Post by sassafrassa on Jan 3, 2019 4:33:22 GMT
In the Mass Effect trilogy I noticed long ago that generally the Paragon side of the game is geared towards supporting the Council and its multi-racial community. Paragonism in Mass Effect seems to be all about trust and compassion over cynical pragmatism and nationalism. However I think a close look at the Council will show that to at least some degree Paragon Shepard is being taken for a fool. Simply put, the Council is not remotely benevolent and is in fact quite the opposite, espousing values more similar to Renegade, ironically enough. Let us recount the history of the Council.
Some three thousand years ago or thereabouts, the Council was formed by the asari and salarians, soon after making contact with the volus. Sometime later they ran into the rachni and a brutal war ensued which the Council was at best maintaining in a stalemate. Eventually the salarians became aware of the krogan and recognizing their aggression and biological toughness they uplifted them into a space-faring species, the krogan living in a near stone-age after destroying their society in nuclear Armageddon. Against the rachni the krogan would prove formidable, eventually driving the insect-like race into extinction and winning victory for the Council. However the peace would not last.
For you see the krogan had a naturally very high rate of fertility, birthing thousands of young in a clutch. This was because the krogan evolved on a world blessed with high solar energy which developed into very energetic and aggressive life. To many other species Tuchanka could be called a "Hell World" for how dangerous and tenacious its native life were, and presumably, still are. The krogan were the apex predators in this world, though only just barely even in spite of their high fertility. However it seems the krogan had never found a proper balance between their intelligence and their aggression they created advanced societies and then destroyed them in nuclear war. It seemed they were destined to remain a primitive and savage people for all time... if not for the salarians.
The salarians gave the krogan technology more advanced than they had ever developed and moved substantial portions of their population to less hellish worlds. Free of their natural predators the krogan thrived. A golden age ensued as they waged war against the rachni, defeated them, and then basked in the glory and admiration of the Council and its associate races. As a reward for their victory the krogan were gifted several colony worlds and their civilization expanded. In time, they filled these worlds to the brim with their people. As they had never lost their aggressive tendencies this caused a problem when it became apparent that the krogan would need more living space. If you glance at the codex you will know that even krogan spaceships are designed with this in mind; giving krogan privacy and separate quarters where needed. So the krogan again began searching for and claiming new worlds. More time passed and they filled those worlds too. They needed more living space. Now they had to actively compete with their neighbors for worlds, claiming worlds by right of conquest rather than by first discovery or Council proclamation. Yet still, the krogan hungered as their numbers swelled. With no options left they began annexing worlds already settled by other species whom were associates of the Council. The Council made no public move against the krogan, preparing their Spectres and STG agents behind the scenes instead. Finally, when the krogan annexed an asari world, the Council at last declared war.
Like the Rachni Wars that had ended several centuries prior this new conflict, the Krogan Rebellions as the conflict would later be called, would itself be long and bloody. Once more the Council found itself barely able to hold the krogan at bay. Fortunately they would again happen across another species more militant than themselves; the Turian Hierarchy. With vast fleets and a military society more professional and controlled than the krogan, the turians proved an even match for them. With the Council's backing they drove the krogan back, but still the krogan would not yield. The salarians had long since recognized this problem, perhaps foreseeing it ages prior. They had engineered a virus that once released upon the krogan would slash their birth rate a thousand fold. No longer would the krogan's numbers swell, no longer would they be able to easily replace their fallen warriors. The turians were given this virus, purportedly to use as a means of deterrent, but the turians know only one form of war: Total War. They blasted the krogan to ruins and deployed the virus to ensure the krogan could not recover from the turian's might. Eventually the krogan were utterly destroyed as a military force, their sense of unity and ability to make war crushed into dust. The price was that ever after their mothers would give birth to thousands of stillborn children. To have some tell it, the krogan lost hope as they saw their extinction become just a matter of time.
