Monday, 13 July 2015

Vivienne - Beneath the Surface

Known as the 'Ambition', Vivienne is the verbose, shrewd and magnificent First Enchanter of the Montsimmard Circle of Magi. As an individual, she has been graced with mixed reception by both stalwart fans and newcomers to Thedas alike. Some see her as a typical establishment mage, indoctrinated by the very chantry which suppresses her freedom to the extent that she pro-actively seeks to extend these limitations (some might refer to such things as injustices) to others of her 'kind'. Others, however, view her as a particularly caring and maternal figure who simply wishes to keep the world in good shape, despite the many instabilities and new-found forces who seek to usurp it.

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So, without further ado, let us turn our attention to the pillar of order that is Madame de Fer. 

The Imperial Game

Though she was born in the Free Marches, Vivienne was transferred to the Circle of Montsimmard whilst still an apprentice. We know not what means she came from, but we can be certain that the move to Orlais and her subsequent victories have served as a major improvement in her social standing. She became the mistress to Duke Bastien de Ghyslain, the head of the Council of Heralds (a political body responsible for reconciling all heraldic disputes and which has a role in determining claims to nobility). From here, Vivienne has pursued the completion of her goals and her own advancement doggedly and has refused to allow any to stand in her way. For this reason, many regard her as a 'heartless bitch' or a 'typical social climber'. 

Of course, Vivienne has shown us that what she wants is to make a place for herself in the tumultuous world of Thedas, a difficult task for any Mage, let alone when one is attempting to achieve such a thing within the Imperial Court of Orlais without the boon of noble birth. In order to do this, she has had to play the great game to the best of her abilities and as demonstrated consistently that she is enjoys it. She has followed the hierarchy as it has been presented to her, climbing to the rank of First Enchanter and from there claimed an almost entirely ceremonial role as Enchanter to the Imperial Court. Before her appointment to this role (which would not have been possible without the endorsement of her lover) it held few political advantages. Upon taking it, Vivienne has transformed it into a position of great importance and prestige. 

Rightly, Vivienne is named 'The Ambition' by the developers and she has earned herself the title Madame de Fer, the lady of iron, for she is both respected and feared. We are told that she finds such a title amusing. She is headstrong and can be stubborn, but she acts relentlessly and in spite of that which may seek to divide her from her goals.
"Rest assured, dear Seeker. I'm never truly out of my element."
Naturally, her links with Bastien opened many doors, and many fans of the games have dismissed her a social climber, who is perfectly willing to exploit others and manipulate them to her own advantage. Of course, this is certainly the case, for she could not have attained such a position without indulging in such behaviour. From what insights we have gained of the imperial court, one cannot be honest and hope to endure within it for long. However, the charge that she does not care about Bastien is certainly unfounded. Those who have followed Vivienne's personal quest-line (Bring Me The Heart of Snow White), fetched the heart of a snowy wyvern and followed her to what will become Bastien's deathbed, will know the genuine sadness and upset caused by watching him die. Some have said that her upset is selfish, for she can no longer use his position to her advantage, but the truth is that she does not need to. She has already established herself as a First Enchanter and the Enchanter to the Imperial Court of Orlais, two of the highest positions a mage could hope to claim. Any tears she sheds for him are genuine. Furthermore, why would one spend so many resources attempting to prolong the life of someone for whom one only has an instrumental care?

Already, we can see that Vivienne is an emotional human being, though one who possesses a thick skin and who has become accustomed, mainly due to her experiences within the empire, to always maintaining a fa├žade. Within Orlais, if one's only mask is the very literal garment upon one's face, then one is not playing the game well at all.

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Thus, from a very early stage in her life, she has lived within the Masked Empire of Orlais and this is certainly noticeable in the manner through which she conducts herself politically. Each of her actions is calculated and she holds appearance in the highest regard. Some might dismiss this as shallowness or some 'lack of character' but the care with which she fosters a perfect outward appearance is not done out of vanity or pride, at least not primarily. Instead, her experiences within Orlais have taught her the importance of how one presents themselves. The Empire places great weight upon appearance and one's conduct and, in order for one to make a place for themselves at court, one has to be willing to cultivate these things. 

Her experiences within the empire have had extensive formative impacts upon her character, fostering her desire to improve her station as well as instilling her with keen social awareness. She knows how to act, how to dress, what is expected of her and to what extent she is able to ignore these demands and how much she should co-operate with them. The result is an ostentatious, astute figure who has learnt the importance of adaptability and what can be gained from the tactical employment of social graces. In many ways, she is a natural product of the imperial environment into which she has both been flung and flung herself. 

Blackwall: You must miss the comforts of your mansion, travelling with us as you do.
 Vivienne: I miss them. I do not require them. But please, continue to imagine me a pampered lady, if it makes you feel superior.

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The Chantry and The Chant

"We need an institution to protect and nurture magic. Maker knows, magic will find neither on its own."

Vivienne is often regarded as a typical traditionalist, valuing the pre-existing norms of society and choosing to stand for this order whilst dismissing the subversive voices. This is due to her relatively conservative views regarding magic and those who are able to use it. Vivienne is a firm supporter of the circles, regarding them as entirely necessary for those who are capable of working with magic. She equally understands the Templar Order as a necessity, for not all who are given the ability to wield the power of the Fade are quite up to the task. Her distrust of uncontrolled magic spills out through her initial interactions with Dorian, during which she constantly derides him and Tevinter for their foolish and lax attitudes toward magic. Without such institutions in place, able to provide the requisite guidance and tutelage to young mages, the world would be forever ravaged by abominations, with no capable force at the ready to protect the innocent. She sees the Chantry as the only force able to stand between a civilised world and one of blood magic, possession and chaos. 

"In my own experience, nothing is more deadly to young mage than a lack of knowledge."

But she does not hold these views for the sole benefit of those who do not possess magic. To her, the circles ensure the protection of mages, granting them a haven from a world which has been forever trained to hate them and what they perceive to be their curse. Of course, she is aware that this ideal has, in places (she does specifically mention Kirkwall as among the worst), entirely failed. The Templar Order has become a shadow of what it should be, enabling the abuse of young mages, which is certainly not something that she permits. She is aware that all who live within the circles have vastly different experiences and that there is no such thing as a singular vision of circle life. Furthermore, she understands this as something which is necessarily going to happen, but her vision is a circle that is a haven for mages, but not one which values their personal freedoms above collective safety. 
"I will once again ensure they are protected from a world that hates and fears them."
Many think that she simply wishes to revert to the old system, but should one decide to endorse her as divine, one clearly sees that this is not the case. True enough she re-establishes the Templar Order as well as the Circles, but the mages are granted additional freedoms (which come hand in hand with responsibilities) and the Templars are more firmly leashed under her control. We can surmise that mages under her vision are more like she is: able to understand the power of magic and to respect it, but also trained to use it masterfully and able to enjoy a life outside of the circle. 

