Monday, April 23, 2012

Instead of working on my seminar paper....

So in a few months, a new Halo game will hit the market; and I'm quite sure its going to make a huge splash.  If I'm geeking out about it, and with the chance that I probably wont be around to buy the new game, just image all the Halo fan boys, casual gamers, and n00bs who will put fists filled with cash to buy the games, the Limited Edition games, and the miscellaneous errata associated with the Halo franchise. 

I'll admit, I've played all of the Halo games (Halo, Halo II, Halo III, Halo: ODST, Halo: Reach, Halo: CE), read a good bulk of the novels associated with the franchise, and watched most of the animation and various media associated with the game.  While I like most other fans find the Master Chief to be fascinating, perhaps my interest is different than the others.  Not so much the fact that he's pretty much the bad ass of all bad asses, although sometimes failing badly when it comes to tactics I guess (now, I'll admit, I'm far from being an expert on infantry or SF tactics having only driven warships in the Navy), but the total story of the Master Chief character, including all of the Spartan II.

Abducted as young children from colonies on the periphery of human control; for some reason, I thought of the feared soldiers of the Ottoman armies that struck fear into the hearts of Europe from 1288 and culiminating in the last seige of Vienna in 1683; the Janissaries.  These were children who lived on the periphery of the Ottoman Empire-Polish kingdom-Russian Empire, were children caught in the midst of the wars of the Ottomans and the Balkan states...and impressed into the service of the Ottoman Sultans until the massacre of the Janissaries in the mid 19th century by Turkish nationalists seeking to solidify their standing in the Ottoman state.  That is but one example of young children ripped from their homes and impressed into military service; but for some reason that seemed to pop up in my head first.  Probably because I spent a semester studying the Ottoman Empire as an undergrad. But here, in a sci-fi future, a story is written that is based on young children kidnapped from their homes at a young age, so young that in the line of the novels that many of the Spartan II do not remember the faces of voices of their parents.

I'm sure psychologists could have a field day writing dissertations about the trauma of that and how it affects the minds of children and its impact on what could happen with these Spartan II when they get older and the possibilities of those memories arising from their subconscious.  That does not fall under an area that I have any competence whatsoever, but hey, please remember to give me a tiny footnote should you write a dissertation on this subject!

Exposed to illegal and immoral medical experimentation; I would imagine that idea invokes the experiments of Dr. Mengele under the legal authorization of the Nazi state.  But there are the Tuskegee experiments where African Americans were exposed to syphilis and other diseases to determine the effects of the disease.  But I don't think there is anything that matches the augmentations imposed on the fictional children in the Halo mythology.  There exists the mythology of Captain America taking part in augmentations to create a super soldier, but nothing of the horrifying effects of those augmentations done to the children in the Halo mythology.  It raises questions of medical ethics, the ethics of members of the military, and questions of constitutional rights if they do exist in the Halo world.

I figure the legal issues would interest me since I am mucking my way through law school; but what legal standard exists in the world of the UNSC?  Does the UN Charter still apply?  Do the separate jurisdictions of the other nations on the earth apply in their areas of control?  What is the basis of law in the Inner Colonies?  Or the basis of law in the Outer Colonies?  Is there a unified system of law, based more on codified law similar to the current code system in France and most of Europe or is it a hodgepodge of common law, statutes, and administrative regulations similar to the United States?  And with the specter of the Outer Colony rebellion, was the rule of law suspended based on a situation of extremis; similar to how US constitutional rights have been infringed and rolled back in the post 9-11 world?  I'm pretty sure if the rolling back of rights and a move towards martial law didn't occur with the Outer Colonies, it happened when the Covenant started glassing planets.

My next question, on what basis was the final treaty with the Sangheili established?  How are trade laws with the Covenant races determined?  What is the basis for the stratified culture of the Covenant?  How do they arbitrate disputes in breaches of contracts?  Needless to say, law geeks who are also Halo geeks could create a cottage industry writing treatises on UNSC law, Covenant law, the Law of Armed Force etc involved in the Halo mythology. 

Trauma from decades of sustained combat; I think this would also apply to the regular Marines and sailors of the UNSC, a case study that would be interesting to consider the trauma on persons involved in continuous combat for extended periods.  It seems to parallel in a sense the extended conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, where soldiers, Marines, airmen, and sailors have taken part in multiple deployments and combat stresses for over a decade.  But when considering the Spartan II and their mission tasking, something along the lines of SF operations but also sustained combat to stem the advance of the Covenant to permit those remaining to escape slaughter.  I always wonder how the decades of combat, combat related stress, and dealing with the loss of comrades who you have known for almost your entire life weighed on the Spartan II.  Does the Master Chief suffer from PTSD?  What are his symptoms?  Or is his PTSD mitigated by those same horrific augmentations?  Has the UNSC developed any special programs to deal with the PTSD suffered by the Spartan II program survivors?

Even beyond that, I also wonder what will happen to the millions of regular UNSC Marines and UNSC ODST who have suffered severe trauma in the war with the Covenant.  Perhaps there will be those who remain on active duty, but what of those terribly disfigured and handicapped from battle injuries; what of those who have severe mental trauma; what of those who are still on active duty but suffer from trauma?  Does the UNSC leadership have the same issue with suicides as the current leadership of the US military face in the context of our extended wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Additionally, along with the trauma to those in the profession of arms, another issue are those refugees who suffered trauma from the devastating attacks by the Covenant on the Colonies and Earth.   Another question is the status of the refugees from the Covenant-Human war.  Has the UNSC segregated the refugees from the Outer Colonies (less loyal to the UNSC) from the Inner Colonies (more loyal to the UNSC); what of the refugees from the Covenant invasion of Earth?  What type of infrastructure has the UNSC or humanitarian aid organizations (if they exist) developed to deal with this mass influx of refugees from glasses planets.  Considering that planets hit by the Covenant are glassed and made inhabitable to humans, where do these refugees go?  Are they held indefinitely off planet in ships?  Are there sentiments of revolution against the UNSC by those refugees who felt that the UNSC had abandoned them to the merciless Covenant?

