Monday, 7 November 2022

All Along the Watchtower

My original title for this article was, What's in a Name? That was back several years ago when I jotted down a few words. Then I let the piece moulder, having lost interest in whatever furore triggered my furious need to respond.

You know, life's too short, whatever... Move along now, move along, nothing to see here... etc.

Then the latest wave of idiotic outrage hit social media. And this time is was centered on BattleTech. Not quite my first love of SF wargaming, but it might as well be. However, What's in a Name? struck me as a bit too passive for how I feel about the current furore.

With clowns to the left of me, and jokers to the right, All Along the Watchtower strikes the right tone.

Because, all this has happened before, and all this will happen again.

So say we all. Obligatory Battlestar Galactica shout out, because it was the 1980s, and we had Satanic Panic; when idiots believed that Dungeons and Dragons was turning kids to the worship of Satan (see the picture above: it's all true).

I still remember a conversation at a dinner party. My partner at the time worked at KPMG, an accountancy firm.

All of us sat at the table were adults, having a very civilized meal. We sat opposite a very nice young couple, and the conversation came around to hobbies and interests. As conversations tend to in such circumstances.

I mentioned that I was into role playing games, only to discover that they thought such games led people towards evil. They were convinced that playing D&D made one an agent of Satan.

My reply...

"Naked people prancing around fires worshiping Satan were harmless in comparison to the manipulation of the markets by stock brokers."

It made the senior KPMG partner chuckle, and the nice couple were lost for words. They left the dinner party shortly after finishing their meal.

I thought then that the outrage from Christian conservatives was pretty dumb. Now we have dumb outrage from the liberal left over Nazis promoting their ideology by having a tank named Rommel; a Nazi general.

Really, I couldn't make this shit up and pass it off as believable in a novel.

The outrage of such moral certainties not only cheapens the real horrors of what the Nazis did, but ignores the fact the real horrors are driven by those who control the world; the masters of commerce and politicians who are all in thrall of the financial markets.

I want people to understand that outrage over naming model tanks is games after Nazis is pointless. All it illustrates is the reality of the human condition and our tendency towards thought-action-fusion.

Thought-action-fusion is a term from psychology that describes the process of believing that bad thoughts lead to bad things; in short, magical thinking. My excuse for bringing this up, I'm a retired psychotherapist, so this is what I was taught.

Aldous Huxley had something to say about this too:

"The surest way to work up a crusade in favor of some good cause is to promise people they will have a chance of maltreating someone. To be able to destroy with good conscience, to be able to behave badly and call your bad behavior 'righteous indignation' — this is the height of psychological luxury, the most delicious of moral treats."

From my perspective, this is what both the left and the right are engaged in.

From the left (my side if you like), we are destroying evil by being evil. From the right, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Both different, yet both the same.

The ends do not justify the means, the means justify the ends.

Yes, Nazis were/are evil, and we should not celebrate them. But, if in doing, in our race to be the most righteous, we reduce all that is good in the world to mush, then what will be left is a desolate cultural wasteland.

For the people complaining that complaining about change means the other person is a Nazi, I will point you back to the Satanic Panic led by Christians over D&D.

The people complaining about the decision by Catalyst Games over the name Rommel in BattleTech are most likely not Nazi sympathizers. What they are doing is upsetting themselves, complaining about something that they cannot control.

But, being upset by change or challenges is nothing new to the human condition.

It is likely these people fear that the righteous indignation of the left, seeking social justice, will lead to more changes. The renaming or erasing of the games historical call outs like:

Hetzer; Condor; Von Luckner; Sturmfeur; Jagermech; Stuka.

Then I predict their next fear will be, where does this stop?

The left are big into cancelling cultural appropriation, and BattleTech has a history of appropriating everything that makes it the rich setting that it is. For example:

Saladin, Assassin, Dervish, and Crusader (all  historically horrible);
Corsair, Marauder and Enforcer (all murdering bastards);
Samurai and Hatamoto (Japanese culture taken out of context);
Chippewa (Native American, need I say more?). 

Oh, and then the conservative Christians could be dumb enough to complain about promoting pagan religions and empires:

Hermes, Vulcan and Centurion (and the list goes on).

Let's be honest, the BattleTech setting is not a nice universe.

Arguably it is pretty grimdark, not as bad as Warhammer 40K, but all there is hundreds of years of war that led to the Jihad (mic drop). At least they didn't call it the Crimson Jihad (that's a joke, or like a joke, it depends on your sense of humour).

But let's say I'm wrong.

Let's say that we are living in the worse case scenario. A world where Nazi sympathizers are promoting their ideology through wargames.

Then the evil that they can do by pushing miniature metal tanks over a cardboard playing mat is insignificant to the evil of the greed and corruption brought from power to control the markets.

I have strong opinions about the current morass that is social media.  So I'm sorry if I have upset people by calling them idiots or saying they're dumb (Not sorry, just British).

I will finish with another Aldous Huxley quote:

I wanted to change the world. But I have found that the only thing one can be sure of changing is oneself.

Normal service will resume in my next post.

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