Sunday, October 16, 2005

Culture in NationStates: The Freemasons.

In real life it would be glaringly obvious to state that people have opinions. Some opinions so complete as to be a virtual grand unified theory of social relations, e.g. Marxism or Libertarianism, some are just vague ideas about things as undefined as human nature or whether or not governments really are keeping details on alien spaceships secret from the public. For those of us that play Nationstates, we may run into real life holders of certain opinions only rarely if at all. Over the course of the 'Culture in NationStates' series, I intend to examine some world-views, give our readers some grounding in them, present the opinions of some holders of those views, some opponents of those views and then pass off the problem of assessing which is right and wrong to the reader.

Freemasonry is something I've never come across in real life. Having checked the United Grand Lodge of England website, I find there are no registered lodges on the island of Ireland. I'm told this isn't necessarily a bad thing by Danitoria, the Delegate of the ASE. I've interviewed several Freemasons who play NationStates - each of them came forward voluntarily; Blackadder of The Pacific, Thel Dran of Lemuria, 1 Infinite Loop of The East Pacific, Romanoffia of The North Pacific.

Contrary to how I introduced this article however, Blackadder commented, "Being a Mason is supposed to be 24/7. Game or not it is part of what we are so it translates out into how we react. Masonry isn't an ideology so much like Socialism or Libertarianism, its a moral credo. Take your rites and you'll know what I mean." In this I would argue that socialism does translate out into how we socialists react 24/7 (generally irreverent buggers that we are!) but one thing struck me; all of those who answered my short questions were convinced of one thing. The benefit of the fraternal feelings engendered by common membership in a Masonic Lodge.

Loop, talking about how the bond between Masonic Lodge members translated into gameplay in Nationstates, said it "
has brought about new friendships in the game, and more patience with those associated with the Brothers." With beautiful rhetorical flourish, Romanoffia elaborated on the responsibilities of Masons inside NationStates as with every aspect of their lives, "It means that one should apply one's morals and ethics to the game as much as the game permits. By doing so, it means that one must be ready to be assailed by some for sticking to your immovable position. It means that you must do nothing to wrong, cheat or defraud anyone. I means that you must let nothing compromise your moral and ethical stance and to resspect and promote the truth regardless of the consequences." Thel Dran on the other hand believed application of Masonic morality was for each Brother to decide for himself.

The legends that surround the Freemasons are somewhat obscure to many people - at least to anyone who hasn't read the buffoonery of Dan Brown's 'Da Vinci Code' but one of the most enduring myths is that the Freemasons, themselves descended from the Knights Templar, are in possession of the Holy Grail - rumoured to be a goblet from which Jesus b. Joseph drank from at the Last Supper.

When asked who had the Holy Grail, Romanoffia and Loop claimed it for themselves whilst Blackadder point out, "
I believe its Mervin Bigglesworth, Fishmonger. Lately of Aberdeen but I could be mistaken. Let me see that handshake again... ." Thel Dran enigmatically commented, "about conspiracies in general, both of Masons and in NationStates, I try to keep this in mind: If only 1% of what's said of us is true, would we actually have time to play this game?"

Of the whole matter, Romanoffia lent me his own insights. "
The Holy Grail is an ideal and not a physical item. In fact, the "Holy Grail" in historical terms is essentially a literary fabrication of medieval troubadors to represent the one single truth or desire that is to be obtained. For the medieval troubador, it was illicit love in the sense of Lohengrin. That is, Lohengrin sought the forbidden love of a woman with the idea that he would suffer eternal damnation and seperation from God for all eternity for the sake of earthly love of a particular woman in the hear an now. That's a pretty bold statement for anyone at any time who believes in a literal Hell.

This brings up the thematic point that the real Holy Grail in Arthurian legend wasn't a drinking vessel - it was the 'eternal feminine' for which each Knight of the Round Table sought, suffered for, and eventually met their demise for not realizing that the Grail was not the literal cup that Christ allegedly drank from at the last supper, but it was something that was right in front of all of them, yet they didn't realize that they didn't have to go looking for at all. They already had it!