Yet, are the krogan really at fault for this? I would argue that the greater portion of blame lays with the Council. They plucked a species out of its environment and placed it down again in a foreign one. You can look at the history of the Earth to see what catastrophes can arise when an organism migrates form its original environment into a new one. Sometimes that organism finds a balance. Sometimes that organism dies. Other times that organism dominates or eradicates, directly or indirectly, the native species in its new environment. The krogan did not evolve the innate stability to create a space-faring society, which entails mastering and maintaining highly destructive forces and goes hand in hand with technologies that shelter a people from the predations of nature. Such as species must have a birth rate that lets it expand without crowding itself in its own domicile and causing strife. Such a species must be aggressive enough to ward off predators and feed itself, but not so aggressive that it slaughters all other members of it species to the point of collapse. The krogan were none of these things... and we shouldn't judge them for it. They were what the native environment of Tuchanka allowed them to be. It was what they had needed to be to survive. However the salarians grabbed them up out of it anyway to use as soldiers in a war that threatened the salarians and the Council, not the krogan. We have seen examples of this in real life, countless times, such as the United States arming the Taliban in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union, only for the US to invade Afghanistan itself decades later. The krogan were used as tools because to use them that way benefited the immediate needs of the Council with the krogan's own self-interest and welfare being a distant second, if it was even considered at all.
Where the krogan were once seen as noble warriors, as the heroes of the Citadel, they are now regarded as mercenaries, pirates, and cut-throats. Savages to be avoided if possible, and killed if not. I'd be remiss not to point out that at the salarian STG has indeed monitored the krogan species to make sure they do not die out completely. Doctor Mordin Solus himself has even voiced his belief that it was wrong the uplift the krogan in the first place. However that makes little difference to the krogan and now and it can be argued whether ever curing the Genophage is a good thing or not. That's another debate, though.
After the end of the Krogan Rebellions the turians were invited to join the Council and the three Council races would enjoy a long lasting peace for thousands of years until the Morning War. The quarians had accidentally birthed a race of sentient AI's and in a panic had attempted to terminate them. This backfired on them and the quarian species was nearly eradicated. The Council had long since regarded AI as dangerous and strictly controlled its research and development. Though the quarians had broken no law they had nonetheless birthed rogue AI's and had, in the Council's eyes, attempted genocide against them. For even if the Council banned the creation of synthetic life they still regarded it as a form of life entitled to certain rights. When the beleaguered quarian survivors, less than 0.1% of the population they had once been, approached the Council for aid they were denied. The Council shut down their embassy and cast them out of Citadel Space. Not only was this callous, it was also reckless.
The Council did regard the geth as a threat and so had their fleet blockade geth space for a number of months. When the geth did not attack the Council withdrew and sent contact teams to treat with the geth, only for those teams to be murdered. The geth would repeat this hostility time and again over the following centuries. Yet we must ask ourselves why the Council had such strict laws in place against AI to begin with. Why the harsh penalties for the quarians only to attempt peace with the geth and when that failed, tolerate indifference? If rogue AI are dangerous then aren't the geth dangerous? It would seem so because they destroyed the quarian civilization, nearly eradicated the species, and refused diplomatic relations with the rest of the galaxy. What is the logical course of action in that case? It seems to me that the last thing you want rogue AI's doing is living in seclusion behind the Perseus Veil where you can't monitor them. They could be doing anything there, like say building up fleets of advanced warships that give them military power on par with the whole Citadel. If the Council truly cares for galactic stability over the long term then in light of the geth refusal to talk the only sane course is war. Attack the geth and bring them to heel. You don't have to exterminate them, but you absolutely cannot allow them to maintain their uncontrolled and unmonitored state. The geth refusing Council diplomacy attempts only lends credence to the quarians' actions which means the Council is obligated to support them. Assuming the survival of a sentient species wasn't enough. Yes, the cost would be high, but a severe threat would be eliminated and perhaps at gun point, with their ability to resist crushed, the geth could be FORCED to talk peace. To live in peace with their creators on their home world. The horrors of the Migrant Fleet could have been avoided and the Council would have been justified in stripping the quarians of their autonomy and making them subjects of the Citadel, banned from ever creating AI or VI's, or even made into a client race of the turians. Both the quarian and geth species would be better off this way, I'd argue.
