Our Better Angels



“The thoughts of worldly men are for ever regulated by a moral law of gravitation, which, like the physical one, holds them down to earth. The bright glory of day, and the silent wonders of a starlit night, appeal to their minds in vain. There are no signs in the sun, or in the moon, or in the stars, for their reading. They are like some wise men, who, learning to know each planet by its Latin name, have quite forgotten such small heavenly constellations as Charity, Forbearance, Universal Love, and Mercy, although they shine by night and day so brightly that the blind may see them; and who, looking upward at the spangled sky, see nothing there but the reflection of their own great wisdom and book-learning…

It is curious to imagine these people of the world, busy in thought, turning their eyes towards the countless spheres that shine above us, and making them reflect the only images their minds contain…So do the shadows of our own desires stand between us and our better angels, and thus their brightness is eclipsed."

- Charles Dickens, Barnaby Rudge


Lincoln is trying to write his first Inaugural address to the nation, an important speech if he is to save the nation. He shows the draft he has been working on to William Seward the Secretary of State. Seward recommends that Lincoln try to end the speech a bit more conciliatory and he sketches out a few suggestions. We know all of this because these back and forth draft notes between the two men still exist. Seward's notes include the words, "better angels", which he most likely remembered from the Dickens excerpt above.

This week I opened the doors to two brave writers who expanded upon some themes that I brought up earlier in the week. I strongly believe these are important issues that should be debated, discussed, and argued in public. I also know that there are no sides to these issues, there cannot be. Anger and hate do not have a side. There is no argument for them. Just as there is no valid stance for Evil. Expedience and convenience are not valid arguments for doing wrong, they never have been. Evil often hides behind rationalization and crowd mentalities to perpetrate vileness, but the acts themselves remain vile.

Inside of Eve I am a Pirate. Every day I hunt my prey. I have, at one time or another, fully exploited the game mechanics for my own personal gain. I do so as often as I can. I prey upon the weak, the young, the old, the veteran, the experienced, I hunt them all. Inside of Eve I show no prejudice when it comes to my own play-style. Everyone in space is equal. This is how I choose to play the game. As a game. As a game Eve is morally ambiguous. By their very nature most games are. We are, after all, talking about digital representations of light. Flickers of numbers bouncing against our retinas. Their is no right and wrong there, only light and dark.

And yet, there are people on the other side of each of those screens. People whose eyes reflect the self-same pixels as do mine. People from all walks of life, social, economic, political, racial and yes, even gender backgrounds. And, like with anything, once we add people to the mix - things get complicated.

I think back to that moment when Lincoln was desperately trying to find the words to save the nation. By 1861 everyone with any intelligence knew that Slavery was doomed. The rest of the world was already moving towards this, or would soon enough. Those in the South knew this as well. Lincoln's call toward their "better angels" would go unheeded and shortly America would fight the only war ever needed to bring about the end of Slavery. A horribly costly and useless war, whose echoes continue even today. The worst part about the American Civil War has to be its pointlessness. And its waste.

This is how I look at it. I am no Saint. I have never claimed to be. I enjoy a good Troll. I enjoy a good laugh. I really enjoy playing Eve. And, at times, I will call those people out that deserve to be called out - within the context of that world. For me, it has never been personal. It has never once been about the person on the other side of the screen. And that is where I have always drawn the line. It seems a fairly reasonable point of demarcation. Man, woman, child - whoever is on the other side - is a person. A person I most likely do not know. A person with their own lives, their own challenges, hardships, expectations, baggage, and rights. Just as any other person, in any other context.

Because Eve is full of people, Eve is full of the same problems as the rest of the world. In the greater context, it is no worse or no better than any other system in which people interact. Because it is a system in which people interact. Within that system there is room enough for all of us to co-exist and thrive together or apart. For various opinions, outlooks, and social norms to flourish, thrive, and wither away. Eve is only a reflection of the world in which it exists. And that world is the one we all must live in. Together.

Personally I feel, as I did earlier this week, that a paradigm has shifted. And perhaps that is only because my own world inside Eve has. I freely admit this may be the case. I may be clouded by my own perceptions. I often am. As we all are. But I would like to think that more and more of us are striving toward our better Angels. One has to believe this, doesn't one? If you don't, then what is left to you?

