In social orders, as in the physical realm, the innate tendency is towards increased entropy or disorder. Therefore, the more Ordered a society, the more Social Energy is required to maintain that Order, the more Order needed to generate that Social Energy, the two paradoxical needs feeding upon each other in an ever-increasing exponential spiral. Therefore, a highly Ordered society must gro ever more Ordered, and thus can tolerate less and less Random Factors as the cycle progresses.

[7] God is the mask men erect facing them to hide from the unacceptable fact of the Reign of Chaos. . . . God is that which fearful men must postulate, the omnipotent ruler of a superhuman Order, in order to protect themselves from the awful truth that the seeming randomness of the universe is not an illusion caused by the inability of mortal Men to completely comprehend the all-encompassing Order of God, but that Chaos itself is the ultimate reality, that the universe, in the last analysis, is based on nothing more structured or less indifferent to Man than Random Chance. . . .

text checked (see note) Sep 2010

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