The Caldari Dialogues
All this data is potentially out of date, and should be taken with a truckload of salt
Template:PCF The Caldari Dialogues was a series of four blog entries written by the player of Svetlana Scarlet. Each entry focused on a particular aspect of the Caldari State and people. It cover the foundations, the corporations, the average Caldari living in the State, and all those who are on the fringes of society.
There is the possibility that in the future other authors may add to the first four, please note your contributions here with a brief summary.
For those interested in understanding what the Caldari are about or how to play a believable Caldari character these entries should be worthwhile reading.
Foundations of the Caldari
- by the player of Svetlana Scarlet
This is going to be the first segment of what is intended as a multipart series discussing the way the I, as a writer and Caldari roleplayer in Eve Online, see the way the State and its people. Recently, there has been a lot of headbutting about this on the Chatsubo, through which I suspect I have made few friends among the people at CCP who are in charge of the latest storyline leading up to the debut of Faction Warfare on 10 June. I am posting these here mostly as a result of a discussion I had with the players of Kai Zion and Yoshito Sanders, who have been of the opinion that my rather scathing criticism of the storyline has been a bit premature. Because that conversation seemed to at least enlighten them, I thought I would use that conversation (and a log which Kai so generously provided) as a springboard for a series of more in-depth articles on the topic. I'll be interspersing bits of our conversation with my text, so you can see what happened there. However, just a warning; these quotes are not in the chronological order from the discussion, but in relevance to the topic. I'll include the timestamp though.
I won't just be discussing the Caldari per se, but I'll also be bringing in a lot of references that I think shaped the way I view Caldari society, and probably contributed to the thoughts of those people originally responsible for the idea of the Caldari when Eve was in its germination stages. Where possible, I'll try to make sure I quote or link these sources, but sometimes that isn't going to be feasible; I'll try to include enough information about them that you can hunt them down on your own if you want, at the very least.
I'll be putting the bulk of these entries behind the cut -- they are going to run long, probably, so if I don't they are going to make the front page look a little weird. As always, I invite comments, criticism, and analysis from anyone. And with that, let's get to the first part of this discussion, where I'll discuss what I see are the foundations of Caldari thought, morality, and attitudes, and where they came from, both in Eve history and in reference to the real world. So let's start this off with a snippet of our conversation...
The Caldari mindset is a confusing one -- they are described as capitalists, nationalists, militarists, xenophobes, objectivists, and a variety of other adjectives, some that often seem to be contradictory. The truth of the matter is, the Caldari have a very complicated mindset that comes closest to the mentality of a lot of Asian cultures, especially China and Japan. Many of the tenets of Caldari thought, in my mind, are similar to those of Confucianism or Bushido, but that doesn't paint a whole picture. Let's have a look at what we know about the Caldari and see how that has shaped them.
For me, there are two major events in their history that contribute to their mindset. First, we have the post-collapse state of Caldari Prime. From the Caldari Timeline, we know that at the time of the Eve gate collapse, the planet's atmosphere wasn't even breathable, at least not unassisted, and by the time the automated terraforming processes started by the initial settlers changed that, most of the planetary population had died. The few outposts that did survive scraped by for a few hundred years, then emerged on a still hostile, but at least habitable planet, and then they had to try to rebuild society. How many of them actually were there on the planet? Well, we can surmise that it's at least several hundred (smaller than that, and the population would likely have died out or become a bunch of inbred mutant freaks before they could do something about it), but probably not much more than a couple thousand, at least in any one place; larger, and it's unlikely we would have seen a societal collapse that brought about an 8000-year wait for the next recorded civilization.
So what does this give us to go on? Well, those first Caldari are probably going to be faced with some very tough choices. They need as many people to survive on the planet as possible, in order to preserve their chances of overall survive, but they also can't have too many, or they'll sap whatever resources are there into oblivion. Keep in mind that the number of plants and animals on the planet are also probably going to be pretty low -- if the atmosphere wasn't breathable for humans, it probably wasn't very hospitable to anything larger than small insects, worms, or other primitive life that also survived in the outposts the humans lived in; aquatic life may have been more diverse. They are probably going to be living on scavenged food, food plants and livestock that have gone wild, or possibly some of the genetically engineered terraforming organisms (perhaps they were designed to be edible to serve a dual purpose). Either way, things are not going to be rosy for our early Caldari. What I see coming from this are the first foundations of the Caldari mentality.
- Emphasis on the greater good. It doesn't matter that much if any one of your community suffers, so long as it increases the likelihood of overall survival. If one of the group is suffering from a contagious disease, and you have no antibiotics, you may not want to, but you're going to have to keep them away from everyone else in order to prevent it from spreading. If you know they are going to die, or think they are going to die, there's no reason to give them your precious food or water to preserve that life if it will make the rest of you suffer.
