Communal Conscience

A friend brought this noncontroversy to my attention. The game here mentioned is called Viticulture.

Today’s continent is South America (17 cards, medium level). The core mechanism of the South America continent is that players can leverage people from history who made a big impact on viticulture in that region. The history of winemaking there is as fascinating as it is problematic; therein lies the core story I’ll share today.

. . .

In addition to our diverse oversight, proofreading, and playtesting team, we pay a cultural consultant, Kate Edwards of Geogrify, to review all our products for any unintended harm our games might cause to people of different cultures and backgrounds around the world, and when she noticed two conquistadors among the historical figures selected by Mihir and Francesco, she flagged the following concern for each of them, saying, “His conquest and his treatment of indigenous people has since cast him as more of a villain of history.” Her recommendation in its entirety was, “Be careful to not paint Cortes/Pizarro in too positive of light, as someone who brought wine grapes to the Western Hemisphere. If he did play an instrumental role, try to not emphasize his role too highly.” There was no recommendation to remove the conquistador characters, though in hindsight I should not have needed someone–even an expert–for me to realize this now-obvious solution.

As a result, we included the following text to the first card in the South America continent: “The impact on winemaking by the characters described in this module came at a grave cost to indigenous peoples, and we do not honor the means or methods by which Europeans secured these lands.” Basically, we knew there was a problem, and we implemented what we thought was the right solution to ensure that Viticulture World could accomplish our overall goal of bringing joy to tabletops worldwide (and not causing harm). As it turns out, though, it was definitely the wrong solution.

. . .

Maggie was surprised to see two of the worst conquistadors in history included in Viticulture World, and she was beyond bewildered that the expansion would ask players to partner with such terrible people to gain a winemaking benefit. These conquistadors are among the greatest bullies of the world, and yet they are consistently whitewashed among the annals of history. And now to find them in a beloved game? Maggie was devastated, not just because of her heritage, but because of all the people who will play Viticulture World and see these two terrible people memorialized in it.

Amy and Maggie brought this to my attention, and you can learn more about their response directly from them in the video below. I was heartbroken to learn that Viticulture World caused harm instead of joy to them (and to anyone). Even with the disclaimer included in the South America deck, I knew that we had made a big mistake. Yes, these conquistadors had a large impact on winemaking in South America. But these terrible people don’t deserve to be memorialized in any way in our game, especially not in the context of characters who give players special abilities. They never should have been included, and the recommendation across the board from the diverse team of people who saw the expansion in progress should have been to remove and replace them. Ultimately, I take responsibility for not realizing that the disclaimer wasn’t enough–I should have removed these conquistadors from Viticulture World a long time ago.

For the record, here is the mission statement of the company:

We strive to bring joy to tabletops worldwide through memorable, beautiful, fun games. Our games seek to capture the imaginations of all types of people, as our goal is to build games and communities that include experienced gamers, new gamers, solo gamers, partners, larger groups, people of all ethnicities, genders, creeds, cultures, nations, sexualities, abilities, and ages. Through various content we try to add value to our fellow creators in a way that extends beyond board games by sharing our entrepreneurial successes, mistakes, and insights, as well as our love for a wide variety of games. We also believe in constantly evaluating and improving our creation process to improve the environmental sustainability and accessibility of our games.


The foregoing words are from Jamey Stegmaier of Stegmaier games. The emphasis is in the original, and not meant to mock, at least, not deliberately.

My comment:

Please note that Maggie was devastated (an emotional reaction to which she apparently has a right due to race-privilege of some unspecified sort) and that Mr.  Stegmaier of Stegmaier games was heartbroken to have caused unintentional harm.

I am not making this up. These people are not inmates in an insane asylum. She is not apologizing for being an hysteric. He is apologizing because his disclaimer, ritually cursing the West, was held, in his own mind, to be insufficient.

Apologizing, mind you, not firing the so called cultural consultant for failing so spectacularly to do her job. I make no mention of her failure to act by the minimal standards expected of decent human beings.

Mr.  Stegmaier of Stegmaier games did not meet the demand of demands that can never be met. Quelle surprise.

Watching Mr.  Stegmaier of Stegmaier games attempt (and fail) to negotiate an absurdly simple moral quandary is painful. It is much like trying to watch Captain Hook thread a needle one-handed or watch Long John Silver do an energetic Cossack kick dance.

The man has a crippled conscience. It has been malformed. Hence it cannot tell him right from wrong.

This is what happens without the Church.