"Kirkwall gave the world a reason to remember its fear of magic. A mage killed hundreds with a snap of their fingers. Across Thedas, a new tangible fear of magic grew. Commoners and nobles alike called out to the Chantry for protection. But the malcontents in the towers thought nothing of this.

In truth, she treats her those of her former colleagues who have openly embraced the mage rebellion with open disdain, bordering on disgust. Considering the timing of the rebellion, (which followed the terrorist destruction of the Kirkwall Chantry by Anders at the end of Dragon Age II) she views the separation from the Chantry as hugely damaging, as the rebel mages were fleeing into a world which had just renewed the vigor of its anti-magic sentiment. 

"Magic is dangerous, just as fire is dangerous. Anyone who forgets this truth gets burned."

Due to these views, as well as her willingness to become Divine if the option is given her, it is relatively safe to assume the Vivienne is Adrastian. It is because of this attitude that Vivienne is rightly understood as a pillar of order, but that it is also wrong to regard her as an indoctrinated zealot who has been trained through years of conditioning to simply tow the line. In truth, however, Vivienne demonstrates a canny grasp of the political forces operating within Thedas and whilst some might dismiss her as cold, she has a well-reasoned point to make concerning the politics of magic.

"I never worry, darling. A leash can be pulled from either end."
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From the Inside

Of course, Vivienne's own experience as a mage of the Circle and all that entails have served to shape her views on the proper place of magic, as well has her treatment of other characters. 

I have already mentioned her initial interactions with Dorian, through which she uncovers a deep-rooted rejection of the altogether overly-liberal attitudes of Tevinter. She wishes to hold true to the catechism at the heart of the Chantry's teaching that 'Magic Exists to Serve Man' and this comes with a wholesale rejection of the very image of a Tevinter mage, who lords his power over those who are unable to resist him and seeks only his own advancement. This image is fixed within her mind and thus informs her expectations of Dorian. It is not until later that she allows herself to question.

Dorian: Vivienne, are you saying you wouldn't rather live in a land where mages aren't herded into cages like dogs?
Vivienne: Which land is that? The one where mages are feared and despised as tyrants?

I do not intend to imply that Vivienne is not critical of the structures of power which operate around her, for I think I have already established the opposite to be the case. Instead, I wish to press the point that Vivienne is cautious wherever anything concerning magic arrises. Those who detract from her and regard her as 'typically establishment' often forget what a devastating force magic can be for those who can wield it (particularly unwitting) as well as for those around them. Particularly where the Fade is concerned, and it often is, being the source of magic, there is the potential for possession, the entire loss of the self which often leads to far more destructive ends. Magic is a mighty force and much of it is not understood. 

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Solas: Your rigorous training lays a solid foundation, true. It also creates boundaries, limits, where none need 
Vivienne: I do prefer to have boundaries between myself and the demons, my dear.

In conversation with Solas, it is clear that he regards her as restricted and close-minded, unable to even begin to understand anything outside of her ivory tower. When Vivienne invites Solas to make a claim against he responds with "You would not believe me. You have learned your lessons all too well." It is also true that when Solas seeks to advise her, she responds with "I sincerely doubt you could add anything." Further banter occurs in which Vivienne criticises Solas' lack of technique and he in turn makes jibes about imperfections within her own magic. Notably, when Solas attempts to encourage her to abandon her training, she responds with "Ah, the temptation to leave the path. You sound like a pride demon."

These exchanges establish not only Vivienne's trust in the circle, but also her dependence upon them. Whilst her talents are great, she is in many ways limited by them. Above all, Vivienne requires control, an environment in which she is able to keep herself in check and for her, this is the circle. Outside of it, she is nothing and has no guiding principle which she can turn to. This is her support, her world, and its principles are deeply her own. Those who turn away from the doctrine of the circle leave themselves open to disorder and through this disarray they are rendered open to becoming tolls wielded by demonic hands.
Solas: "You need never concern yourself with the possibility that your Circle was wrong."
Magic is often an agent of chaos and destruction, capable of dealing great harm to all who come into contact with it. It is control and self-restraint alone which prevent a mage from becoming possessed or turning their power on an innocent. For Vivienne, the only institution capable of providing the instruction conducive to this level of discipline is the Circle, where mages pass their wisdom on to others, whilst also protected from themselves by the Templars. 

Importantly, many of Vivienne's attitudes are revealed through her interactions with Cole. Revealed to be a spirit of compassion, Cole joins the Inquisition because he wants to help. Vivienne does eventually come to care for Cole, though she keeps this attitude very much to herself, but initially she is outright hostile to him, regarding him as a demon and an influence which should be expunged from the Inquisition, for he could undo it from within.

Her scepticism is born from a life spent learning of the dangers of the Fade, learning that its denizens are malicious and cannot be trusted, for they all they seek is possession or the death of any mage. Having been told all her life that the Fade is universally a place of peril and that all which hails from within it only serves to undo the precarious order the Circle seek to preserve, she naturally is suspicious. Furthermore, Vivenne's experience of spirits is limited, for the Circle actively avoid such things and study into such areas is restricted if not completely forbidden.
"The Circle taught me the tricks demons play to gain the trust of any mage foolish enough to listen."
A notable exception is the Harrowing, a trial by fire through which a mage is forced into the Fade to face a demon, to demonstrate that their will is strong enough to resist possession. We learn of Vivienne's Harrowing through conversation with Cole. 
Cole: Everything bright, roar of anger as the demon rears. No, I will not fall. No one will control me ever again. Flash of white as the world comes back. Shaking, hollow, Harrowed, but smiling at templars to show them I'm me. I am not like that. I can protect you. If templars come for you, I will kill them.
Vivienne is not only Harrowed, note the capital, but she is hollow and shaking. Her only known experience within the Fade (we might presume, due to her extensive time in the Imperial Court, that she had little time to run around the world of dreams) has evidently been traumatic, thus preventing her from becoming open to the possibilities of spirits. Not only has she been taught to view all spirits as malignant, but she has also only extensively experienced the wrath of demons.

Considering how dangerous magic has been clearly established as being throughout the Dragon Age series (think on just how many renegade mages within Kirkwall suddenly flipped out as a demon took control), Vivienne's response to Cole, though naive and incorrect, is entirely reasonable. Even Cole admits that he might be a demon, that he simply does not know and that is enough for Vivienne to rightly be suspicious. Not only that, but Cole is clearly using her memories to get closer to her, as spirits do, and she interprets this as trying to coerce her into lowering her guard. He further makes matters worse by offering to kill templars, mimicing the offer made to apprentice mages by many demons "I will protect you and give you the power to free yourself from your chains". 

