Thursday, December 17, 2015

Narrative Warfare: The Law of Sacrifice

"A man can have anything, if he is willing to sacrifice."

In this trailer for the latest expansion to Star Wars: The Old Republic, again by Blur, we have here something I find interesting: the use of a verifiable universal law of the cosmos for the purpose of promoting a product or service. (And, in this case, with some irony involved- but that I leave for another post.) While Bioware uses it to set up a story's chief antagonist, I think it is more important (for this post) to focus your attention on the theme and not who's using it or why.

The very first line, the one I quote above, is the law here. It demands that you answer the implicit question in its structure: "You must pay a price for anything you want. What will you pay with, and how will you pay it?" Do you sacrifice your time and attention, devoting yourself to the process of acquiring the skills and knowledge needed to get what you want by your own efforts? Do you trade for what you what? Do you steal it? In each case, you are making a sacrifice of something and you are either sacrificing of yourself or of others when making it. So far, basic concepts of economics, right?

Not exactly.

Continue watching that trailer. Notice that the lives of both allies and enemies are, as this law demands, offered as sacrifice for the exchange of power and dominion over the galaxy- which, in turn, is sacrificed for a distant father's love and approval. Only when one brother sacrifices the other's life does the seller--the father--accept the sacrifice, the offer, and exchange approval.

If you cannot find the drama (be it comedic or tragic) inherent in this law and the processes it compels by its existence, then you are not paying one whit of attention to any narrative (literary, political, or otherwise) that you have ever encountered. If you cannot find the perfidity in the demands that others pay the price to fulfill the wants of those making the demands, then you are a fool at best. As much as some scoff at it, when one invokes "There no such as as a free lunch!", they're speaking Truth and you're foolish to dismiss it. This is as true for those who create fiction as it is for those who use fiction in reality.

What do you want? What are you willing to offer in exchange for it, and how will you get what you offer? Know the answers to those questions, and you know what the character of that individual or group is and how they will act. Be you a reader, writer, voter, or statesman this law applies; just remember Yoda's admonishment: "No, not more powerful. Quicker, easier, more seductive the Dark Side is."

The Dark Side doesn't endure. Do it right; do it Light.

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