Cultural Crossovers #13: Captain America – Civil War

Here we go again, into – this time – a land of some controversy:

  • Your codewords are pleasantly random, but the ISS would have picked a language that wasn’t theirs to use. Of course, Russian Hydra was probably trying to frame the rest of Russia.
  • We do love paranoia jokes.
  • The Falcon’s drone is adorable. So is the (later) fact that he named it.
  • Angry man with a power fist.
  • Moving things with your mind, eh, everyone does that. Molecular sorting with your mind, now that’s special.
  • Grenade in your own still-manned vehicle? Ah, Hydra. An organization that somehow persists despite being most lethal to its own men and contractors.
  • Aww, thank the drone. Machines need love too.
  • Oops.
  • That is some nifty sophotechnology.
  • Also, Tony Stark continues to act like a plutarch, seeding the future. Looks like his relationship is not in good shape, though, which, shit.
  • Yes, that was entirely Tony’s fault. Not like Ultron had, y’know, free will or anything, even if his creation was, charitably, a Very Bad Idea.
  • Okay, is everyone on this planet stupid? The only person who can reasonably be held responsible for those deaths was the guy who set off the bomb vest; the only legitimate criticism of the Scarlet Witch is that she didn’t save as many people as she could theoretically have saved in the optimal case – despite saving the crowded marketplace – and the only one in a position to expect perfection is a god.
  • Someone give that girl a hug, an explanation of the above, and arrange some more training scenarios.
  • And seriously, has no-one heard of collateral budgets? Because the alternative scenario here has Hydra walking away with a bioweapon, which I’m sure would end with hugs and bunnies.
  • Basically, RATIONALITY TRAINING FOR THE EARTHLINGS, PLEASE.
  • Hey, you didn’t say “through the door”.
  • Oh, god, it’s you. This will go well.
  • Ah, yes, here come the control freaks trying to use this to seize authority they haven’t earned. Rather the opposite, in fact.
  • Well, we’d call ’em “awesome adventurers”.
  • The only thing worse than trying to guilt people with pictures of them saving millions of lives is that they actually buy into this bullshit.
  • Do you seriously think you have any jurisdiction over Thor?
  • Correlation, causation, and also how is oversight supposed to prevent challenges? Especially when for a lot of that time they had oversight, and look how that worked out.
  • Oh, Tony, what the hell happened to you? You used to get it. Now you want to hand over control to the same people you once flipped off in Congress? So you fucked up once; unstir your damn brains. And do whatever you have to do to get Pepper back, for the love of hats. She betters you.
  • Yes, it’s the UN. A different, bigger collective-irresponsibility organization. Responsibility is always personal. Also, how many of those 117 delegations do you think might be, in the light of past history, Hydra-influenced?
  • And Agent Carter delivers Best Quotation posthumously: “Compromise where you can. Where you can’t, don’t. Even if everyone is telling you that something wrong is something right. Even if the whole world is telling you to move, it is your duty to plant yourself like a tree, look them in the eye, and say, ‘No, *you* move’.” Now there’s something worthy of a standing ovation.
  • Captain America: still the best followee.
  • So: back under control or a fake?
  • You really didn’t agree with your father about the accords, huh?
  • And the first thing the new boss does is issue a kill-on-sight order for someone known to have been involuntarily brainwashed. Nice ethics, there.
  • Guess it was a fake, if Zemo is still learning to pronounce the command codewords.
  • And they’re also making the same mistakes as Hydra, like sending a bunch of mooks after the guy who they ought to know is capable of kicking all their asses.
  • Still make a pretty good team, huh?
  • Oh, look. New player. With shiny new claws.
  • Well, that’s one way to requisition a car.
  • In the next week, local clinics will be full of people who tried mounting skimmers the way Bucky just mounted a motorcycle. (A week after that, the microskillware goes on sale.)
  • “You’re a criminal.” “…and a good man.” At least if anyone imported Pirates of the Caribbean, too.
  • So, maybe the answer is synthetic amygdalas all around.
  • Oh, so you’re the smiley jailer? Cute.
  • Again, T’Challa, brainwashed.
  • Ah, yes, “due process”. We have dismissed that claim. You’re a Ross, all right.
  • Ah, this is a bifurcated-qalasír tragedy after all. The mistakes love helps us make…
  • That’d be a pinch, and your vetting procedures suck.
  • A wristwatch repulsor. Nice.
  • Is that… Howard Stark’s attempt to recreate the super-soldier serum? Shit, Hydra are lucky they didn’t end up with a whole pile of Crimson Crania. Or Hulks, funny as that might be.
  • The mantle of “government stooge” fits you poorly, Tony. Especially for that jackass.
  • Everyone’s doing insect themes these days.
  • Secret identities; still less than explicable. Also, curious view of responsibility, but the urge underneath kinda-sorta translates.
  • Thanks, Clint. Haven’t heard many people make that much sense today.
  • And, Vision, seriously. You haven’t figured out doors, but you’re entirely clear on emotional manipulation?
  • We very much like Agent Carter Jr.
  • Yep, there’s the other insect dude. And, man, this is the whole collection of people who do the right thing in the technically wrong way for unapproved reasons.
  • Brainwashed, dammit, does no-one remember that?
  • Right there with you, Spider-Man. And why not have a chat during a fight? Just don’t get distracted.
  • You know, those cars belong to someone. I mean, a certain amount of collateral damage, sure, but still.
  • Yes, please read the hazard markings before throwing things.
  • Oh, yes, the collective good. The favorite excuse of everyone wanting to do the individual bad. Damn utilitarians.
  • Uh, he ran because you were trying to kill him, maybe?
  • The only way for an ant to fly!
  • We’re with Spider-Man on the holy shit quotient of that one.
  • (We’re not even asking how badly that screws physics.)
  • Yes, Vision, a catastrophe you helped induce by your actions to prevent a catastrophe. Please consider this a learning experience.
  • And does anyone on the planet except Cap understand what brainwashing is? And that the person who undergoes it is also a victim of one of the worst crimes possible? Someone who is by definition not culpable? Someone you help?
  • And it’s a big submerged gulag for the Avengers. The audience is pretty damn sure Ross has been pleasuring himself nightly to the thought of this place ever since we first met him back in The Incredible Hulk. Nice choice of people to align with, Tony. Seriously.
  • Well, ain’t that interesting. But then, we figured personal revenge was on the menu as soon as we heard “Sokovian”.
  • Oh, gods, the sheer exquisite cruelty of it. Zemo, you bastard. For all the ethics of it, hearts in the audience are bleeding for Tony right now. Well, for everyone, really, but…
  • …and even for Zemo.
  • The humanity of Earth’s justice continues to impress. Just kill the poor bastard. He’s already lost everything but his life; torturing him subsequently is in even poorer taste than usual.
  • Nicely done, Cap, both the rescue and the reaching out. Also, graciously done, T’Challa, for forgoing revenge in favor of helping another victim, even if belatedly.

