Friday, October 7, 2011
Communists from Outer Space
I’m always on the lookout for some scratch, a little something to get my crate further along the New Eden power curve. That’s how I wound up in the awful backwater system of Eitu III.
While on the way to drop off some hitchhikers looking for a free ride to Oiniken, I get this vidmail from some yap in Eitu by the name of Okita…Okito…Okaydokey, whatever. Anyway, he said he got my name from a contractor I did business with a few years back - I can’t recall the guy, but that’s not surprising since I tend to remember ISK better than names and faces. Heck, Okaydokey would have done better to tell me my haul rather than the contractor’s name if he wanted me to believe his references. Regardless, Okaydokey, who has the look of a junior suit for one of the big corps, goes on and on about how he needs a reliable ship and yada, yada, yada. Who cares. All I really needed to hear was his pitch about “generous compensation” - that is always a good enough reference for me. I mean, the guy did sound a bit shady - a not uncommon trait in my line of work - but as he had a weak sister look about him, I didn’t expect much trouble. He said come by ASAP and I said I would.
Unfortunately for our hitchers, who were real maggot-infested Gallente hippie types with big dreams of tripping the galaxy, but no frickin’ idea of how they were gonna pay for it, Oiniken suddenly fell off our itinerary in favor of Eitu III. Oh sure, the hipsters squawked and all, said it wasn’t fair, that we promised them Oiniken, but I just laughed and said it sucked to be them. What do you expect from a free ride? Not that it was free – when the smelly bunch tried to get off the ship at Eitu, I had three of my goons shake them down good, ultimately finding some ISK and bags of Crystal Egg they had squirreled away in their holey gear. We took that as part of our operating expenses, while they got the boondocks of Eitu III and, for one of them, a black eye for giving one of my goons some guff. That was free of charge.
Once my ship, Make Haste, was comfortably docked inside the Modern Finances Investment Bank station, an orbital platform ensnared by what was lovingly referred to as “Moon 9” – they couldn’t even come up with a name, what a bunch of hicks – I disembarked and sought out the office of my soon-to-be contractor.
Now, I’ve been inside of my share of stations, but this one just oozed a sense of concealed desperation. I never heard of the Modern Finances IB, but my gut told me it must be been all spit and no polish. Nothing impressed me about the joint – well, with the exception of some pro-skirts lingering near the lifts, anxious to score some ISK from corporate corpses on their way to some paper-pushing circle of hell. Other than that, the whole thing put me in a real dour mood concerning my future payment.
I eventually found my guy and buzzed the hatch. Much to my annoyance, Okaydokey actually kept me waiting in the hall for a few minutes – that’s no way to treat a capsuleer. When he did finally buzz me in, I found a spartan office, still littered with packing crates and detritus that indicated he either just arrived or was leaving in a hurry, and a thirty-something yahoo sitting behind a broad metallic desk dimly lit from above. His attire said Caldari, but his features indicated an ethnic mix of Caldari with some Gallente blood. Not that that mattered - mixed breeds don’t bother me none as long as the money is good enough for me not to notice.
When I entered he stood and gave me a used crate salesman’s gushing welcome, and ushered me over with his left hand while he used the back of his right to wipe his nose. I’ve seen his type before – the type that likes to play dress up and act the part of the business tycoon in public, all the while doing lines of cheap-ass Crash in private like some back alley addict. Don’t try to pull an op on an operator, kid.
Anyway, I plant myself on the only chair besides his that is in the office as he gives me his best trump about how business is great and he is expanding like gangbusters and yada, yada, yada. “What do you need from me,” I interrupt, not needing the hard sell. He says that labor is in short supply and he needs me to transport some workers from two jumps away. “Two jumps,” I repeat, while absentmindedly rummaging inside my black flight jacket for a gasper as my guts tell me that the other shoe is about to drop – a capsuleer without instincts is no capsuleer at all. I bait him with the offhand suggestion that he hire a hack. I mean, I’ve got 4.4 million metric tons of Cormorant destroyer; it’s not exactly suited for such errand boy stuff.
That’s when this muffer gives me his best kiss-ass grin and lets it casually drop that his would-be employees are a sizeable load of homeless rounded up from some refugee camp. In other words: slave labor. Not that I have a problem with that. I mean, I’ve shanghaied my fair share of blue skier flotsam myself. No problem there. But then Okaydokey said something that was a problem, something that had gotten men shoved out of Caldari airlocks on more than one occasion. He said that “you Caldari and your wonderful capitalistic system seem to produce a lot of homeless, which is great for up and comers like me. Of course, Concord doesn’t much care for my type, but that’s why I need a man with a ship that can take some heat, if it comes to it.”
