War, Morals, Ethics and Ramifications.

 

This is honestly provoked by me getting explosively agitated on a stuffy Manchester bus ride back (will you believe people have sunburned in Manchester already over the weekend? As in—pink lobster levels?) and the exclusion criteria to this post…oh, for goodness’ sake, you know who you are.

NB: I suffered through whole episodes of ‘The 100’ to understand Luna’s character, motivations, background and moral/ethical stance to make this goddamn post—and I think that either requires a.) a liver pump; b.) hospitalisation or c.) someone needs to set up a fundraiser for me because I think it’s going to cause prolonged mortal damage to my brain. “Stop being so dramatic, Nico” you may whine; then good madam or sir, I will counteract you with “I sat through them in succession and then ran out of beer and munchies.”

Firstly, I want to note that whoever the actress for Luna is—I commend you and this is purely character-based, not at the actress. Secondly, okay—I started off a little light-naturedly but if you aren’t interested in the history of warfare, morality or ethics, that is completely understandable and this may not be the essay-of-sorts for you.

As I stated quite blindly in my previous post, pacifism does not equal commandership, thus rending Luna very unsuitable for the seat (I am still ignoring Ontari, and that ‘plot’). Upon watching (I ran out of Bud at about twenty minutes of the first episode, so please bear my frustrations) the episodes, I cannot stand by that stance firmer. From an utterly impartial standpoint, and I think I can claim this because I wish to approach this as an ethics write-up, or an analysis of two very polar opposites. I don’t want to mix in character favouritism into what should be quite a fact-based essay. I physically cannot bear the thought of rewinding those videos and making gifs, so this will be a giant wall of text—an essay of sorts.

LUNA AS THE COMMANDER

Here are the facts I have about Luna:

  • She is a recluse. She lives on an oil rig, far away from the roaring troubles of the earth and Polis.
  • She is the last Nightblood apart from Ontari, which makes her suitable for this…chip.
  • Did Lincoln just go “see ya later, Luna!” and leave this goddamn massive oil-rig to become Trikru or what? How on earth did he—did he swim?
  • She is labelled (self-labelled? Okay, I couldn’t remember at this point) a pacifist—which is true. She states at some point that she did not want any more killing.
  • She is good with children and teaching; there was a brief scene of her interacting with the kids and teaching them about the fishing nets. She seems patient and willing to impart her knowledge to those.
  • She is selective in those she chooses to protect. Everyone on her oil-rig seems to be silently approved by her; thus she is well-loved and seemingly popular. Yet to strangers, she is initially (and sustains it, I think…I can’t remember…) hostile—she is not kind to Clarke, Octavia and whoever else went.
  • She’s paranoid. This is evident in the way they have to light a signal just to get Luna’s attention. The fact that she then sends these huge bulky Grounders to greet Clarke & co, and then sedates them to the point of unconsciousness so nobody knows how they got to that oil-rig (I don’t know if this is a mystery; if they got there by drones or if the writers just don’t know…) except for her trusted warriors.

As I’ve said before, I’ve already explained why I don’t think pacifism is fit for leadership. I think anybody with common sense, looking upon the messy world of ‘The 100’, would already have known that regardless. Pacifism does not, by definition, mean that you are calling for peace. Pacifism means that you already stand by ideals in which you do not wish to engage in violence. One thing that will befuddle me even more (though I really need to stop getting irritated by this show—I’ll be on anti-hypertensives soon…I’m 22) is the fact that Luna didn’t adopt this very strong ethical standpoint when she had to kill her brother during the Conclave. I think there’s a line, actually, that says she was ‘forced’ to kill her brother. What is this? Did somebody put a gun to her head and say “if you don’t spear your brother through the chest* we will kill both of you”?

*Of course, there was no magical seaweed available at the time to cure such spear-to-the-chest injuries.

Another thing: if this Grounder tradition is literally killing off all Nightbloods apart from one (in which Clarke, I believe, in the narrative, has already ridiculed) then why did she kill her own brother? I don’t presume that someone goes from warrior to utter pacifist with one kill, despite it being Luna’s brother. If she knew Lexa was facing her in the second round in advance, did she not know her brother would face her? Could they not have run away together? Could there not have been a spark in Luna’s brain that went: “hey, let’s run away together and become pacif—nope, I’ll just kill you first and then I’m going to declare pacifism”.