This interaction reveals Vivienne's dependence upon the Circle and its structure. Though she is wary of the templars and evidently fears them, she does not wish them dead, as they are an integral part of her own security. Above all, she fears possession and a loss of control. She never wishes to be at the whim of external forces and for this reason, she endeavours to become the very image of a perfectly disciplined mage, which is only possible through the circle. She then seeks to extend this to others, for what she perceives to be their own benefit. 


Through this entry, I hope to have established Vivienne as not only a pillar of the established order, but provided her reasons for serving as such. She is not the unthinking follower of a doctrine, for she consistently demonstrates an acute awareness of how things are working and it is perhaps this insight into the bigger picture which leads her to what many view as a conservative stance regarding magic. Sure, her extensive experiences within the Chantry have contributed to her views significantly, but they are not the sole reason she thinks as she does. 

Despite her title as Madame de Fer, Vivienne acts as she does because she genuinely believes that she acts in the best interest of the mages. She is warm of heart and evidently cares very deeply about the situation the mages have found themselves in, though she does not mince words and is quick to curtly remind those who have only made matters worse of their errors, lest they forget. Were one to elect her as Divine Victoria, she would create world in which mages could prosper within their circles, given proper security and tutelage. Surely, there would still be malcontents wishing to live libertarian lives independent of the Chantry entirely, but that will always be the case. If her vision were to be realised, magic might slowly become less and less stigmatised and things could be better. Of course, this is pure speculation. 

On a final note, I stand by my claim in an earlier entry that Vivienne is an ENFJ. Though she might be mistaken for an ENTJ, she is simply too aware of the feelings of others and to able to manipulate them too fluidly for this latter typing to be accurate.

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Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Guarding the Garbage

Now that I have successfully completed my Undergraduate Degree, I can finally turn some attention to some of the things I've recently been ignoring, such as this blog. 

To end the overly long hiatus, I am going to discuss something that I overheard in my local co-op, and how I have chosen to respond to it. I hope, in reading this, some of you might think about doing something similar. 

Yesterday, when I visited my local co-op on Lovelace Road, Norwich, I overheard a managerial figure, loudly boasting to his employees. As I walked past the group, I overheard this manager boast about how he had heroically protected the bins of his co-op from bin-divers who were trying to obtain the food he was intending to throw away. Naturally, his employees commended him on his efforts.

In all honesty, I was rather disgusted to overhear such a flagrant display of ignorant behaviour. That the manager of a co-operative store, a chain which has gained a lot of support for their ethical practices (indeed one could argue that their brand image depends upon it), could so openly declare his disdain for the inconvenience of dealing with what he unreservedly considers to be "theft", was rather sickening. 

Firstly, those who steal food from bins rarely do so as a hobby or for "fun" (somehow diving through waste for morsels of food doesn't scream fun to me), they do so because, strangely enough, they cannot afford to pay for food, or obtain food through other means. To accost people for doing this, to threaten them with legal action is a foul act of demonisation. Effectively looking someone in the eye and stating 'you cannot afford food, but how dare you refuse to starve'. Due to particular economic attitudes, through no fault of their own, 1,084,604 people nationwide have been forced to rely on food banks.

Screen cap taken from the Trussell Trust

Secondly, if you are going to be throwing that food away, you are making a very clear declaration that you can no longer profit from the sale of this food. If you can no longer capitalise upon it and yet it is still edible, why seek to vindictively deprive people who cannot afford to put food on the table from that which is no longer of any value to you? 

After hearing this, I decided to do a little research into Norwich food banks and into the East of England Co-Operative's stance regarding the support of food banks. According to the Norwich Food Bank website, 8,905 local people (3,072 of which are children) have been forced to rely on their service in the past year. Therefore, there is evidently a need for the service within Norwich. Furthermore, according to their website, the East of England Co-Op are "dedicated to helping them ensure they have enough food available to be able to continue to provide this valuable service." [citation

On that same page, they state that they have "have foodbank collection points in every one of our food stores". Having never seen one in the Lovelace co-op, I engaged in some minor espionage and discovered this:

Though far from empty, the collection point is tucked into the back of the shop and is far from advertised, save for the tiny laminated sign on the front. Sure, you can easily enough deposit your food into it, but you're only going to find it if you're actively looking for it. This was rather discouraging. 

Furthermore, I would like to draw your attention to what is on the secluded pinboard above the collection point.

This is far more encouraging. Excellent work, Lovelace Co-Op. A shame that your manager stood fewer than 10 feet away from this very certificate, demonising the very people you are apparently "generously supporting", but at least this is something, right? I am not going to detract from your good work, you have evidently done a lot of it, but the very principle behind this act of giving has been undermined through your willingness to waste perfectly edible food. 

Considering the recent push within France to force Supermarkets to give away their unsold food to charities, I think it is clear that more can be done to aid services like the food banks, which, considering the impending benefits cuts and other austerity measures, are likely to be used even more over the coming year. 

In response to this, I have emailed one of the Executive Team members of the East of England Co-Op. (Searching for about an hour or so, I was only able to find one of their email addresses, unfortunate, some might say). I have implored them to consider donating the food that would otherwise go to waste to those who need it and to discourage their staff from demonising the poor, especially due to the commitments the brand has made to either practice.

After all, the nearest donation point for the Norwich food bank to Lovelace Co-Op is but 10 minutes down the road. 

So I encourage you, not only to donate what food you can spare to local food banks or other charities, but also to take a look at some of the businesses near you and encourage them, in whatever way you can, to donate their food, rather than simply throwing it away. Write to these businesses, let them know what you think. My whining (or the whining of those who have whined before me) is not going to achieve anything if nobody else kicks up a fuss. 

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Victory in the Qun - Platonic Influences in Dragon Age

With a new university term starting tomorrow (accompanied by an increasing awareness that it is going to be academically demanding) I thought now to be an ample opportunity to write up an entry which I have been intending to write for a while. 

Once again, my attention is fixed on Dragon Age, but this time it is not a character I wish to examine, but one of the fictional belief systems: the Qun. To put a philosophical spin on things, I am going to compare the Qun to the political philosophy of Plato, as found in the Republic. Though I am loathe to make strong claims as to where particular ideas within fiction have come from, I think that there is more than enough similarity between the two systems (and also enough of a difference) to indicate that the Qun has been at the very least influenced by Platonic philosophy.

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Defining the Qun

In short, the Qun is a philosophy in both a capital "P" and lower-case "p" sense. It is both an series of positions taken towards the exploration of both the world and abstract concepts as well as, in the lower-case "p" sense, a way of life. Essentially, it is a philosophical approach to being, comparable to religion in the way it generalises its principles and seeks to extend them, sometimes through the overt use of force, upon those who do not abide by it. 

