• Member Since 28th Aug, 2011
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Cold in Gardez


Stories about ponies are stories about people.

More Blog Posts178

  • 1 week
    Romance Novels

    “What if,” Spike said, “Ginger Gypsy hadn’t been afraid to confess her love? Would you still hate her so much?”

    I frowned. “Hate is a strong word. I never said I hated her.”

    Read More

    24 comments · 518 views
  • 4 weeks
    Back to a more normal posting schedule

    Hey folks,

    I just published a pretty huge chapter in my favorite story, The World is Filled with Monsters. I have a good plan for the rest of the current act, and the rest of the story to follow.

    Read More

    26 comments · 488 views
  • 10 weeks
    That drone strike in Afghanistan...

    After the withdrawal from Afghanistan, and in particular after the drone strike that killed an aid worker and several family members, a few people reached out to ask about I story I wrote several years ago for the Writeoff original fiction contest. It was, in fact, the first original fiction piece I'd written in years, and it dealt with the (fictional) aftermath of drone strike that went wrong. I

    Read More

    13 comments · 846 views
  • 16 weeks
    On Afghanistan

    So, those of you following the latest from Afghanistan may have seen this item, reported by CNN:

    Taliban claim to have captured provincial capital of Gardez

    From CNN’s Tim Lister in Spain

    Read More

    61 comments · 1,683 views
  • 21 weeks
    Ten years of Pony

    So, I've been looking forward to this blog post for a long time.

    Ten years and two deployments to Afghanistan ago, I ran across an article on Wired about a weird cultural phenomenon -- adult men who loved the children's show My Little Pony. How strange, I thought. And, for a lark, I decided to check it out.

    Read More

    39 comments · 1,079 views
Jun
18th
2018

The Earth Pony Problem · 10:56am Jun 18th, 2018

Continuing what GaPJaxie started here and here. But not here because we don't care about Sunset Shimmer.


“I’ve been thinking about the earth pony problem,” Starlight Glimmer said.

“The… is there a problem with earth ponies?” Twilight Sparkle asked. It was a brisk day, and they were out lounging atop one of the gentle rolling hills that hugged the woods south of Sweet Apple Acres. The mid-spring sun toasted their coats, while the wind kissed and chilled them. Twilight relished the sensation of being caught between the seasons, and she let her wings rise to caress the air with each gust.

It was Starlight’s day to choose their activity, and Twilight had barely finished asking Starlight what she wanted to do when the answer exploded from the unicorn: “Kites!” And so they found themselves on Ponyville’s premier kite-flying hill a few hours after breakfast with all the instruments of kite-making laid out before them: balsa rods of all thicknesses, many-colored panels of fabric, rice-paste glue, miles of twine, metal pins, ribbons of every hue and a 64-flavor pack of artisans watercolor sticks. All were held down against the wind with rocks or hooves or little spots of magic when they ran out of hooves and rocks.

They’d agreed on box-kites, which Twilight knew only from picture books as a foal and glimpses of Starlight’s kite collection. She went for the simplest of designs, a rectangular prism wrapped with two panels of fabric. It didn’t look like something that could fly, but even half-assembled, with the glue still drying and the twine yet unattached, she could feel it grabbing at the gusts, threatening to lift off her hill and into the trees beyond. It wanted to soar.

Starlight crafted a far more ambitious design, a pentagonal prism that lacked the easy structural strength of a cubic design. But she’d already improvised a complex internal bracing far more elegant and clean than Twilight’s rather crude glue-and-twine foal’s play. Starlight’s kite looked like something a pony astronaut might use.

Then out came the watercolor sticks. By unspoken consensus they’d agreed on animal motifs, with the requirement that the animal in question had to have the same number of limbs as the kite had fabric panels. So Starlight drew dozens of five-armed starfish on each face of her kite, alternating colors and sizes until each face was more starfish than fabric, and her hooves and lips were smeared with waxy traces of the watercolor sticks.

Twilight gave her own eight-paneled kite an octopus motif, after briefly considering and then rejecting a spiderweb design. An octopus would better match Starlight’s aquatic-theme, anyway. She spent the hour drawing a single twining limb on each panel, adding suckers and spots and rings as fancy took her. She spent a bit of extra time detailing a hectocotyl arm – for her octopus kite was a colt octopus kite – which provoked a minute of giggles from them both.

Finally it was time to fly, and they let their kites spool out into the brisk wind rushing up the hillside. The taut strings, decorated with fluttering ribbons every few feet to make them visible to pegasi, hummed in the air.

And that was when Starlight brought up the earth pony problem.

“No, not a problem with them,” she said. “I mean, I certainly don’t have any problems with them. I like them! But society has a problem with them, right?”

“I… don’t think I follow you,” Twilight answered. Her kite wobbled a bit in the wind, threatening to start spinning. “Like, discrimination? There are still some older unicorns who say—”

“No, it’s deeper than just attitudes,” Starlight interrupted her. Her eyes were on her own kite, which held its position like a rock despite the gusty wind. “Look, you know I have a thing for equality, right?”

“Yes, I’d noticed that.”

“Right. So, have you ever noticed how unequal things are for earth ponies?”