- Emphasis on efficiency, practicality and productivity. In order to preserve resources, including food, water, and manpower, you need to find a way to do things in the most efficient way possible. This is very similar to the above comment, but it also adds the concept of measured value. For example, take two workers, John and Harry. John can plow a field in half the time of Harry, but you only have enough food so that one can have a full ration. Who do you give it to? The answer is obvious to any Caldari, and if you had to pick one to save from a burning building, the answer is also obvious. This isn't just a practical decision for the Caldari though, it's a moral one; by saving the weaker one, you could be dooming your community to a worse harvest in the fall. You will have failed the community, and possibly caused its demise, because you made the wrong choice.
- Ancestor worship. This one is a bit more of a stretch; we know that Caldari spirituality, or at least mythology, is somewhat animistic, perhaps similar to Shinto, thanks to Cold Wind. I also think the ancestor worship that is part of Shinto, or at least the belief that one's ancestors can become kami, has been largely adopted by the Caldari, because their forebears are their link to both a more prosperous time and a great struggle that made their society possible. Your father taught you how to plant your crops,and when he dies, his spirit will become part of your field, as his father's spirit did before him, helping you to make the right decisions and negotiating with the other spirits to bring you the right amount of rain. This also ties in to an emphasis on tradition and conservatism.
All of these tie into modern ideals of the Caldari about self-sacrifice and nationalism, which are really developments of these ideals, as I told Kai and Yoshito here (shortly after I pointed out that Cold Wind itself is supposedly published by Lai Dai, a Patriot corporation):
Of course, these are only the first steps along the path to the Caldari mentality. As time goes on, we have the Caldari grow and begin to form civilizations again; presumably, before that they had been very nomadic, moving around to follow food sources. There was plenty of territory and not a lot of people, so despite the fact that there probably wasn't much in the way of food either, the danger of overhunting or overfishing was probably fairly low. About 7000 years ago, we begin to see the first real civilizations develop on the planet, probably indicating that populations were getting large enough and the ecosystem large and diverse enough that it could support cities and agriculture. This corresponds roughly to about 7000-9000 years ago here on Earth, when the first agricultural communities were emerging in Mesopotamia.
Presumably, the Caldari did not languish quite as long in that state due to leftover knowledge from pre-collapse times and recovered artifacts of that era; certainly even the most primitive inventions that wouldn't be seen anywhere here on Earth until far later could provide a possibility for the Caldari to reverse engineer them, assuming they survived; the question is, if the Caldari took so long to do it, why did the others, who presumably had a jump on them? It took the Caldari 9000 years for their first great empire after the collapse, the Raata Empire, which seem to have been at least of a similar level to the Persian or Roman Empires on Earth in terms of influence, if not size or scope. It took the Gallente about 12500 years, the Minmatar roughly 10000 years, and even the Amarr about 8000 years for this same development. It is hard to understand why, but then we don't know what kind of disasters befell on these worlds during that event; it would seem to follow that whatever happened to them would have also affected Caldari Prime (especially since Gallente Prime is in the same system), however, so this is a little confusing. Possibly, the fact that Caldari Prime appears to have been an industrial colony built for a specific purpose and probably had a lot more technological development, may have had an effect. The other possibility is that Caldari Prime is simply smaller, in terms of land mass, and therefore a "world government," even one like the Roman Empire (the Mediterranean, around which their empire was situated, literally means "middle of the world"), was easier to come by. Of course, we don't have that much to go on with the ancient history of the various races, but it is something interesting to note.
Anyway, we don't know much about the Raata Empire, except that it emerged only about a thousand years after recorded civilization begins on Caldari Prime. It does last for 2500 years (something that makes me think that it was at least eventually nearly global in scale), however, so it must have some lasting effect on the Caldari consciousness. Because of the lack of information we really have, we can really only make some vague assumptions, but I'll try to stretch these as much as possible. Feel free to take me to task if you disagree.
- Socially, and probably technologically, it is likely that the Raata Empire was fairly stagnant, at least in terms of its basic structures. I'm guessing this for two reasons. One, we know that the Raata Empire lasted for 2500 years, which indicates a considerable amount of stability, something that isn't likely when the government or society is being reinvented every few decades or even every century. Note that this is longer than any other continuous government has existed on present Earth -- perhaps the Chinese may claim that they have lasted that long, but even that is a stretch. Second, despite being the dominant political entity on Caldari Prime for two and a half millennia, it still appears that the Gallente were the first realize that they were not alone in their star system. Keep in mind that if Rome had stood this long, it would have fallen sometime in the mid-1700s (assuming you go by the date of the city's founding). This stagnation is probably a result of ingrained Caldari conservatism and a lack of pressure from outside entities (yet another reason to believe that the Raata Empire spanned most of Caldari Prime). Note similar retrenchment in Japan following the rise of the Shogunate.
