The End of Free Will?

winningI suppose I was kidding myself in thinking I could get away without writing about politics this year.

Last year’s referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union broke me.

I recovered relatively quickly by sticking to my personal philosophy and not dwelling on negativity; a part of doing that has happily led to me distancing myself from an emotional involvement in politics.

I’ve tried to force myself to be ignorant of the broken democracy that the rest of my world appears to be addicted to.

Thankfully this particular post is not loaded with personal politics; this post is more of a warning to the incurious.

TL:DR – There is evidence that big money is using NLP style techniques to control modern-day western politics.  I provide links to relevant stories and so forth.

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Electile Dysfunction – GE 2015

Electile Dysfunction – GE 2015

ObeyI think I’m in shock

I don’t remember being this disenfranchised 5 years ago when the party I had supported for years entered into an ill-advised coalition with the Conservatives.

As a supporter of a working system of Proportional Representation, I’ve never really been happy with the British electoral system.  At best first past the post is a pseudo-democracy and at worst it is a form of dictatorship to those who do not support the leading party.

Last night, as I followed the frighteningly accurate Exit Polls, a sense of deep dystopic foreboding filled me.

Refusing to be sucked into a night of tooth-gnashing angst, I tried to sleep.

My dreams were riddled with allegories: Caledonian warriors defecting from union armies and assisting the enemy in subjugating the masses – that kind of thing.

I woke around 3am, something that seems to be happening more and more these days, and the results were still too early to call.  Conservative, Labour and SNP all at a similar level.

When I rose again, later that morning, the Conservatives were on a clear path to victory.  With only a handful of seats to tally, the outcome was touted as being pretty much a done deal – and that is when the shock set in.

This is my fifth General Election, I was a year and a bit too young when John Major won a Tory victory back in 1992.

Today, more than any other post-polling day, I feel like my voice has been discarded.

The party I support have a small percentage of the vote, a similar percentage to another party.

At this stage in the tally, my party have a single seat and yet the other has over 50; how is that fair and democratic?

Worse than that, I have a genuine sense of being lied to.

I appreciate that my social circle are predominantly liberal/socialist and so my world view is coloured a kind of orangey-green but are there really that many Conservative voters out there?

When I campaigned for the Liberal Democrats 5 years ago, the general doorstep feedback was pro-Labour but my constituency remains a solid blue.

For the security of the voter, voting is anonymous but how, then, do I know that the votes tallied are genuine?

For all I know the figures were set well in advance of the election; exit polls could just as easily be rigged as they retain the same anonymity.

I’m not saying that I 100% support this theory of electoral conspiracy but I find it difficult to push the possibility from the front of my mind.

So here I am, on the first day of the New Dystopia, shackled with the illusion of a free and democratic society, ready for another 5 years of tyrannical rule.

So long NHS, I’ll miss the Insulin more than you might think.

NationStates – Online Political Roleplaying Game

NationStates is something I’ve been meaning to write about for quite a while now.

My Flag

I love gaming in all its glorious forms.

I dress up and take part in Live-Action Roleplaying; I waste far too much time playing games on the PC or my XBOX; and I lament the lack of table-top roleplaying within my life – but I rarely pay any attention to the games that I play daily online.

The one game I religiously adhere to – and have done since I joined the game back in February 2003- is NationStates.

I originally joined along with a few other regular posters on the, now defunct, Pagga LRP forums (now dead and replaced by the Rule 7 forums).

I initially created my “Nation” (effectively your player character, albeit on a national level) as the Holy Something of Cthonian Wasteland within a “Region” set up by some LRP friends of mine, the Continent of Pagga.

Pretty quickly, we realised that the die-hard live role-players, that had founded the region, hadn’t really got the will or tenacity to keep the region up. So, as the Continent of Pagga declined to ruin, a few of us upped sticks and moved to the green and pleasant region of Wysteria.

The attraction of Wysteria, back in the day, was that it was very much centred upon role-play.

The region was initially setup in 2002 by a group of tabletop role-players from Canada.

We found them under a year later and they welcomed us with open arms.

Nine years on, Wysteria is a notable region within the NationStates world – and I am glad to have been a part of it for so long.

Wysteria describes itself as:

Founded December 21st, 2002, by some D&D players from Canada, we are an island of stability in an ever changing system.

Wysteria represents a diverse, international, online community. Our Green and Pleasant Region extends a warm welcome to those who wish to join.