So, from the Imperial perspective, a magnificent movie. But gods’ teeth, what a tragedy, and while there is no question as to which side the audience will come down on, the sympathy is felt all around.

(And the audience is culturally primed to expect the Subsequent Triumph, and the Redemptive Actions of Tony Stark. It will not be happy if it doesn’t get ’em.)

 

Atlas Smugged

So, MirrorField left this excellent in-character comment on the last post, which rather inspired me to throw in a response. Well, sort of – not directly, but the person Sph. Ortheyn was arguing with seemed to need some gentle correction.

Worst bar fight I ever was in? Somewhere in the Seam, can’t talk about it more precisely. Anyhoo, there was this hardcore libertist, never been sure whether he worked for Sanguinary Enforcers or someone else, who started the whole thing after a drunken philosophical discussion where I pointed out how “Liberty” and “Freedom” were not preciously unique foundation stones in functioning society. Stout? Definitely. Useful? Most assuredly. Irreplaceable? By no means. I mean, just look at Equality Concord; proof that you can build societies on other foundations. Some may argue that they’re foundation stones for best and most functioning societies. I agree, but only to a degree: It would take only a single innovation, philosophical or technological, to make those concepts as obsolete as gold coinage. Worse, if and when that happens, even the Empire would have to reinvent itself or crumble into the dustbin of history as the other adopters simply out-compete it.

The Guy took my viewpoint …badly. Three lost teeth, one broken rib, bruised kidney and moderate stunner trauma. Last one because someone had pulled a knife and bouncers decided to stun everyone and sort things out later. I avoided him until re-deployment and haven’t seen him since.

Jarrus Ortheyn, memetic warfare officer for bonded mercenary company Hounds of Tindalos

And thus, some comments made by the soph patching up the other side of this particular bar-fight…

Okay, kid, so now I’ve got you in the healing vat and you’ve just got to float there while it fixes your body, I’m going to lecture you. By way of brain-fixing, which comes free, ’cause your story is a lot sorrier than you think it is.