- It appears to have been somewhat feudal, at least, from what we see in Cold Wind. Notice that the forerunners of the Civire and Deteis are flying the flags of their houses, not a single state; presumably, military control was split between families (assuming that is what a "house" is in the chronicle; quite likely due to elements of ancestor worship). This, along with the strong emphasis in the Caldari consciousness on the greater good, probably led to some sort of code of honor or duty, which we can still see elements of today. I suspect that in the end this contributed to its downfall, and the only reason it lasted so long is the strong tradition of Caldari conservatism.
Somewhere though, the Raata Empire collapsed, and fifteen hundred years passed before contact was made by the Gallente. What were they doing during this time? Presumably, technological progress sped up, and certainly once the Gallente arrived that had to continue as well. There's a few items in the timeline that are unexplained -- I'm curious what this "Cultural Deliverance Society" is that is referenced. Is that a Gallente version of the Bureau of Indian Affairs or the British Raj? Is it some sort of Gallente pro-Caldari rights activist group (presumably, it's not Caldari, since it "arrives" on Caldari Prime)? Certainly, the Caldari must have lagged behind the Gallente in terms of technology at the time of first contact; they could not have had even 1700s-era astronomical science and miss a worldwide civilization in their same star system.
Based on what we've seen of the Gallente treatment of the Minmatar, some sort of paternalistic "help the poor Caldari get all civilized" society doesn't seem that farfetched. One can certainly see how that would not really endear the Gallente to the Caldari, who as a society take pride in self-sufficiency. Colonialism couldn't have sat very well with them, especially since they appear to have made rapid technological advancement after first contact; the Sotiyo-Urbaata Drive was developed by Caldari engineers, after all. It certainly doesn't take long for the Caldari to throw off the shackles of the Gallente and declare their independence after the founding of the Federation.
The Caldari xenophobia, or at least distrust of outsiders, probably originates in this period of their history; being taken advantage of by colonial overlords, no matter how well-intentioned, is not likely to have made them very happy. We only need to look at the examples of Britain and India, or the United States and the various Amerind tribes, to see that this relationship is often abused and engenders resentment.
From here, we get to the modern Caldari State and its current corporate oligarchy, as well as the Caldari war of independence. I don't think that's a topic I can easily squeeze into this already long article, so I'm going to wrap this section up here. I know there hasn't been too much from the discussion Kai, Yoshito, and I had, but that's because we focused mainly on current Caldari society and the recent events with Tibus Heth and the Provists. There should be quite a bit more in the next installments.
- by the player of Svetlana Scarlet
For the second installment of the Caldari Dialogues, I'm going to be taking a look at the corporations of the Caldari State: where they came from, how they operate and compete, their objectives and how they work to accomplish them. From here on out, we'll be talking about the modern Caldari State, at least as it was prior to May of this year; the events with Tibus Heth have been, in my opinion, rather contradictory to everything that came before, so I'm going to avoid talking about them. This article series is, to be quite honest, intended to explain my problems with those events in terms of plausibility, so that shouldn't be too huge a surprise for anyone.
I'll be relying on a couple of sources for a lot of my references in this chapter. The primary one is going to be Corporate Shadowfiles, the superb Shadowrun sourcebook written by the late Nigel Findley, one of my role models as a game designer and fiction writer. This book includes a number of things that people interested in the State will find supremely useful, including a discussion how modern corporations are structured and operate, various methods of corporate competition, and a number of Shadowrun-specific notes on various incidents between megacorporations that can give a great deal of insight on what probably happens in a similar cyberpunk setting like we find in the State. This book is an excellent primer on corporate capitalism that is not only extremely well-researched and informative, but an excellent and interesting read.
Other references and influences include the Mekong Dominion Leaguebook for Heavy Gear, a well written sourcebook about a society on Terra Nova structured very much like the Caldari State, Blade Runner, Max Headroom, the collected works of William Gibson (especially the Sprawl Trilogy and the Bridge Trilogy), and I'm sure a zillion other things I can't remember right now. Basically, my ideas about the State are very rooted in the cyberpunk genre, which is something that I think CCP definitely had in mind when they were developing the State.
So without further adieu, let's move on. The body of the article continues behind the cut.
Origin of the Corporate State
Okay, to start off, here's some quotes for you to chew on.