Without the Church, one pays a cultural consultant to review one’s products for any unintended harm — that is, harm to one’s honor, reputation, peace of mind or spiritual dignity — one’s games might cause to people of different cultures and backgrounds around the world.

Odd. Because a confessional booth is free of charge, and private. The priest does not even see your face. One need not fund one’s own public humiliation.

And the Ten Commandments are usually on prominent display somewhere in the building, and not prone to sudden and unannounced changes.

This would seem to be the preferable and more logical praxis for approaching alleged moral conundrums.

But this building is being pulled down in the name of liberty and freedom and freethinking.

So why is the thinking less free now than it was a century ago, a decade ago, and a year ago?

When the Revolution pulls down the Church, and all the tablets and scrolls of the law are broken and burned, and each man is free as a bird, free as the wind, free as a ghost, to remake good and evil in his own image as he sees fit.

Freedom does not eventuate from the arson of the law, but anarchy and tyranny.

What happens when wondrous freedom gushes like blood running in street gutters, and the lofty goals of child-buggery or self-castration are untrammeled, unchecked by churchmen who peep and mutter, is not a era of peace and self-expression, not the Age of Aquarius as promised.

What happens is not liberty, equality, fraternity. Instead, what happens is first the terror, then Napoleon.

What happens is not that the conscience sleeps, and all things are permitted to all men.

What happens is that the conscience starts malfunctioning, giving off false signals, showing normal behaviors as immoral, and immoral abnormalities as moral.

Man is a rational animal, for better or worse, and he cannot live without ordering his inner moral world.

If Man cannot order his moral world in an orderly fashion, he will order it, so to speak, in a progressively disordered fashion.

Without the Church, morality is individual, not communal, and rapidly devolves to the atomistic, isolated, and hermetic.

On the atomistic level, when one does not know right from wrong, one never takes a stand, never has a flag ’round which to rally, never has a principle from which not a foot will stir an inch. Atomistic morality has no non-negotiable principles.

Instead, one’s desire to avoid unpleasantness becomes the non-negotiable principle. Nonjudgmentalism becomes the order of the day. Having no priorities becomes the highest priority.

There is but one moral rule in the world without rules: the sole good is calling evil good. The sole evil is calling evil evil.

Likewise, in the world without logic, the one axiom is saying A is not A. The sole fallacy is saying A is A.

In the multicultural culture, every culture and way of life is accepted and welcomed — except the Spanish.

Their noble history of conquest, erecting an Empire larger and finer than ever Rome dreamed, across oceans to a far hemisphere and a new world — well, no, not their culture.

The cannibal mass-murderer human sacrificial slavekeeping devil-worshippers of South America lost the war, and so are the victims hence pure as new-fallen snow, whereas the Spaniards, outnumbered, outmanned, isolated, and against impossible odds won the war, and so they are the villains beyond redemption and beneath mention.

The Spaniards baptized the idolaters and freed the Aztec slave-tribes in Central America, intermarried, and taught them literacy, and brought the benefits of rule of law, international trade, and suchlike. Abuses? Evil? To be sure. Less abusive than what they replaced? Far less.

The numbers slain by Aztecs in their eighty year reign are roughly equal to those slain by Nazis in one tenth of that time. On the one hand, the Aztecs did not have the benefits of modern rail lines, bureaucratic organization, and industrial-scale death camps; on the other, the Nazis were not high on psychedelic drugs while feasting on the flesh of war-captives and children.

Yet our current moral chaos makes the Nazis into the sole by-word we have for evil, whereas the Aztecs have been retroactively sanctified, blessed, and adored as faultless, so much so that their bold conquerors cannot be named by name, no, not even in a board game.

(Odd, because the card game Credo, put out by Chaosium games, requires each player to support and say a particular heresy of the faith. The game portrays the selection of elements in the Nicene Creed to be arbitrary or political. The delicacy of removing all elements which may offend theoretical hyper-sensitive hysterics does not extend to Bible-thumpers.)

The Spanish are so white, er, I mean, so evil, that all their contributions to society, including something as uncontroversial as wine-making, must be examined by the thought police, and sent to Minitru to be airbrushed out of all public records.

Well, no. It is clearly not their evil that is at issue. It is their whiteness.

Except that, when convenient, the Spaniards are not white. Likewise for Jews. Race-hatred for whites is not optional, but mandatory. Race membership  depends on the quarter whence blows the fickle wind. Consult your weathervane.

Nonjudgmentalism of course cannot be a basis for a system of priorities nor establish a precedent for what to do and not to do.