I think it is amazing that excerpt from Dickens has so much to do with the Stars in the night sky. That he felt, as so many of us have, inspired by the vastness of space. It is that longing, that poetry, that desire that we all share. The spirit of adventure, the challenge of the unknown, the face of the creator - that brought us all to Eve in the first place. That sense of wonder. Why else are we all playing a game about spaceships? We could be doing anything.

And maybe, just maybe, this is what we should all keep in mind. We do have something in common after all. We share something that unites us, no matter where we come from, what we've been thru, who we are, we all share one thing in common above all else.

We all play Eve.

And maybe, just maybe, if we start there the rest won't seem so hard. I believe that.




4 comments:

  1. Anyone ever tell you, you wax a little purple? :)

    Thank you for giving this week to the cause of people treating each other like people, even - nay, ESPECIALLY - when pew pewing each other's virtual ships to virtual dust.

    I think about the 'This Is EVE' video, which shares jubliation in comms, the bonds of community, and it's riveting stuff. EVE is at its best when people are joyful about this game we all play.

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  2. Thank you, Guillome, for writing about this divisive topic and sharing it with us. In our ABA chat channels, we have been be discussing this quite often. My fellows alliance members have been very adamant about how they feel. While I know this fight can never be won, I will consider it a win if just one person who feels threatened or tormented by this despicable behavior finds there way to a new home that they can feel joyful in. I don't care it is ABA, Signal Cartel, or where.

    To everyone out there that may read this, you do not have to play this game the way others expect you to play. You do not have to fear that logging into EvE will put you at the hands of abusive, immature players. There are homes out there for all of you. I did not serve my country and more importantly freedom so people can spew hate on the internet. It is an unfortunate side effect, but be sure that when you find those of us who believe in basic human decency, you will have a home!

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  3. As Eve Players and human beings, we have the capacity to learn. Sadly we have our own ego sometimes getting in the way when we fail to realize a mistake on our part that led to a digital downfall.

    Often, more so than I feel is apparent by those too angry, confused, bitter or ego-filled - those that end up destroying your ship will offer advice, guidance and occasionally isk support but it will depend on those first thirty seconds of contact after the destruction.

    Vile death threats and real life wishes of harm, are even less important than a digital ship lose - is a symbol of being slightly unbalanced. Either selfish in their own personal beliefs of what a shared game is or should be, or an indicator of something more destructive.

    When people talk to me about Eve and why they tried and failed to get in to the game the same way I and other people have it usually comes down to not wanting to interact with people with the same intensity than at work or real life play. It can be tiring for those wanting to play a game to relax. Learning names, hearing voices or reading comments takes effort and may not be something they want to concentrate on when there's a crying baby or homework to do while looking at the asteroid fields or PvE content in EvE.

    Maybe it's the expectation of players that EvE provides in it's tutorials, or maybe the initial contact with the first and occasionally only corp recruiter that convinces an EU player to join an AU corporation. That new player may see people, but it's more likely to be at the beginning or end of their Eve Day and thus no real contact can be forged.

    The best thing CCP could do for new and returning players is to point them in the direction of the new, old and established corps/alliances that are geared up, ready and willing to take those new and returning players under their wing and demonstrate that being blown up in a ship is okay. The only proper reaction is to ask - "Was that fun?" if that answer is a no, perhaps do something different to mitigate the outcome so if/when the result is copied, fun will be had by oneself the next time.

    Sorry about the wall of text - here's a TLDR.

    New players should join an established corporation of people willing, able and geared up to take those new players under their wing and show them as much as there is in Eve, and how to lose ships in a ball of fire while having fun. Losing ships doesn't have to be painful and can be more educational than earning a kill mail.

    Players perceptions of Eve can be so far removed from the reality of the game that lines are blurred and every in game action is a personal slight on the individual behind the keyboard. This isn't generally true.

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  4. As a Christian father of 2 young kids, I share the fear of voice comms. I have often cringed at the salty language, crude analogies, and regrettable decisions I hear. My usual reaction is to not participate in the crassness and attempt to steer the conversation back to tamer stuff.

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