Thursday, September 08, 2005

Stability and Democracy Part 2.

In Part 1, the relationship between founded regions and the super-regions was explored. The idea that founded regions are the basis of the game and utilise the feeders as weapons in the great game of geopolitics was advanced by some. By others, the feeders were cited as the centre of the game, the actions of the feeders causing course changes for many of the most active regions - actions which were not necessarily reliant upon the opinions and allegiances of the top ranking founded regions.

Whilst exploring this issue, certain tangents begged to be dealt with. One such was while examining to what extent certain alliances focused upon the feeder groups. Koona, a member of Equilism, was one of the participants in this study. Since he is a member of the ADN, I asked him where he thought the focus of the ADN was, implying the thesis that since invaders were weak, all major powers would have time to focus their attentions elsewhere. In so doing I hoped to come by a hint that the ADN might fit into either of the above categories. He commented, "I think that is not a correct assumtion, there are more missions sometimes than we can handle. I wouldn't call them weak, TJR is booming. There is a major flaw within the ADN: While every ADN region has is accountable of the ADN actions, the ADN itself tries to hold no accountability for the action of it's members. An alliance of regions cannot exist like that."

In the context of the investigation, i.e., discussing to what extent the ADN might pay major attention to the feeders, Koona's answer quite clearly shows his belief that the ADN is currently focusing on invaders - but it went just that little bit further to deliver a major criticism which was later expanded upon. I have included verbatim the segment of our discussion which ensued.

ES: "I don't understand the dichotomy you imply - each ADN region bears responsibility for the actions of the ADN heirarchy itself - but surely that is correct since each region has a say in ADN actions? Each region chooses to be bound by the ADN Charter. Similarly, why should, for example, Ocean of Purity (unlikely as this is) be responsible for the actions of (e.g.) Nasicournia?"

Koona: "Because everything is considered as an independent action, and it's sweeped under the rug of "not interefering in internal politcy of member regions."

ES: "What examples are you thinking of here?"

Koona: "Latest action of Unistrut and Crazy Girl."

ES: "You think the ADN should call them to account?"

Koona: "Absolutely."

ES: "And do what? Both of them are central to the ADN - throwing them out could create a rift. Over its more powerful members, can the ADN really have even a degree of control?"

Koona: "It seems not, but it was only a minor tehnicality that they didn't violate the AOA."

ES: "What policy would you advocate?"

Koona: "At present? a formal trial, but it seems there are no grounds, or it would have happened, plus the court system has been dissolved since the martial law."

Following this outpouring of disharmony, we returned the discussion to its rightful course and I attempted to draw a line between this dissatisfaction and the lack of democracy in the ADN. Asked if he favoured democratic reform which would allow the basic membership to hold Crazygirl and Unistrut to account if it so wished, Koona was sure of his own feelings on the issue. "Absolutely," he stated, " This has to start where the ADN takes a certain responsibility of it's members actions."

In order to fully and clearly establish the link between this discussion and the relationship between the founded regions and the feeder regions, one must consider the relationship between the dissemination of information and the democracy existent in the community in question. Koona quite unequivocally stated that the ADN was most interested in invaders - but with somewhere in the region of 17 posts on the ADN forum, one must question whether Koona would be privy to any discussions of the most senior members of the ADN, and whether in the final instance he would know where their focus lay and to what extent certain characters at the ADN (or any founded region) might be playing political poker with their opposition using the feeders as stakes, something which the previously referenced 'Pure Francoist Thought' implies. I don't believe I agree with that.

In previous articles the ideology of democratic community was advanced as an NS-adapted form of Marxism. All regions have communities. Not all of these communities are democratic. The democracy of a given community is a more important difference perhaps than where the community resides - whether in a feeder or in a founded region or on a forum comprised of representatives from many regions. Democratic fellow feeling is to the use of the feeder/non-feeder division in NS what socialist internationalism is to nationalism, xenophobia and racism in RL. Therein lies the difference between my own thought and that of Unlimited et al. The other models evinced from this discussion - encapsulated in the first paragraph of Part 2 of this article - are transcended by the links different regions can form with one another not just at the elite level (founders, delegates, Prime Ministers, Foreign Ministers etc) but amongst soldiers and intelligence agents and the other active members that make up the majority of NS players.

