Sunday, September 25, 2016

Deviantart Showcase - September 2016: 'In the End...'

Planetaryjunction's gorgeous render is not only one of the best 'after the war' pieces out there, it is - in my opinion - among the very loveliest works of Mass Effect fanart ever to be released on the internet.  The sweet subtlety of the light; its dusky shadows half concealing the ferns and their hands in the grass, the warm, soft, contented glow which suffuses and over-arches the whole image.  The simple, perfect composition of the two lovers amongst the leaves.  The beautiful treatment of the two characters themselves - there is none of the unwieldiness which so often plague such pieces; they look not only natural, but truly like themselves.  I see the quiet poise of Liara, and the relaxed self-possession of Shepard.

I think it a great pity that this is one of but two Mass Effect images that Planetaryjuction placed on deviantart.  The other 'Wish me Luck' is also a Shepard and Liara picture - a farewell on Ilium. 

This - though in my opinion far the inferior of the two - would in itself have placed Planetaryjuction in the very highest level of unofficial Mass Effect artists.  I'm sorry that these were the only we saw from him.  But!  I'm all for quality over quantity, and that certainly is the case here.

'Wish me luck' is taken from the middle of the Saga, with all the worst yet to come.  It seems to me that the uncertainty and the looming darkness are well conveyed in the cold color of the light and the distant, dark, separate nature of the surrounding structures.  The couple is pressed tight together, cut off from the hard, unfriendly world around them.

How different are the warm tones and the friendly closeness between the people and the world in 'In the End...'.  Here the couple is not only relaxed in, but also a part of, the world around them.  Their fingers twine in the grass and the gentle leaves brush them.  The light does not come coldly from a distance, but surrounds and bathes both them and the friendly, embracing world.

It is titled, 'In the End...', and subtitled 'My End'.  And that is exactly what it is.  Not only does the whole thing breathe of the content, the unafraid, the renewed life after the dark, the sweet maturity of the story that blossomed between these two ... belonging on at the end.  But this is a particular end.  The end that belongs to one Shepard, an end that not all would choose - that not all could reach even if they did choose.

It seems to be a common fear that since the 'end' of the game cut off so soon - the story too was ended thus.  The artist himself seems to fear this, and from the manner in which he presented this one almost gathers he put it forward in quiet defiance of the inexcusable ending of such a story.  And he was quite right to do so.  To view that tale as simply over at the end is unthinkable. And yet .... even within the context of the game, the story does not truly 'end'.  The game ends true - but it ends with a beginning.  And though we are not shown much of what it is that has begun, it may very well have been this.  It is no contradiction of the story, but rather a forging forward into it.  Since 'Mass Effect' did not tell us the specifics of the new it showed beginning, who but each of us individually may say what happened next ... in our end.

And few endings could be more beautiful than this.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Reflection on the Concept of a Free State

All forms of government can be divided roughly into slave states and free states. The slave state is a state where the people are there to serve the government. A free state is a state where the government is there to serve the people. Of course, very rarely (if ever) does a pure example of either exist.

The function of a free state rests somewhere between two extremes which I shall refer to as the libertarian and the socialist. The terms are imperfect and heavily weighted, but they shall have to do for now. The extreme which I refer to as ‘libertarian’ is where the government serves the people by leaving them alone. And the extreme I refer to as ‘socialist’ is where the government serves the people by doing things for them. The bill of rights and the absence of unnecessary government functions are examples of the first. Criminal law and public roads are examples of the second. Every free state must rest somewhere between these two ideas.

If the government swings too far to the libertarian extreme, it becomes totally absent and ceases to be a government at all. Then, in the absence of a free state, predatory forces have full leave to create their own ‘slave states’ (be these military, criminal, or economic). There is no protection against them, for there is no longer any state.

If the government swings too far to the socialist extreme, everything comes under the purview of the government, and once again, the people cease to be free. This government may ostensibly still be doing all these things ‘for the people’, but in reality the people become mere cogs to serve the functions of a ravenous bureaucracy.

Both the idea of leaving the people alone, and the idea of serving them, carried to their extremes, result in the loss of the free state. Without the ‘socialist’ element, it is not a state. Without the ‘libertarian’ it is not free.

A free state lies in maintaining that balance.