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"I am not understanding what you mean by strangeness," said Bao.

The Questioner seated herself comfortably, quite willing to educate a willing listener. "All societies maintain themselves by forcing personal behavior into a mold or pattern which the society calls its 'culture.' The patterns are imposed by natural or political conditions; for example, either recurrent drought or recurrent persecution can result in similar patterns. Most patterns require changes in behavior, and that requires changes in belief systems, or vice versa, sort of chicken and egg as to which comes first.

"So a few thousand years go by and the climate changes, or the politics, but the people still follow the same taboos because by now they believe their deity ordered them to do it. Long-practiced behaviors that started as a response to conditions, always fossilizes into 'traditional values', that is, the only 'right way' to do things. At that point people no longer use the system in order to survive, the system uses them in order to survive. That's something people often don't understand. Systems are parasitical, they have a life of their own, and they, too, evolve and change and try to servive. The one fact that is true of all cultures, without exception, is that it never represents the free desires of the people who are jammed into it even when people are conditioned from childhood to accept uniformation."

"Really?" asked Ellin. "Never?"

Questioner grinned at her. "Only mavericks live in accordance with their desires, and even they don't often get away with it. They are usuallly labeled as troublemakers and gotten rid of. So, wh