The 100 Season 3: Communism versus Fascism versus the Individual
The moral case for rejecting centralized control and focusing on the individual.
What makes for a good leader?
What are the qualities that a leader must have to properly lead? Should they be directed towards a specific goal? Or the general well being of everyone for whom they're in a leadership position for? Could it be a combination of both or is that a foolish idea? These are the things at the heart of the question of proper leadership and how to evaluate exactly how well they do. Although how to evaluate these aspects of leadership is up for debate. Not to mention, it's hard to say that anyone would actually choose one over the other. So instead people choose both, or different aspects of each. They then evaluate how good a leader is doing based on those aspects.
Previously in this space, we've looked at why rules exist as well as how to negotiate between different sets of rules within conflicting visions of what makes sense for those living under different rules. One of the persistent requirements of this is the necessity of having a leader who can do those negotiations. Someone who can advocate on behalf of the ones they lead and get the best outcomes for them at least, if not all those involved. We also looked at the idea of appointing a neutral person who won't necessarily benefit from going one way or another, or will benefit from all of them getting the most out of any deal.
We've seen a number of different types of leaders within The 100 so far. Kane began as a much more authoritarian, survival at any cost kind of leader before learning to compromise and consider a better way. He found this way in part through Jaha who is his direct superior and in some ways a mentor, who taught him the value of compromise and balance to which he subscribes wholeheartedly. Jaha clearly isn't on board with a purely survival oriented leadership. On the other hand, he wasn't completely on board with Abby's belief in the need to prioritize moral rightness over everything else. Abby is a big believer in making sure that the morality of decisions regardless of the consequences is paramount.
Similarly, these leaders have their mirror images in characters like Clarke, Bellamy and Lexa. Each of them show the downsides of people adhering to these ideas. Where Abby succeeds in her argument for morals over survival, Clarke fails to make the same case. As Kane will fail to make the case for survival, Bellamy will succeed. The same holds true for Jaha and Lexa. They all have flaws in their leadership style. Whether it's Lexa's adherence to tradition, or Jaha's view that getting out is the best way to ensure his people's survival, or even Abby with her need to stick to her principles. It's hard to say that any of them have the one single solution to everyone's problems.
So the question then is what kind of leader do you need to be in order to do the best for everyone? If your goal is to get as much benefit for everyone as humanly possible, it's important to figure out how you go about doing that. You need to know how far to go in order to achieve the needs of everyone. It's hard to know exactly where the line is and sometimes people go way too far in order to get there. They cross that line in favour of the greater good they see as their ultimate goal. Which is where the ideas of communism and fascism come into play.
They are perhaps the most persistent and destructive forms of trying to achieve the best for everyone. What they want is their end goal to come to pass. For them it's only a question of what is the most efficient and easiest way to go about it. All other considerations are secondary to that end goal. Because what happens in the end will be a perfect society where everyone is safe and happy and needs for nothing. In the meantime however, some people are going to have to suffer so they can get there. An ideal scenario would be to minimize the number of people who suffer, but that's not always what ends up happening. Usually, it requires a huge amount of those living under the system to get there.
Obviously, the best way to get there is to find someone or a group of people who are not willing to go along with the plan. They are standing in the way of the ultimate goal. It's easy to give people a direction to focus the fact that they are not yet at the great place the leader wants everyone to live under. People who are focused on those who are preventing a perfect system aren't as likely to blame those in charge for the circumstances they find themselves in. The lack of access to the basic needs everyone has. All of it is because of those bad people who are trying to undermine the perfect system don't go along with what they are told.
And people go along with it. Mainly because everything looks insufficient and painful compared to a potential utopia.
Where communism and fascism differ is in how they achieve this goal. Fascism prioritizes a single individual to make all the decisions throughout society. Someone who isn't subject to the whims and desires of individual people or small groups. They know what needs to be done and everything is marshalled towards that singular end. No discussion or consideration of alternatives. Only what they think will make the whole world a better place. Anyone who questions that goal is to be eliminated.
“If something helps you survive, it's always the right thing.”