Oh. It was one of those arguments. Twilight arrayed her mental cards and began to deal them. “All ponies are equal, Starlight, they’re just equal in different ways! Sure, earth ponies can’t use magic or fly, but they have durable family bonds and greater physical strength, and nopony can grow things like an earth pony—”

Starlight snorted. “Come on. You don’t really believe any of that, do you?”

“I–” Twilight frowned. “Of course I do. It’s all true.”

“It’s true, but it’s wrong,” Starlight said. “Earth ponies have larger families because they’re traditionally farmers who live in multi-generational households. They’re stronger because they have to be stronger – do you think Applejack has magically powerful legs, or maybe she can kick like that because she spends all day bucking trees? Maud’s one of the strongest mares I know, because she grew up breaking rocks with her hooves. It’s not magic. Any unicorn or pegasus could do the same thing if they grew up under the same circumstance, but no earth pony is ever going to cast spells like a unicorn or fly like a pegasus. How is that equal?”

Twilight reeled her kite in a bit, tugging it down from the stronger upper-level winds. When it stabilized, she pulled out her second card. “It’s equal because it’s harmonious. Unicorns and pegasi have abilities that earth ponies don’t, of course. Nopony would argue that. But pony society functions because each tribe uses its abilities to benefit all the tribes. The ancient Hearthswarming stories warn us about what happened when the tribes were separate. For Equestria to flourish, all ponies are needed, no matter their tribe or their abilities.”

“That’s the same argument traditionalists use when they say earth ponies should only be farmers,” Starlight said. She did something with her string, and her kite described a wide circle in the sky. “And pegasi should just be warriors. And of course unicorns should be all the nobles. Because we’re the natural leaders, right? That’s still harmonious. Society worked great that way for centuries. But it’s not equal, not by a long shot.”

“Okay.” Twilight discarded all the mental arguments she’d arrayed and deployed a new one on the spot. “How about this. Say you have two unicorns, one taller than the other. Being taller gives you certain advantages in life, right? So they’re unequal. But is that unfair?”

Starlight shook her head. “No, that’s part of a standard distribution. Some individuals will be tall, some short. Some pegasi can fly fast, some can’t. The individual might think it’s not fair, but for everypony at large it balances out.”

“Right. Don’t think about ponies as earth ponies or pegasi or unicorns.” Twilight said. “Ignore the categories. Instead some ponies can fly and some can’t. Some can use magic and some can’t. It’s part of that standard distribution, and as a society we’ve decided to call the ponies who can fly pegasi, and the ones who can use magic unicorns, and the ones who can’t do either earth ponies. But while that may be unfair for individual earth ponies who wish they could do magic or fly, it’s not unfair to earth ponies as a category because that category has no objective reality, any more than pegasus or unicorn. They’re just descriptions ponies used to conveniently sort each other by ability, and over time those descriptions became a part of how we organize our society. But they’re still just descriptions – there’s no such thing as earth ponies or unicorns or pegasi, just ponies.”

Starlight shook her head again. “That’s replacing reality with theory. We don’t break ponies into tribes based on height because height doesn’t matter in the end. Magic does. Flying does. Earth ponies will never get to do any of those things, and even if you only think of them as individuals, that’s still unfair. From birth they’re frozen out of so much potential that you and I take for granted. How many earth ponies have become princesses?”

Uh. Twilight was suddenly very conscious of the wings fluttering at her sides, and she pulled them in tight. “Well, none. Yet. But that doesn’t mean they couldn’t!”

“You’re a poor liar, princess.”

Twilight bristled. It took her a moment to realize Starlight was deliberately baiting her, and she let out a slow breath. “Okay, fine. Let’s say you’re right about everything. What can we do about it? It is a unicorn’s nature to use magic. It is a pegasus’s nature to fly. It is an earth pony’s nature to do neither of those things. If I thought earth ponies were broken – which I don’t –  and there were some way to fix them, I would. But we can’t, and if happiness means accepting the things we cannot change, then you’ll never be happy as long as you think life needs to be fair.”

Starlight was silent in response. She watched her kite, so far above them it appeared as little more than a pink dot against the blue sky. A few pegasi occasionally detoured to dance around it before going on their way.

“What if we could?” she finally said. Her voice was quiet, almost lost to the wind.

“Uh…” Twilight’s string shook, and she realized she’d been ignoring her own kite too long. It bobbled dangerously near the treetops, and she pulled the twine to give it some more lift. “How… do you know something I don’t, Starlight?”

She shook her head. “Just something simple. There’s no way I know of to give earth ponies horns or wings. But that’s not the only way to make ponies equal.”

The chill that swept over Twilight wasn’t born of the wind. “You can’t—”

“I could, though,” she mused. “Just cut off my horn, and I will have made earth ponies equal to at least one unicorn.”

Twilight’s eyes slid to Starlight’s forehead. “You don’t seem to have gone down that path.”

“I know.” Starlight’s shoulders slumped and her ears sagged. “Does that make me a hypocrite, or just a coward? It was the same back at Our Town. I was so happy to condemn all those ponies to a life without their cutie marks, but I wasn’t willing to do it to myself.”

Twilight licked her lips. The past was always a tender subject with Starlight, and she had to set her hooves carefully. “And it was wrong back then, wasn’t it? This thinking is all just repeating the same mistakes.”

