If the Peacekeepers have an ethos, it is that legitimacy comes of the consent of the governed. Moreover, this consent should not be given as a result of force, tradition or servitude. In a sense, the Peacekeepers are direct descendants of classical democratic liberalism (albeit perhaps without the parts that wanted to enshrine the phrase “life, liberty and property” into the US declaration of independence). On the other hand, the Peacekeepers are also the direct continuation of the United Nations, an institution more concerned with actually existing governance than with the ideals of classical liberalism. There is a tension between ideals and practice, which is probably best phrased in the form of a question: how can individual humans flourish in a world where we are all in it together?
Being all in it together is a quite direct and tangible experience on Chiron. Earth is gone, and if the seven colonies (five in the expansion) should fail, that would mean the end of humanity. There are very real choices that have to be made in order to ensure the survival of humanity, not all of them conducive to the notion of individualistic flourishing. In the earlier stages of colonization, this takes the form of drastic measures to protect from mind worms, the elements, and the sheer stress of having to make do. In the later stages, the very notions of individuality and humanness comes into question, and the faction leader Commissioner Lal becomes something of a luddite or – to use a word which will confuse American readers to no end – conservative. At all stages, Planet serves as a reminder (sometimes a very violent reminder) that humanity either gets its act together, or goes extinct.
The tension between individual self-determination and governance comes into view in the leader quote:
As the Americans learned so painfully in Earth’s final century, free flow of information is the only safeguard against tyranny. The once-chained people whose leaders at last loose their grip on information flow will soon burst with freedom and vitality, but the free nation gradually constricting its grip on public discourse has begun its rapid slide into despotism. Beware of he who would deny you access to information, for in his heart he dreams himself your master.
– Commissioner Pravin Lal, “UN Declaration of Rights”
Aside from being a poke at the US, this quote also serves to center attention on the tension at play between individuals, governments and technology. This theme will return again and again in Lal’s paratextual appearances.
The Peacekeepers being the continuation of the UN conveys two gameplay effects, both related to each other. One is a minor penalty to efficiency, which in terms of actual effects is barely noticeable, thus rendering it a symbolic modifier. The other effect is a doubling of the number of votes in council sessions, which has a larger effect on things. I see these two things as related, in that the decreased efficiency is the price the Peacekeepers pay for running the council bureaucracy. The flip side of running a bureaucracy is of course a greatly increased knowledge of how said bureaucracy works – and how to work it. This reading has the advantage of cohering to the tension described above; it also has the disadvantage of directly contradicting the in-game text informing those playing other factions that, since you won the election for planetary governorship, you now have control over the bureaucracy in question. Following this reading, it is not far off to draw comparisons to the Laconian Empire in S.A. Coreys’s Persepolis Rising: a vast infrastructure of empty buildings built in preparation for the government to come. Here, too, the possibility of despotic governance looms.
The attempts to encourage individual flourishing pays off in mechanical terms: Peacekeeper bases gain an additional Talent per four citizens, and bases can grow to size 9 before requiring specialized infrastructure for additional growth. The additional Talents can be read in two ways: directly from the paratext (“attracts intellectual elite”), and indirectly as a sustained effort to find the potential within each and every individual in order to encourage them to the best human they can be, akin to the ethos of ambitious teachers everywhere who refuse to allow pupils to settle into a role of ignorance and passive acceptance. Everyone can learn, and by gosh and golly, learn they will. A side-effect of this is that since a larger amount of citizens know themselves and their place in the world, they do not mind sharing this world with others; hence the increased base sizes.
It is interesting to note that this emphasis on individual freedom and flourishing is basically negatively defined. Which is to say that while individuals are free to pursue the goals of their choosing, these choices are left undefined. We can contrast this to the Spartan ambition of making everyone into the best soldier they can possibly be: there, the aim is clearly defined, and thus individuals are pushed towards it. The Peacekeepers, however, do not single out an individual and groom them to a specific role. Instead, citizens are given the opportunity to try out many different activities, and then allowed to pursue those that are deemed interesting or appropriate by the individual. An individual is not forced to become an artist because the state needs better propaganda posters, but rather encouraged to pursue the arts if that is the kind of human being they are. The essence of Peacekeeper freedom is the freedom to choose for oneself. To invoke Kant: no one is a means to an end, and it is commonly understood that everyone is an end unto themselves.
It should come as no surprise that the Peacekeepers favor the Democracy social policy, and are not allowed to pursue the Police State policy. It is, however, something of a surprise that the Thought Control policy is allowed. This might be seen as a contradiction, where humanity is allowed self-determination as long as it makes the right choice. It might also be seen as a result of the tension between clinging to the values of traditional liberal humanism and the realities of impending transcendence, where individuals have to be led to the next stage by any means necessary, even if those means in the short term contradict the longer term ambitions and values. The risk, as always, being that temporary measures gradually become more permanent than intended.
A transcended Peacekeeper faction would hold on to the notion of individual flourishing, and attempt to use the resources of Planet to facilitate the growth of each and every human being. It would also extend this ambition to Planet itself, and engage in extended dialogues about what Planet wants and how to get there. It would mean posthumanity as a teacher-caretaker, ever so gradually exploring what it means to exist on a planetary scale in a vast unknown universe. If the meaning of life is impossible to define beforehand on an individual level, it is more so on the level of Planet, and it would take many cycles of careful deliberation to begin to grasp where human individuality fits into all this. But – and this is the Peacekeeper hope – we will get there eventually.