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.


  1. Recent news article in Chicago, IL, USA had a furor (see what I did there?) over a kid that wore a cold war era EAST GERMAN uniform to a costume contest. He did a goosestep and E. German salute. The cries of NAZI from the ignorant (including the teachers, administrators, and media) were the headline. I personally believe the kid trolled them all.

    Rommel was an armor master who is studied in military academies worldwide. He also committed suicide over allegations he was involved in a plot to kill Hitler so not exactly a 'true believer' in that cause.

    1. The young don't always know the fallout they can generate when they do something funny that the adults find offensive.

      The lesson, never ascribe malice to innocent stupidity. Malicious stupidity is another matter, but that requires a foundation of ignorance, or inability to learn from mistakes.

    2. More on Rommel, here:
      The 'a great general' quote is from Churchill, speaking in the House of Commons, on why progress in North Africa was slow -- one reason is that the British were facing, as Churchill said 'across the havoc of war', 'a great general'.

  2. One thing that I really struggle to remember (especially over the last six years or so) is that despite our big brains, mostly we're just critters trying to get by.

    1. For me, the start of the current troubles lay in the 2008 bank crash. I know, I know that's a bit of a stretch. Arguably one can go back further to 2001 and the West's response to the fall of the towers.

      But what I'm arguing, for won't of a better word, is that the unraveling of society is a response to the breakdown of norms. People don't cope with change half as well as they think they do.

      What can be dealt with when the world is stable is different to when it is not. Stretching my argument here, the economic troubles of the 1970s oil crisis came befoe the Satanic Panic of the 80s.

      The bank crash of the 'oughties' preceded the current social wars we see today. Though I would be the first to admit that correlation is not causation, and the study of history is an art, not a science where things can be measured and tested.

    2. I tend to see the breakdown of societal norms as a result of the inability of the society to meet the needs of its constituents, a cyclic event that varies somewhat based on the elasticity of the social structure and the changes in its composition.

      My comment above relates to the opening of my eyes in recent years to the extend which people simply do not cope with change.

      I was and am probably still very naive with respect to the extent which people lie to themselves to support their biases, such that they face change with utter denial.

      9-11 is probably an easy pick as the pivot point for direction of movment over here, though other events could easily be chosen for their impact on the direction of that movement.

    3. I agree, 9/11 is certainly one of those singularities that change how we understand the world.

  3. "The lesson, never ascribe malice to innocent stupidity. Malicious stupidity is another matter, but that requires a foundation of ignorance, or inability to learn from mistakes." Truth worth remembering. Though, it can be distressingly difficult to discern one from the other at certain particular times. Even with hindsight.
    ~ Tom T

    1. Ain't that the truth. The irony of life never ends.



I currently do not run an email list and have no plans to do so in the foreseeable future.

For those who subscribe to email updates for this blog, your personal data may be collected by the third party service. I have no control over the tool.

Blog posts or comments may include personal data such as the names of people who've made comments or similar. These posts are often shared on social media including my Twitter and FaceBook pages. The privacy policies of Twitter and Facebook will apply to information posted on their websites.

If you would like any personal data which is included in my blogposts or comments to be removed or have any questions, please email me through my contact widget.