Surely feeder regions exploit just as much as they are exploited? To some eyes, it appears that the Pacific is frequently relied upon as a bulwark against the expansion of the ADN. To other eyes it appears that the turmoil in the North Pacific was the result of interference from outside the region. Yet on the obverse side of that coin, it could be said that the Pacific utilised New Sparrow and USSR and then the whole Union of Sovereigns as bulwarks against the ADN and that members of The North Pacific sought aid from outside to prevent the genuine opinions of the majority deflecting the region from the course its delegate sought.

If that is the case, that the feeders exploit and are exploited then in that respect they are no different from any other community; neither cruel or dim-witted instigators of all problems nor long suffering victims of the machinations of Macchiavellian founded regions. If that is the case then surely stability is sought best by those who support full internal democracy, where great decisions don't rely upon a whim that can bitterly divide a region - a whim that is hard to overturn without resorting to outside military aid. Such was the case with The North Pacific for sure.

That provides my synthesis. The divide is not whether or not the feeders manipulate, are manipulated, are focus for the machinations of the founded regions or are the genuine centre of the game from which all energy radiates. The true difference, the key difference, is the extent to which all of the aforementioned communities enjoy democratic control over their leaders - and it must be acknowledged that if the right person is not in the right position, it is harder for the feeders to maintain that democratic control than for any other region.

Stability and Democracy: Interlude

A recent, short interview with Dilber of The West Pacific.

ES: "
Good evening Dilbs, hope all's well. I'll get right to it. Having retired as Prime Minister of The West Pacific, arguably the most powerful region in NationStates, what are you planning to do with your time?"

Dilber: *chuckles* "I like to think we're powerful, but I don't know if we're THAT powerful," *winks* "I'm staying on in The West Pacific's cabinet as Minister of Defense, and I'll be staying highly active throughout NS, though probably not as active as before. A lot of my time is going to be taken up with school, and at least for a couple months my activity level will be a bit lower. No 72 hour long sessions for me for a while. I'll try to be on at update, but that won't be possible every night. The WPLF will be getting more active again once my time frees up a bit, and you'll see us on at update a lot again." *chuckles* "If I'm ever needed, enough people have my phone number to wake me up and get me online."

ES: "I don't know if you agree with me, but it seems that following the resumption of business as usual in The North Pacific, the focus of the geo-politically important founder regions have returned to the Big Three feeder regions. What do you make of that? Is the weakness of invaders a factor?"

Dilber: "I think that currently TNP still needs to sort itself out, and as such focus shouldn't be entirely turned on it yet. I do watch it, but I'm staying out of it. I do think that focus is turning back to the big 3, and the next couple of months should be a very interesting time indeed.

I'm also not certain I agree with the "weakness of invaders" part either. Some groups are still doing quite well, and I think we need to fix this."

ES: "How are relations between The North Pacific and The West Pacific? I've heard that the leadership of TNP is indifferent - neither particularly for nor particularly against - the ADN; any comment? With the return of Thel to affairs in Lemuria, how do you judge the claims of Free4All about Thel's treason and so on?"

Dilber: "We've been letting TNP run it's own course and figure out what the hell it needs to do to get back on it's feet. We recently re-opened our embassy there, now that they have a working constitution, and I look forward to working with them a lot again. I'm indifferent towards TNP from the ADN point of view as well. They need time to get themselves sorted out, and wouldn't be suited for the ADN at this point in time. They're still infighting, and need to be focused inwards. Thel is a close friend of mine, and I respect him a lot. I haven't seen what Free put forward, so I'm honestly not sure, but I do trust Thel."

ES: "What affairs currently attract your attention world wide? With no Great Bight to deal with and apart from the day to day affairs of the West Pacific (such as the innovative radio station), which areas of the world would you say most merit attention from active and politically aware NationStates?"

Dilber: *Muses* "This is an interesting question, I'm not sure what has been attracting me. I've been following the TNP "trials" where cath and IP have been attempting to stir up trouble with the government. I've also been watching the RR carefully, due to Darius. I've been a bit out of it due to the move to college, but I'll be back into the full swing soon enough. I check up on a LOT of boards every day, so I guess I just follow everything generally. Thank you for the interview."

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Stability and Democracy Part 1.