“Maybe it wasn’t a mistake. Maybe the only reason you and your friends tried to stop me back then was because you found out I’d been lying about keeping my own mark. But what if I hadn’t been, Twilight? What would you have done? Would you have just… left?”

“I, uh…” What would they have done? There was no law against removing cutie marks; they had only confronted Starlight over her lie, and everything had spun out of control after that.

She could imagine it. Leading her baffled friends back to Ponyville, never having solved the problem of Our Town. They’d have abandoned Starlight to her insane plans, if only she’d been insane enough to really believe them.

“Where would that end?” Twilight asked. “A world with wing-shorn pegasi and dehorned unicorns? I don’t think any earth ponies want that. Certainly none that I know.”

“Sometimes the right thing to do is hard. It requires sacrifice. And you could… do it at birth. There are painless ways. And then we would all be earth ponies. Can you tell me why that would be wrong in a way that doesn’t also explain how terribly unfair the current world is to them?”

“It’s not our job to make the world fair!” Twilight said. “We can only try to be the best version of ourselves that we can! To… to mutilate yourself because your own gifts are unfair would be the first step down a path of annihilating every difference, because the only perfectly equal world is a world of perfect entropy where all things are flat and cold and gray—”

Something snapped high above. They looked up to see Twilight’s kite, some internal spar now broken, falling to the ground. The unmoored fabric panels fluttered like flags as they plummeted. It hit with the crunch of thin sticks breaking.

They both winced. Twilight picked the mess up with her magic and drew it closer. Little remained that resembled a kite.

“Well,” Starlight said. She drew in her own kite and snagged it once it was in range. “It was a good kite while it lasted. And I liked the octopus!”

“Yeah.” Twilight folded up the ruins as best she could. “Hey, Starlight?”

“Hm?”

“What about… if a unicorn uses their magic to make life better for others, especially ponies who can’t use magic, is that still unfair?”

Starlight was quiet for a while. She detached a single spar from within her kite, and the rest of it folded up neatly. She wrapped it with a bit of spare twine and set it on her back.

“I don’t know,” she finally said. “Who is the master, then?”

“Maybe there is none.” Twilight collected all the little scraps of their kite-making morning, putting them in her saddlebags. “Wanna talk about it over lunch?”

Starlight smiled. “Sounds great.”


So, to close, a bit of real life news. After three-and-a-half years here, I'm finally leaving Japan. For Korea. It's only a two-hour flight!

I honestly thought I'd be going back to the states after an overseas assignment this long, but the military sends us where it will. I've been packing up my apartment and saying goodbye to friends all week, and today was the going-away luncheon where I said goodbye to the awesome people who've helped make this the best assignment of my career. I can only hope that I'll be so lucky in the future.

Between the moving and cleaning and packing and all that, I had a bit of time last week to finish a bit of artwork for my long-running story The World is Filled with Monsters. Those of you who've been tracking that story know that I've tried to illustrate all of the main characters, to help people see them the way I do. And after over a year of publishing, there was one character I never got around to providing with a real, finished portrait.

So, here's our littlest unicorn, Quicklime:

Changed my style a bit this time. Worked off of a single layer for almost the entire painting, and left more of the linework in, which is based on a reference by Baron Engel. One thing I've been trying to improve is my sketching and inking skills, which have always been a bit lacking.

Hope everyone's ready for a great summer. We'll see what that's like in Korea!

Comments ( 54 )

Another excellent philosophical discussion, and one that leaves me much less discomforted than the previous ones in the series.

Also, I have to admit, I always imagined Quicklime as a stubby, adorable little child-proportioned bundle of curiosity. That image comes as something of a surprise, but I am by no means disappointed.

If Ponies didn't have special talents it would quickly lead to the end of their race, Ponies are able to do what one thign really well outside of the basic skills.All Earth Ponies have some connection to the land, All Pegasi have basic flight and some weather control. All Unicorns have basic levitation. Alicorns proably would have all 3 but amplified by a margin of maybe ten or twenty times. All that thought without the special talents of ponies like the Wonderbolts or the Princesses connection to the Sun and Moon how would they stop an invasion of dragon or Gryphons, Ponies will become at best little more than slaves or more likely livestock.

So, wild/no weather all over Equestria, if the princesses are included/disappear we also have no day-night cycle, no fast travel or high-dexterity work... yeah, that'd end well. And we haven't even gotten into the ethics of lopping bits of foals off, reducing their range of experience once they come of age (gee I wonder what THAT sounds like). :ajbemused:

They’re stronger because they have to be stronger – do you think Applejack has magically powerful legs, or maybe she can kick like that because she spends all day bucking trees?

I hate to be that guy getting in the way of a good philosophical discussion, but this here is the false premise it’s based on.

The average earth pony demonstrates things like exerting about 10 horse power for hours at a time, which is not possible for a mundane non-magical creature of known pony size. (Over a Barrel) Applejack in particular is far stronger than that at her peak, at some point sending a 1000-ton boulder flying. Which is likewise impossible without magic, if only because, even if she was solid steel, doing that would squeeze her into the ground she was standing on at the time. (Shadow Play) I could name other examples demonstrating that earth ponies do have their own magic, even if they never call it that themselves. The full extent of it isn’t really known, and why isn’t it is an interesting question beyond the scope of this comment.