From Corporate Shadowfiles, pg. 9:
Okay, I pick these two quotes because they illustrate something important for people to realize. It is impossible for someone to understand how the State works without understanding the basic building blocks that make it up. The cyberpunk dystopia is a clear influence on how the Caldari State was built in the game; if you don't think so, compare this brief definition with what we know about the State, or have a look at the visuals in Blade Runner or the numerous works it has inspired (any art for the Shadowrun or Cyberpunk 2020 RPGs, for instance) and compare them to the aesthetic we see for the Caldari. Without that underlying understanding, you miss out on one of the major parts of how the State works.
Of course, the key component of the State's society is the corporation. There is nothing in the State that they do not control in some way; no one in the State, from those at the highest levels of power to the people who scavenge from the detritus of society to survive, are untouched by their influence. If you don't know how they work, how they interact, and what they want, you miss out on a huge part of why the Caldari State acts like it does. As much as their history shapes them, the corporations are what makes Caldari society what it is.
The first thing you need to realize about the megacorporations is that their primary purpose is, above all else, to make money. The modern idea of a corporation originated in Europe (especially the Netherlands and England) during the 16th century. The concept was a way to accomplish a number of tasks; first, it allowed a greater capital investment by allowing a number of investors to consolidate their capital under a single entity, which also served to spread the risk of a failed investment among a wider pool of investors. It also served as a layer of abstraction to protect the personal assets of those investors. The key fact to take from this is that it was designed to increase the earning potential of the investors (shareholders) while protecting them from the financial backlash of a failed venture.
Now we come to the first roadblock between the way I see the State and the way a lot of other people seem to see the State. They see the corporations as existing to preserve the State, when when the truth of the matter, is that the State exists to preserve the corporations. From what we know of the State, the current government came about as an effort by the Caldari corporations to preserve their assets in the secretly settled worlds of the Caldari colonies, which, according to this chronicle, were owned by the Caldari corporations. It's unclear whether they took power because of the war starting, or whether they were in control beforehand, but the State Factionalism chronicle seems to indicate that they were already largely in control by that time.
The corporations were concerned that the Federation would strip the colonies from them, which would essentially nationalize billions of ISK in investment by the corporations. Understand what this means -- the fundamental reason behind the Caldari war of independence was preservation of corporate assets, not nationalistic fervor. Yes, of course the corporations spun it as a patriotic fight to win the independence of the Caldari people, and certainly it's possible that was part of the reason, but the primary reason given in what comes closest to a history text is that the corporations didn't want to give up their colonies and were getting tired of Gallente regulation. A slightly more extreme version of "no taxation without representation," perhaps.
So the first thing we need to remember about these corporations is that whatever else their goals are, they want to make money first and foremost. Otro Gariushi didn't treat Ishukone workers better than most purely out of the goodness of his heart, he did it because he thought it was a wise economic policy in the long run, something that recent events appear to have borne out. Other corporations believe that the price of caving into the workers would be higher than simply smashing any objections by force, as in the Kassigainen incident. When we look back at what I said about Caldari morality in the last installment, this is in some part due to the fact that Caldari tend to see things in the form of a cost-benefit analysis. This is, of course, somewhat subjective, and different people are going to look at different goals -- Gariushi seemed to take a longer-term view, while others looked at the shorter term. We can see that in today's market as well, where people like Warren Buffet have considerably different views than some others.
However, the one thing we have to keep in mind is that the corporations in the State have lasted a long time; at least a century, probably considerably longer. While they were likely not as big as they are now for their entire existence, corporations cannot survive for very long without being somewhat conservative and focused on long term development, something that ties into the Caldari mindset very well. That is probably one reason why the recent downturn in the State has caused a bit of panic; something isn't working and now they are trying to fix it, and change is almost by definition traumatic. However, it seems extremely odd that when one corporation is successful in maintaining its fortunes, as Ishukone has, that no other corporation, not even one of the Practicals, who are known for being extremely flexible, has even attempted to try and duplicate Gariushi's success. This seems rather odd to me, and it's something I hope is addressed as time goes on.
We're told that in the State, pretty much everything is owned by a corporation, and that on their territory, they rule supreme. Most people in the State are not Caldari citizens, they are Ishukone citizens or Lai Dai citizens or Sukuuvestaa citizens; they are only Caldari citizens because the corporations have seen fit to unite for the purpose of foreign relations. We've been led to believe that corporations can own entire planets, as this article seems to indicate, but it also seems likely that on many of the most populated worlds in Caldari space that multiple corporations own territory, perhaps even inside the same city, whether divided into various "quarters" (perhaps there is an "Ishukonetown" in every major city on New Caldari) or simply have sovereignty in various buildings, such as the Renraku Arcology in Shadowrun.
