May 31st, 2006
|04:35 am - A Potterverse musing -- What is Voldemort's real agenda?|
This Potterverse essay started off as a comment I made to innerslytherin, the writer of a Snupin fic I've been enjoying reading in the lupin_snape community. I thought I'd expand it a bit and see what thoughts, if any, people have on the subject.
What is Voldemort's real agenda?
I've seen the whole Dumbledore versus Voldemort as more of an internal power struggle within the Wizarding World and less of a real ideological one, since the whole anti-Muggleborn agenda came in well after Voldemort started his rise to power. He aspired to Dumbledore's position as King of the Wizarding World's Hill well before he was able to mount a credible challenge to Dumbledore.
It may even be something of a red herring for him -- simply a means to an end, that end being gathering more followers to his banner. He may simply have found it an expedient flag to fly, one that made it easier for him to recruit followers by using the pre-existing anti-Muggleborn bias of the purebloods and any wannabe half-blood arrivistes who aspired to join the Wizarding World's almost-exclusively-pureblood upper class.
This anti-Muggleborn bias is one that I believe may be founded in the belief that Muggleborns weren't assimilating into wizarding culture and were instead diluting its ancient traditions with their new-fangled Muggle attitudes and ideas. (Witness Hermione and S.P.E.W., for example . . . ) The anti-Muggleborn fanatics may see this issue as a struggle for the heart and soul of wizarding culture.
The analogy I'd like to draw here is the anti-Western-culture bias of certain parts of the Muslim world, where things considered normal in the West are denounced as being "un-Islamic" and serve as recruitment fodder for Islamic fundamentalists, including those with terrorist tendencies. The Death Eaters are Voldemort's own personal terror squad, bent on creating mayhem and sowing discord, but with a political agenda. Their agenda is to sap Dumbledore's public support, much as the Madrid terrorists' train bombing was a factor in Spain's elections and subsequent withdrawal from the situation in Iraq once the newly-elected Spanish government was in place.
Voldemort's real agenda may simply be to usurp Dumbledore's place as primus inter pares in the Wizarding World.
It certainly seems to be more in line with Rowling's portrayal of him as a megalomaniac. In psychiatric terms, Voldemort suffers from narcissistic personality disorder, apparently co-morbid with schizoid and/or antisocial personality disorder. (Compare his behavior, description and personal history in canon with the DSM-IV-TR diagnostic criteria for each of these personality disorders if you don't believe me.)
Some of the hallmarks of narcissistic personality disorder are a sense of entitlement and of being "special" and inherently superior. Since Voldemort is the Heir of Slytherin, he feels entitled to lead the Wizarding World.
Unfortunately for him, Albus Dumbledore is the de facto ruler of it, a situation that grates on the former Tom Riddle. This is something he cannot allow to continue and so Voldemort seeks power, by whatever means he can find, to usurp Dumbledore and become the new leader of the Wizarding World.
The fact that Muggles and Muggleborns are eliminated along the way is merely the icing on the cake, not the cake itself, since he never cared for them in the first place anyway. Voldemort seeks power for personal reasons, not ideological ones -- anti-Muggleborn ideology is simply a means to an end for him, albeit a means he exploits ruthlessly in furtherance of his personal goals. It is important to also not forget either that he had almost achieved those goals before he made his capital error of going after the Potter family, something which I am sure spurs him on to try once more to achieve his ultimate goal -- dominion over the Wizarding World, his rightful domain.
Current Mood: pensive
Current Music: "Dueling the Basilisk" -- Harry Potter & the CoS soundtrack
Great essay! I think you make some very good points, and it's a very cogent argument that Voldemort's interest is personal rather than ideological.
It seems to me that Voldemort does have a deep-seated prejudice against Mugglekind that has several origins.
As you point out a key part of his identity revolves around his identity as Slytherin's Heir. Subsequently he needs to be the epitome of the values inherent in that role, and the belief in cultural/blood purity is inherent in that, so that even if he had no other reason, it would behoove him to adopt these values. Unfortunately, because of his own familial heritage he can not actually meet these standards himself, and it seems only logical that this conflict would express itself in overcompensation, in the direction of muggle hate. Again, the fact that his heritage consists of role reversed (pathetic impoverished pureblood mother and well-to-do Muggle father) could only amplify this. By the time we see him however, other features obscure this.