Now what remains for the Sangheili, the Humans, the Jiralhanae, the San'Shyuum, the Kig-Yar, the Unggoy, the Huragok, and the Mgalekgoko in the Post Covenant-Human War; the novel "Glasslands" and stories in "Halo: Evolutions" seem to speak to these questions.  I'm also pretty sure the new trilogy of Halo games may delve into this issue.  After so many years of recieving violence, will the humans armed with Covenant and Forerunner technology wage a war of revenge against the Sangheili despite the actions of the Arbiter?  The same question goes with the San'Shyuum (who have according to the novels simply vanished...but no one knows to where) and the Jiralhanae.  Especially the Jiralhanae.  Again, questions of what is considered to be customary international law for the UNSC in jus en bellum and jus in bello and whether these will be adhered to if those types of punitive wars are sought.  Additionally, there remains the old conflicts between the "Outer" and "Inner"/Earth in the ruins of the post Covenant-Human War.  Will there be sufficient anger to reignite those tensions that led to the creation of the Spartan II program?  Or will humans continue to unite against their former foes in revenge for the savagery visited upon human colonized worlds. 

These and other lines of thought that didn't dawn on me in this post seem to be what comes to mind whenever the Halo universe's mythology comes to mind. 

Okay, I guess perhaps I do think about how the engineering plants on the UNSC and Covenant warships operate; what do they do when there is a casualty; how do they handle tech issues; how do parts reach their ships when they are flung across the galaxy; how do they get reports to their reporting commands to the casualties and requests for tech aid and parts.  Yeah, that type of geeky stuff.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Without Knowing Your History, You Are Doomed to Perpetuate Bankrupt Legacies

A Hispanic male, George, marked a seventeen-year-old African American male, Trayvon, as suspicious in a gated community in Sanford, Florida.  George ignored the 911 dispatcher's command to leave Trayvon alone; the police, the trained professionals in the use of deadly force would handle the situation.  Instead George continued to follow Trayvon.  A confrontation occurred.  Shots rang out.  Trayvon lay dead on the ground.  A series of events that unfolded merely because George thought that Trayvon, a black male wearing a black hooded sweatshirt looked "suspicious."

Why is it that a young man whose skin tone ranges on the darker complexion be considered to be "suspicious" when on the other hand, if I put on the same hooded sweatshirt, I am not give those same suspicious stares?  When looking at us based on our skin complexion, the only reason why my skin tone is lighter than my African American classmates is seventy thousand years plus of changes in the amount of melanin in my skin after my genetic ancestors left the African homeland.

But it is that difference in the amount of melanin in the skin that has been the basis for all our racial tensions.  That ugly racial and ethnic history based all on the color of one's skin is whitewashed in the textbooks sitting in American public schools.  That whitewashed history does not call out the guilty parties; it does not accurately the horror, the pain, and the evil; that whitewashed history makes it easy for people to simply state: "why can't these people pick themselves up by their bootstraps."  It is hard to pull one's self up by bootstraps when you've been beaten by those bootstraps; when you've been strangled to death by those bootstraps; denied access to use of those bootstraps; and still arrogantly told to pull yourself up by those bootstraps. 

All because someone had a darker complexion, in the minds of sixteenth century Europeans, those darker persons were not equal humans.  Either they were merely chattel property as was the case of African slaves.  Or they were subhuman in the case of the Indigenous Americans who stood in the way of Manifest Destiny and were treated like any other pest; worthy of extermination.  Or that their "brownness" was sufficient grounds to block any attempt to gain statehood until there was a nexus of whiteness to make them more acceptable; ignoring centuries of civilization and laws under the Aztec, Spanish Empire, and Mexican governments.

The ugly reality is that the American Republic's power and wealth was built upon the scarred backs of slaves and rests upon the mass graves and stolen land of children of the Indigenous Americans.

All because someone had darker skin, it was unfathomable to the lily white man that a darker skinned person would have the ability to think, to write, to be equal in society.  The pseudoscience of phrenology was the racist's tool in proving that it was impossible that blacks were intellectually equal to the white man merely by the size of their skulls.  In the minds of enlightened white men, African Americans were at first merely chattel, a skilled mule to till their fields; but once the 13th Amendment was passed, these racists had to support their claims that African Americans were incapable of being equal to whites; hence the explosion of pseudoscience to support their racist ideologies. 

At the same time, these same racist pseudoscientific theories worked hand-in-hand with the arrogant and racist concept of White Man's Burden was carried in the vanguard of European and American imperialists into India, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.  It didn't matter than India was one of the cradles of civilization; it didn't matter that it was the Muslim world that preserved the knowledge of Greek and Roman antiquity while Europe wallowed in backward ideology; it didn't matter that these non-white people had century old societies and civilizations.  They were dark skinned; it was impossible for them to be equal to the superior white-European-Christian civilization.  All because Europeans had a diminished need of melanin because of the environment in the upper latitudes of Europe.

It is this ugly history that must be understood.  This history is just but one step to understanding the problems and to guide our actions in the future.  Without this history, we are doomed to continue to perpetuate stereotypes that young black or Hispanic men are to be feared as potential criminals.  If we don't realize that our deeply seeded mindsets on race, on color are premised on intellectually bankrupt ideas of ignorant ghosts, we are doomed to perpetuate the terrible legacy they have bestowed upon us.  We are wiser than our ancestors.