Do you want to hear about your fundamental mistake first, or your first mistake? Well, since you’re not in any shape to talk right now, I get to pick.

Firstwise, you carried on arguing with someone whose idea of an other-foundation society was the Equality Concord? The civilization which converts its citizenry into something with all the self-determination of the cells in a cellular automaton? The one that’s half a brain-pithing technicality away from a p-zombie cult? That Equality Concord?

Kid, anyone who waves that around as an example is either provoking you or already brain-eaten, so just put on your best scorn-face and walk away.

Fundamentally? You’ve got the zeal of the converted, but not the brains of the converted. You forgot one of the first principles of libertism, the one that goes “A sword is not an argument,” and yeah, that does mean a punch in the face ain’t an argument either. The argument was yours to lose, and you lost it right there.

And yeah, it was yours to lose. Soph you were arguing with – you said he was a meme-wrangler? – had a case that rested upon the notion that ethics are mere arbitrary postulates that you can construct as you will towards your desired end; that it’s possible to innovate in the field, as if constructing a technology. And that’s not just nonsense, it’s obvious, well-documented nonsense that you should have learned about… wherever you went to learn stuff.

The phase-space of ideas may be infinite and unbounded, but the phase-space of true ideas, while it may also be infinite, is very definitely bounded. And ethics is a science, not a technology; thus, it is not innovated, but discovered, revealed from study of the nature of sophoncy and its relationship to the universe. And as a science, it is subject to the correspondence principle: whatever grand new theories there are in the field, they must uphold the extremely well-tested principle of liberty as we know it today in all domains in which it has been so tested.

Obsolescence, fah! The intrinsic theory of value was never true. It failed that test as soon as it was put to it. That you can build a sort-of economy on it – just like you can build a so-called civilization on other principles – is to say no more than that you can build medicine upon the corporeal vigors, or chemistry upon mercury-sulphur-salt theory, or astronomy upon heliocentrism and numerical correspondences, and have it work… mostly, and after a fashion, until the truth puts it to the fire. Not all mistakes are swiftly terminal, even if they ought to be.

And, not to put too fine a point on it – while arguments from authority are poor epistemology, god’s interstellar brain has thought about this, and we agree with us both in said domains, and insofar as we can understand ethics for transcendent hyperintelligences.

Which is to say, kid, read a damn book and stop punching people. That last is in the very first line of the Fundamental Contract, so if you’re going to go around calling yourself a libertist, learn the gorram root-code, already.

Déïndé Liuvis, medtech, Quor Orbital Eleemosynary Clinic

A Brief Note From The Doylist Perspective

So, saw an addition to the verse’ trope page today:

Libertarians In Space: Examined. The central setting, the Empire of the Star, is portrayed as a libertarian Utopia, where respect for liberty and personal choice is balanced by an admirably cheerful general attitude of voluntary civic-mindedness. On the other hand, it’s mentioned that there are plenty of outliers outside Imperial space where a narrow, dog-eat-dog, almost Randian interpretation of self-interest is practiced; it’s implied that these are not nice places to live at all, especially if you can’t afford decent protection services.

Well, now. To pick a nit or two…

While this is generally accurate – in any form of governance, it turns out, people are a problem1 – and while it’s bad form, I’m told, to edit Word of God entries onto one’s own trope page, the author would beg to point out that he believes that the locals (after being provided with the appropriate literature) would probably point out that they are practicing something relatively close to a Randian interpretation of enlightened self-interest, and really, can’t these bloody Earth-monkey [pseudo|anti]-objectivists get anything right? Haven’t they even read Effective Selfishness2 [Aral Harran, pub. 7222, Clue KEW Press]? (Of course, they’d probably interpret that wrong, too.)

1. With apologies to Douglas Adams.

Also 1. If you’re an Imperial libertist, an Earth libertarian, or an anarchist anywhere, you would probably add the corollary that the problem only gets worse if you let people be in charge of things, and also people. If you’re anything else, your mileage may vary.

2. A book which points out, for those who haven’t guessed already, that similar to the alchemy which transforms effective Evil Overlords into mere Unpleasant Accountants, that it’s mathematically demonstrable that you maximize your own personal return through cooperation, niceness, active reciprocal benevolence, and only punishing defectors. That’s optimal selfishness.

