Blog Banter #10 – Western War Waffle

Posted: July 27, 2009 in Blog Banter, MMO Concepts

Welcome to the tenth installment of the EVE Blog Banter, the monthly EVE Online blogging extravaganza created by CrazyKinux. The EVE Blog Banter involves an enthusiastic group of gaming bloggers, a common topic within the realm of EVE Online, and a week to post articles pertaining to the said topic. The resulting articles can either be short or quite extensive, either funny or dead serious, but are always a great fun to read! Any questions about the EVE Blog Banter should be directed here. Check out other EVE Blog Banter articles at the bottom of this post!

This month’s banter leans a little, OK a lot, on the academic side. It comes to us from xiphos83 of A Misguided Adventurer, who asks the following: ” Victor Davis Hanson argues that western culture, comprising of ideals such as freedom, debate, capitalism, and consensual government, are what make western society so successful at waging war. These ideologies create a warrior who’s direct participation in government, ability to think freely, and desire to remain free, fights harder and is willing to suffer more than his conscripted foe. Though a military must remain a structured oligarchy to fight a war effectively, why in a world where military conflict is as familiar as breathing are there so few alliances that embrace these ideologies when governing their members?”

Well, well. What an intriguing notion we have here, and props to Xiphos83 for putting it forward. Let’s have a look.

First off, the conceit that we are asked to accept, namely that “western” ideals make for better and more sucessful warriors. I find this idea to be complete and utter bunkum. Now, I’ve not read Professor Hanson’s books, but to write off the Mongols, Ottoman Empire, Salah ah-Din’s Sultanate, the Umayyad occupation of Spain, and many other sucessful military powers who confronted and defeated the “western” nations seems short sighted in the least. And that’s without considering the far Eastern powers. Furthermore, it is the nature of military training that ensures that the ideals that prof Hanson maintains play such a large part in the West’s dominance of war, are actually subjugated beneath the need to follow orders, and to forgo freedom in exchange for military efficiency. I would postulate that the success of the West in war owes more to the financial capabilities of those states, than to any desire to fight for freedom.

It is probably also worth considering that participation in government, freedom of thought and desire to remain free are in no way the exclusive domain of “western” societies. All of these have equally applied to those nations and powers traditionally considered “Eastern”.

This is an Eve blog, and an Eve blog banter; and so whilst I take issue with the assertions made by Professor Hanson, it is also important for me to address the question posed – so let’s try that.

Why are there so few alliances that embrace the ideals of direct governmental participation and freedom of thought and action? Well, first off, it’s down to the participants in this society. Eve isn’t life. You aren’t immersed in Eve 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – if you are, then you should probably have a think about your priorities. Most Eve players play for a few hours a week, perhaps a few a day for the hardcore, and therefore do not wish to put energy into thinking about, or participating in, these ideals. Far easier to toe the line, when that line offers all that you require, than to rock the boat in search of notional freedom. Alliance A offers the opportunity to smite my enemies, mine during the day, and research at the POS. I like this, so why challenge the leaders? If a leader does something that I dislike, then far easier to leave Alliance A and join Alliance B than to try to change Alliance A’s governmental system. In common with most MMO organisational structures, when the leaders of an alliance step grossly out of line, they are deposed and replaced with new dictators rather than the whole alliancegovernance structure being overhauled. Thus default structures endure, and the evolution of government never happens.

The momentum for change is never great, especially when it comes to governmental system. It took the best part of 700 years for England to achieve anything that might represent a consensual government, and that was with millions of people whose everyday lives were lived there. How much longer would it take for a couple of hundred people who are part time inhabitants to naturally generate that sort of momentum? Rapid governmental change in MMO organisations will tend to come from extreme action by the leaders of those organisations leading to extreme re-actions by the participants. In those extreme cases it is seen that populist uprisings can drive governmental change. The aforementioned apathy is pushed to one side, but a kick out against oppressive rulers. I suspect, that due to the more mature nature of the average Corp and Alliance leaders in Eve there are fewer moments of high internal drama.

Lastly, there is a massive difference between war in Eve (and indeed any MMO) and war in the real world. So gaping is the rift between them that they don’t even qualify as the same thing. Whilst Eve is a game of consequences, war itself is of little consequence. It is, and is intended to be, recreational. It would be more apt to compare war in Eve to a competitive sport, and I see no suggestion that the “western” ideals do anything to improve the sporting prowess of those nations. In Eve one’s freedom is rarely impacted by war, being a game of free choice, thus leaving little room for Hanson’s theory in the game. And perhaps therein lies the greatest reason that Alliances are not as Hanson’s theory would suggest… the freedom and “western” ideals that he talks of, the commercialism and debate – these things are enshrined by the creators into the game. These freedoms, these philisophies, are at the core of New Eden and the player experience – so much so that they remain untouched no matter what might happen within the parameters of the world our characters live (part-time) in. Even consensual government is offered through the CSM.

Were we to buy into Hanson’s theory, we would find that the reason that alliances resemble (benevolent) dictatorships, is that the freedoms and ideals that make for such accomplished warriors are already there – carved in stone by the universe in which we operate – and therefore our petty substructures may take any form that we choose, and in the absence of choice a default form. For even the western powers must have their oligarchial military structures in order to operate effectively.

Well, that was a bit rambly, and I hope that it made a little sense. If not, I blame new-father induced sleep deprivation/distraction and hope that you will forgive me. I hope to have a chance to update again sometime soon, though family commitments are legion at the mo. In the meantime, please take a moment to read some of the other banter posts, as listed below:

  1. Manasi says:

    Good post even though I disagree with the assertions in the beginning of it. I find the explanation similar to mine but different enough to be interesting to read. Nice post…get some sleep when you can!


  2. Achernar says:

    What do you mean, war in Eve is not real? Internet spaceships are serious business… Joke aside I agree with what you said. The Red Army was a formidable war machine ruled with an iron fist. Its disdain for human life and the fear inspired by the Soviet penitentiary system may have convinced soldiers that they were better off in front of the enemy guns. Your mileage may vary, nothing is 100% black and white, etc.

  3. Wormsworth says:

    Great post! I completely agree with you, and I think that Hanson’s statements are so flimsy that they fail with 1 or 2 counter examples.

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