Wednesday, 30 April 2014

The Paranoia Paradox

False Gods: Crusade's End (I)

A World Eaters marine (copyright Games Workshop)
Welcome, citizens, to the Truth.

There comes a point in the life cycle of any expanding empire (any human empire, at least) when something curious in theory but horrendously damaging in practice seems to inevitably occur.  The specifics vary greatly between civilisations, depending on their obsessions and convenient scapegoats, but the basic form is always the same, and can be described as "the paranoia paradox".

The paranoia paradox is very simple in form, and can be stated thus: our civilisation is so perfect and powerful it must be hated by malcontents who are everywhere and who could bring everything crashing down at any time.

The self-evidently ludicrous nature of this thinking is clear when it presented so plainly, but once set in the mindset that equates power with right and disagreement with treason, it becomes not only inevitable, but self-sustaining. We need look no further for a perfect example than the newly-swelled ranks of the Warrior Lodge. As Torgaddon acidly notes, declaring a poet an enemy of the state does nothing but make the state, and its defenders, look small.  An empire that cannot survive unflattering comments squeezed into metre or rhyme has far bigger problems than one man with an antiquated printing press.

Indeed, the only way Karkasy could possibly pose any threat to the Sons of Horus would be if killing him in cold blood prompted further discontent. Some problems must simply be suffered in the knowledge that no solution exists which will not make matters worse.  If your foot itches terribly, one does not cut it off.  This of course is an extension of a fundamental problem with the Legions which we have discussed before: they are incapable of any answer to any problem that does not involve a headlong charge.  When all you have is a chainaxe, every problem looks like a greenskin's face. Or, in this case, the face of your own citizenry, who apparently must be taught to not dissent against the Sons of Horus through a program of further outrages. The executions will continue until morale improves.

Considering how unnecessary and self-defeating this approach is, it seems almost redundant to point out how despicable it is as well. It is still however worth considering what is happening here, however. Like mobs throughout the entire expanse of human history, the Lodge has concluded that its enemies are everyone's enemies, and that therefore the process through which those enemies are removed must by definition be the right thing to do. The ends are so critical and fundamental that they must automatically justify the means.

But once this line is crossed, it creates mutations elsewhere.  By rejecting the idea that there exists judicial or moral structures beyond their ability to override, the defender of the state comes to believe himself the state itself.  Criticism of him therefore automatically becomes an act of sedition. It is through this warped glass that the Lodge can view Varvaras a traitor for the crime of actively seeking justice. Because allowing justice to be done would be an admission that the state's defenders had erred, and thus the state has erred, and that cannot be considered (not least because of the extreme lengths already gone to in its name). The paranoia paradox states that the Astartes power is so fundamental to the Imperium that allowing them to be subject to its laws would immediately bring the galaxy crashing down, and the assumption of statehood allows them to consider any solution that occurs to them, including betraying one of their own.

Which is breathtaking in its hypocrisy, when you think about it. In order to defeat what the Lodge has deemed traitors (a poet and a man seeking justice for two dozen murdered civilians), they plan to betray their comrade. Apparently they simply cannot reach fast enough for the same tactics they judge despicable when applied against them.  But this too is all too common, a result of a second paradox by which the state's defenders can conclude their society is so obviously superior to its enemies in terms of its morality that it should feel no compunction in combating those enemies on their own entirely immoral terms. We're better because we act better, and therefore do not need to act better.

It would be a neat rhetorical trick, were it not so transparent, and were it not so clearly going to backfire.  The paranoia paradox always precedes a great fall.  The circumstances and timing differ, but once the first domino is pushed over, the end will come, sooner or later.  The state begins to eat itself to tear out an infection caused by its own teeth, and the more it eats, the further the infection spreads, until the body breaks down completely.  And no-one can stop it, because trying to save the state in actuality is viewed as trying to destroy the warped image of it that exists in the heads of the true enemy.

Which I suppose means the prophecies of the Warrior Lodge, like their antecedents through the millennia, will become true after all. There were treacherous schemers on the inside and, immune to reason or restraint, they did ultimately destroy everything they had worked so hard to build. It is an irony to rival any that could be invented, and it might seem like a just fate, were it not for the innocents who inevitably are harmed as the fanatic strangle themselves with their own noose.

Speaking of which, it's time we looked in on the war for Aureus.


What Is

What do you think of this new Horus?