Presumably, other corporations cannot enter corporate territory without the permission of the owner; if someone wanted by the Home Guard flees to a Hyasyoda world, there's nothing they can do until Hyasyoda grants them permission to pursue them. Of course, in many cases, Hyasyoda may simply find, arrest, and extradite the person, but in some cases -- for instance, if the person was actually a corporate spy for Hyasyoda, they may deny the request and Kaalakiota will be forced to file suit with the Tribunal in order to get the person (and considering that corporations are loathe to cede power to those regulatory agencies, they would likely be unable to do that either). This also means, however, that if you are an Ishukone citizen visiting a Lai Dai settlement and things go south between the two corporations, it could be very bad for you.
The only organizations that appear to have any sort of authority over the corporations are the four Statewide governmental agencies, the Chief Executive Panel, the Caldari Navy, the House of Records, and the aforementioned Caldari Business Tribunal. The Panel and Tribunal serve similar functions to the Corporate Court in Shadowrun, while the Navy provides an important element of national defense to bolster the corporate military forces, necessary due to the inherent distrust that exists between the corporations. The House of Records, while perhaps not as high profile as the other three, registers contracts and other official documents to provide a neutral witness to any agreements. What sorts of regulations do these national entities enforce? Well, to the surprise of many, perhaps, probably nothing that we would call criminal law in today's society, which would simply be enforced by corporate justice systems. What you'd likely see the CEP and CBT doing is providing a stable market and an even playing field for everyone to ensure a safe environment in which to do business.
"Why," you may be asking, "do the corporations agree to the authority of the CEP and CBT if it restricts their activities?" After all, I did just say that the corporations' chief goal is to make money. The thing to keep in mind is that that their previous experience with the Gallente has made them very distrustful of outsiders, and the corporations realize that without some measure of unity they can't hold off a larger state like the Federation or the Empire. Furthermore, in order for them to do business without constantly being at each other's throats, there needs to be a nonviolent method for them to resolve most of their differences. While war can be good for an economy, what you need to remember is that the Caldari corporations can't sell war materiel to the government, because they are the government. That means that any costs for a war they have to bear out of pocket, and their assets will be the ones at stake if combat ensues. The perceived costs of fighting a corporate war, or a war with one of the other nations, have to be higher than the corporation thinks it stands to lose by not fighting. Furthermore, security isn't an investment, it's overhead -- every ISK they spend for new ships for their military forces is a dollar they can't spend on marketing, or research and development, or some other budget item that will actually give them a return. That issue is one that we can see brought up in this article.
Corporate Ownership and Structure
In general, most corporations in Eve appear to be public corporations, with at least a significant number of their shares being traded on the open market, despite what the various corporation information pages suggest (if, in fact, Kaalakiota owned 55% of Caldari Constructions, for instance, Tibus Heth never would have been able to buy out the company from them without their consent). Public corporations offer shares on the stock market in order to generate operating funds; during an IPO, shares purchased from the company go directly into their coffers. Shares serve two purposes then; for the company, they generate capital that can be used for improvements or acquisition of more assets, and for the shareholder, they entitle them to both some say in how the company operates as well as a portion of their dividends.
Shareholders exercise this control through both directly voting on some issues at shareholder meetings (such as corporate mergers), and by participating in the election of a corporate board of directors, who represent the will of the shareholders in the corporation's operations. Any or all of the directors can be replaced at shareholder meetings, though it's worth keeping in mind that most corporate officers and directors are usually large shareholders, or representatives of large shareholders, which makes it hard to unseat them in most cases (for instance, Bill Gates owns some 9% of Microsoft stock, making him the company's single largest shareholder, and Steve Ballmer owns about 4%, according to Wikipedia). Generally, the board only gets replaced when there's a significant shift in stock ownership, usually as a result of a hostile takeover.
I've inserted the two cinematic examples above to illustrate my points; corporate takeovers, as in the two movies above, happen because someone, either an individual or another corporation, obtains a significant portion of stock, and then uses that as leverage to get their own board of directors in charge of the company, who can then replace corporate officers and change corporate policy; in the two cases above, to take the company, sell off its assets, and pocket a nice chunk of change, and in the case of the Nanosecond Buyout, simply to give Damien Knight control of Ares Macrotechnology. The shareholder doesn't need 51% of the shares; usually, they just need enough to give them a competitive amount with any other voting bloc, and then the fight comes down to proxies (known as a proxy fight). Proxies are shares whose owners have given legal control of their vote over to another entity, so that that other entity can vote their shares for them. There are, of course, numerous defense strategies, but those are a bit much for this article; however, you can read about them on Wikipedia; there's a good list of them here.
