Sunday, June 05, 2005

Sustainable Communities

Too often in NationStates, one of two things occurs. Either people become emotionally detached, abandoning the usual code of conduct that would be expected from an individual in the material world, or they insist of devoting themselves to imposing orthodox behavioural patterns on NationStates, with no room for growth. The former situation generally leads to conflict, bitterness and self-delusion; players become isolated from other people, and indulge in their most basic instincts: greed, pride, arrogance, elitism and so on. The latter situation, while less common, also creates problems - by attempting to justify themselves and form courses of action based on real life precedents, these people prove too stubborn and close-minded to realise that different rules apply. The abolition of geographic or monetary constraints on the actions of specific individuals, which is created by the game in general, leads to both an increasing psychological division between the aforementioned players (on whether a totally selfish and individualistic, or an utterly manufactured structural approach to the management of social groups yields better results) and an opportunity for the remainder of people to create communities of outstanding harmony.

I apologise if I appear to me blathering on without any coherent purpose. The point of this article is solely to identify some of the influential factors that define our conduct in this game. For like any other social activity, our environment defines the actions of both individuals and groups. This becomes of even greater interest when we realise that through one reason or another, people almost always behave, either for game-imposed or personal reasons, differently than they otherwise would in "real life". Now, NationStates is a communal game, for a number of reasons: the lack of widespread material ownership – beyond one’s account (which is only rarely traded and therefore a personal possession, as opposed to valued property), in some examples offsite forums and, in the case of founders, even a few regions; the largely undiluted and unregulated means of communication; and the inherent independence of the individual. Dependence, whether on individuals or groups, in most cases occurs because of emotional attachment or ambition – it is not a prerequisite for playing.

For instance, my account Danitoria is worth only sentimental value – to others, it has no immediate worth. Our forum is a communal environment, which helps to give structure to communication between players – but again, it is not necessary. Theoretically, I could leave the Allied States of EuroIslanders right now, never post on the ASE forum again, and never even speak to anyone I know. No material reason holds me down – without private property, without material concerns, I am liberated from the burden of self-constraint. Similarly, the ease of communication, which rests upon the total theoretical independence of the individual, allows me to speak my mind without any great fear of punishment – the absence of property has eliminated many of the coercive measures conventional authority structures utilise to maintain control. This is minimally felt by the limitations on swearing and so on in the game itself – the threat of deletion, of your property being, in essence, stolen keeps us in line. Not so in the player-created world of NationStates communities, where only the individual, through greed or insecurity, can allow those bonds of form.

Thus, these two factors – of total independence and free communication on the one hand, and the lack of universal property-based authorities – bring social organisation to the forefront of importance. As many people have said, both in the ASE and other regions, NationStates is a community or it is nothing. Outside of self-created attachment to material objections (specifically, regions), there are no chains upon the will of the individual except for emotional ties to other individuals, or to a relevant community. Because they are generally consensual, and can be broken at any time, these relationships are often more stable than their real-life equivalent – total privacy of the individual usually doesn’t coexist with free communication and information, especially in a world where activity and influence is build primarily on mutual-aid and cooperation. Because of the physical environment determined by the game structure, however, both individualism and collectivism are readily available. The presence of consent is vital to the creation and maintenance of stable social groups, and NationStates creates the means for this perfectly, even if many reject it. If I don’t want to talk about something, I won’t discuss it. If I do not want to do something, it won’t be done. The only restrictions are the prisons I choose to build within my own mind.

Because of the complete absence of the usual restrictions, the political Left in NationStates is inherently libertarian. To get something done, one must reach out to another in the spirit of mutual-aid. Only those who naturally favour discipline and centralisation seek to implement interpersonal relationships based on coercion and hierarchy – something the NationStates Right is unfortunately often dominated by, due to the lack of the tempering egalitarian ideal. Socialists within NationStates, should they choose to act according to their true political vies and affiliations, must therefore aim to promote the abolition of violence, especially within social interactions, and to dissolve all political avenues whereby competition would otherwise foster resentments and division. Anything that resembles state power or state machinery within NationStates is a creation of the human mind: it is perhaps this fact that makes the issue of defeating it so frustratingly elusive.

There is within the human mind the ability to surrender oneself to apathy, ignorance and intolerance. Of all possible faults, apathy is absolutely the most dangerous. The individual should answer to no other – listen, discuss, decide: absolutely. But never to follow orders, never to surrender oneself to an arbitrary will, which inevitably falls prone to demagogues when the general consciousness and mistrust of such elements is low. The so-called official media outlets across NationStates are the most socially acceptable realisation of this growing trend, this disease of general apathy upon the masses of NationStates. Why, in a game based upon the immediacy and ease of communication, must the education and instruction of the social group be left up to the inherently biased individual? Each person must conclude their views on issues for themselves. Hear the argument presented by your opponent: don’t just listen idly, willing to forget anything contradicted by your own dogma.

It seems that, when it comes to the journalistic, military and diplomatic organisations of NationStates, most people tend to accept the views and judgements of others, so long as the individual believes the person reporting the news shares generally the same prejudices and assumptions as themselves. Truth is objective, but conclusion and opinion cannot be regimented, it cannot be mass-produced. And when it comes to the media, in whatever institution, real life or in-game, it is a rare moment when only the objective truth, the bare foundation of an issue, is relayed – how much more interesting is it to simply bypass the process of critical analyses and ask for the opinion of one deemed better informed! Those who wish to share in the interests and goals of a reciprocal and productive community must each struggle for that community in solidarity with one another. Nor can the social group be allowed to degenerate into the mundane and oppressive banalities of hierarchy and formal structure, however efficient or logical they appear at first glance.

NationStates has awarded us a remarkable and unique opportunity: to take sole responsibility for our own words and deeds, to never compromise on our ideals, to always reach our hand out to another in friendship, and to form a community based on consensus, change and the power of individual choice. NationStates is built on community, and community rests on that same power of the individual. To forget this lesson would be to ignore what NationStates has the potential to become, and to let the authoritarian political factions, who are already predominant, to create a very ugly game indeed.


Blogger Dave said...

And thus do we consign Chairman Dave to the depth of history?

1:48 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

The ghost of Zorro may have to fall on his sword, yes. :P

3:12 AM  
Blogger Dissident Voice said...

Death to chairman Zoro!

1:16 PM  
Blogger Anarchotopia said...

This would almost be worth reading if it wasn't so...long. Also it could do with other contributors to add some flavour. A single view can sometimes be boring when it comes to this type of blog.

4:16 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

Other contributors will come along when it suits them. As for it being long, if you don't want to read it, don't. No one is forcing you.

11:52 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

It's only about 1,300 words.

However A, I am rather perplexed you actually took the time to come and tell me you don't want to read it. Maybe if I cut it down to a few snide comments about people I disagree with you'd feel more at home.

12:47 PM  

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