The other literary reference is that the 'Holy Grail' or rather the 'San Greal' or 'Sangue Raal' is really the "Holy Blood" of the alleged descendants of Christ (who, according to the Marovingian legends) were Christ's literal blood decendants. San Greal = Sang (blood) Real (royal). The Marovingian House claimed to be the direct literal decendents of Christ's offspring by Mary Magdelen according to that legend. Largely speaking, it historically appears to just be a means for some Medieval royal family to lend legitimacy to the 'Divine Right of Kings' theory."


Fascinated as I was, and any historian would be, by the lore of Freemasonry I also felt duty bound to investigate various websites and ask certain people about their opinions on Freemasonry. Blackbird, a noted NS Trotskyist and Director of Red Liberty Alliance Intelligence, asked with characteristic dry wit, "Do they have a Central Committee?"

Danitoria went a little more in depth. "I'll give you the reason I don't like them in one sentence: something that is secret, elitist and influential at the same time can never be allowed to exist." Investigating a Masonic information site, I discovered some literature on those who do not like Masons and Freemasonry for one reason or another. These types were categorized thusly: Religious Intolerants, Hate Groups, Conspiracy Theorists and Self-Servers. Reading a little further, the author of the site commented (in a discouragingly patronising fashion) on how the vast majority of these people were college drop outs, of little education in theology or philosophy or any branch of the liberal arts which would lend their gripes credence.

In response Danitoria retorted "Do you know anything about freemasons? In the UK? They are scum...Freemasons are cops, judges, businessmen, toffs, local politicians - the collective [Conservative] elite. Across England they are the influential, the wealthy, the reactionary and the privileged. And that is all that they are and all they will ever be. I've never heard of a lodge in the UK, or anywhere, even letting women join. They have "wives' nights" and are a disgusting mixture of pathetic, antiquated and dangerous."

I did find evidence of some so-called Masonic Lodges which were more liberal about women and so on - but these were quite openly denied association with the UGLE which I linked to above. The one notable thing was that the only properly theological requirement for membership was belief in a supreme being; God, Yahweh, Allah and so on were all acceptable to the Masons. Danitoria's complaint was not without substance however as an investigation into famous Masons soon revealed (Famous Masons A-L, M-Z). With people like Mikhail Kutuzov and Frederick II of Prussia cited, in the latter case as "Effective military commander, music composer, patron of literature and the arts and institutor of many social reforms," Freemasonry is certainly something that elites of both Property and Capital are noted for being interested in. More recently, American political elites - of distinct seniority in Congress and the White House are also extant in the rolls of good and great Masons.

Of course many will disagree that this is a bad thing, believing the world today to be meritocratic, where good men can rise - and who better than Masons, duty bound to Brotherly Love, Relief (i.e. charity and voluntary works), and Truth to fulfill that role. This article is open ended and the choice between two viewpoints herein presented must be made by the reader. What is ever fascinating is watching the reality of the viewpoints which define us as people filter into the mini-world we've created for ourselves.


Sunday, October 09, 2005

Neutrality?

Recently Thel D'ran and his region Lemuria put a poll in the field - to measure how many people were defenders or invaders or a third group, neutral. I've been told that, given the results, not a few people have been surprised by the numbers claiming neutrality.

Polls can be tricked on the internet of course - in theory I could vote seven times since I have seven different IP addresses. Each time someone went to check on the poll, they might vote again and it might be counted. How badly that distorts things I don't really know but I thought it would be an interesting exercise to consider what exactly neutrality is.

Best defined in the poll was 'defender' and 'invader' since everyone knows what they are. Neutrality is...not either of those things it seems. How do neutrals define themselves? What regions are neutral?

The Defenders are all pretty well known - RLA, ADN, ALL, TITO, The Pacific Defenders. So are the Raiders such as Invaders, DEN, The Jolly Roger, the Cathedral et al. Lemuria, The Pacific, Gatesville, USSR, The South Pacific, The East Pacific and The Meritocracy (in oblivion though it really currently is)...are these the 'neutral' powers? Unfortunately with the poll there is no way to tell which member of NS has voted in which column. As ever though, the comments section was enlightening as to the erudition of invaders.

Is there more to being neutral than simply not defending against invaders or not invading other regions just for kicks?