Header art by Elthar Nox
Having read Seir Luciel’s most recent article entitled “Silver Linings for PAPI; Considerations for Goons,” I wanted to respond for several reasons. First, Seir is my son and I love him. I admire him, as well: his toughness, his intellectual ability, his willingness to throw himself into the firepit of comments on INN. So, I wanted to respond to make sure that amidst the many comments Seir will receive (his story already has generated many comments), he’ll get at least one response from someone that loves and respects him. I also want to make a reasoned response, avoid name-calling or condescension, and treat his ideas with respect. But second, I want to respond because I believe he’s mistaken in some things and misunderstands some of the issues he addresses here. With that preamble, I set forth.
Leadership Establishes the Culture
Regarding leadership, and how much blame or praise leaders should receive, I’m sympathetic to Seir’s ideas, but only up to a point. Yes, it’s true – line members in any alliance are the ones that do the work that ends with the praise or blame the leaders receive. Praise for the line members is laudatory. So, I’m sympathetic to the idea that larger movements depend on thousands of people, not just those at the top.
But what Seir either doesn’t emphasize, or worse, doesn’t understand, is that leadership shapes the attitudes and morale of the line members. Seir notes that Goons won the morale war and that fewer Goons stopped logging in than PAPI members, who seemed to leave in droves. But Seir doesn’t really address that issue or analyze why the Imperium won the morale war. He just says, “Through collective effort you managed and upheld morale better than your enemies.” What is left out in the phrase “collective effort” is the hours of time Imperium leaders have spent shaping their culture. Imperium leadership fosters a sense of unbreakable community. The key word is “fosters.” Community doesn’t just happen; it gets nurtured. Leaders put structures in place that allow community to grow.
Leaders put community-building structures in place
In Imperium culture, we have many ways to foster community. Let me provide just a few examples. The Jabber infrastructure, with literally dozens of rooms where people can meet and chat on or about a huge variety topics. Ditto with Mumble. Want to shoot the bull with people interested in the same things you are? You can easily do so.
But those rooms in Jabber and Mumble were created by leaders who understand that a room where people can discuss Minecraft is not superfluous to EVE Online! They understand that publishing articles on INN about delicious food is not completely tangential to war goals. Imperium members can watch multiple talk show streams, several of which are highly entertaining, if not always super informative. Imperium members feel a part of something functional, engaging, and important.
Leaders value and recognize the contributions of individuals
The weekend before August 2, the Imperium had a massive party for the Imperium’s resident DJ, Mind1. Hundreds of people showed up. Mind1 was showered with gifts. His role in our community was affirmed. People had a wonderful time. I had people tell me they were almost in tears just watching the stream! For some, it was one of the highlights of their EVE experience.
Is it any wonder at all that two days later, thousands of pilots packed 1DQ, on a Monday of all days, to defend what they still held? Did PAPI have a party the weekend before? Did they shoot off fireworks, listen to tunes, and just chill together? Did any PAPI leader even think that would be a good idea? When Groen writes the history of this war, he should include the vital role played by the birthday celebration for Mind1.
No, the lower PAPI turnout was not the line members’ fault
In Seir’s mind, the low turnout for the final “Big Push” was because line members let the alliance down. They didn’t log in. I’ll quote at some length: “On average we sat at about 1.5 what Goons had in any given battle early on, which as time went on continued to creep downward, especially after M2. By the end we hovered meekly around 0.7 of Goons’ numbers. Sometimes even less. No leader could take 1DQ with these numbers. Goons will tell you our leaders let us down, but in reality it’s the other way around. We let them down.”
First, I just find this sad, because it lays blame at the feet of people who, in my opinion, would have logged in and played the game if they felt their contributions and time were valued and important. PAPI line members were let down by their leaders.
Some specific examples: Even as the “Big Push” was happening, some leaders were unanchoring their structures. They had planned, before the push, to leave, as Dunk Dinkle made clear. I was reminded of Red Dead Redemption 2, where Dutch says, “We just need some noise; then we’ll leave with all the money” and he throws the Native Americans to the fire. The entire “Big Push” was “some noise” so that leaders could unanchor while the PAPI line members got sacrificed. And some of those ships sacrificed cost nearly a billion ISK – in a battle that was doomed before it began.
Don’t believe me, because I write for INN and am a Goon? Fine. Listen to Alphastarpilot from last Tuesday’s Trash Talk Tuesday. Read Vince Draken’s angry notice that TEST had not waited to unanchor until Vince could notify his line members. That’s not Goon spin.