Here's a big chunk of out discussion for folks to chew on that is somewhat connected to what I'm talking about:
The corporation's board generally handles strategic goals and large-scale actions by the corporation, leaving day to the corporate officers, who are generally either appointed by them, or appointed by the CEO (who is appointed by them). In some cases, corporate officers may also be on the board, but this isn't necessarily the case; for instance, for many years, Bill Gates was both CEO and chairman of the board of Microsoft, but a few years ago he stepped down and turned the CEO position over to Steve Ballmer. What this means, however, is that while the CEO may seem to be a dictatorial ruler of a corporation, that isn't actually the case. He is still responsible to the board of directors and through them, to the shareholders. If he isn't take the company in a direction they like (usually, hurting the company's financial future -- or present, in the case of more short-sighted investors), he can be replaced with relative ease. Shareholders, like voters in a more democratic state, can of course be rather fickle, though wild swings are generally less common due to the fact that in the State (and in most modern corporations) shares, or at least their proxies, are generally concentrated in the hands of a smaller number of extremely wealthy individuals, corporations, or various investment funds. These facts are another reason I find the sudden rise of Tibus Heth hard to swallow, since the corporate world doesn't quite work the way CCP would seem to portray it.
All right, so now that we have that long lesson in how corporations work out of the way, you're probably saying, "well, that's all well and good, but I don't understand what that has to do with anything in the State." Well, to be fair, most of this is all happening on a level far above any of the heads of us capsuleers; the amount of money and influence being thrown around at that level is probably fair more than most alliances have to deal with. What you should get out of this, however, is the fact that there are checks and balances on corporate power at some level; if a CEO is destroying his company, or a corporation's stock is plummeting because of repeated failures, you'll see that CEO ousted, you'll see that company's stock bought up by some opportunistic corporate raider, or something. The one thing you won't likely see is them sitting there on their hands and hoping things change for the better soon, however.
All right, I think that's enough for now; next time, I'll be talking about the "normal folks" of the Caldari State, Joe and Jane Sixpack, the corporate workers, and how the corporations keep their control over the populace. That is really where I think the most interesting parts of our discussion went, and I think probably the most enlightening parts for Yoshio and Kai. In the meantime, feel free to let me know what you think
The Rat Race
- by the player of Svetlana Scarlet
The biggest thing to take from this chapter will be that for most people in the State, life is fairly good, at least to them. This is not because the corporations are particularly generous, or even care that much about the people that work for them, but because the corporations have conducted a centuries-long marketing campaign to promote themselves as the friend of the average man or woman and maintain the level of discontent at a minimum. After all, workers that despise their jobs or, at an extreme, believe that they have nothing to lose from a violent strike, do not do good jobs and cost companies millions or billions of ISK in lost productivity (or even deliberate sabotage).
For the average Caldari, they are born into a family that is employed by a Caldari corporation; they will grow up in a constant flood of corporate media, living in corporate cities or at least corporate neighborhoods and going to corporate schools. Most of the people they know will also be citizens of their corporation. This creates a feedback loop that inundates these people with pro-corporate ideas and makes it unlikely they will be exposed to anything that disagrees with that point of view. This kind of tunnel vision isn't particularly outlandish; these days, it's so easy to find a media outlet that shares the point of view you espouse, many people only get their news from those sources, ingraining their already present bias even further. What we have in the Caldari State is something similar, but this time it is carefully orchestrated by corporate memetic scientists (a blend of psychology and marketing, key to the creation of effective advertisements), making it even more effective.
This sort of thing isn't particularly new or original, of course. It's a common element of a lot of dystopic fiction, such as 1984, though the social situation there is taken to an extreme that is largely unnecessary in the State. Caldari society has long venerated those who can be the most effective, talented, or in some way most valuable members of society, whatever those talents may be. For the Caldari, this is largely seen as determined by the market, which is why corporations (and through them, their leaders), who are generally the most successful members of society in those terms, can inspire such loyalty. This primes the pump for the propaganda that they will be exposed to as they go along in their lives.
Most of the Caldari corporations also try to make sure that their citizens consider their corporations synonymous with the Caldari State, marrying the two in in their minds. Because the Caldari have such a strong cultural identity, as a result of their shared struggle during the war for independence, this is rather effective. While the Patriot corporations obvious play this up the most, the others, such as Ishukone, certainly do not ignore it as part of their conditioning efforts. For an example, here's a quote from our conversation:
Of course, my intent here was not to ruin "Cold Wind" for Kai forever, but to illustrate a point -- that corporations have an agenda to push, and that many things that people don't even think about are part of that agenda. Here, it illustrates that Lai Dai is promoting the patriotism that serves both their corporate agenda, of a strong State swathed in tradition, and also that is an excellent marketing message, getting people to believe that "what's good for Lai Dai is good for the State."