It regards itself as being singular as a form of truth: to live by the Qun is to live an ordered life of purpose, whereas to live outside of it is to live in a state of chaos. In this sense, it is highly pragmatic, focused upon end results and attempts to create a perfect society. This is further reflected in the assigning of roles from birth. Every Qunari has a singular role, which is also used as their name, and their entire lives are devoted to fulfilling it. 

We know that knowledge of the Qun is not something that is easy to come by, for not even all Qunari are fully aware of the system by which they live. For most, they simply know as much of the Qun as they need to in order to fulfil their assigned role, with only the priesthood aware of the bigger picture. 

To simply, here are the most important points of the Qun:

  • Every Qunari is assigned a role, which is also their name. Their entire lives are dedicated to this role and though the role can change, it is not a matter of personal preference or choice. 
    • These roles can have their basis in established gender roles.
  • Questioning the diktats of the Qun is seen as a moral failure, the response to which is "re-education".
  • There exists a natural order of things, embodied in the Qun. It is meaningless to struggle against this order, the very act of struggling is an illusion. 
  • The Qun is a path of faith, to abandon it is to embrace chaos. 
  • Existence is a choice, and within existence itself there is a choice between order and a mindless struggle against it.
  • Everything is part of a universal order.
Adaar doesn’t usually wear vitaar but what if
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The Triumvirate

Though we have relatively little interaction with Qunari society and are never shown what their people are like on their own terms (we always seem them out of their own environments and through the lens of outsider cultures who are, almost completely, in opposition to them, regarding the Qun as a dangerous force), conversations with various Qunari / Tal-Vashoth (those of the Qunari race who have chosen to live outside of the Qun) do reveal to us how their people govern.

Qunari society is divided into three parts and each of these segments possesses a different figurehead/ruler. The three parts represent the body, the mind and the soul. The bodily branch is known as the Antaam, and is ruled over by the Arishok. Mind is represented by the Arigena and consists mostly of craftsmen. Finally, Soul is embodied in the Ariqun, leader of the priesthood. 

The Arishok is a military leader and the Antaam consist of soldiers and other miltaristic agents. Their role is to protect the Qun and to spread it through military force. They are the only branch of the three who venture out of Qunari lands and are exclusively male, due to the belief that only men can be proficient warriors. Interestingly, women are able to serve in the military, if they show the aptitude, but they are regarded as male should they do so. This indicates that there biologically female individuals can be competent warriors, but that competency in martial practice is seen as masculine. This also indicates that the Qunari regard gender as distinct from biological sex.  

Always female (though others in this branch of society may vary), the Arigena rules over the industrial, agricultural and mercantile aspects of their society. They are fundamentally providers, crafting what the Qunari need and ensuring that it reaches all areas of society as needed. 

The Ariqun, leader of the priests, can be either male or female and serves as the ultimate spiritual guide of the people. Fundamentally, their role is to ensure that the Qun is upheld as well as to interpret it in times of uncertainty. Under this branch fall the Ben-Hassrath: enforcers of religious law who can be of either gender. Their role is to seek out those who are straying from the path and re-educate them, as well as ensuring that new converts to the Qun follow their assigned role. Effectively, they are inquisitors, religious police. The other important segment are the, exclusively female Tamassrans, who are in command of breeding and have huge influence with the society. They decide who breeds with who, what roles Qunari are assigned and are also responsible for educating them into these roles. 

Whilst the Qunari view these three segments as equal and necessary, their is a strong implication as to a lack of power balance. The Ariqun, who is in command of the very philosophy which dominates the lives of all Qunari, seemingly possesses the power to exile even other leaders should they see fit. The importance here is that there is no actual hierarchy, but their is an implied imbalance of power.

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So how does any of this relate to Plato?

Well, on the level of appearances, Plato too devises his 'perfect' society as having three distinct branches: the Crafters, the Warriors and the Rulers. Furthermore, Plato envisages a society in which everybody is given a clear role based on the aptitudes they display in youth. His system does not possess the concept of family as we see it, instead raised collectively by a branch of the rulers in charge of educating the youths. 

The connection to the Qun is evident, as the three elements of Qunari society very easily map onto the three Platonic categories. The Arigena has the crafters, the Arishok has the warriors and the Ariqun is in charge of matters spiritual. Each three areas has an important degree of overlap. Plato's crafters exist to provide for all within his Republic, they keep things running on an agricultural and industrial level, so do those ruled by the Arigena. Warriors of the Qun exist to protect it, as do the Warriors of Plato's Republic. Importantly, there is no indication within Plato (as far as I am aware, at least) of there being any reason for the Warrior caste to invade other lands to spread the Republic's ideals, as there is the Qun. Though they are not known as rulers, the priesthood under the Ariqun serve the same role as the Philosopher Kings in the Republic: they guide the society and control the roles of those born into it, as well as raising the children collectively. 

Another interesting point of comparison is in the ability of those who live by the systems to understand them. Plato argues in the Republic that certain incorrect mythologies must be used in order to ensure that people of the Bronze (and perhaps Silver) category are discouraged from questioning the order of things. In this sense, it is a white lie in order to prevent them from trying to understand something that they, as Bronze souls, are unable to. Likewise, as aforementioned, those who live by the Qun know only enough of the Qun as is relevant to their position, with only the Priests able to fully understand how the system functions in regard to itself. Both systems seem to have an attitude that some people just cannot grasp the bigger picture and therefore cannot be told it. 

by Egor Gafidov
Image posted by Shinmakoss

However, there are some interesting differences.

Perhaps to be considered as a central difference is the concept of hierarchy between the three categories. The Qun, at least theoretically, considers each segment of their society to be equal. Plato certainly considers each of the categories to be necessary, for a healthy society (he compares society to a living organism in which each part needs to function properly if the whole is to function at all). However, he does make a value distinction between the three categories. He assigns each segment a metal. The Crafters are bronze, the Warriors are silver and the Rulers are gold. This has the implication that the Rulers are more important, if not overtly more valuable, than the other segments, and establishes an overt hierarchy. The more egalitarian nature of the Qun is further embodied in each part of society having their own ruler. Whereas the Qun implies that each aspect of society has a command of itself, Plato has a distinct class whose role is to philosophically rule over all aspects of society. 

A second important difference is gender roles. Plato does not discuss gender specifically in the Republic, though some discussion is given to biological sex (there is also no indication that he would have considered the two to be different concepts). Interestingly, he seems to abolish it as a problem within his Republic, arguing that men and women are equally capable. This is, however, specifically regarding positions within the ruling class of Gold Souls, which is open to both genders, somewhat, within the equivalent Qunari caste. However, there is no statement that women would be excluded from the Silver Souled warriors. 