Pike exemplifies this brilliantly. He has an idea about what's wrong with the world and it is paramount to who he is and how he acts in the world. It's something that he's able to rally people to in his view that the Grounders are fundamentally a threat to him and the Arkers. People see the way he operates and see the benefits of doing things like striking first. Eliminating a threat before it becomes one and using that to secure their place in the world. His single minded approach gives him a lot of power, eventually making him Chancellor and allowing him to marshal the resources of his people towards his singular goal. But in doing so, he leaves himself open to threats from within.
Communism on the other hand employs a general view of how humanity will operate. While it does require someone to be in charge and to try and implement it, the point is to get everyone on board with the ultimate goal. To get people to change from one way of viewing the world to another. Through this process, in theory, everyone will want the same thing and believe the same thing. That way everyone will achieve the same thing. It's a collective effort. All those who are working towards that goal are part of that effort, those who don't are undermining it. Whether or not you are doing it intentionally or accidentally, any decision which isn't maximizing the group effort at the expense of the individual, must be against such a system.
Allie is a perfect example of this. Her whole purpose is to, on some level, create better human beings. To make the people who join her in the City of Light better by removing things like pain, physical or mental. She fixes their problems and in return they give her their loyalty. They do what she asks without question or concern for their own well being or the well being of others.
“You don't ease pain, you overcome it.”
Both see their fundamental goal as trying to maximize the benefit of an entire group. What happens to the individual is secondary under such thinking. Of course the problem with thinking in such terms is that the individual can't think that way. They can't give up the ability to eat or to feel safe or whatever else drives them in order to benefit the collective good. Doing so would be requiring them to suffer and quite likely die for others. It's extremely rare to find anyone who might be willing to do that. And there certainly won't be enough of them to get to the potentially perfect place they want.
People will always prioritize their own well being over the well being of a group. It's an unfortunate reality which world views like communism and fascism simply refuse to recognize. Only force will get any small part of this type of system done. So of course they're always going to fail. The only real question is how many people will have to die in order to recognize the failure of these systems. Sadly, in every case, the answer to that question is way too many.
“The goal isn't everything. How you reach the goal matters too.”
Clarke and her opposition to both systems for different reasons is an incredibly powerful example of this. She sees the flaws in both and can't allow either to gain ultimate dominance. For precisely the reasons outlined above. Prioritizing the needs of the group over the needs of the individual will only lead to suffering and death. There can be no other outcome. So she works to dismantle them both either by removing Pike as he works towards his single minded destruction of a threat from the Grounders. Then also through breaking the bond of Allie's collective subjugation to her ideal.
How to go about doing that is far from easy. Bringing it down requires them to live outside both systems. Both with powerful motivations to stop them, and massive amounts of resources at their disposal. Something which limits any opportunity for Clarke and her small team to make any gains. They end up having more and more failures while those dedicated to Pike and Allie continue to find success in rallying people to their cause.
What becomes clear though is that despite all the resources being against the individual, they continue to be a thorn in these supposedly perfect systems. Despite only being one person, or a small group of individuals, Clarke, Bellamy, Octavia and the others create problems. People have followed them through incredibly powerful experiences. They've seen how Clarke has overcome forces more powerful opposition. It makes their loyalty questionable. And because Pike and Allie can't afford to allow outsiders come in and have their own ideas. Or believe in their own agency. That is counter to the whole concept of what they are.
A totalising view of the world can't allow for alternatives. For different ways of thinking that might create a better way of doing things. Because with communism and fascism, they've already found the solution to everyone's problems. They know the right outcome to achieve. If you give them something that doesn't fit in, the only option is to destroy them.
But like the collective efforts of fascism and communism prioritizes the group over the individual because they can't be any other way, so too the individual can't be anything other than what they are. So they persist. And in doing so, they force Pike and Allie to admit their own failure. That their end goal can only really end one way. They bring down each, despite a complete lack of all the things which makes the collective ideal supposedly work.
“What do you do when you realize, you might not be the good guy?”
“Maybe there are no good guys.”
If a collective outlook can't lead to a better solution, then what will?
A system built around the idea of the individual. Around the idea of what is most important to the individual must be the focus of any society dedicated to the common good. Empowering the individual must ultimately lead to better outcomes.
But we'll look at that in more detail when we get to season 4, which you can check out early if you want.
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