But the community that stands behind those words is far stronger than you would imagine.

NationStatesThere is a regional message board, for regular role-playing between Wysterian nations and regions with embassies within Wysteria.

A messageboard I, sadly, rarely have time to frequent.

There is also a dedicated world map – kept up to date by a lady with far more patience than I have – allowing nations to place themslves geographically alongside other Wysterians.

It is worth noting that this is specific to the region I joined back in 2003 – many other NationStates regions do not have this level of additional role-play.

Actual game play within NationStates is as simple or as complicated as you would like it to be.

Firstly, you create your nation and optionally join a region.  There are default regions for those who do not want to go to that effort.  You can also start your own region.

Secondly, you decide how frequently you wish to make decisions for your region.  I opted to make two decision a day,which means the time I spend on the game at minimum is the time taken to resolve two political issues a day – Monday to Friday I might add.

Finally, you simply sit back and observe.

The decisions you make within the game effect your nation, its economy and its socio-political definition within the world.

The World Assembly (the in game equivalent of the United Nations) ranks your nation’s progress against other nations within your region (and within the world as whole) daily.

It is surprisingly addictive.

The game was originally created by the Australian author, Max Barry, as a kind of promotion for his novel, Jennifer Government.

I’m really grateful for this; if I hadn’t started playing NationStates, I probably wouldn’t have read any of Max’s novels – and trust me, they are worth reading.

I recently read a good review of one of Max’s first novels, Syrup (currently being filmed for release next year); I don’t agree with it (Syrup gripped me from beginning to end – albeit a seemingly rushed end) but it is a fair review.

At present, Wysteria is made up of 214 nations; I have seen this exceed the 300 mark but this can apparently effect many of the game analysis tools that people have written, so we try to keep the national count beneath the 300 mark.

Assuming that none of these are “puppet” nations created by existing Wysterians, that means that there are 214 people roleplaying nations within the region that I am a part of.

Some of the NationStates players take the game very seriously; there is even a threatening “Invader” contingent that seeks to take over and destroy regions – seemingly “because they can”.

Wysteria is lucky in that it is controlled by its Founder (The Green and Pleasant Dominion of The Bruce) rather than its World Assembly delegate (The Great Green Arkleseizure of Hydroponic Nation).

I play my region as a relatively right-wing, capitalist state with the twist that the head of state is a religious dictator, rather than a hereditary monarchy or elected president. Furthermore, the religious bent of the nation is purely driven by Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos.

Initially the nation intended to subvert and convert the nations of Wysteria to its Elder-God fearing, all consuming ways but the presence of uber-powerful, aggressive nations (The Indomitable Borderlands of The Grendels) within Wysteria has led the Cthonian Wasteland to be more open to trade and discourse with its neighbours rather than violent and bloody religious conversion.

I have a place within Wysterian cartography and have even placed cities and towns – conceptually.  In my head, I have an idea of how the nation’s religious and political bodies interact and even how the indigenous demographic break down.

Gnoll AmbassadorAs the region is populated with fantasy role-players, the existence of Shoggoth and Deep-Ones within my own national population does not seem too our of place; even the Grendels are made up of the awesome fantasy race of Gnolls .

My next major LRP character is likely to be a Grendel-esque Gnoll – albeit, a lazy scouse Gnoll.

The aforementioned Grendels is an interesting example of how the game can be played.  The Grendels are often top of the regional rankings (and the World – which is impressive when you consider the NationStates world contains 88,963 nations within 8,778 regions).

Cthonian Wasteland is currently ranked 4th in Wysteria and 96th in the world for “Largest Public Sector”.  Which is not as impressive as the ranking I achieve for “Most Cultured”, which is usually 1st in Wysteria and 13th in the world.

For all that it takes around 5 minutes a day to play, I really enjoy being a part of the NationStates world.  I suspect I would enjoy it less if I were not in Wysteria.  I really wish I had more time to engage in the regional role-play that occurs on the Wysteria Message Boards.

As I dedicate more and more time to writing, I am actually considering writing a few short stories set in Wysteria and the Cthonian Wastelands.  I’ve even considered creating a web comic, although I can’t draw consistent characters for toffee.

If you’re into this kind of quick and nasty daily game, sign up and request to join the region of Wysteria – tell them the Om-Mani-Padme-Pope Armaitus sent you, you’ll be sure to get a good seat.