It’s a solid, well-written piece, and I wouldn’t want to get in the way of its point, but it’s just not really about ponies as they are observed.

4884707

I could name other examples demonstrating that earth ponies do have their own magic, even if they never call it that themselves.

And THAT, I believe is the real problem. It's not that earth ponies don't possess magic, but that magic is classified as something only unicorns do. It doesn't matter what you can do with your strength, or wings, or plants, or talents. If doesn't matter if an earth pony could grow an orchard in five days or crush a boulder with one kick. It doesn't matter if you can quietly influence an entire town due to an innate connection with the quiet way every creature on the land is linked together. It doesn't matter if you can zip across town in a blink or sense the future in the marrow of your bones, It doesn't matter if you're studied grimoires--it doesn't matter if you've WRITTEN grimoires.

You are still an outlier. A product of your environment, at best. It doesn't matter how many of you can do it, and it doesn't matter if it's consistent. It's not magic.

It's only magic if you have a horn.

The question now is, Who made this classification? Who decided magic only looks a certain way?
Somehow, I doubt it was the earth ponies.


Auugh, I wanna springboard an entire story about this now, but it's about an oc nobody cares about and there's no plot I'm already in the middle of another writing project.

It's a nice conversation and a decent philosophical piece, but Earth ponies do have their own magic.

She shook her head. “Just something simple. There’s no way I know of to give earth ponies horns or wings. But that’s not the only way to make ponies equal.”

The chill that swept over Twilight wasn’t born of the wind. “You can’t—”

“I could, though,” she mused. “Just cut off my horn, and I will have made earth ponies equal to at least one unicorn.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harrison_Bergeron

Also, I'd love it if Twilight had given a ready and straightforward answer to this passage:

“It’s true, but it’s wrong,” Starlight said. “Earth ponies have larger families because they’re traditionally farmers who live in multi-generational households. They’re stronger because theyhaveto be stronger – do you think Applejack has magically powerful legs, or...

Something like:

"Yep, Applejack really does have magical legs. So does Maud. No matter how much strength training she did, she couldn't break boulders with her hooves if she didn't. I know a pegasus who weight-trains all day. He's enormously strong, but if he tried to hit a rock he'd break a leg. Ponies mapped the thaumic pathways of all the pony types centuries ago, and Earth ponies really do have earth-based magic, plus enhanced fertility. They teach this in Biology 101 and Spellcraft 101. Surprised you didn't learn that in class. It's almost like you dropped out of school and tried to start a cult or something."

4884720

The question now is, Who made this classification? Who decided magic only looks a certain way?
Somehow, I doubt it was the earth ponies.

It’s obvious that a cultural attitude to the above exists. It’s also very interesting that Maud perpetuates it, apparently, of her own free will. (The Maud Couple) Canon leaves a huge blank spot where potential reasons for this behavior could be.

I would say this question is a much more interesting topic for philosophical discussion in general, if only because it doesn’t seem like it’s getting addressed in ponyfic often, if at all. :twilightsmile:

4884732

It seems that "Magic" as commonly used is meant as a external application of thaums / mana / whatever.

IIRC, did Applejack ever force-grow something? That'd be magic, as well as the Sonic Rainboom?

Dunno if I've yet seen a fic that ranks ponies along the spectrum of thaum expression, Earth Ponies as most internal, and Unicorns as the most external, with Pegasi in the middle?

I feel like we’ve missed the point of the discussion. Maybe that’s just what we do in general, I don’t know. But we seem to have fixated on magic — specifically on the definition of magic — as if that was the problem.

4884694 nailed it, I think: It’s not that life isn’t fair, but that it can’t be fair. Suppose that horns and wings were removed at birth. What problem is that actually solving? What new problems might that be introducing?

The issue with Starlight’s reasoning here is not that it’s wrong, but that it’s lazy. Wings and horns are easy. They’re obvious differences that are right there. Is getting rid of them going to actually solve any problems? No, of course not, but it’s easy, and it’s easy to point to and say, “If we just fixed this one thing, it would solve a problem. Aren’t you impressed by how forward-thinking I am?”

The worst time to make society-impacting decisions is when the change has to be made “right now,” because you never end up with solutions; only with trophies.

“What about… if a unicorn uses their magic to make life better for others, especially ponies who can’t use magic, is that still unfair?”
Is there a pony version of John Rawls?

4884737

IIRC, did Applejack ever force-grow something? That'd be magic, as well as the Sonic Rainboom?

Sssssssorta?
derpicdn.net/img/view/2015/4/11/871686__safe_screencap_applejack_castle+sweet+castle_animated_apple_barrel_curtain_dirt_discovery+family_earth+pony+magic_flower_haystack_hoe_looking+b.gif
There's this, but it also happened in a song montage, so it's hard to tell how literal it is.

derpicdn.net/img/2015/2/3/820500/large.gif
This, meanwhile, isn't literally AJ but AJ playing somepony else in a historical reenactment, which is a whole new can of worms. It can be interpreted (and indeed, seems implied) that this is just a direct manifestation of an earth pony's connection to the earth. ...But again, not literal events happening on screen.

That's the frustrating thing about earth pony magic, it keeps popping up in weird examples like this. Cheerilee isn't a farmer and once smashed half of Rarity's shop when she plowed through it.... under influence of a love poison.

