Sunday, 26 February 2012

What Pokémon can teach us about politics

There are few worlds more pleasant than Kanto. The land of Pokémon Red, Blue and Yellow was a land of innocent joy, of green forests and dark tunnels, mythical caves and pleasant sea-side towns. There is nothing so heart-warming as the ability to talk to every stranger, and to receive nothing but friendly advice in return. There can be no one who, having played the game, has not wished that Kanto were a real place. So what is it that makes Kanto so great, and what can we learn from it?

Firstly, there are Pokémon Centres everywhere: a free, nationalised health service run by friendly, efficient staff. How dreadful life would be for Pokémon trainers if the Pokémon Centres were not so ubiquitous! How awful for the poor if the service cost money! By having Pokémon Centres in every town (and sometimes inbetween) the government of Kanto manages to not discriminate against those in remote villages; by not charging for the service, they offer equal opportunities to the rich and poor trainer.

Then there is the localism and tight corporate regulation. Why is there not a Pokémon Market in Pallet Town? Perhaps the government rightly perceived that such a capitalist endeavour would ruin the communal atmosphere. Or perhaps they heeded the voice of Pallet Town's population in a local referendum. Either way, free-market capitalism this is not.

There are, of course, the two corporate cities of Saffron and Celadon, the former housing the headquarters of manufacturing firm Silph Co., the latter with the Celadon Department Store and the Celadon Game Corner, and these cities naturally appeal to a certain demographic. But far from letting department stores spring up in all Kanto's towns (as the CEOs would love to happen), the government wisely restricted the corporate influence to two cities, giving the citizens of Kanto a real choice between the buzz of capitalism and the pleasure of quiet village life.

Thirdly, there is the minimal police presence. Kanto's citizens are so well-behaved that they largely govern themselves. Naturally, there are some evil members of society, particularly the pesky Team Rocket who try to steal rare Pokémon. But it is left up to the individual protagonist, guided by the weight of social pressure, to combat the evil-doers, and good always wins out over bad. There is no overarching authority in Kanto, in some respects there is no law at all. People simply obey the moral guidance of an unspoken social contract, and it works brilliantly.

Finally, there is Individualism. The story of Kanto is the story of the individual in society, the Pokémon trainer in control of her own destiny. There is no mention of the Greater Good, no ethic of humanistic “progress”, no religious undertones. There is simply the individual in a state of Sartrian anguish, with the freedom to do as she pleases and the responsibility which comes with such liberty. This Individualism leads to self-fulfilment and self-realisation in a way that no other social philosophy can. Would the protagonist have been able to defeat the Elite Four if she had been forced into a pre-destined social role? Of course not. Pokémon shows us that Liberty can stem from Individualism alone.

Kanto, then, is a world of nationalised services and strict corporate regulation, with small, local government and an emphasis on the individual. In short, Kanto is a Left-Libertarian dream, an Anarcho-Socialist paradise. And how wonderfully it all works out!

Meanwhile, our government attempts to privatise our NHS with its Health and Social Care Bill, to remove support from the poor and the disabled with its Welfare Reform Bill, to close local hospitals, to de-regulate banks and corporations and to employ divide-and-rule politics. They are taking the UK further into Right-Authoritarianism, precisely the opposite direction to that of Kanto; they threaten to create a country of despair and destitution for the poor, bland comfort for the rich.

Why should it be that people educated at the brilliant Oxford University should be so blind to reality? So idiotic? Perhaps it is simply that they have never played Pokémon. For Pokémon provides the open-minded player with something an Oxford education cannot: it shows you reality, and it shows you how things could be; it shows you how and how not to live; it shows you the truth, and it shows you yourself.

So when life in the UK becomes so dreadful that protest seems like the only option, take to the streets not with placards and slogans, but with GameBoys and copies of Pokémon Red, Blue and Yellow: they are the education our government ministers so desperately need. After all, David Cameron can ignore your protests, but I defy him to resist the pull of several small electronic toys with awesome 8-bit theme tunes.

1 comment:

  1. Granted you only had a choice of being a male in these 3 games, I think it is still preference to use he/she, she/he or they/their. Other then that great article!