Now, the suggestion that he was deliberately putting my ship in danger didn’t get my goat – no doubt we were gonna have to run some Concord patrols and maybe even mix it up if we ran out of luck. I expect that with every op anyway. Hell, that’s why I pay a six figure insurance bill. No, it was none of that. It was the other thing.
So, I simply smiled back while I calmly inserted a fresh flavor canister into my gasper and twisted the waist, switching on the heating element and making the LED tip glow a hot blue. I brought it to my lips and inhaled the Exile-enhanced mist from the filtered end, causing the LED tip to flare brighter. After a second or two, I exhaled the pearlescent mist and enjoyed the sweet metallic aftertaste it left in my mouth. I smiled once more as Okaydokey indulgently waited for me to do my thing, then stood and reached out with my right hand as if to offer an agreement handshake.
When he stood and clasped it, I decked him on the side of the head with my left fist as hard as I could.
Down he went with this ridiculous look of bewilderment on his face. “Wadya do that for you moron!” he shouted, his easy charm gone as he held his head and rolled on the floor in pain. Bring the pain, and you always bring the truth of a person to the forefront.
I took another drag off the gasper and coolly considered whether I should crease him right there. Nah, not worth the next six months of laying low in null sec.
I leaned over the desk and asked “What the fak you mean ‘you Caldari and your capitalism’?” I took another drag off my gasper, and walked around to his side of the desk, considering what to do next as he thrashed about. Ultimately, I lifted the bennie off the floor by the scruff of his collar, him cringing the whole time as if another beat-down was coming. Smart kid. He was learning.
I schooled him some more. “Everything you see around you is made by capitalism, from your shabby knockoff loafers, to this pathetic office of yours, the station…everything,” I told him as he lamely tried to get me to release my grip. “What, you think this stuff just emerged from a frickin’ warp bubble one day? Huh?” He shook his head slightly.
I laughed and one handedly threw Okaydokey back into his office chair.
I took another drag off my gasper and flicked open my flight jacket a little wider so the kid could see I was packing a needler on my hip, just in case he got it into his fool head to start some trouble. Slumped but wide eyed in his chair, he got the message.
“You think the Minmatar have a higher standard of living? Hell, you ain’t seen poverty until you’ve seen one of their small, 300 kilometer homeless camps for itinerant laborers.
“Oh, and what about the Gallente? Those preening puss in boots are all about self improvement and liberality. Of course, it’s easy to be about that when you’re one of the upper crust. When you’re not and have to make it busing tables – or starring in some holo-porn for rent money, things don’t look so good, so liberal.
“And don’t even get me started on the Amarr. They’ve turned social dependency into a religion.”
I took another drag as I walked around his office, casually picking up some of his mementos, including a trophy for aardwolf hunting – what the hell was an aardwolf, anyway? Sounded like a rich boy’s hobby. “Now you see, we Caldari are different,” I told him as I continued to rummage about his office. “Me,” I said, stopping to turn and face him, the gasper between my fingers slightly fuming as I tapped my chest, “I started out as some dumb-as-dung corporate page boy. Did that for a few years and raised a nice little nest egg…and then lost it to some fakeloo pushing worthless bonds.” I shrugged my shoulders, “So what. It meant nothing. I deserved to be scammed, messing around with stuff I didn’t understand. But you know what?” I asked. Okaydokey just stared at me, seemingly afraid that his next breath might be his last. “The great thing about being a Caldari is that we are free to fail. And succeed. That’s what capitalism is all about.”
I took one last drag on the gasper, emptying the canister and triggering a small chirp as it auto-powered down. “Nobody tells us we can…or can’t,” I added as I ejected the empty tube of Exile mist and tossed it at Okeydokey. It hit him square on the chest and rolled down into lap. The bennie didn’t even move a muscle. “We are free to do as we see fit.”
I slipped the gasper back into my jacket pocket as I continued my story. “I had to do some low rung stuff for years after that, virtually starting my career from scratch all over again. But I eventually earned some more ISK, then lost it, earned it back, lost it again…you starting to see a pattern?”
Realizing that he probably would have been dead already if I had the mind to do it, Okeydokey started to come alive again. He slowly sat up straight, smoothed back his hair, and cleared his throat. “I think I do.” The smile was back, but pained this time.
“And here I am today, now with my own plank. For the moment, anyway.” I made my way back to my seat and sat down. “Capitalism is about risk taking. You win, you lose…it’s all good because you are always the master of your own destiny. You’re never beholden to anyone for anything. Sure, it can be frightening at times and even unfair…but who’d said life was wasn’t supposed to be?”