A third point I find interesting, is the terminology used within the Qunari triumvirate. The three segments are thought to represent body, mind and soul. Plato talks of his Republic as an extension of the individual soul, which he sees as consistent of three parts: appetite, spirit and reason. Illustrated in his allegory of the charioteer, he views appetite and spirit to be the lower portions of the soul (bronze and silver in turn) and argues that they must be guided (though, at least under my interpretation, not strictly controlled) by reason (the charioteer). There is a discrepancy between the way in which these terms correlate between the two systems. Appetite, the most bodily portion of the soul, nicely fits with the category of Body with the Qunari. Yet Plato assigns this to his Bronze crafters. The Qun assigns it to the Warriors. Further, spirit, the portion of the soul assigned to Warriors by Plato closely correlates with Soul, which is given to the Priesthood under the Qun, who are representative of the Ruling class within Plato. Reason, which correlates more closely with Mind is given to the crafters. It seems here as if there is a clear reference to Plato's system, though a deliberate turning it on its head. The portion of the soul (or, at least, its equivalent) given to the Rulers, Plato's highest caste, is instead given to the equivalent of his lowest class. 

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Therefore, whilst I do not think that the Qun is simply a fictionalised representation of Plato lifted directly from the Republic, I do consider it to be a fictionalised account of Plato in the sense that many of its key concepts and ideas are clearly derived from various aspects of Platonic philosophy. Personally, I think there there is something absolutely enthralling about representations of the Qun throughout the Dragon Age saga, something that is at once extremely attractive and yet utterly repellent. What draws me to it is its evident basis in what I consider to be a fundamentally very interesting philosophical system. It breaths a new kind of life into the system, placing it into a fantasy context, trying to understand how individual characters might feel about the system, personalising Plato's relatively impersonal system. 

Needless to say, I hope that we learn more about the Qun in further Dragon Age instalments and that it does its job of providing a fresh supply of food for thought. . 

Image posted by Kalenkos
Thank you for reading!

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Meeting the Inquisition

So with the, relatively, recent release of Dragon Age: Inquisition, the third instalment in the Dragon Age saga, we have been introduced to a fantastic new cast of characters. It took me a while before I was able to play the game, but I have recently been devouring it eagerly. As the university term is about to begin once again, I thought it would be interesting to produce a couple of entries on the saga. Naturally, with such a large number of new characters (and more than a few recurring) I could not resist the temptation to type all of the characters with MBTI. 

Needless to say, this entry is going to discuss the characters in relative detail. There may be spoilers. Consider yourselves warned. 

With that in mind, let's get right in there.

The Warriors

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Blackwall - ISFJ (The Protector)

Typical of an ISFJ, Blackwall has an incredibly strong sense of duty and this manifests in his strong dedication to the Grey Wardens. His dominant Introverted Sensing (Si) manifests in a clear understanding of general forms, of the way in which things should work. Though not entirely bound by them, he regards traditions highly, often more willing to adopted the tried and tested ways of behaving, slow to embrace novel methods. In his devotion to the Wardens, a further respect for the lessons of the past is revealed. Through speaking to him, he reveals a constant interest in his previous experiences, discussing his decision to reject the aid of a Chevalier, which could have led him to a previous life. Further evidence of the traditionalism of his Si is revealed though this is revealed further through his auxiliary Extroverted Feeling (fe). When faced with that which would challenge his personal views, his response is primarily emotional. Disrespect the Wardens and he immediately becomes hostile and openly disapproving. His understands how others feel and is able to respond to them emotionally, with compassion. However, his Fe is contained by his Si, for he keeps mostly to himself. His tertiary Introverted Thinking (Ti) allows him to hold consistent views and subject his past experiences to criticism. As this is introverted, Blackwall is able to organise his experiences and feelings into a logical structure of his own design, allowing him to develop his own approaches. It is down to the independence granted to him by his Ti that Blackwall is able to operate independently of the Grey Wardens. His somewhat rebellious or independent streak is further encouraged by his inferior Extroverted Intuition (Ne) which encourages him to move towards novelty and is sometimes able to lead his Si astray. 

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Cassandra - ESTJ (The Supervisor)

Almost every fibre of Cassandra's being is focused upon establishing order and control within her external environment. Without a doubt, her dominant function is Extroverted Thinking (Te), through which she focuses her attention on the outside world and seeks to see the rational connections between the various concepts of her environment and arrange them in such a manner as to serve a particular goal. She professes that her superiors always criticised her for acting too hastily, and this is evident of the quick conclusion producing abilities of her Te. After all, the Inquisition is born from both Leliana's vision and Cassandra's pragmatism. Under her orders, all of the component parts are brought together and moulded to fit a singular purpose. What marks Cassandra as an ESTJ over an ENTJ is that the order she seeks to enforce is not one of her own making. It is not her own vision that she seeks to fulfill, but another's, albeit one she shares. In the absence of Justinia's guiding hand, Cassandra turns to her past experiences and the established way of things for inspiration, an indication of her auxiliary Introverted Sensing (Si). Relying on routine gives her an extreme respect for the status quo, though she recognises that some things need to change. Her tertiary function, Extroverted Intuition (Ne) aids in the development of these new conclusions. When she encounters that which disillusions her to the established ideas (such as the discoveries concerning the Order of Seekers during her personal quest), she is forced to use her Ne to reveal a new path, connecting the established ideas, known through her Si and enforced through her Te, to explore new possibilities. Cassandra is not one to share her feelings, keeping them close to her and dealing with them in solitude unless she is very close to the one with whom she is sharing them. As her inferior function is Introverted Feeling (Fi) her emotions can become problematic for her, influence her behaviours in a less than conscious manner. Whereas she may see herself as a disciplined and rational Seeker, she is susceptible to her motions that she cares to admit. Take, for instance, her arguments with Varric. 

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The Iron Bull - ESTP (The Promoter)

Undoubtedly among the reasons he was selected to be Ben-Hassrath, the Iron Bull's dominant function is Extroverted Sensing (Se), indicating that he is extremely present. In short, Bull Keeps it real. He is less concerned with the ways in which things should be (as one might expect from a Qunari) in either a generic or abstract way but is more content to deal with things as they are. In spite of his association with the Qunari and the Qun, he has spent so much time away from it that he has learnt to be far more pragmatic and down to earth than idealist. The ease with which he can be encouraged to abandon the Qun and live as Tal-Vashoth for the sake of his friends is evidence of this. He also adores physical sensations, as is evident to anyone who takes him to slay a dragon. Simply because he is not dedicated to the Qun does not mean that he does not like structure. As said to those who romance him, he likes structure and organisation in the world, something to tame his impulses and this is evidence of his Introverted Thinking (Ti). When encountering something novel, he is quickly able to organise it into his personal system, which has certainly been shaped by the Qun, though it is not limited to it. Bull is open about his feelings, though is less serious about them at first, as is clear to any who romance him. Due to this Extroverted Feeling (Fe), he can seem very much like an open book, for any feelings are easily shared. In this position, however, the function is relatively simplistic. Underneath it all, he is guided by gut instincts and raw luck. This is representative of an underdeveloped inferior Introverted Intuition (Ni).


