Over the last week or so, I’ve been sitting here and watching the world go crazy.
Well, that’s not accurate. The world’s been crazy all along, and there have been plenty of examples of that popping up all over the place, but I’ve been watching it happen closer to home, and seen just how little most people seem to care that their country has zero regard for the lives or rights of its citizens. I’ve been trying to rearrange my life, settle into a work habit, and these distractions make it difficult, and at the same time it seems like everything is falling apart, and I don’t know who I’m supposed to be creating art for any more.
I’ve also been trying to pick up Counter-Strike: Global Offensive off and on, whenever I feel like I need to do something with my mind and my hands or I’ll go crazy but I don’t feel like I can maintain coherent enough thought to get any actual work done. It’s strange, being put into those boots, that armor, given rifles that look a lot like the ones I see police carrying in my news feeds, being told in loading screens that SWAT teams are called in to control riots.
It’s a curious game. It’s a weird brand of pragmatism, having to allocate a budget for the weapons I will get next battle based on how many lives I take in this one, and whether I manage to keep my own. It’s a war simulated by a series of battles, except they’re the same battle over and over again, like a recurring dream, a groundhog day battlefield where each life and death is irrelevant on its own yet hugely important in the greater scheme of things.
I like that in games we never need to think about anything outside of what we’re shown. I do anyways, as a matter of temperament, but I don’t have to worry that if I fail to look deep enough that people will be brutalized and beaten behind the door I failed to open. I don’t have to worry that there’s a hidden history under what I’ve been told, that my basic understanding is incorrect. The terrorists are the terrorists. The counter-terrorists counter them. It’s simple. And, though games often pretend to complexity, sophistication, to hidden depths, there’s never a truth within them that isn’t constrained within their binary carcass.
Now I don’t feel like I’ll ever know – who are the terrorists attacking, who are the counter-terrorists protecting? None of these look like civilian targets, all of the bystanders have been evacuated, there’s no one left here but Us and Them and occasionally a hostage and for some reason a lot of chickens. Destruction isn’t an intrinsically evil act any more than creation is intrinsically good: I have no idea what the bomb I’m planting will destroy, no idea whether I’m taking lives or saving them. I have no idea what I’m here to protect, whether it’s a peaceful way of life or a system of violence and degradation that has existed for centuries.
I’m just following orders. I am just a cipher, here to pull the trigger, place the bomb, protect the hostage. I don’t need to think about what I am.
I am my cause. I am justice.