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  • 3 weeks
    Time to Teach

    Clearly I should take a moment to wish you a happy Hearth's Warming Eve before I actually get to the point. May your days be filled with family, friends, and fun, and may they be devoid of frost monsters and the tired political arguments that attract them.

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    1 comments · 16 views
  • 3 weeks
    Thoughts on Feelings

    While I wait for ever-delayed comics, I'd like to talk a bit about something that is at best pretty tangentially related to MLP (and I won't insult you by pretending that the details of such a justification are in any way relevant): it annoys me when people say "That's not love" to dismiss a dysfunctional relationship. It's overly reductive and it obscures the actual problems.

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  • 8 weeks
    Time to Help

    And so we begin what one might reasonably call the last bit of G4.

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    1 comments · 38 views
  • 11 weeks
    On the End: Addendum

    I realized there's another notable moral one could draw from everything that happened with the Elements of Patriotism. It's one you likely won't notice without some thought, a fridge moral if you will; normally I'd say that a moral that takes effort to find is no moral at all, but in this case I feel it's significant enough to break that rule.

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    1 comments · 28 views
  • 12 weeks
    On the End

    Though, like what I said a little over two years ago, that's not exactly true. There's still the Generations comics—people who aren't incessantly complaining about slow shipping already have one of those by now—and of course it's a safe bet that when we get more G5 we'll also get more references to ancient Equestria. But endings are still endings, whether or not they're total.

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On the End · 12:32am Oct 24th, 2021

Though, like what I said a little over two years ago, that's not exactly true. There's still the Generations comics—people who aren't incessantly complaining about slow shipping already have one of those by now—and of course it's a safe bet that when we get more G5 we'll also get more references to ancient Equestria. But endings are still endings, whether or not they're total.

But let's talk about issue #102 before I get too wrapped up in my expectations about what could happen.

I can see a few different morals we could take away from this conclusion.

Twilight of course says the moral is that greatness need not come at the expense of others. A rising tide lifts all boats, as they say, and anyone who knows even a bit of history can tell it'd be ridiculous to claim that the average standard of living must always remain constant and so gains for some must always come at the expense of losses for others. But that's kind of a boring moral; who doesn't already know that?

Perhaps we might say the moral is that friendship is power. Cozy might have been wrong about the details, but she recognized the core concept just fine: unity is strength. It's not a strength that can be fully controlled by an individual as Cozy thought—whether one leads as the one among equals who has the best plan or as the top of a lasting hierarchy, one can only lead so long as the lead consent as a group to be lead—but when many agree on a goal it is a very potent power indeed.

And perhaps we might similarly say the moral is that if alliances are to be blocked then they must be blocked early. If one considers unity to be a threat, then anything that one does about it should be done before that unity is formed. To see an enemy and watch them outstrip one's own power and only then attack is foolishness; it doesn't take a strategic genius to recommend against starting a losing fight. Had the Knights of Harmony responded to the reactivation of the temples as soon as they realized what was happening, they would have only had to face one set of the Element bearers they so fear at a time.

But perhaps the most important moral is that when one goes looking for enemies one will always find them. A hoof extended in friendship may sometimes be rejected, but a hoof raised in war demands reciprocation. It is natural sometimes to fear, but it is unwise to allow one's fears free reign to guarantee their reality.

Come to think of it, I see a strong parallel to the SMBC about patriotism vs. nationalism. In the beginning, the Elements of Patriotism were inspired by their patriotism to spread their blessings that made their kingdom the best one. But after Discord's attack, they grew fearful of the outside world, and their nationalism drove them to take steps to ensure their kingdom would always be the best one by any means necessary.

And of course the whole reaction was based upon flawed logic; Cunabula was attacked due to disharmony, not due to harmony, and had Discord turned his attention to them without them spreading the power of harmony he could just as easily have incited other lands to attack them with a different power (such as innate racial magic or weapons). They act like the symptom was the cause even though they know exactly what the actual cause was.