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Varric - ESFP (The Performer)

Highly observant, Varric's attention is near constantly fixed upon the state of the world around him. He regards events and people and objects and absorbs them all through his dominant Extroverted Sensing (Se). Varric enjoys new experiences, for his delight comes from taking these and weaving them into over the top tales and stories. Furthermore, he has fine taste, epitomised in his love of commerce and money, which is a fundamental drive for his mercantile side. The true analysis comes from his auxiliary Introverted Feeling (Fi) which reviews his experiences as produces private emotional responses and an internal system of subjective ethics. Interesting, this leads him to fail to involve himself with either side of the Mage/Templar war, though he is not unsympathetic to its nature. The presence of such sympathy is shown through his remaining with the Inquisition and even contacting Hawke for their assistance, even though he could easily leave. Varric does have an idea which he wishes to push out onto the world: one in which he is able to live a relatively quiet life as a merchant, making enough money by which to live and ultimately keeping himself free from the dangers of the grand stories of history. This tertiary Extroverted Thinking (Te) is what ultimately leads him to stay with the Inquisition, for he realises that without its success, he cannot have his ideal life. His inferior function, Introverted Intuition (Ni) does not seem all that developed to me, though perhaps further reflection will reveal more to me at a later date. 

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Sera - ESFP (The Performer)

Similarly to Varric, Sera simply wants to lead a quiet life outside of the grand chapters of the history books. Her dominant Extroverted Sensing (Se) manifests through her attitude of living in the moment, her ability to be incredible flexible and her love of novel sensations. Were she able to, Sera would fill her days with the pleasures of food, wine, song and women and, like Varric, it is her realisation that she cannot have her goal, through her tertiary Extroverted Thinking (Te) that she ultimately remains with the Inquisition. Auxiliary to her Se is Introverted Feeling (Fi) which manifests itself through pranks and playful attempts to engage with others. For example, she constantly mocks Vivienne for her nobility, though she does not seem to want to cause offence so much as engage in some harmful expression. Beneath everything, she seems to hold several principles which effect the rest of her behaviour, evident of an Inferior Introverted Intuition (Ni). She does not seem to critically engage with these, which make them her greatest weakness. An example of such is her unreasoning dislike for the Dalish "elfy elves". 

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Cole - INFP (The Healer)

Though the dominant function of an INFP is Introverted Feeling (Fi) which is focused far more upon the self, rather than the feelings of others and whilst feeling in an extroverted form is more able to pick up on the feelings of others, the way in which Cole interacts with emotions seems to me to be highly introverted. Due to the fact that he is a spirit, Cole's personhood and sense of self are often called into question. Speaking with him reveals that he is very unclear as to what he is and who he is and this void is filled with the needs of others. He experiences the pain of others, not through empathy, but through living it himself, he literally experiences their pain and their memories and then deals with the emotion internally before he 'helps' them. This, coupled with the fact that he treats all those he helps in a highly individual sense, rarely, if ever, regarding them generally betrays a strong sense of Fi. The manner in which he helps others is often through helping them forget, though he approaches each case with a sense of wonder, every one of them requiring that he test several approaches, making them forget him each time her fails. This is evidence of his auxiliary Extroverted Intuition (Ne), which helps him expand on a key idea (that of helping another) and allows him to generate novel ways of approaching them. Tertiary is his Introverted Sensing (Si) which naturally turns him away from the world and places him in a dreamlike state (which is obviously augmented by his being a spirit). His experiences of people allow him to develop, and he is able to look to previous cases in order to develop a method of helping, though ultimately he prefers to use his Fi and Ne in conjunction. Extroverted Thinking (Te) is his inferior function and it manifests in his desire to eliminate pain, an end goal to which he is always working. However, this function has often, in the past, at least, caused him issue. He used to murder individuals in order to help them, so dedicated to his goal was he. 

The Magi

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Dorian - ENFP (The Champion)

Dorian is driven by a desire to improve the world, though he has no clear goal in mind, no clear vision of the future. Primarily, he desires to make things better in Tevinter, though he has no clear idea as to how to go about this. He shows himself as wondering at the potentials which lie within the future, with all the potentials. Due to this, I consider his dominant function to be Extroverted Intuition (Ne). Whereas Solas and Leliana (to be discussed later) both work toward a "closed conclusion" with a specific nature and path, Dorian champions liberation in order to open up worlds of possibility. He is not deterred by the insurmountability of the problem, for he deals in possibilities, not in facts. Personal emotion is highly motivating for Dorian. He champions the liberation of Tevinter because it is personal to him, because his personal ethic demands it. This is demonstrable of auxiliary Introverted Feeling (Fi) which concerns the subject itself. It is further evident in his demand for authenticity above pleasing others. Rightly so, he does not wish to change himself to please his family or his culture, and, though the act is not without challenge, he finds it easier than he might have done to bear the burden of his exile, for he has earned it through being his genuine self.  This goal and his sense of self lead him into becoming a voice for those who a voiceless, or at least he desires to become such a thing. Genuinely, he wants other people to be themselves, and he realises that the world must change in order to allow it. This reflects his tertiary function Extroverted Thinking (Te) through which he seeks to impose an order of things, no matter how lax this may be in practice, upon the world. His inferior, and thus most problematic, function is Introverted Sensing (Si) which is predominantly concerned with the past and his own experiences. Dorian struggles with these, mainly due to the nature of them as so different and overtly opposed to the sense of genuine self he has created with his Fi. The past is a place of worry for him, thus he turns himself to a future of infinite possibility. 

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Solas - INFJ (The Prophet)

This section will include discussion of spoiler material most explicitly, and is also based upon my own theories and understandings of the character. When originally considering him, I had him penned down as an INFP, the same type as Cole, however, all things now considered, I am almost certain that he is an INFJ. However, I think that, like many INFJs, he is guilty of putting on masks and appearing as another type. I think it is possible to mistype him as an ISFJ. 

Look away now. 

As is revealed in the post-credits epilogue, Solas is in fact Fen'Harel, the Dread World, a deity of elven myth who has survived the fall of Elvhenan. There are currently many theories as to the nature of this character. In short, I consider him to have indeed sealed the elven Gods, save for Mythal (and perhaps Andruil), who were, like him, ancient elven rulers. In doing so, he created the Fade and sealed away the spirits, alongside the other Gods. He then rested and upon awakening, discovered that his people had been overwhelmed by the Tevinter Imperium. Since, he has single-mindedly pursued the goal of releasing the Gods. 