4884737

IIRC, did Applejack ever force-grow something? That’d be magic, as well as the Sonic Rainboom?

That’d be magic, to both, if you ask me, but what does my opinion matter anyway. :ajbemused: Strangely, we never actually see Applejack do force-growth that I remember – when something needs to be force-grown, it’s usually Twilight doing it, and I have no idea why. (Not Asking for Trouble)

4884743

when something needs to be force-grown, it’s usually Twilight doing it, and I have no idea why.

Applejack's not the best force-grower, maybe? Perhaps it's not sustainable for large areas or at speed?

Hmm... Unicorns have Weather Spells, as Rarity shows, even though Pegasi can manipulate the weather...

----

It's hard to do a good Equality morality tale like this blog post, given that there's too many counter-arguments that would arise that are firmly founded in canon...

4884723

"They teach this in Biology 101 a Spellcraft 101. Surprised you didn't learn that in class. It's almost like you dropped out of school and tried to start a cult or something."

:heart:

Also...

“Yeah.” Twilight folded up the ruins as best she could. “Hey, Starlight?”

“Hm?”

“What about… if a unicorn uses their magic to make life better for others, especially ponies who can’t use magic, is that still unfair?”

Starlight considered that for a moment. "Maybe... we should wait until ponies ask for it? I mean, otherwise we'd kind of seem like a bunch of condescending paternalistic elitists sticking our horns in where they don't belong."

"Oh, yeah." Twilight frowned in thought. "And... we aren't, right? "

"Not unless the writers need us to be."

Twilight raised an eyebrow. "Have you been talking to Pinkie again?"

4884707

Applejack has magically powerful legs, or maybe she can kick like that because she spends all day bucking trees? Maud’s one of the strongest mares I know, because she grew up breaking rocks with her hooves. It’s not magic. Any unicorn or pegasus could do the same thing if they grew up under the same circumstance,

Another point is this, to cast spells like Twilight, Starlight, and even Starswirl they each had to spend a good poriton of their lives learning and training. Wonderbolts and other top flyers like Rainbow and Spitfire also had to train to pull of their stunts as well. So why would Earth ponies like Applejack, Rockhoof and Maud also have to train to get to where they are. Heck even Meadowbrook had to study to do what she does, and with a title like Mage, she is know to do magic. Pony magic does have a in-built limit if what happened to Sunburst is an example. But for the most part, to get the most out of it it requires training and knowledge.

On one hand, this is a perfectly reasonable discussion to have as an outsider looking in with points that are in-character for both of them.

On the other hand—Starlight, dearie, you're trying to explain earth pony magic to someone who is part earth pony.

"How many earth ponies have become princesses?"

A: Inadequate sample set for constructing a theory. So far the Pony->Alicorn route consists of one pegasus (Cadence) and one unicorn (Twilight). In any sample where you have three options and only two have been chosen, one of the options *has* to be missing. Can't believe Twilight missed that one.

"Earth ponies have larger families because they’re traditionally farmers who live in multi-generational households."

I notice Starlight did not say earth ponies had more foals. A difference in reproduction rates would eventually crowd out the other two types of ponies without a significant number of Cake-style pegasus/unicorn foals showing up in earth pony houses. After all, over a thousand years, a small reproduction rate shift would be fairly obvious.

4884762

After all, over a thousand years, a small reproduction rate shift would be fairly obvious.

Earth ponies do outnumber other tribes as shown on screen, however, that’s neither here nor there, due to how biased this observational evidence is, (in early seasons, mares outnumber stallions, but later seasons have this straighten out) and it’s not by that much.

This brings me back to a story I wrote a long time ago(Pegasus Horns) and a story void chicken wrote(three hundred fifty).

Who is to say that you couldn't come up with spells that earth ponies and pegasi could use, or a method of them having a virtual horn, whether by training, or by some magical device they could wear? If so many earth ponies followed non-traditional pursuits, how would that affect pony society in the long and short terms? What of the earth pony with a farmer's mark who was granted some ability to use magic? Most likely it would be their children who would make the plunge due to cutie marks. Said earth pony wouldn't have a cutie mark in said magic.

Would doing the research involved with pre-cutie mark foals be considered immoral even though it would be the most pure way to do the research? What of an earth pony who gained a magic talent while trying something "not ready for market" where said device ended up having issues?

I am gonna go ahead and throw Tempest into the discussion for what a unicorn that spent her life punching things looks like. She doesn't get too crazy with the strength, but she can pick up fish people twice her height and grapple them into the ground. It's not as extreme as some of the earth pony examples, but it is there.

Honestly, this whole conversational bit, feels flawed. Almost Strawmanned.

Its coming from a unicorn pov. One where magic is the first answer, talked to by a unicorn in mindset, to another unicorn in mindset.

No matter how eloquent you try to put it, it never leaves this setting.

Its a unicorn's viewpoint. Not an earth pony's, not a pegasi's, not an alicorns of experience among each.

A changeling would have a better idea of what an earth pony is than starlight here.

I feel like a lot of people in this thread are saying "In order for this story to work, 'earth ponies have special powers' has to be a convenient societal lie. That's contradicted by the show in multiple places, especially when it comes to Maud and Applejack, or even Big Mac's megaton buck way back in Season 2. So it doesn't really support the premise. This isn't a bad sort of story and we see the points it is trying to make, but it isn't one that could ever really happen without constructing a fairly convoluted AU around it."