With apologies to my Protestant friends, nonjudgmentalism is most like having everyone interpret the Bible for himself. When that happens, the most literal and most simple explanation is incentivized to be spread, and common ground between interpretations is disincentivized. The parties cannot agree on terms for orderly discussion. No neutral arbiter can arise. Each man is his own judge in his own case.

When applied to interpretation of moral rules, the simplest and most literal moral rules incentivized to be spread are kindergarten rules, something that can be taught to a five-year-old of below-average intellect, such as, for example, “be nice” or “no hitting” or “clean up after yourself.”

Indeed, there are best selling books circulating among modern thinkers proclaiming just that: everything one needs to know is learned in kindergarten.

The problem is that, without the Church, there is no kindergarten teacher, not even Big Bird or other helpful Muppet, to guide the retarded and childish conscience of otherwise grown and intelligent men.

Flattery takes the place of the Father Confessor as moral guide, and a headless mob, eager to be flattered, takes the place of sage or priest or prophet or wise old granny.

Moral flattery consists of pharisaism, which is a type of moral fetishism. A fetish substitutes an idol or image for an object. In a sexual fetish, a female shoe or corset or somesuch is the object of lust rather than the woman wearing it. In a moral fetish, the real duties of morality are ignored.

Being a martyr is painful, after all, and may get you killed.

In its place come cheap outward shows of morality, shining like a polished sepulcher, designed to win praise.

Show include such things as praying in public; or tithing your mint, dill, and cumin; or fasting ostentatiously; blowing a trumpet before giving to alms; making an elaborate show of taking a vow to heaven rather than merely saying “yea” or “nay.”

Ah, but if you are unfamiliar with these spiritual and ascetic practices, you may have heard of their modern variations: Instead of tithing your money to the poor, support socialism, which bestows alms from purses and coffers other than your own.

Instead of fasting during fasting days, pursue vegetarianism, preferably eschewing eggs and milk as well.

Or purchasing an expensive electric-powered motorcar will do as well, since then you actually contribute toward the greater production of so called greenhouse gasses (since the car battery is recharged from an coal-powered electric grid).

Or insisting on mask mandates during flu season, particularly for small children, who are not at risk, and on airplanes, whose air is already filtered.

The important point is to have a ceremonial gesture that is visible to others, but that is costless and pointless, if not positively counterproductive to the announced goal it allegedly serves: eco-nut measures that degrade the environment, medical practices that spread disease, socialist prosperity schemes that create want and penury, misery and famine.

Instead of praying or making elaborate public vows to wow onlookers with your moral purity, accuse the impure of witchcraft or badthink or facecrime, and burn them as scapegoats.

Since there are no standards, the accusation itself is the sole criterion of judgment. It is unimaginable to the moral cripple to doubt the sincerity of any accuser. The accuser is always right.

And the accused is never allowed any defense. Pleading not guilty is a confession of guilt, if not a blasphemy against one’s accuser, who, by definition, cannot be wrong.

No defense means no mitigation. The accused cannot be wrong on one issue and right on the other. If the statue has feet of clay, he cannot have a head of gold. No fine characteristic can appear anywhere in his character. It would be like calling a Nazi soldier brave, or saying a witch were a good cook and liked small woodland animals.

Admitting a bad man to possess any good requires an ability to make discriminating moral judgments, and that is the one thing banished as thought-crime in the nonjudgmental era. To think is thought-crime. All judgment is discrimination.

The only way always to avoid discrimination is to accuse and accuse and accuse without any concern for innocence or guilt. Indeed, best to avoid accusing the guilty, because they one may accidently be voicing a correct judgment, and we dare no allow that.

If there are no standards, one never asks whether the offended party has a right to be offended. Each man sets his own standard for what offends him, and since he gains moral authority, and becomes his own private Pope sitting Ex Cathedra on all matters of morals and mores when he is offended, he is greatly rewarded for becoming as offended as possible whenever possible, or even when impossible.

Hypocrisy is a feature, not a bug, when one lives in a whirling moral chaos where moral authority is claimed by whomever has the thinnest skin, least manhood,  loudest voice, bloodiest hands.

To be accused is to be guilty, and to be guilty of one crime is to be guilty of all crimes.

In this example, for instance, a Conquistador cannot be acknowledged as having introduced vine-dressing to the Americas.

So in a world without the Church, morality is privatized, and no longer serves a communal role.

Hence the community is not agreed on priorities, virtues, values, reality.

Every motorist erects his own individual traffic lights to suit himself, in whatever colors he wants, and the lights give false signals, telling oncoming traffic to stop when it is safe, and to go when it is dangerous.

So people get wrecked.