The communicator on my right wrist vibrated. I rolled back the black sleeve of my flight jacket and hit the comm button, making the small screen light up with the unshaven mug of my second. “Hey Boss, I think those hipsters must have complained to the port authority.” He removed his duckbill cap that had the letters ‘XO’ stenciled prominently in silver on the front, and ran his palm over his bald pate as he was wont to do when nervous. “A marshal is on the way to ‘talk to us’,” he added.
“I’m not much of a talker,” I replied. “Okay. Get the drive spinnin’ as I’m about done here. As soon as I board, we’ll….”
“…Make haste?” my second finished with a smile.
I cut the link in reply. Turning my attention to Okaydokey, I said “So, give me the coordinates for your…er, ‘employees’ and I’ll tell you my fee.”
“You still want to do business with me?” he asked.
“ISK is ISK,” I said with a smile that never reached my eyes. “Besides, I don’t think I’ll have to repeat myself here.”
“No you won’t. And…I apologize,” he added.
I nodded and stood. “Like I said, the great thing about capitalism is that you’re free to make mistakes and learn from them. It keeps the wits sharp.”
And that was my recent adventure in EVE Online. Well, at least how it played out in my mind.
This whole thing started when, during the course of a routine mission, the following screen popped up:
Needless to say, this is economic gibberish. First off, just what is “ultra-capitalism” anyway? I mean, if capitalism can be defined as an economic system whereby capital goods are owned by private or corporate entities; and prices, production and distribution is determined by a freely competitive market, just what is “ultra-capitalism”? The market is either free or it is not. Capital goods are privately owned or they are not. The idea of “ultra capitalism” would seem to suggest that fettered markets (i.e., socialism or fascism) are rightly considered capitalistic, while “ulta-capitalism” would be pure capitalism. See what I mean?
But even worse than that, the idea that homelessness is proportional to the freedom of the market is not only a non sequitur, it is also classic leftist / command economy propaganda. In fact, history teaches the opposite: capitalism has manifestly generated far more prosperity than any other economic system on the planet.
Now, I am not arguing that in a capitalistic society homelessness would drop to zero. Of course not. As the screenie reads, homelessness has been and always will be present in every society. But I am arguing the idea that the freer people are to pursue what John Locke termed “life, liberty, and property,” the greater the likelihood that they will, in fact, not be dogged by grinding poverty their whole life. It is only once government gets involved with its free market fetters and utopian scheming, that poverty becomes a persistent problem as economic resources and activity are inefficiently distributed by a bureaucracy that has not a scintilla of the wisdom that emerges from the spontaneous order (or via Adam Smith’s invisible hand) of a free market.
Lastly, this idea of a relationship between homelessness and “ultra-capitalism” suggests that social Darwinism – the idea that society should encourage the survival of the fittest (i.e., economic failures should be left to die in the streets) - is the norm for a capitalist society. Again, nonsense. Social Darwinism was an idea that sprung not from Adam Smith, but from the fevered mind of the Progressive movement, a European-import political philosophy that stressed greater government intervention into the economy, as well as an anti-philanthropic mentality – two things obviously opposed by the bulk of early 20th Century capitalists.
Now, am I suggesting that CCP are a bunch of Marxists? Of course not. EVE Online may well be the gaming world’s greatest testament to the power of the free market – hence, the reason why I put it on my list of top conservative games. No, in this case I suspect it was just a bit nonsense that found itself in the game after being regurgitated from a college text book.
Still, we must be ever wary of such political nonsense wheedling its way into our games. Gaming is already ascendant as the next medium to win the hearts and minds of the people. As such, it is a ripe fruit waiting to be plucked by radical propagandists the world over. It is already happening, in fact. Over the last two years, I’ve seen two games promoting global warming, one pro-Hezbollah shooter, one about the evils of capitalism, and even a game about radical feminism (in this game, the player is a disgruntled woman who runs around shooting cat-calling men!). One of the above games was financed by George Soros’ Tides Foundation, while another by a global warming think tank. Fortunately, all of these titles were dreadful bombs, little noticed except by some European gaming sites that seem enamored with such dreadful fare (I’m looking at you, RPS).
So yes, it’s coming. It starts with an innocent throwaway line at first, but will later arrive as a full court press (e.g.: what has happened to Hollywood). Therefore it is incumbent on all gamers to say “No! We will not let our hobby become politicized and radicalized!” And the best way to do that is by throwing a little light on this growing issue via blogging, forum posts, and social media. In short, now is the time for all good gamers to come to the aid of their hobby.
Have you ever encountered some political bias in a game?