All of those people are smart people and they should continue saying smart things.

I appreciate how very careful CiG is to never have either Starlight or Twilight say "earth pony magic." I feel like that has to be deliberate, and it exposes some interesting societal bias; "magic" is either something a unicorn does, or your cutie mark talent. It doesn't apply in other circumstances. And that's real interesting, as others have said, ain't it?

I would like to quibble with Twilight on something:

“It’s not our job to make the world fair!”

I think this is at the very least contextually wrong. It is our job to a large degree to make the world fair, for a given definition and extent of "fair." It is especially Twilight's job, as someone who is a member of the ruling class and therefore I would submit has an obligation to bring justice, fairness, and equitableness (not necessary equality, although also that too, but definitely equitability) to those over whom she wields power.

I highly doubt that Twilight would find "the world isn't fair" to be a sufficient and adequate response from, say, the Flim-Flam brothers after they'd, entirely legally, bilked some ponies out of their life savings. I don't think she'd go "it's not our job to make the world fair" in that situation. I sort of imagine in that situation her response would likely be "yeah, well, maybe not, but I can definitely make it MORE fair, you assholes" followed by some robust anti-fraud legislatin' and possibly even a Bill of Attainder.

Did either of them consider asking an Earth Pony for their opinion on the issue?

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I wouldn't call it a "flawed conversation" because the viewpoint of debate is not two Earth Ponies talking about being Earth Ponies. If only people within a group could opine or postulate about the existential reality of said group. I mean, that would just be as stupid as saying in the real world that a Black man could never write a book about an Asian woman. He's not that that thing, so he could never understand it. That's just silly. The vary reason we as a people can write fiction and think in hypotheticals is that we have the ability to see ourselves as more then we are. We have empathy, therefor we can put ourselves in the shoes of other people.

Nothing is a topic only for certain people, just as no word is forbidden, only tabu.

An interesting read, this is.

“Where would that end?” Twilight asked. “A world with wing-shorn pegasi and dehorned unicorns? I don’t think any earth ponies want that. Certainly none that I know.”

“Sometimes the right thing to do is hard. It requires sacrifice. And you could… do it at birth. There are painless ways. And then we would all be earth ponies. Can you tell me why that would be wrong in a way that doesn’t also explain how terribly unfair the current world is to them?”

I don't really mean to toot my own horn, but I wrote a story touching on exactly this line of thinking some time ago (and I can't promise on quality anyway).

Anyway, I might as well add my own musings and ramblings:

It seems that one way of looking at the issue is that comfort is subjective and absolute equality isn't necessarily the best goal. Tall ponies could reach and see higher things easier, and the same goes for shorter ponies and lower things. If we amputated a bit of each of every tall pony's leg (giving the short ones stilts wouldn't be fair because the have the option of taking them off), seeing and reaching tall things as a society gets harder without the application of extra effort (e.g. stilts). Ergo, we lose something just for that much equality.

There's also the potential implication that everypony should be equal because they won't be working together. Economies of scale and centralization come with their own flaws, but specialization on a local scale would, presumably on average, benefit everypony. But Starlight doesn't seem to be talking about the average and societal, or even local, level; she's talking about individuals, and not so much their ability to make it over the hurdles of life so much as their comfort and limitless access to all known possibilities.

Is removing the known possibilities to only those which are obtainable by everypony any different than establishing a culture in which ponies are forced to accept that they aren't something else? In one, we have everypony being set at the same level, where nopony feels like they got shorted in a relative sense, but most or all of them have been shorted in a more objective sense; being an earth pony by birth versus and earth pony be construct does not change that you can't fly. In the other case, we have a diverse set of ponies with different attributes where assumptions about what each group can and should do may, in fact, exist. Is there a significant difference to the individual between being told you're a pegasi or being told you're an earth pony and being expected to act like one?

I suppose it might come down to the fact that Starlight is assuming there isn't a semblance of equality already: namely, that earth ponies are lesser-than. If everypony were to be made into earth ponies, the natural-born earth ponies may have genetic or magical advantages, and her equality is perhaps more objectively askew than before. Is there a way to obtain her sort of equality without reproductive limitations or genocide?

That's just the tip of the iceberg, as well. Inequality of some sort presumably has no end until each pony is genetically nigh-identical and raised in exactly the same environment.

It's much easier to accept that we live in an imperfect world. One that, I might add, may someday be doomed to die and us with it in a manner we can not prevent. Does perfection mean anything in the end? Even if not, it could still mean something in the present – whenever that may be. I don't mean to say that it isn't worth striving for something better, but crafting a perfect world out of an imperfect universe seems potentially infeasible. Where, then, does the tolerance for error lie? We don't build mathematically perfect bridges and skyscrapers, and I assume neither do ponies. Is it easier to get unicorns, earth ponies, and pegasi living as such within that tolerance than by crating an "equal" society?

I don't know if I'm adding much of anything here, or if I'm going to think the same things even an hour from now. Neither do I pretend to think I have answers here, so those questions are only part rhetorical at worst. With any luck, I've managed to keep away from most assumptions, but I'm not perfect either.