Standard of Living
Okay, I want to take a quote from the Sprawl Survival Guide here as a springboard to some discussion on the actual living conditions of most people in the State (or in most cyberpunk dystopias).
Here's another quote, from the Caldari racial description:
And here's another snippet of our conversation:
Now, these quotes get to what I see as the problem with how the Caldari have been portrayed in the past and how they have been portrayed recently. Cyberpunk dystopias aren't dystopic because the corporations run everything like something out of The Jungle, they are dystopic because for most people, the idea of everyone being a mindless drone is horrific. If you want a more humorous take on a similar theme, look at the beginning of Shaun of the Dead, where they go out of their way to make Shaun's life look bland and zombie-like.
Another good example would be in Demolition Man, which while not being exactly a great movie, illustrates this idea perfectly. The people who fit in, go with the system, and do what they are told get along pretty well all the time. But to John Spartan, they seem like Stepford people, and people like Edgar Friendly, who go out of their way to reject the system, are plunged into a life of poverty and just scraping by, hunted like criminals (we'll get more to these folks in the next article). This is pretty common in most cyberpunk media; Case and Molly, in Neuromancer, are part of this class that have rejected corporate life, Shadowrun is a game geared towards playing these sort of characters, and while Max Headroom's Edison Carter is part of a corporate system, he makes his name most of the time by fighting against it, and the focus of the show is usually on society's rejects, like Blank Reg. Cyberpunk usually focuses on these people because people want a character who takes charge of his life, not one who is led around by his nose, and because in general, it's just a lot more interesting.
But for most people in these settings, life is not horrible -- it's certainly not horrible on the level where they are being ground down in some sort of nightmarish factory environment, fed gruel, bread, and a glass of water, and locked in a box for six hours when they aren't working. For most people, even those on the bottom, their life is certainly no worse than it would be for the average working-class American today -- and as I told Yoshito above, for most of the people in the world today, that's a pretty significant step up. What they get in economic prosperity, however, they pay for in loss of freedom. The corporations don't just employ you in the State, they own you. While that might seem to be entirely a bad thing from the employee's perspective, there's some advantages too; people tend to take better care of things they own. Corporations aren't likely to simply use people up and toss them away, especially if the available labor pool is small (as it must have been in the early days of the State, at the very least).
If you're a widget-assembler mechanic, and you work for Lai Dai, let's say, then yes, Lai Dai could fire you at any time and you'd be out on the street, without a place to live, without most of everything you own (even your money is mostly corporate scrip, so you probably can't spend it legally outside the corporation's territory), and probably with a huge emotional burden from being rejected by the corporation you thought would look out for you for the rest of your life. That is a pretty heavy anvil to have hanging over your head.
On the other hand, would you care? For now, at least, that widget-assembler needs to be fixed, and if it's not you doing it, it's going to be someone else. If the company fires you, they'll have to pay to train someone new to do it, and pay them more than the job they were doing before -- and probably someone to fill the job they were doing to, with all the costs that are included in that. So you can probably rest pretty easy knowing that as long as you do your job well (or nothing in the economy fundamentally changes making widgets obsolete), you will be employed. Plus, hey, it's hard to worry about your job when you have some many distractions kindly provided by the company. The company pumps you so full of feel-good advertising, cheap entertainment, easily-available chemical escapes (alcohol and "safe" drugs), and probably company brothels that you don't really mind the fact that your job isn't particularly spiritually rewarding or realize the axe hanging over you, except when they want you to.
Corporations aren't dumb -- they know that it's easier and cheaper to buy you off than to crack the whip over your head and make you work at the point of a gun. That's why the Amarr Empire's policy of slavery strikes the Caldari as rather pointless, at least for economic reasons -- all the money that the Amarr may save in labor costs is wasted in a need for increased security and the potential losses if the slaves revolt, not to mention that slave labor is not usually well motivated, and productivity and quality therefore tends to be low. For all intents and purposes, the average Caldari worker may be a corporate slave -- after all, most of the money they make it just going right back to their employer -- but the difference is that the Caldari corporations and society condition people not to care. All they see is the friendly corporation taking care of them, and that they owe it to the corporation to work their hardest so that the corporation continues to do well.
Okay, I think that's about it for that. Next time, I'll be talking about the outsiders in Caldari society -- the people who don't quite fit into the corporate model, either because they choose to or because they have rejected it. That will probably be getting towards the end of this particular series of articles, but I may look at writing more on some topics if people are interested. I'm also planning for a bit of an interlude on the differences between backstory, metaplot, and "stories" (in quotes because it's such a general term I'm going to have to define what I'm talking about), and why I think that CCP and a lot of other people have gotten them mixed up, and why that's to their detriment.
