Post by sassafrassa on Jan 1, 2019 23:29:00 GMT
The title of this thread is a bit provocative and I don't actually feel that way, not entirely anyway. My point is, I think the geth get whitewashed a lot in these games. I saw a thread about the Krogan which, going by the title, covers a similar topic and so I wanted to make this one about the geth.
Not long after we meet Tali in ME1 and bring her onboard the Normandy we can ask her about the history of her people and she tells us about the Geth Uprising. Throughout Shepard is prompted to either say nothing or to chastise her and her people for attempting to exterminate the geth. This is a very unfair stance to take and a position easily undermined by looking at the situation the quarians faced in non-emotional terms.
The geth were designed as an automated labor and security force. Though not intended to ever become sentient, they were linked together in a 'neural network' to enhance their abilities when working on tasks together in close proximity. Gradually over an unspecified amount of time (at least a few years) the geth reached sentience anyway. One day, a geth platform began asking its overseer philosophical questions about the nature of its life and its purpose. This caused a panic in the quarian government... why?
The Citadel Council at this point had already banned the unrestricted development of AI research because they perceived synethic life to be a existential threat to organic life. As Tali puts it, "They have no use for organics". As we can observe in the novel "Mass Effect: Revelation" the Council is inclined to place harsh penalties on anybody caught developing AI. They were prepared to levy crippling sanctions on the Systems Alliance just for experimenting with it in one remote location off the grid. Imagine their reaction if they found out the quarians had inadvertently birthed millions or even billions of AI's? Worse, AI's that were created by accident, whose behavior might not be predictable, and whom are integrated into a vast interstellar infrastructure and economy? The consequences might not threaten only the quarians, but the entire galaxy. As we would see some 300 years later during the events of the first game, this fear was quite tangible. Once provoked, the geth would eradicate 99.9% of the quarian species (source: Mass Effect: Revelation) and then maintain a form of violent isolationism, killing anyone who came near them attempting to make contact, all that until they were caught up Sovereign and convinced to invade the Skyllian Verge and then to attack the Citadel itself, crippling the Citadel Fleet in the process.
Getting back to the moments before the actual Geth Uprising, we must look at this from the quarian perspective and try not to use the benefit of hindsight which we all posses. The quarian leadership knew that if they went to the Council for help they would face severe sanctions. Even invasion would be a possibility (though probably unlikely). If news got out about the problem with the geth it might generate a panic not only in quarian space, but in the galaxy as a whole. A panicked populace can wind up driving its leaders to take drastic and unwarranted action out of the need to save face and calm their subjects. Worse however was this; the quarians had designed and produced the geth and had intentionally made them the cornerstone of their society. They would know what the geths' capabilities were and their own chances in a war against them if the geth achieved sentience as a whole and became hostile. It would appear that the leadership decided the safest course of action was to issue a shutdown order on all geth, to eliminate them before the entire geth population achieved sentience and formed an insurmountable threat to the quarian species. They would have predicated this decision on the assumption that most geth were not yet sentient. Tali says as much. Of-course we know now that they were wrong, lethally so. The geth counter-attack was overwhelming and merciless with every quarian man, woman, and child who could not flee beyond quarian space hunted down and killed. We know the geth were responsible for this because in ME2, on Tuchanka, Tali remarks to Legion that the quarians did not use weapons of mass destruction because they did not want to destroy their own worlds. Seeing as the quarian military was utterly defeated and the survivors forced to flee to space, we can conclude the only faction capable of carrying out such a widespread extermination was the geth.
In spite of this, Mass Effect 1,2, and 3 keep asking us to sympathize with the geth. Can anyone really comprehend the scale of the slaughter the geth perpetuated or the lasting effects it has had? Quarians live stunted, smothered lives inside environment suits in cramped space-ships. Entire quarian sub-cultures would have been lost as well as most of their genetic diversity. Who knows if life on the Flotilla has negatively effected the quarian lifepsan or what psychological toll those conditions have taken on them. It's a wonder they have held together as well as they have.
However.. perhaps we can forgive the geth for this. After all, they were newly birthed lifeforms with innate programming to defend themselves. Were they truly a people then or more like a very bright animal? Or something different all together? It is conceivable that the geth at that time were not capable of any kind of empathy or mercy, unaware of the nature of ethics except as words in a dictionary. The MEANING of something like "morality" or "compassion" or "murder" would be lost on them. So when a threat was presented to them they took the most logical course of action and eliminated it as swiftly and totally as they could.
Didn't the geth allow the quarians to flee, though, rather than finish them off?
Yes they did, but was this mercy or self preservation? By the time the quarians were fleeing their homeworld the Council had found out what was happening and its fleets were blockading the borders of what was now Geth Space. Any further aggression by the geth would have meant war on a galactic scale and as dangerous as the geth already were it is unlikely they could have stood up to such odds then. Thus it would make sense for them to ignore the surviving quarians once they had fled beyond their reach.