Why isn't this a story again? :trixieshiftright:

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I got the impression that Maud was being bitterly ironic with all of that. Like that spectacular song and dance number someone with SNL did with that racist joke, the one that got Earl Butz fired, about loose shoes.

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Another example that I think is worth considering is "Crusaders of the Lost Mark", specifically the earth pony filly who could lift the whole school building a foot or so off the ground by wedging her head underneath it and lifting and the colt who could carry around large pieces of playground equipment, which the others couldn't move, by picking them up with his teeth. In both cases, they were far too young for training and experience to realistically account for how much stronger they were than anybody else (and, like you mentioned for Applejack, avoid being driven into the ground by the weight). At least to some degree, their strength would have to be innate.

I might also mention that, generally speaking, the few truly gigantic pony characters seen so far, like Troubleshoes and Rockhoof, have also been earth ponies. The sample size is fairly small there, however.

Personally, I think that the issue of perceived imbalance between the pony tribes comes from the focus on fairly extraordinary unicorns in the show. MLP puts a lot of focus on characters lIke Twilight, Starlight, Sunset and Starswirl, so it's tempting to think of their sort of diverse spellcasting as the norm for unicorns, but I really don't think that that's the case. The vast, vast majority of unicorns on the show are never really seen using their magic for much beyond picking up small objects. Even Rarity and Trixie, who have fairly limited magic compared to other prominent unicorns, have shown much more talent and versatility than the majority of unicorn characters. In that sense, I think that unicorn magic provides far less of an advantage than is often assumed -- expecting very rare cases, it provides little more than a hand of sorts. Using Twilight or even Rarity and Trixie to estimate the average unicorn's capabilities seems to me a bit like using Sultan Kösen or André the Giant to estimate the average size of a human.

Headcannon: The essence of earth pony magic is "That which you put your heart and hooves into will prosper."
Celestia puts her heart into making Equestria a prosperous nation.

Unasked question: "So what do you want to accomplish? What would a better society look like?"

I don't think you make society better by reducing everyone to the same common denominator.

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Everyone knows Celestia was an Earth Pony before becoming an alicorn. :trollestia:

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Sure, but the Black man probably needs to do a bit of research first, which right now Starlight and Twilight don't seem to have done.

A person who grew up soley in Japan and never used the internet would probably not the best person to talk about how some food in Austrailia tastes. There's a certain intrinsic experience that unicorns probably never looked into or talked with others about. Plus, Twilight doesn't seem to have even tried seeing if she had "earth" magic.

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…except the show writers. :twilightsheepish:

But notherebecause we don't care about Sunset Shimmer.

pre00.deviantart.net/9f5f/th/pre/i/2015/195/5/a/sad_sunset_shimmer_by_theshadowstone-d9193uc.png

Communists get all the love.

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Another excellent philosophical discussion, and one that leaves me much less discomforted than the previous ones in the series.

I'm working on another one! One that I hope will make you even more uncomfortable.

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Dunno if I've yet seen a fic that ranks ponies along the spectrum of thaum expression, Earth Ponies as most internal, and Unicorns as the most external, with Pegasi in the middle?

I've thought about that before. Something along the lines of Earth Ponies have internal magic they can push skin deep, Pegasi have an aura they can push out to affect a localized area around them, and Unicorns have extremely externalized magic but physically fragile. Earth ponies' general hardiness I figured could excuse a feedback loop that lets them produce more magic in general or something, they just don't have much need to expel it much often.

4884748

Wait... You just reminded me that, in universe, it's never said that her and Cheese Sandwich's party pony stuff, isn't Earth Pony magic...

If the proposed solution for fixing a problem is to get all on the level of the lowest common denominator then its a terrible plan that will end up in the death of millions. What about ponies who dont want their children mutilated? Or themselves in the early stages?

What if the pegasi simply fly away and continue to live in the clouds like Cloudsdale and such (im sure they would have earth pony allies sympathetic to their own cause who would aid them with food and such) and the unicorns would use their magic to defend themselves. Keep non mutilated "equal but more equal" special soldiers?

4884707 I was composing something similar in my head halfway down the blog, thanks for beating me to it.

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4884909 Imagine a story where earth pony hooves glow whenever they are doing anything extraordinary, and the plants/heavy objects also glow, just like unicorn magic. How much of a difference would that make?

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Imagine a story where earth pony hooves glow whenever they are doing anything extraordinary

Now I am imagining Earth Ponies being able to use turbo from NBA Jam.

4885052 Now I'm imagining Space Jam set in FiM instead of Warners Brothers cartoons.

The problem with Earth Ponies is that their magic is generally slow and subtle. You see a unicorn's horn alight, you know she's doing something, or you see a pegasus zooming around the sky . . . but you don't see the plants responding to the light touch of earth pony hooves. You don't see the plants being encouraged to do their very best.

Their magic is different. Their magic is Maud breaking through rocks with her bare hooves, or Pinkie Pie hopping to a cloud on a pogo stick. Their magic is since they can't fly they build a balloon and now anypony can fly, wings or not. Their magic is working from dawn to dusk day after day, toiling at their farms, so that Equestria can eat. They're the foundation that all the other ponies stand upon.