And on the subject of flawed logic, Danu's assertion that alliances bring war really shows that political theory has atrophied in Cunabula during its isolation. Alliances bring increased strength, both real and perceived, it's true, and a perceived imbalance of strength is generally a factor in wars, it's also true, but the key words are "perceived imbalance." Strength is relative. A state doesn't need allies to be stronger than its neighbors; it only needs its neighbors to not be stronger than it is. And a state doesn't need to be stronger than its neighbors to go to war; it only needs strong enough motives to believe it's stronger coupled with insufficiently strong motives to believe a war would be too costly to be worthwhile. A lack of alliances just means more distinct entities that might have violent disagreements and thus more such disagreements (although, admittedly, it does generally also mean smaller-scale disagreements).

I'll admit that historically it has been a popular misconception that wars can be prevented by keeping everyone else weak and afraid of you, because fear certainly never breeds anger, but there's no shortage of ideas that are made no less stupid by the fact that people used to believe them.

Another general note: we still don't have a clear answer on why the Pillars of Equestria created a Tree of Harmony so strikingly similar to independently created Trees of Harmony in other lands. The best inference I have is that there's something fundamental about harmonic magic that produces crystal trees and that all the trees existed before the Knights of Harmony started bringing them to light and building temples around them, but I'd hardly call that a confident conclusion. For one thing, the transformation of Equestria's tree into the Treehouse of Harmony makes it seem questionable that the form is so inevitable.

Also, I don't really like the implication that Equestria's harmony is special because it was independently discovered, unlike the harmonies of most other lands, since that goes against the general themes of season 10. But of course that implication is unavoidable no matter how you interpret ambiguities.

I feel like Whitley could have done more with the conflict within the Knights of Harmony. Danu's not wrong that there are certain advantages to being able to give the Elements of Patriotism to any member of the population, but there are also distinct disadvantages to giving the Elements to the most powerful individuals with no consideration for whether they can actually work together under stressful situations. There should have been more undermining of Danu's assertion that teams that don't have to like each other are better.

I'd like to emphasize that Danu said that Equestria's evil has haunted his country for too long shortly after admitting that they only noticed Equestria a matter of weeks ago (and the Knights' lack of knowledge about those close to the Elements of Friendship demonstrates they didn't make much of an attempt to collect intelligence during those weeks).

Seriously, it is difficult to respect him, and I don't know why the others still grudgingly allow him to lead.

When you think about it, though, Danu's misconceptions are sad. I don't think he's ever had an actual friend. It seems like he was trained alone from a young age, without time to socialize with his peers, and certainly the Knights of Harmony have made it clear that they're not friends. I don't think he understands that the bonds of harmony that Cunabula fear are anything more than alliances of convenience. I don't think he has any personal experience of not wanting to fight with someone, or of wanting to patch up disagreements as soon as possible, because of liking them.

I don't think he has the context to understand that he's lonely.

And in the end, what did Twilight do with the Knights of Harmony? I fear they will only see their defeat as proof they were right to be afraid, and I feel like sending them home to advocate a larger attack is the second-worst thing Twilight could do, behind not sending them home and leaving Cunabula to guess about the fate that befell their knights.

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Comments ( 1 )

Danu is definitely a tragic figure, not understanding the force he both fears and reveres as the jewel and privilege of his home and his home alone. It's almost like looking at a Warhammer 40K tech-priest. He doesn't actually know how or why loyalty works. All he knows are the superstitions he's been taught... and very impressive terrakinesis. But when he's confronted with the flaws in his philosophy, when he can't simply bulldoze the impetuous outlanders, rather than try to understand the flaws in his reasoning, he throws a tantrum that registers on the Richter scale. He is a child fumbling at the wisdom his people forgot countless generations ago, but he's still a child who can summon earthquakes.

Also, agreed on the concerning ambiguity of what Twilight did with the Cunabulans at the end of the day. Still, she's dealt with enough ancient evils that she probably didn't just let them seal themselves away for Luster Dawn to deal with eventually. Probably. (Maybe she forced them into remedial political theory courses at the School of Friendship!)

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