It doesn't end there, though. You see once the quarians had been exiled from their worlds they petitioned the Council for aid and were denied. In fact, their Embassy was closed down and they were effectively kicked off the Citadel. This was an incredibly callous act that might very well have doomed the quarian species to extinction. You can imagine what the perception of such a decision would be in the real world if some nation's government accidentally destroyed its own nation, the few survivors forced to flea abroad, only for the UN to declare them criminals and encourage no nation to give them sanctuary. It is unclear at this point if any of the truly guilty quarians were even still alive. What is more interesting though is the Council's reasoning; not only had the quarians irresponsibly created synthetic life, but in attempting to destroy it they had committed genocide. As the quarians were reduced to a homeless nation the Council actually sided with the geth. In fact, according to Revelation, they eventually sent contact teams to treat with the geth... and the geth killed them. For the next three centuries the geth would kill anyone who attempted to contact or communicate with them until the discovery of Sovereign near geth space by a batarian businessman.
In spite of this, when we meet Legion in ME2 he tells us that the geth are open to peace with organics and the creators and only want to be left alone. At no point are we able to challenge him or demand answers about the conduct of the geth during the Morning War or their behavior for the three centuries since. Once again ,the writers push the player and Shepard into sympathizing with the geth by potraying Legion as honest and innocent and the quarians as paranoid and war-like. Yet with all I have explained above in mind... this hardly holds up. The writers are playing favorites and the narrative is suffering for it. I'm not finished, though.
On the eve of the Reaper War the Migrant Fleet finally attacks the geth in an effort to reclaim the lost quarian homeworld and its colonies. Aided by new technology, they destroy the geth's dysonsphere and seemed poised to win a quick victory when the geth are given new fire in the form of Reaper support. Having joined forces with them Shepard and Legion wind up attempting to undo this, though the result can still be the geth or the quarian's destruction if peace is not made. My question is, who really bares the most fault for this war in the first place and who was the real aggressor?
Quarian biology is unique and in frankly, vulnerable. They evolved on a world with some unique characteristics and adapting to life elsewhere has proven difficult. Worse, in "Mass Effect: Ascension" the captain of the Idenna reveals that the Migrant Fleet is dying; its ships are decaying too fast and the fleet will not survive another century. Sooner or later one of their three liveships is going to fail and at least a third of the quarian population is going to starve. This means that year by year the Flotilla is getting weaker, not stronger. The weaker they are the fewer their options for survival. If they want their homeworld and the geth won't give it to them, then they have to fight for it. When the Reapers invade the Milky Way this conundrum is only made more apparent; if the quarians fight the Reapers they will take losses and they will still have no home world. There is no indication the geth are going to help fight the Reapers and even if they do their losses might be less than whatever the Flotilla sustains. In conclusion, if the quarians are going to survive and someday thrive, then they must retake their homeworld and it is now or never.
Surely this makes the quarians the aggressors, but are they solely to blame? Hardly. Legion tells us that the geth have no need of the quarian worlds and have done little with them save for clear up the wreckage. Nice of them, but as long as they occupy those worlds the quarians can't use them. So what's the point? The geth could live anywhere, even between stars, so they have no good reason to stay and occupy this land. If they truly wish to avoid a conflict with their creators, and it seems neither side is able or willing to conduct diplomacy, then geth should just leave. They could have built that dyson sphere anywhere or they could have moved it. By sitting on an asset vital to the survival of the quarian species they are inviting future conflict.
It's worse than that though because once the quarians attack and appear to be winning what do the geth do? The run to the Reapers for help and ally with them. There is no reason they couldn't have gone to the Council. It sided with them before and with the Reapers razing Citadel Space they are surely desperate enough to accept help from anyone. Perhaps you speculate that the Council would be unlikely to hear the geth out or take any real action here. You are probably right, but again, whose fault is that? Who has refused peaceful contact for three hundred years? Who gave the galaxy no warning about Sovereign, the Reapers, or the heretic geth? Had the geth accepted the Council's offer of contact after the Morning War they might have had diplomatic protection. They might have developed some sense of trust or goodwill with the galactic community. Had the geth been willing to talk for all this time then the Citadel Council could have presented a channel of diplomacy with the Migrant Fleet to make peace. All of this could have been avoided with the quarians allowed to return home to bury their dead and rekindle their civilization centuries ago.
...But I thought you said the geth might not have been self-aware enough to accept this diplomacy 300 years ago?
Well, I was only speculating. Legion tells us that the geth stopped their pursuit of the quarian survivors because they feared the reaction from the rest of the galaxy if they complete their genocide. I say that if they can think in such nuanced terms about that then they can appreciate the need and benefits of diplomacy. As well they should be able to comprehend the drives of their creators and see how they are sowing the seeds of continued conflict. So either the geth weren't that bright back then or Legion is lying. (or the writers suck)
The tragedy in all this is that the quarian/geth conflict could have been very nuanced. It doesn't need any villains; only victims, and the victims can be on both side. Yes, the geth did murder billions but as infants born all at once into a hostile universe they could be forgiven for not comprehending the horror of their actions. The quarian leadership could be forgiven for giving into panic and acting too hastily to avert disaster; inadvertently triggering the very slaughter they wished to avoid. It might be a very sad and moving tale for Legion to confess that the geth can't undo what they did in the name of survival, but that three hundred years has been long enough for them to change and evolve, to become a real people with a culture and philosophy all their own. They want peace now, they want to talk, and they want to make amends to the quarians and to the rest of the galaxy. We'd see that in equal standing with the horror of genocide during the Morning War was the carelessness with which the quarians had given birth to a new species, a child they did not intend to have and did not know how to care for.