As we know however the Council did none of that. They did nothing. They let the geth continue to evolve and develop behind the secrecy of the Perseus Veil while the quarian people were left to whither and slowly die. Oh wait, no, that wasn't all the Council did. At one point they did take an interest in the quarians. At one point the quarians discovered a garden world suitable for their colonization. The gravity was high, but mass effect fields are common and could be used to counter it. While the quarians prepared the paperwork to present to the Council, requesting that the world be officially granted to them, thousands of settlers began setting up homes on the planet's surface. The Council heard of this and dismissed the quarians' petition, granting the world to the elcor instead. Not only that, but they sent their fleet to orbit the planet and threaten to bomb the quarians if they remained on the surface. Harsh, no? What's more interesting, is that this world was in the Terminus Systems, the very collection of systems and species whom the Council is so afraid of agitating in ME1 and ME2. It is that fear which they use to justify sending NO military response when the geth attacked Eden Prime. It is the same rationale they used when the Collectors begun abducting entire human populations. The Council fleet can be used to evict quarian settlers but not to protect worlds against the geth or the Collectors? I'd like to think the writers were aware of this contradiction and used it to illustrate the Council's hypocrisy and self-serving nature. It's what makes them so compelling... so realistic. Governments don't survive or expand by being benevolent but by serving their own interests, sometimes at the expense of the very populations they purport to serve.
So if the Council is inclined only to defend itself, then how do you join it? Remember the volus, the third species to find the Citadel? They never joined the Council, even though they have since their entry into the galactic community provided a huge economical boost to their neighbors. After becoming a client race of the turians it can be said that the volus are at least in part responsible for the Hierarchy's ability to maintain its vast fleets. Ditto the Citadel and Council itself. Why weren't the volus, or the elcor, or hanar, or others given seats? The reason is that they lacked hard power. Hard power is military power. It is the capacity to resort to brute force to get your way in politics when diplomacy fails or is not an option. The Council demands that a member species provide fleets to help patrol and defend Citadel Space. This is reasonable perhaps, but consider that the true measure of power among the Council races is their dreadnaughts and dreadnaughts are restricted by treaty. The Council is entitled to build the most and their associate races are permitted far fewer. So the Council has instituted rules that effectively prevent other species from ever joining its ranks. The turians had built up their vast military prior to meeting the Council and the experiences of the Rachni Wars and Krogan Rebellions taught the Council that their military capabilities were insufficient, so they needed another cornerstone species. Eventually another race would join the Council, the human race, but their entrance was caused by two things: the Battle of the Citadel, which saw the geth attack and decimate the Council fleets, and humans' borderline reckless pursuit of military power and economic growth. For you see, humanity had found a loop-hole in the Treaty of Farixen (the restriction on dreadnaught construction); humanity built carriers. These massive ships were home to entire squadrons of small fighters capable of striking at long range and overwhelming the defenses of other larger vessels such as dreadnaughts. Humanity's carrier fleet plus its dreadnaught fleet put it at parity with the Council, a situation that the Council never tired of grumbling about, while at the same time using humanity's military prowess to settle and pacify the unstable regions in the Attican Traverse and Skyllian Verge. It was only by bucking and circumventing the rules that humanity was ever in the position to join the Council. The elcor, volus, and hanar never stood a chance because they played by the rules.
Yet, fleets are not the only way the Council maintains power; they also have their office of Special Tactics and Recon, the SPECTRES. These agents are individuals of extreme talent and combat effectiveness, diplomatic if they need be, but always capable of neutralizing threats through murder or intimidation if the need arises. You see, the Spectres are not bound by any laws or rules and can kill or torture anyone if they feel doing so is necessary to complete their mission. What might those missions be? Well, they vary, but what matters is the mission statement of the Spectres, or their mandate, if you prefer: protect galactic stability at all costs.
