I'm a tad annoyed that I can't tag blogposts by story anymore. I'm hoping this is a shortlived decision. In any case, I wrote a comment respodning to some dissatisfaction with one of my more recent stories, Saved from the Winter Cold by Love. This is certainly not for those TL;DR, but I hope it clears some things up:
As it appears to me, there are two types of people who read this story, which come to my attention. There are those who read this story as I intended and thus generally enjoy the story (though there certainly are exceptions. My work is not perfect), and there are those who read the story in a way that I did not intend. For the latter category, it appears to me that the whole of these are dissatisfied. Therefore, let me respond to this issue by clarifying my purpose.
First and foremost, let me clarify what this story is not. This story is not a treatise on political philosophy or ethics. I did not write this with the intention to exhort people to practice more faith in the intentions of government. Yet, as I have admitted, the bulk of the dialectic argument presented in this story by Cadence is taken not from my opinions but from those of Plato and his Republic. I am certainly aware that the reader might find one or several of the premises in the argument questionable, and through this, find the conclusions to be unsatisfying or lacking; however, I never intended to formulate some great indisputable proof for the conclusions here, nor do I even expect many readers at all to be completely swayed by the logic herein. I read Book I of The Republic, from which this argument is taken, and I myself was not entirely convinced. Therefore, although I would very much like to engage in a debate/dialogue on this subject of political philosophy, I will not offer any reply to any counterargument which is presented against Plato’s logic here.
Having established what my story is not, let me now explain my intentions and the theme of the story. My purposes for writing this story were twofold, but before one can understand them, they should consider that this is a part of a series of stories, each of which holds a similar set of goals. Like these other stories, I wrote this one in the second, person perspective in the present tense. This is wholly different from how a treatise or formal argument would be written, as they generally hold a third person, omnipotent perspective, and their verbs usually are conjugated in the past tense. In the use of this form, the writer assumes a position of absolute authority, because one cannot argue the feelings of a character external to themselves. But rather than try to assume absolute authority, I wrote this story with the intention to encourage readers to place themselves into a mindset, with which they were not familiar. Indeed, this is how I wish everyone would read every kind of story.
A good story is written in such a way that encourages the reader to project themself onto the main protagonist. That is to say that the reader imagines himself acting as the protagonist. The reader should place themself in the position and circumstances of the protagonist and ask, “What would I do in this situation?” Now inevitably and inescapably, there will always be a majority of people who would react differently if they were placed in these circumstances. Yet this is no reason to abandon this manner of reading altogether. Rather, it is indeed the very reason and the very purpose for why we should do this in the first place. In the comparison of our decisions that we would make and the decisions which the protagonist actually make, the reader can make two important discoveries.
The first of these is greater insight into themself. If the reader finds that they would react differently, they should ask, “Why would I react this way in this situation?” In the answering of this question, the reader likely will gain great insight into their thought process and thus gain a greater understanding of themself. But more important than this discovery is the second one. The answer to this question of why they would react differently will yield insight into their thoughts process, yet it will also yield insight into the thought process of the protagonist. It can be safely said that if one understands the thought process of themself and the protagonist, then they will certainly come closer to understanding the deeper meaning of any story, if they do not already see it through this process. The reader is forced to ask, “Why does the protagonist behave in this way?” The answer will likely be found in the story’s theme. Therefore, I never intended the story at all to be so immersive, that the reader would completely imagine himself as the main character; for if they totally and completely agreed with this outlandish and strange viewpoint, then all the value of the story would be lost. The reader would simply have wasted their time. In fact, I wrote this story with the both the hopes that, firstly, people would disagree with the main character and perhaps become annoyed by his acquiescence that they might contrast themself and gain greater insight. Secondly, I hoped that the discovery of the reason for the main character’s decisions might lead the reader to the main theme of the story.
This brings me to my second goal, and it is only through the accomplishment of the first goal that the reader will be able to grasp this second one. As I said, like the others, this is a second person story, written with the intention to encourage the reader to project himself onto the main protagonist. Yet unlike the other stories, this story features Princess Cadence. Thus, it should be clear that this story is, at its core, a character analysis. If one reads the story with the method I prescribed above, they will realize two things. Firstly, the main character, despite the firmness of his belief in his position, crumbles easily to Cadence’s arguments; and secondly, this owes partly to the fact that Cadence leaves little room for him not to. Her entire argument is composed of questions, which can be answered with little more than a “yes” or “no.” She does not simply convince the protagonist to accept her viewpoint. She imposes it on him; she leaves him no other option short of admitting to unreasonability (a truly unacceptable position). At no point does she leave any room for a counterargument. Now this is not to say that her argument is without fault simply because of its structure. Again the discovery of the absolute truth is not my aim here. What is important is that Cadence has the ability to impose her viewpoints on her subjects through what seems to her subjects as an indisputable truth.
Cadence is after all a princess, and she would hence be trained in rhetoric. We also know that she was a foalsitter at a time. Both of these jobs, princess and foalsitter require a great deal of ability in motivating people as well as exhorting them to behave. And in both of these jobs, in order to enact this ability, one must often be able to do so in such a way that the one being exhorted does not feel like he is being forced but rather they are making the decision on their own. Therefore, it should be clear to the reader that Cadence is an experienced expert in social engineering.
Now this term is often thrown around a great deal with a generally negative connotation. By my calling Cadence a social engineer, some readers might start to think that I am saying Cadence is a manipulative deceiver. However, this is not my intention either. Actually, from the study of computer science and similar fields in which social engineering is a commonly used term, we can find that the practice is not inherently immoral. In fact, social engineering, like any other skill, is amoral; it depends on how you use it. Hence, when we look at this ability of Cadence, I think it is insufficient to tie any moral value on her just yet. Let us consider also her other attributes before making a judgment.
I hoped that in the enacting of this ability, Cadence should make the reader (who should now be projecting themself onto the protagonist) to feel childlike. Rather than facing him like a debater against a debater, she holds him at her side, and indeed under her wing where the protagonist is enjoying her comforting warmth. When he is obstinate to comply, she patiently coaxes him, and when he becomes angry, she smiles and waits until he calms down. Overall, it should seem that she is very condescending. Yet there also should be a feeling of care emanating from her. As a social engineer, she imposes arguments on him that may even be fallacious, but nonetheless, she is able to bring him to a position that seems favorable for both of them because he wants to. She does this in a friendly and loving manner, just as if she were foalsitting Twilight. That is how she rules as a princess.
At the very last, I understand that this idea can be unsettling in ways. If you as a subject of hers are drawn into her manner of thinking by these arguments, then you are trusting in her, and believing that she is inherently good. Now in our present system of government (I am speaking to my fellow Americans), I think that this is probably a very foolish idea. One cannot trust in the goodness of a politician. That is why Americans claim that they are a democratic republic and not simply a republic. However, it is important to realize that the Equestrian government is wholly different, and indeed it is a remarkably similar one to that of Plato’s ideal, utopian state, in which the people entrust the government to their leaders, and even grant them the astounding privilege of lying. As Plato wrote, “The rulers of the state are the only persons who ought to have the privilege of lying, either at home or abroad; they may be allowed to lie for the good of the state.” The people trust that their leaders are inherently good. Finally, I once again do not intend to try answering this question of whether the Equestrian princesses can be trusted. I merely intend to make this clear. I leave that up to the reader to decide for themself. Yet I will also say that if one assumes that this Platonic system of government is in place, when is drawn to the fact that the princesses are like the philosopher-kings of The Republic, who rule with wisdom and goodness, looking out for the people with disregard to themselves.