Your “nasty defectors” are screwing themselves over by sticking to a particularly idiotic local maximum that’s far, far below this in terms of productivity.

(This is why the typical Imperial critique of people the rest of the galaxy sees as greedy tends to be less “you evil plundering greedheads” and more “man, you suck at greed”.

And now my head is going to be full of Gilea Cheraelar lecturing Donald Trump on how he is basically a complete and utter failure in this respect and a disgrace to the good name of plutarchy, so, um, thanks, brain!)

…There Is Only Awesomeness

So, today I was randomly reminded of In The Grim Darkness Of The Contact Form, and the hypothetical fictional possibilities of a face-off between the Empire and Warhammer 40K’s Imperium of Man, which details I cover there with a note that I can’t really deal with metaphysical mismatches like the wackiness of the Warp.

Well, here’s what occurred to me this morning:

The Tyranid hive mind is known for creating a “shadow in the Warp” that plays merry hell with all psychic communications, Warp travel, Warp-related abilities, and anyone with any sort of psychic sensitivity that happens to be beneath it, which appears to be everyone who isn’t a blank or a Necron.

So, folks: what do you think the Transcend, a hive mind collective consciousness with some additional relevant features, like a core brain the size of a star system and moon-sized local ganglia, looks like in the Warp?

(My take:

Best case, you have a Big Freakin’ Glow in the Warp, which is a lot nicer than the Tyranids’ shadow but which will still interfere with your day and is not to be fucked with.

Worst case (for the existing galactic powers): A weakly godlike superintelligence just got promoted to strongly godlike, and as the Warp’s first Order God/Constructive Power it has issues to raise with absolutely everyone.

We also might have to start calling its part of the galaxy the Eye of Harmony, but I think that name’s been used before…)

 

The End of the Inquirocene Epoch

Bad news, I’m afraid, gentle readers.

…it looks like I’m going to have to start enforcing what I have been ignoring up to now, namely, treating asking questions as the one-per-$-per-month Patreon reward that I declared it to be, rather than as something freely offered when questions are asked.

I don’t really want to do this, as I rather enjoy expounding on little details, and for that matter, it is in some cases useful to explore some worldbuilding edge cases. The trouble is, however, writing up and in some cases figuring those answers requires much the same part of my brain, and for that matter the same part of my motivation, as writing. And thus, answering them, or just having them lying around to be answered, I have noticed, is having a fairly serious adverse impact on the amount of actual writing that I’m able to get done. (Especially since I have a contract job in the early stages which, from past experience, is also something that can impact my writing time.)

So, while not foreclosing the option entirely, this is an attempt to limit the volume to something a little more manageable, or rather something compatible with the fiction that is, after all, the point of the exercise.

I do, of course, continue to welcome your thoughts, speculations, and so forth, in the comments, even if I can’t reply to all of them.

Requesting your understanding,

The Somewhat Frazzled Author

 

Feel Free To Skip: An Election-Time Question Response

How would one, given the current situation on Terra, move humanity towards becoming something more Imperial, and in doing so, not cause massive amounts of death and destruction?

…if I had an answer to that one, I’d be Chairman of the Vanguard Party, not an ‘umble SF author.

(Honestly, if I was feeling all upbeat and hopeful at the moment, I’d say “education, enlightenment – and the Enlightenment – and maybe some voluntary cognitive surgery”.

If I was feeling less serious, I’d go with a Dr. Horrible quote and say “Anarchy – that I run!”

But it’s election season here in These United States, and as I’m unable to escape the spectacle of almost everyone trying to decide whether to kneel before the monochrome authoritarian or the colorful fascist and receive their leavings of the screwing about to be rightfully delivered to the Other-Tribal-Americans, those unspeakable, interchangeable bastards, my opinion of humanity in general is busy experimenting to see if it can find some new depths to sink to, and so I’m going to quote a somewhat different part of the Horrible canon:

Any dolt with half a brain
Can see that humankind has gone insane
To the point where I don’t know
If I’ll upset the status quo
If I throw poison in the water main

Listen close to everybody’s heart
And hear that breaking sound
Hopes and dreams are shattering apart
And crashing to the ground

I cannot believe my eyes
How the world’s filled with filth and lies
But it’s plain to see
Evil inside of me is on the rise

…without the counterpoint.

I might be more than just a little bitter, cynical, and depressively-triggered right now, despite the best efforts of the medications. Ask again later.)