With the recent release of the 'Francoist Thought' doctrine by Unlimited and his Pacific Senators, many of the great minds of NationStates turn towards actually considering to what extent the feeders are the centre of the worldwide body politic of NS. The words 'Revolution' and 'Pacific' (any Pacific) seem to go hand in hand these days and with the feeders being such breadbaskets of political ferment, an examination is warranted.

I approached four people - Dilber (The West Pacific), Conservative Front (Gatesville), Koona (Equilism) and The Red Factions (TPC and ASE) to talk in general terms about the happenings in NationStates to see if any Pacifico-centrism would arise from the data itself. To make matters perfectly clear each of them were told in clear terms what the thesis itself was - that the Pacifics were the centre of NS gameplay. Dilber and his interview will feature in part two of this article.

Asked if he believed the Pacifics were the centre of NS gameplay, The Red Factions quite clearly stated that, "They play a large part in it but can also as proven with the East Pacific be completely isolated and almost ignored." He further elucidated by saying, "There are a lot of power politics that goes on without interference from the feeders."

Koona of Equilism disagreed, "I believe that the feeders are what makes the NS world revolve, [they're] the heart of the game. And while stability is all nice and wonderful, without a destabilizing force player-created regions would only [continue] fighting invaders, leaving their foreign policy to whither. So I can say that a destabilization of a feeder is an important aspect of the game, and without it NS may have died out by now."

My own interpretation of Koona's words runs as follows: the Pacifics are big and have no founder. Therefore they are the centre of attention for the ambitious and that creates turbulence into which player created regions are often sucked.

The Red Factions, not denying but minimizing this idea said, "I do not think that there are less conflicts between player created regions. In fact, those conflicts usually lead to the huge showdowns in the feeders." When pressed for an example, TRF commented on the opposition of Moldavi to the ADN and explained his belief that the entire North Pacific Directorate episode was aimed solely by New Sparrow and USSR at destabilizing and weakening the Alliance Defense Network. He commented, "Moldavi turned to the PRP and from there involved himself in feeder politics to give [the ADN] a big kick in the teeth...would Moldavi have stayed in the ADN and the whole USSR thing never happened years ago, I am quite certain the NPD would never have existed."

Of course this dismisses the prevalent divisions between members of The North Pacific and the basic state of the region which allowed Cathy to rise to power and start the transition between semi-democracy and dictatorship. In the example of TRF, the lines become blurred. The Pacifics are pawns of the player-created regions, not the other way around. Such a model is a contradiction of Koona's view that the feeders independently play their own games and the non-feeders are then sucked in.

An alternative viewpoint to the conflict models of Koona and TRF was presented by Conservative Front. He pointed out that it was player-created regions which give the 'length and breadth to the political spectrum' of NationStates. This point is something I find myself in agreement with; whilst every point on the political spectrum invariably starts out in the Pacifics (by virtue of game mechanics), many - though by no means all - find a region outside of their initial home where they can feel at home, among fellows. This is especially noticeable amongst definite political trends - socialists or libertarian capitalists for example.

Is this enough to refute any ideologies of Pacifico-centrism? Political ideologies definitely assert themselves in Pacifics - the Pacific being the best example of a mish-mash of authoritarians and leftists - but this is much less pronounced than in regions such as Galts Gulch or Allied States of EuroIslanders - right wing capitalist and far left socialist respectively. Ideological clashes only usually, in my opinion, form the backdrop to clashes between groups which have other motivations. The invader/defender divide being one such example of 'other motivations.' Clashes are especially hot between socialist defenders and Nazi invaders - but the clash would take place if you remove the socialist and Nazi from that sentence. I conclude then that with most groups, ideology is just an aside for the most part. It colours in the picture, it doesn't necessarily draw it. Are the Pacifics missing much on the gameplay score by not polarising to the same extent as the non-feeders? Probably not.

So we revert to the conflict model. One power using another to get what it wants. Naturally the greater resources of the feeders make them prime targets for the ambitious. The Red Factions agrees with this believe that in such cases there exists, " the opportunity to use the resources of a feeder to win a conflict who originated between player-created regions." The underlying and unwritten assertion being that without player created regions conflicting with one another, the feeders wouldn't do very much. The North Pacific and the Pacific warring on one another in the aftermath of Franco rather belies this but that seems an isolated and extraordinary incident in a tapestry of feeders which, while not always agreeing, don't always batter hells bells out of one another.

Part 2 will be released soon.