Those Left Behind
- by the player of Svetlana Scarlet
In this part, I'll be talking about the other 10-20% of the Caldari population -- the people who, either by choice or by circumstance, have found themselves on the outside of the corporate system. These are the people that have conventionally been the heroes (or antiheroes) of cyberpunk literature and RPGs. They live in the shadows of the rest of society, living on their crumbs and cast offs, or trying to scramble back into the system that has left them behind. So, without further adieu, let's get to the main event. The "others" in cyberpunk societies are a staple of nearly every such setting. Shadowrun has the SINless, Max Headroom had the Blanks, Case and Molly were members of this outcast class in Neuromancer, and Blade Runner had the Replicants (even, to a lesser extent, the people simply left on Earth). These people are usually the main characters in cyberpunk stories because they are on the outside; in fact, cyberpunk dystopias are dystopic because they are usually portrayed from the point of view of this class, who have been left behind by the corporate system.
I'm going to pull out this section of the conversation again, even though I put it in my last entry too:
It's that "falling through the cracks" that we're looking at here now. The outcast class lives without the guaranteed job of even the worst-off corporates, often without any sort of real housing or any knowledge of where their next meal will come from, and even, in the State, locked out of much of the corporate economies because the corporate economy operates on electronic currency largely unavailable to people with no real existence.
In a lot of ways, these people are very much like the homeless that are seen on the streets of nearly every American city today, but they are even worse off. Imagine trying to live in a world where it was nearly impossible for you to get any sort of official ID, there was no sort of government aid, charity was far less common, and simply finding a place to stay was nearly impossible. People can't give you a couple dollars on the street because there's almost nothing in the way of cash; people only have credit cards.
So where do these people live? It's unlikely they would be allowed to stay in the corporate cities, at least in large numbers; the corporate police would keep them away from the regular workers, if for no other reason than to keep them from committing robberies or scaring the good little salarymen. Some may live in the dregs of the cities though; sewers and other underground infrastructure, abandoned buildings, warehouses, and factories, probably carefully cordoned off by the security forces. It may even be dumps, contaminated areas (such as Glow City in of Shadowrun's Seattle) or other places that the rest of society avoids for obvious reasons. In Shadowrun, these sorts of areas are known as the Barrens, and we can see a similar parallel with the Bridge of Virtual Light and its sequels.
How and why do they survive, if they are in such a poor position? For one thing, these people are extremely useful to the corporations as an expendable labor pool. These people are desperate for any sort of work, and that means they can be sent to places like the mines of Kassigainen to work in the harshest conditions for relatively little pay, in the hopes that they will be brought back into the corporate system, given a place to live and a chance for a new life. That's not the only thing they are useful for though; as in Shadowrun or other cyberpunk RPGs, these people are also a pool of talent for illegal or at the very least untraceable activities that the corporations can use against each other. While most of these people are not likely to be able to match the black operations forces of the corporate armies, most of them have probably picked up something in the way of useful skills just to survive their harsh conditions.
On the other hand, some of these people simply do not want to live in the corporate system. It is an oppressive one, and despite the indoctrination and tradition of Caldari society, not everyone buys into it. They have made the choice to live off the grid, and make their living by picking through the cast-offs of Caldari society, running taps off the cities' power and telecommunications grids, hijacking corporate food shipments or growing their own food, and trying to remain unnoticed by the rest of the world. To these people, the corporate world is a nightmare, and the people who live there are zombies, rubes, or slaves. They prefer to live free and in poverty rather than in a comfortable existence in a gilded cage. Skinner in Virtual Light, Blank Reg in Max Headroom, and many other cyberpunk protagonists fall into this category.
While the dispossessed exist in every society in Eve, it's likely that they are the worst of in the State. In the Federation, there is a welfare system in place to catch the people that fall through the cracks (in fact, the underclass in the Federation seems to have it relatively well off, probably a byproduct of their current thriving economy). In the Empire, these people are slaves or escaped slaves, and at the very least probably have an extensive support system in terms of family or owners that have an interest in protecting them. In the Republic, while the average level of affluence is likely much lower than in the State, they also have Gallente-influenced social programs and a very strong tribal structure that protects the individuals. In the State, there's almost no support structure; people who are fired by the corporations have likely been cut off from their families as well (failure is not looked upon lightly in the State, obviously). As the Caldari State's description reads:
This is the "worst," the "exile" that people are left to. Not a geographic exile (though that is certainly also possible) but an emotional and societal exile. For people who have grown up in the corporate system and been forced out, being a member of the dispossessed is one of the worst fates they can imagine.