Solas is fixed upon the future and his singular pursuit of a very important goal and he constantly seeks it, it defines him entirely. This is a fundamental trait of Introverted Intuition (Ni) his dominant function, for he always looks for the connections between ideas, in this case various articles of magical power, in order to know best how to bring these elements together in the right way and thereby achieve his goal. Furthermore, he is captivated and repulsed by Dalish myths, in which he is portrayed as a traitor and an antagonist. When looking at the tales, and the fate of his people, he looks beyond facts, seeking deeper meaning, another trait associated with Ni. It is further reflected in his want to understand spirits and the Fade, a world of hidden and concealed meaning. His drive is emotional, he feels so very strongly about his failure. This is his auxiliary function, Extroverted Feeling (Fe). As we seek him in Inquisition, he keeps his feelings to himself most of the time, mainly due to his attention focused on his goals and his inner world. However, he is among the first to speak out when emotionally engaged with an issue. He will switch from a quiet demeanour to one of anger the moment you chose to take a path he objects to. Another reason he is so distant is due to the fact that his Fe seeks out connections, though the connections he wants, those with his people, are impossible or unwanted. Modern day elves reject him. However, when he speaks with Flemeth/Mythal (Flemythal) during the epilogue, someone with whom he is very close, he instantly becomes expressive. However, his pursuit of his goal is not mindless. He is not simply guided by instinct and emotion, he rationally assesses before taking a step and this is his tertiary function, Introverted Thinking (Ti). Thought the conclusions he reaches are attained through Ni and Fe, he checks his methods through Ti. His connection with the physical is far weaker than the mental, shown in his preference for the Fade over reality. He is able to understand his experiences and study them, but that which he experiences for himself is far less important to him than the deeper meanings and emotional responses they produce on inspection. This is evidence for an inferior Extroverted Sensing (Se). 

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Vivienne - ENFJ (The Teacher)

Though she does not always care about it, Vivienne is supremely able to understand what others are feeling. She is empathic in the sense that she is able to comprehend and play the social area to her advantage. Should the inquisitor take the view that justice and lofty concepts are more important than people, she responses to say that most people would never be able to understand such an abstract position and that people need to be cared for first and foremost. This is her dominant Extroverted Feeling (Fe) coming out to play. However, though she prefers people to ideals, she is rather concerned with ideals herself. She has a clear vision of the future for Mages. She wants the Circle to be restored and young magi to be protected and nurture. ENFJs generally concern themselves with the nurturing and teaching of those they care for and her understanding of the Circle as a place where magi can be protected clearly shows her compassionate side. Her clear vision for the future and her almost stoic ethics (she seeks reality as a series of necessary restrictions and the wise focus only on the choices they have, something I will be discussing in depth later, I would imagine) reveal that she is fluently able to understand deeper meanings. Introverted Intuition (Ni) is thus her auxiliary function. Importantly, her tertiary function, Extroverted Sensing (Se), expresses itself in her affluence and her desire for beauty. Vivienne has high standards and good taste. She delights in pleasant experiences, though is not dominated by them. As she tells Blackwall, she misses her comforts, but does not need them. Though it is not her greatest trait, Vivienne is able to understand her inner thoughts in a structured and coherent manner due to her inferior Introverted Thinking (Ti). 

The Advisers

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Cullen - ISFJ (The Protector)

Defined largely by his desire to serve others, Cullen's attitudes are defined largely on reflection through his past experiences and established traditions. His motivations for joining the Templars was born out of his need to do good and to help others and he certainly seems more willing than most templars (save for the moments immediately following the collapse of the Ferelden Circle during Dragon Age: Origins) to sympathise with Magi. During Inquisition, he reflects often on his experiences during Dragon Age II in the Kirkwall Circle and these experiences directly feed into his attitudes towards the present. This is typical of a dominant Introverted Sensing (Si) function. His judgements and his conclusions are heavily motivated by his emotions. He cares for people, which both leads him to value magi and also demand, temporarily, that they are heavily restricted in order to protect others. Though he is certainly able to act in a detached and purely 'rational' manner (evident of a tertiary Introverted Thinking (Ti) function) his central mode of operation is emotional. He seeks to provide and accommodate his allies and, though he will often share his opinions and his capable of criticism, he values unity and coherence above all else. This is the work of his auxiliary Extroverted Feeling (Fe). At his core, he is shaped by a desire to seek novelty and new ideas, which is his inferior Extroverted Intuition (Ne). However, this function is not so developed. 

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Josephine - ESFJ (The Provider)

A diplomat through and through, Josephine works towards unity and harmony. She is able to understand the feelings of others, abstract herself into their perspectives and then fluently manipulate, plucking the right strings at the right time in order to provoke the desired response. Her intention is to ensure that the Inquisition is viewed positively and to avoid war and conflict with other organisation. Her warmth and her tendency towards harmony and kindness is representative of Extroverted Feeling (Fe) her dominant function. Among the reasons she is so good at being able to perform this task is through being able to rely on her own experiences. When in doubt, she turns to the past, reflects on previous situations and how she can best learn from them. This indicates that her auxiliary function is Introverted Sensing (Si). However, she is certainly not bound by her own experiences and she is able to produce novel approaches and ideas through abstract thinking. When presented with a problem, she ensures that there is a way around it. She can smooth over situations with other organisations and this penchant for problem solving is aided by her inspired sense of novelty, which is representative of a tertiary Extroverted Intuition (Ne). Though she has relatively little need to, she is able to reflect upon the internal consistency of her ideas and approaches, developing an inner framework and approach. This is her inferior Introverted Thinking (Ti).

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Leliana - INFJ (The Prophet)

In a previous entry, I typed Leliana very differently. This was done at a time when I did not understand MBTI and its subtleties as I do now. As mentioned regarding Solas, INFJs have a tendency to hide themselves behind the mask of another type and this may be true of Leliana.