To lay blame at line members for not showing up is like saying to those World War 1 soldiers, “What do you mean you won’t rush that defensive position where we’ve already lost 30,000 people! You are letting me down! Your duty is to take orders and show up, not to question my commands!” Let me get a bit personal here. I don’t think anyone should take orders from authority figures without expecting reciprocal respect. I believe it’s wrong to do so. PAPI line members who stopped showing up: you did not do anything wrong. You fought well for a long time, far longer in my opinion than your leaders should have expected. You have nothing to be ashamed of.
What Seir’s article does, unfortunately for his own alliance, is let the leadership off the hook. To slightly misquote one of my favorite football rants, “[The leaders] were who we thought they were . . . and we let ’em off the hook!” Now, instead of Gobbins having to explain why he encouraged line members to buy expensive ships and the training to fly them, on a mission that really was just “some noise” for unanchoring, Gobbins gets a free pass. All because Seir says it’s the line members fault; for not showing up, and blowing up, and throwing up, so that leaders don’t have to do any growing up.
Dunk Dinkle Understands
Seir also specifically mentions Goons’ reaction to Dunk Dinkle’s mea culpa speech, suggesting that the Imperium members’ praise for Dunk accepting responsibility was a back-handed way of slapping down other PAPI leaders, with the concomitant nefarious motive of undercutting their authority or inciting rebellion. Here’s my take: Goons don’t need to praise Dunk as a backhanded way to slap down other PAPI leaders. I have no trouble saying that certain PAPI leaders showed horrible leadership skills. I’ve done so here on INN numerous times. Praising Dunk to slap down Vily or PGL just doesn’t match with Imperium’s history of lambasting leadership unabashedly. Imperium people don’t lambast in an underhanded, tricksy Hobbit, way: if anything, they are too over-the-top and offensively direct.
Seir also suggests that Goon’s praise for Dunk is a pre-emptive attempt to assuage Goon guilt for what might happen to Dunk and Brave in the future. Again, my hat is off to Dunk for taking responsibility because he is responsible. I praise that quality not with any secondary motive but because it goes to one of my core values: if you are placed in a leadership position, you are responsible for the behavior and culture of your organization. And that’s why Dunk deserves praise. And my praise does not clear my conscience for what might happen to Brave, because my conscience is completely clear already. Hey, if you come at the king, you best not miss.
Dunk Ain’t Oedipus
Seir says, “BRAVE was fated to be the victim of history . . . stuck in the middle of it all.” I don’t believe in fate; rather, I believe in free will and that people make choices, some better and some worse. BRAVE leadership, including Dunk, chose to align themselves with Legacy and TEST. They had other options (ask Dunk if you don’t believe me), including non-participation. Other groups remained unaligned, refusing the join the blue donut. The Freemen of the North didn’t align themselves with anyone. They chose not to and they have not, therefore, incurred the wrath of angry bees.
Time Frame for Recovery: Shorter Than You Think
Finally, I believe Seir is mistaken in his belief that because Goons have been beaten down, it will take them a long time to recover, allowing all former PAPI organizations time to zoom ahead. He says, “TEST may be next all you like, but while you repair a charred landscape, groups in Panfam, Fraternity, and AOM will be churning away like nothing happened, infrastructure fully intact.” Well, true, but only if the culture of the organization already has been to “churn away” in mining, krabbing, and industry. But I’ve repeatedly made the point that such is not the case with many organizations. They choose to rent to generate ISK and feel themselves above doing anything except “elite PvP.” I don’t think it will be long at all before Goons rebuild, and they’ll be smarter than before and will rebuild with the idea in mind that this invasion they just experienced will once again be repeated at some point in the future.
Right now, as I type this, the timer board for the Imperium has over 100 targets. Infrastructure Hubs are being destroyed so quickly I don’t want to type the number now, because by the time this article is published, it will have increased greatly. However long you think it will take Goons to rebuild, you probably should reduce it by 50%. Further, CCP plans to make significant changes to scarcity, so making assumptions about the difficulty of rebuilding based on the difficulty of production post-scarcity is faulty. I don’t know the changes CCP will make (and neither does Seir), but soon it will be much easier for Goons to rebuild what they have lost.
In sum, Goons deserve to celebrate, and they will, but the work of reclamation has already begun. Some participants in this war may not ever recover. But that group won’t include Goons.