Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Fall of Tradition: A Practical Discussion of Conservative and Liberal Policies in Government as Observed in Far Cry 4

While video games are typically platforms for entertainment first and foremost, there are often alternative goals and functions at play. In the case of Far Cry 4, there is an interesting dynamic between governing bodies that serves as a sort of exploration of political policies on a micro scale. Though the main story of the game is mostly set, there are a series of decisions that the player can make to affect side story lines around the leadership of the Kyrat people.
The political situation of Kyrat during the events of Far Cry 4 is a dire one. Pagan Min serves as the reigning power, the King of Kyrat. The Golden Path, a rebel movement, seeks to dethrone Min and reclaim Kyrat under their own leadership. Due to stagnation, the Golden Path is in a tumultuous position without a singular leader and direction.
There are two main contenders for the head of the Golden Path, Sabal and Amita. Coincidentally (or at the design of the game’s creators), Sabal and Amita take drastically different stances on how the Golden Path should be led. Sabal is chiefly concerned with the tradition of the Golden Path, and seeks primarily to follow this tradition. It follows, he therefore tends to be more conservative with his stances and actions for the Golden Path. In stark contrast, Amita cares solely about the continued and future success of the Golden Path. She cares nothing for the traditions of the Golden Path, and will willingly oppose tradition for options that will garner success for the movement.
As such, there is a prime example of differing government opinions, and how they affect the general motion of government. With Min serving as a mostly neutral current power, and opposing contenders for the rebellion, the player serves an active role in how the future government of Kyrat will function. In this competition of tradition versus progress, there are numerous decisions that the player must face without a clear good or bad option. These “Choose Your Golden Pathmissions allow the player to pick whether they will side with Sabal and Amita for decisions regarding Golden Path leadership.

Passive or Active - The Plight of Caring for Others

The first Choose Your Golden Path mission opens with a Kyrat village under attack by the Royal Army of Pagan Min. Sabal and Amita are torn in how to handle the situation. In favor of defending the people of the village, Sabal suggests that the player go with some Golden Path soldiers to combat the Royal Army. Concerned more with the overall success of the Golden Path, Amita is content with letting the residents of this village die, in order obtain intelligence from a currently unprotected Royal Army location.
Though it is an extreme example, this dynamic parallels the taxing of the wealthiest individuals in a more stable and less belligerent society. The progressive option, in line with Amita’s goal, would be to tax the wealthy for the benefit of everyone else. Though the residents of this village pay with their lives, a more standard government policy would be to take a percentage of tax from residents to provide for those less fortunate. Sabal’s preference, the more conservative option, would be to defend this specific village at the cost of intel that would help the Golden Path in general. In contrast to Amita’s option, defending this village is roughly equivalent to a hands-off government style where individuals must look out for themselves. There is no redistribution of wealth, or help for the poor and needy from the wealthy.

Moral or Economic - Which Needs are More Important?

The second and third missions in the Choose Your Golden Path line are a pair, in which the player must decide what becomes of an opium field and drug refinery. Seeing this drug operation as a valuable source of revenue for the Kyrat people, Amita encourages the player to seize control of the properties and employ Kyrat workers. Disregarding the financial benefits of drug production, Sabal suggests that the player should destroy both in order to prevent Kyrat residents from becoming addicted to the drugs.
As with defending the village or using the distraction for gain, the opposing opinions of the fate of the drug operation speak volumes of the government styles of Amita and Sabal. A liberal stance tends to keep out of the moral behavior of a society. Instead, financial stability is prioritized over the possible moral shortcomings with the source of the income. The conservative alternative is to ban immoral behaviors and actions, in order to ensure a morally wholesome society.

Religion - The Separation of Church and State

The final Choose Your Golden Path mission, in which the player must side with Amita or Sabal permanently, revolves around the presence of a religious shrine in Kyrat. Sabal sees these shrines as a source of encouragement and moral order for the Golden Path. Amita views them as a hinderance to progress and seeks to destroy them. The player holds the power to either assist Amita in dismantling the shrine, or helping Sabal to protect it from Amita’s attack.
Though governments rarely take such a dramatic approach to state religion or lack thereof, it is a decision that holds a place in leadership. To establish a state religion creates cohesion within a people, provided the majority of the population falls in line. If a government instead leaves an open door to religion, it creates less religious cooperation, but also allows those of any faith to be productive and welcomed members of society.

Extremism - Should One Side Eradicate the Other?

In the end, the player is forced with the task to kill either Amita or Sabal, after siding with the other. Though there is an option to decline this task, the offer has been put on the table as a viable and even encouraged outcome. Two parties within the same organization would go so far as to kill each other in order to ensure cooperation from the remainder of the Golden Path.
The real world equivalent of this decision explores whether either style of government is objectively “right,” and whether one style should actively seek to prevent the other. Quantifiably, the answer is “no.” This sort of extremism is exactly what has equipped and allowed such rulers as Mussolini, Stalin, and Hitler. Left unchecked, either style of government can go to a logical extreme and result in negative effects for those under its rule.
For excessive conservatism, a society will ultimately stagnate and decline. A society holds so tightly to its traditions that it cannot adapt to an ever-changing world. Without keeping pace, the far-right conservative environment will eventually snuff itself out.
Excessive liberalism makes decisions in the name of “progress,” without fully examining the benefits and shortcomings of the options. While this may work for a time, there will inevitably be a decision that goes awry. Considering the fervor with which a far-left government pursues progress, many decisions can go too far to be reversed without breaking down. A government that continually pushes forward without the approval of its people risks an uprising or overthrow via coup d’etat.
What is the best option then? Surely a leader must pick one style or the other. The most ideal government is the moderate that examines the benefits of progressivism through the cautious lens of a conservative’s eye. Weighing each option as it comes along, with equal regard given to progress and tradition, gives the best chance for a government’s success. Traditions are kept where appropriate, and abandoned where progress is preferable.
Obviously, a video game is not a real world example or simulation made specifically for the study of politics. It is tailor made by those who created the game, and every single option is pre-defined. While the player does drive the process, the individual options are already in place and follow a logical sequence every time one plays Far Cry 4. However, given an environment where these styles of leadership are allowed to fully progress without innocent lives or the wellbeing of countries at stake is an interesting thought experiment.


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