During Inquisition, Leliana more than any other character is concerned with the final outcome, with the fact that the Inquisition is working towards a particular set of goals. She is not so limited as to think that is purpose is solely to close the Breach and end the crisis, for she realises that its goals will be far more wide-reaching. What she desires is the levelling of the playing field, so to speak, to equalise things for all people. Through her series of informants, she gathers together many experiences, though these do not directly shape her attitudes so much as the deeper significances of them. It was by her vision that the Inquisition was able to come into being, and there are hints that it was her vision, shared with Justinia, which eventually led to the creation of it. For these reasons, I contend that her dominant function is Introverted Intuition (Ni), focused on outcomes, conclusions and, as any good spymaster, on connections. I struggled to decide between INFJ and INTJ when I was typing her this time around, though I think that her auxiliary function is Extroverted Feeling (Fe). She cares for others and it is her compassion and her anger which drives her towards her vision. Furthermore, as a Bard, she has developed this function and is able to manipulate the emotions of others through her exceptional reading abilities. Though guided by inner inspiration (somewhat divine, one could say), Leliana does consistently use her tertiary function, Introverted Thinking (Ti) to ensure that her framework of approach is logically consistent. However, she is willing to sacrifice somewhat on it if doing so allows her to feel as if she is remaining true to her guiding vision. She does possess a love for fine things and for external sensations, which is represented in her inferior Extroverted Sensing (Se), though she is a far more conceptual being, which is shown in her preference for remaining behind the scenes. When she has to, however, she is able to engage directly. She was, after all, very helpful to the Warden in Dragon Age: Origins.

So there we have it, an MBTI analysis performed on each of the characters. Let me know what you think. Of course, I may be wrong. We shall see!

I hope you enjoyed reading. 

Monday, 22 December 2014

Umbridge - The Ultimate Evil

Unfortunately, this past university semester has been exceedingly busy, leaving me thus unable to update here, due to all the essays, readings, studies and all manner of university type things in my life. Now that Christmas is upon us and tis the holiday season, I have some time (admittedly not all that much) to do some independent thinking and prepare a few entries for here.

So, to resume my entries here, I thought something festive and light-hearted would be in order. Naturally, I decided to write about evil. One of my favourite philosophers, and a truly undervalued one at that, has much to say on the topic of evil, though her conception of it is somewhat different to that most of us have. When most of think of evil, we think of great acts of violence, of murder, of war, of exploitation. Hannah Arendt, the philosopher whom I value so, naturally views these things as evil, but these violent evils are not so despicable as banal evil: a careless evil, one driven by thorough ordinariness and refusal to accept personal responsibility rather than a sociopathic desire to do harm to others. I was brought to consider this topic through my recently rekindled interested in Arendt, in anticipation of my dissertation next year, and was further driven by my having watched the biopic accounting her experiences at the trial of Adolf Eichmann. 

Hannah Arendt, in all her glory.
Image found here.

Though my discussion is not graphic, I would like to inform anyone reading this that it makes direct reference to the Holocaust and very real and tragic historical events.

Recently, a good friend of mine was watching Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, in which, I'm sure we all remember, appears the character of Dolores Umbridge. Truly the villain of the piece, it is intriguing how much hatred many people, myself included, feel towards this woman. Considering that the true villain, Voldemort himself, is not as hated as she, there must be some reason as to why Umbridge is so reviled. Turning to Tumblr, a renowned source of fan-materials, it was extremely interesting to find that there is widespread sympathy for Tom Riddle, the boy who becomes the Dark Lord. This man is a pure-blood extremist, a character who can be easily likened, and for good reason, with Hitler himself. Yet there is sympathy for him. For Umbridge, there is no such thing. 
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As illustrated in the above picture, there is certainly something a little strange going on here. How can we dislike her more than we dislike a "truly" evil group of people who kill and torture in order to further their ideas?

I contend that Arendt can help us understand Umbridge much more fully, that her insights into the nature of banal evil can explain why we all have so much hate for this exceedingly pink individual. 

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Firstly, for the sake of context, I feel it appropriate to provide a little background detail. As the story goes, Hannah Arendt, a German Jew and holocaust survivor, managed to escape to the USA, where she eventually taught in a university. When Adolf Eichmann, a notorious Nazi war criminal, was caught and set to stand trial in the newly formed state of Israel, Arendt offered to attend and write several articles on the trial for the New Yorker. When she arrived and viewed the ongoing trial, she was surprised. Not because Eichmann was a terrible, evil man, but because he was exceedingly mediocre. 

I find that there are several similarities to be drawn between the two figures of Eichmann and Umbridge. Firstly, both of them are incredibly bureaucratic. Eichmann was a ranking official in the Nazi regime, which is infamous for its autocratic rigidity, and strict hierarchy. In turn, Umbridge is of the Ministry of Magic. When we first meet her, she is focused on loyalty to the ministry, to upholding its policy to the letter, rather than the spirit of the law. She is inflexible and harsh,delivering out horrific punishments to those who do not submit to her immense lists of restrictions. 

This leads me into the second, more troubling point. As mentioned earlier, Voldemort's regime and its hatred of "mudbloods" should be read (I will go as far as saying that) as a reference to the Holocaust. It is organised persecution on a massive scale. In the very real Holocaust of the 20th century, Eichmann's role was to organise the deportation of Jewish people from the Ghettos and have them relocated to the concentration camps where they were to be brutally executed. Likewise, Umbridge is given the role, upon her return to the ministry, of hunting muggleborns within the ministry and having them shipped off to Azkaban, the famed wizard prison. Though it is not explicitly stated within the book, I do not think it a terrible leap to assume that Voldemort's regime has no intention of letting these people live. Both Eichmann and Umbridge have the role of sending people of a certain ethnicity off to die.

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But this is not the banality of evil. This arises in a third similarity between Adolf Eichmann and Dolores Umbridge: mediocrity. Neither of these individuals do the terrible evils that they do out of personal ideology or sociopathic tendencies, but out of a sense of personal advancement. They are both attached to large, bureaucratic networks which they serve without thinking. In fact, they are discouraged or completely prevented from thinking or from exercising any sense of personal agency. All they are permitted to consider is the potential for their own promotion, if they do their assigned role well. Through an unreflective following of orders, Eichmann contributed to the Holocaust. In the same way, Umbridge inflicts suffering on the students of Hogwarts and then upon Voldemort's scapegoated people. 

In this sense, we can read her character as a representation of those who follow the pre-established rules without first thinking of their legitimacy. It is far easier to follow laws and rules than it is to break or oppose them. Umbridge is what happens when bureaucracy takes over from moral agency, when we simply "follow orders" as was the excuse invoked time and time again by Eichmann at his trial. 

Umbridge refuses to be a person. Through refusing to reflect, refusing to use her own moral agency, she allows her entire being, her will, to be subsumed into the system she is serving. Her individuality fades and she becomes nothing but a token for the hierarchy she wishes to advance within. She is boring. She is nobody. 

This is why Umbridge is hated more the Voldemort. The Dark Lord at least has the dedication to follow his ideas through, to perform actions (terribly evil and depraved actions which can never be morally justified) in which he believes. There is passion in his depravity. Umbridge, however, is banal to the point of being unable to truly understand what she is doing. So dedicated is she to herself, to her own promotion and doing well at her job that she forfeits her agency, her identity, she becomes nothing, rendering herself so lacking in perception that she fails to realise what she is doing.

Just a thought. 

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