On a simple, personal level, blaming his Muggle father for his mother's fate and his own situation would invariably induce a bias against Mugglekind when the distinction is made clear to him through his contact with the Wizarding world.
The upshot of this is that I believe Voldemort does have an anti-Muggle ideology, it is more than a means to an end, but at the same time it is not his prime motivation.
Which is, as you say, power, and the dimension of that power is personal. It's not so much about the politics, as it is him. His fundamental quest was for immortality, and it would seem that his political ambitions are merely a reflection of his need to accumulate as much power as possible - both magical and societal.
The underlying insecurity and fear that drive this need for compensatory potency seem to be embedded in his abandonment. Obviously the nuture factor alone is hardly sufficient, and I think the personality disorder component is no doubt just as vital as these environmental factors.
Thank you for the compliment! I enjoyed reading your reply to my essay-bunny.
I tend to think of Voldemort's ostensible anti-Muggleborn bias as having multiple sources. His own personal experiences are important of course, but I think he picked up the ideological trappings he wrapped his true agenda in from his followers, since from what I remember, most of his actual targets have been wizards, not Muggles themselves primarily. That they die along the way seems to be gravy, but he doesn't seem to go out of his way to exterminate them, preferring to go after Muggleborn magical folk instead. While he may eventually target Muggles, he seems more interested both in his first and second rises to power with consolidating his position by eliminating opposition within the Wizarding World, hence his use of anti-Muggleborn prejudice to solidify his political base.
Once he is able to reign unopposed, he may decide it is politic to allow certain factions of his supporters to pass things like the Muggle-hunting laws that members of the Black family had proposed unsuccessfully in the past. I'm sure it would turn into a favorite Death Eater sport, much as fox-hunting has been among the British gentry.
Even then, however, he might realize that there are too many more Muggles than wizards and witches and that targeting them risks exposure of the Wizarding World to Muggle scrutiny and a new round of witch-hunts, where the billions of Muggles in the world may decide it is in their best interests to commit genocide once again in a modern replay of the Burning Times.
Voldemort may be a power-hungry megalomaniac but he isn't stupid. Nor are the other members of the larger wizarding community. Unless Voldemort and his followers were to develop the magical equivalent of a neutron bomb, or at least an Avada Kedavra machine gun, it would be incredibly foolish to take on the rest of the world's entire population, with wizards being as badly outnumbered as they are.
Whatever else Voldemort may be, he is not a fool.
Muggleborn wizards, however, would be fair game -- and safe to boot. Eliminating them would allow him to claim the mantle of Savior of the Wizarding World's Traditions -- and the catbird seat in wizarding politics, a clear win-win situation as far as he's concerned.
actually, in terms of voldemort's ultimate goals, both pharnabazus
and Red Hen
have posited that that "foolishness" is EXACTLY what Voldemort ultimately wants: to ultimately destroy the Wizarding World entirely, and turn all the Muggles over to Dementors.
It's a bit grim, but I do greatly respect both of them; Red Hen and Brandon Ford
are my all-time HP gurus.
Well, it's certainly true that Voldemort is no fool. He's clearly of the Thoroughly Evil and Equally Genius variety of bad guys. On the other hand, I think he's completely insane by this stage of his existence, in the sense he has no limit to ambition and in his own mind (and possibly in reality) is the singularly most powerful individual in the world.
I think when we talk about his anti-muggle prejudice we are coming at it from different angles. I didn't mean to imply that it was sufficient to direct his agenda from a political viewpoint, merely that it was a deeply held prejudice that would have have a prominent place in his worldview, rather than that he would have anti-muggle pogroms. As you say, most of his violence is directed at Wizards, and there are no doubt a few reasons for this. As much has he has little respect for muggles (nor their right to exist) it does seem as his actual hate and energies are directed against Wizarding folk. Possibly because he does not believe Muggles to be worth the effort at all, and also no doubt because of his own psychological issues and need to have potency... there is little to be proved by triumphing over an enemy as feeble as someone not even able to use magic.
As an aside,I think Voldemort would be quite confident of being able to commit mugglocide and wipe out all the non magical types if ever challenged to it. But the idea doesn't seem in-line with his general approach which is of domination and control, rather than obliteration.