This is a pretty vague notion and almost anything you can imagine could be justified under it. Why not cause an economic crisis in human space that stunts humanity's growth as a species, perhaps causing infighting that cripples their military? I'm aware of no such act taking place but if a Spectre did it... it would be legal. Of-course there are practical limits to a Spectre agent's power; if the Council must choose between one of their agents and all out war they will probably choose to avoid war and sacrifice that agent, revoking their Spectre status and/or declaring them rogue, which means sending another agent to capture or kill them. We saw this with Saren and if you pay close attention you might interpret the events of the first game as the Council only turning against Saren once it was clear that humanity had proof of his aggression, and was willing to go to war to avenge their colony of Eden Prime. After all, the Spectres are bound by no laws so how could it be illegal for Saren to ally with the geth and use them to attack a human world? It was for galactic stability, was it not? If you think this theory is crazy then consider that the Council never had any interest in investigating Saren, desiring to have the entire affair swept under the rug. Does that not strike you as odd, that they could hardly be bothered enough about a geth fleet attacking a human world, in the heart of Citadel Space, and destroying a Prothean relic in the process? This wasn't new though; 20 years prior the Council had deliberately assigned Saren to a joint operation with hunanity's first Spectre candidate, David Anderson. The Council would have known Saren's anti-human bias. As well he was well known for his ruthlessness and when he issued a report blaming Anderson for the high body count of his mission, the Council did not bother to question him.
In fact, the Council is not interested in closely scrutinizing any of its agents. They specifically and literally state that they do not like to be directly involved in Spectre activities. Why would that be? The only reason that would make sense is that they know their agents frequently carry out hostile and immoral acts in their name. If the Spectres weren't ruthless killers then they wouldn't even need special privileges. A Spectre doesn't need a warrant or probable cause to search you or torture you or kill you. Saren had a favorite saying:
It's entirely his right, too. Or, perhaps the Council's right, since he is their agent. Is this the way a benevolent government behaves? Does a just and open government, a government with real moral legitimacy, need such people as Saren and the Spectres to enforce their rule? The Spectres are sold to the players of Mass Effect 1 as elite agents and heroes, but the truth is they are secret police. They are the NKVD or the Waffen SS. The concept should be frightening and I would hope that no one would be comfortable with any real-world leader having such people under their wing.
Bare in mind that the Council is just three, or eventually four, species. Yet other races use the Citadel and are bound by the Council's laws and subject to the whims of their Spectre agents. The elcor, volus, hanar, at one time the krogan, batarians, and quarians, have never had any official say with the Council. They have no role in its governance what-so-ever. A species' ambassador can petition the Council but they have no actual legal power, only the chance to argue their case and allow the Council to decide. This is hardly just. A democratic Citadel government would grant each species willing to live under its unified set of laws some means of real legal power and influence. There will always be a hierarchy of species but there is no reason it needs to be so one-sided and, dare I say, tyrannical. You could reorganize the Citadel government in any number of ways to allow each species a space to stand as equals and another space to stand in more practical terms of economic and/or military power or population.
Of-course, one could argue that the Citadel's organization of its members by species rather than by ideology is questionable. Could humans and turians and batarians form a political party that is based on ideology rather than biology? Could they create a multi-species nation and gain a Council seat if they amassed enough power and good will? I think that is an interesting question. I am getting off topic, though.
Suffice to say, when you consider the Council's history; the way it used the krogan, the way it callously ignored the plight of the quarians, the way it sat passive and useless while the geth amassed power, and the disregard the Council had for the welfare of humans in more recent times, combined with their biased laws and ruthless agents, it should give you some pause to consider whether the Council really deserves Paragon Shepard's trust and support. Paragon Shepard is a noble and honorable soul; perhaps naive at times, but at the very least we can probably agree that the galaxy is better off with Paragon Shep than without him/her. I hope that if there are more Mass Effect games that the heroes who walk the High Road will have a more noble and worthy government to champion.