Pegasi might scout the wilderness. They might have seen the land which was to become Ponyville and thought that that was a good place to put a town. But Princess Celestia didn't give the charter to pegasi. She gave it to Earth Ponies, and they went in and they tamed the land and then other ponies moved in to enjoy the benefit of what they did.

It's easy to overlook, especially for an intellectual. Twilight might not understand the similarity between reading books and learning spells and reading the land and knowing what to plant there--it's a different skillset. Unicorns are specialists, Earth Ponies are generalists.

Cynewulf once pointed out in a comment that in a world where good, hard labor was valued, the marks and scars from that would be more attractive, since it's a demonstration of the fitness and reliability of the pony. Chipped hooves, scars from harnesses--those are proof that a pony can work, that she can build something or grow something. All a horn and a clean coat shows is that you can make a glowy light and float things around in the air. Wings just mean that you can fly and push clouds around. But you can't eat clouds. You can't live in a glowy light.

Sure, unicorns and pegasi can probably also do those things. Heck, it's canon that Daisy can levitate sticks, complete with a glowy light.

I think that the biggest mistake in this discussion is considering what the Earth Ponies want. I don't think that Applejack would want a horn or wings. I don't think that Pinkie Pie would . . . well, never mind, I have no idea what she wants. The only Earth Pony I can think of that is proven in canon to at least dream of wings and a horn is Big Mac.

I think that they're happy growing apples or baking treats or teaching foals or selling Zap Apple Jam or selling sofas and quills. I think that they're happy building barns and balloons and airships and delivering foals and helping mentally ill ponies. I think that they enjoy planting flowers and pulling taxis and so forth. And I think that they can more easily pursue those things with the help of unicorns and pegasi, bringing weather and enchanting objects if needed.

I also seem to remember reading something that was rather influential, to me at least, regarding the magic of earth ponies:

“Unicorns have their magic,” the glass blower said quietly. “But theirs is not the only magic in the world.” He carefully fused the hummingbird’s wings to its body. To the azure head he attached a pair of black gems for eyes. Finally, he attached its beak, a tiny sliver of orange glass sharper than a needle. The bird looked ready to take flight -- nearly a thousand tiny feathers had been carved onto its wings.

“This is my magic, Sticks.” He picked up the glass hummingbird in his mouth and set it down beside the flower.

Sticks opened his mouth to congratulate his friend when a tiny flicker of movement stopped him. He blinked and leaned forward to inspect the sculpture more closely.

The glass leaves trembled as he exhaled.

He pulled his head back, startled, and gave the glass blower a questioning glance. His friend simply smiled, and gestured back to the sculpture with his hoof. Clear glass beads, sparkling like morning dew, ran down the stem and dripped onto the workbench with a quiet tinkle. The flower twisted on its vine, petals opening, as it sought the sun.

“How...” His voice trailed off as the hummingbird began to move. Its glass wings flapped stiffly, slowly at first, then so fast they blurred into nothingness. With a quiet click, it lifted from the table and hovered over the flower, drinking from the jewel as though both were alive.

“This is my magic,” the glass blower said again. His friend stared at the living sculpture long into the night.

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Their magic is working from dawn to dusk day after day, toiling at their farms, so that Equestria can eat. They're the foundation that all the other ponies stand upon.

I've written before that earth ponies' special ability is to suffer without complaint.

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It give objective evidence that something flashy is happening, at least, instead of lots of passive kinda/maybe evidence.

This story is interesting because it shows a way you could make the world more fair without making it better.

It raises the question "Why do we want the world to be more fair?" Fairness is good, but if you make it the most important thing, you get the Harrison Bergeron story linked above by TheLastBrunnenG (thank you!). We like fairness because it enables more important things.

So what is the most important virtue? For Christians like me, the answer is "love". Love is big and complicated, but I like M. Scott Peck's definition: Love is "the will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth." In other words, I want people to become better, stronger, healthier, more effective versions of themselves who live up to their full potential. I like fairness for the same reason I like peace: it creates a suitable environment for healthy growth.

Instead of love, I bet Twilight would put friendship as her prime value out of which all others grow. That works too - it's harder to be friends when there's unfairness between you.

Whichever value you hold most dear, it seems clear that Starlight's solution to the Earth Pony Problem is wrong because it advances fairness at the expense of more important things. Maiming ponies in the name of fairness is the opposite of healthy growth, and a fairness that eliminated the interdependent relationship between the three tribes would be bad for friendship too.

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Agreed, humanity has made so many mistakes by only thinking in the now instead of thinking in terms of the impact on the future.

4885124

I've written before that earth ponies' special ability is to suffer without complaint.

That's a talent my manager certainly doesn't have. He spent all day yesterday bitching about how hot it was as he sat in the air-conditioned office. :derpytongue2:

In all honestly, a lot of manual labor does involve suffering, but that's what makes civilization function.

g1g5 #50 · Jun 20th, 2018 · · 1 ·

This blog captures very well the arguments both in favour and against implementation of socialist policies, and socialism in general.

When boiled down to its most basic form, the argument in favour of socialism essentially emphasizes the minimization or elimination of natural or circumstantial advantages in favour of a more equal society. Economic optimization is generally viewed as being subordinate to equality and societal justice.

The argument against rejects equality in its purest form in favour of optimization of societal benefit as a whole (and conversely that enforcing socialist policies would result in "everyone being equally poor").

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