He's a very naughty boy.

Any elaboration?

Well it's pretty crappy of him trying to fit up Loken.  Why not just kill him? Is he worried about making him a martyr? Or is this all just a way of showing how screwed up everything is?

I'm not sure how that would help. It's a bit like fighting fire with a bigger fire that's also a poisoner. It's interesting that you focused on Loken first, rather than the fact that he shot an innocent man in the face.

Well that was all very abstract.

Abstract? He blew the guys brains out with a gun and bullets.  How the hell is that abstract?

It's not a guy we knew or cared about. We didn't even see it first hand.


What I don't get is why Horus did that with Loken there.  He already knows Loken spoke out against treating the interex like potential enemies, and now he's just executing ambassadors on sight.  How long does he think Loken will stand for that?

The obvious solution to that is that Horus simply doesn't care what Loken thinks. It's even possible he's trying to goad Loken into doing something treasonous.

Doesn't sound like Loken.

Well every other bugger is tossing their oaths of moment onto the bonfire today; why should Loken be any different.

He's not as bloodthirsty as the rest. It feels like they're chucking out their vows because any excuse for a fight will do.

Why didn't Torgaddon push the point about Erebus stealing the anathame?

Maybe they still don't have any proof?

You'd think Tarik would at least try and get Erebus to say something incriminating.  Or maybe that's just not how his mind works.

He was probably concentrating on getting out of there without starting a fight or turning the whole Lodge against himself and Loken.

But that doesn't sound like Tarik, either.  He's not the sort of person to keep his mouth shut for fear of causing trouble.

Perhaps it just became clear to him there was no point.  There doesn't seem to be anyone he's any chance of persuading in the whole lodge, other than Little Horus.

So he jeeps his mouth shut for now and collars Aximand on his own later?

Maybe. Or maybe he's just given up.  Maybe he got scared that if he kept going he'd learn everyone else was in on it.

A bunker that automatically explodes when it's empty of people is a neat idea.  Do you ever wish your office would do that?

What, explode?

Only when it's empty. I'm sure Health & Safety will clear it.

I can think of a few people I'd like to blow up in the office.

But they can't, because while they're there the office can never be empty.  It's the cruelest of catch-22 situations. Best fall back on the poisoned samosa plan. That had legs.

What Will Be

What is it that Horus wants out of this war, anyway?

How can  I answer that question without knowing what Horus decided on the Plain of Dreams. Or what happened to him afterwards.

Very poetic. You're worried he might be possessed?

Or gone full Dark Side.

Bit quick, isn't it?

Maybe he's faking full Dark Side. I don't know. And until I do know, I can't be expected to extrapolate, because if I base my deductions on fault assumptions, the entire process will spiral out into nonsense.

That is such a statistician's answer. I'm so glad I met you.

There are three possible main baselines: Horus has turned, Horus is possessed, Horus is faking. In the first case, he's working to help the warp and/or defeat the Emperor. Maybe the Emperor has already been here, using it as a test case for his technology. The same considerations apply if he was possessed, except then there's the possibility of him coming back.

If he's faking, my best guess is that this place is a penal colony, or something.

So he's targeted a naughty planet to persuade the Warp he's on their side?

Exactly. Though I suppose it's meant sacrificing an awful lot of Astartes in the process.

Yes. You'd think he'd choose an easier target if that was the case.  What about this STC device the Fabricator General mentioned right before Horus polo minted his face?

I assume that's what makes the Astartes armour.  Or even the Horuses.  If someone else can make Horuses, that's something Horus would want to keep quiet.

Yes.  Horus, first amongst Horuses, will brook no more Horuses from this point forth. NO MORE!

What is the Lodge going to do now that Torgaddon has knocked them back?

Why didn't he stay and force a vote.  Don't the Lodge rules demand unanimous votes?

They did, when it was convenient for the story.  But if they're willing to throw a member of the Mournival to the Space Wolves, I can't imagine them letting procedural problems get in the way. Maybe there's a way to vote to expel people from the Lodge. You've got to figure that's not something that requires unanimity.

Even so, he could have tried a bit harder to work on any waverers a bit.  

Maybe, though that sounds like you've mistaken Torgaddon for a politician, rather than a failed stand-up comedian forced into a life of relentless ultra-violence.

I don't know what they're going to do next, but I'd hate to be Loken right about now.

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