The three pillars of being ‘heda’: wisdom, compassion and strength. I think Luna may be missing the first.

Well, Lexa and Ontari are subjecting these innocent Nightbloods to Battle Royale, and if you installed Luna as the commander, this would never have happened. I would first like to point out that Luna engaged in this ritual. The Nightblood Hunger Games (which is such a stupid biological principle) is not a tradition designed by Lexa nor Ontari. It is a tradition that they have grown up with. As cultures and traditions evolve, so do rituals—and this is one of them. It may seem savage to us, as we mostly sit behind our computer screens in relative peace, free of such horrors—but that’s how they survived. The belief that the strongest or indeed the most proficient in battle is not something that is historically invalid. If you look at the Romans and their gladiators, I would argue that that’s barbarianism—but I cannot invalidate their absolute genius in the towns they built, the lands they conquered, the technologies they invented that were hundreds of years beyond their own. I will rant at you about under-floor Roman heating for an entire fifty pages, but I think you’ll all ditch me. In my opinion, and here is where subjectivity comes into play I guess, the Roman Empire was quite possibly the greatest there has ever been, in existence. It was wondrous. It gave us inventions and philosophers and stories and physicians and it was bloody and vicious and absolutely fascinating.

There is a point to my seemingly off-topic rambling. In every culture that is built from rubble, there will always be something that is seen as ‘savage’ or ‘barbarian’ by the onlooker. It’s all about perspective. If I looked at the Grounder traditions of the Nightblood ritual, I would think it savage and stupid; if I looked at their reincarnation beliefs, I simply do not agree; if I looked at their trial by a thousand cuts or whatever, I would also think it’s very brutal. But that’s me, sitting at a cushy chair, at university, as a twenty-two year old who’s never faced the apocalypse. I have never had to adapt to a society that has already fallen around me. So who am I to judge the years of spiritualism and beliefs the Grounders have built for themselves? Most specifically: the Nightblood ritual. Yes, it’s genetically idiotic. But most importantly, Lexa nor Ontari created this ritual. It was an established tradition—and one that Luna took part in. If Luna assumed commandership, pacifism does not dictate whether she would rid of this ritual or not—because it’s Grounder tradition. Just look at the uproar Lexa incited with ‘blood must not have blood’. If Luna eradicated this ritual, they’d have to find a new Nightblood ruddy quick.

If Luna had been the commander, there would’ve been no Grounders sent to attack the dropship, no Grounders at war at Mount Weather, etc. I’m going to go by the show’s timeline(?) here and assume that Luna would’ve been installed instead of Lexa. I think I’ve already argued this point in my previous post. Lexa assumed commandership in the midst of a civil war. I imagine that would be a pacifist’s worst nightmare. Civil wars rip through societies like a hurricane tears through towns and cities; it’s tragic, destructive and it does not spare the innocent. At this point I wish to state that I don’t believe Lexa is a pacifist; I do believe she’s a peacemaker and I believe she strives for peace, but that doesn’t make her a pacifist. For Luna’s case, I ask: how, in abiding to strict pacifist principles as people seem so fond of doing—do you solve a problem like Maria a civil war? Think of the size of the twelve clans here. Think of the Ice Nation. Think of Costia’s decapitated head. Of Nia. I don’t think some pacifist summits at The 100’s version of the G8 with some kumbaya over the fire and grilled fish will solve a civil war.

Wars (especially not this brutal-sounding civil war) are not won by actively preaching pacifist ideals. You can state you are a pacifist with such ideals—but if you engage in war you are, by all means and facts, not engaging in pacifist ideals. If you blow up a village to save fifty billion lives elsewhere, that’s cool for you, but you still killed people—and thus you are not a pacifist. To be frank—I don’t think I can be any more frank—you cannot win wars without engaging in them. You cannot achieve peace—and I have already said this—without, paradoxically, war. Negotiations can be made, yes, and I do believe that in the process of uniting twelve clans under a coalition, Lexa made such negotiations—rather than seizing every chunk of territory by besieging them. But I believe there’s a tweet from Jason Rothenberg somewhere in the depths of his enthralling social media that states that the civil wars were bloody. And on this point, I would have to agree.

Being a pacifist and having such ideals does not make you a good person. It simply means you do not wish to kill anyone. With Luna’s clear lack of foresight (or the show’s just dumb—I actually think it may be the latter) she is not fight for commandership. I have no comment re: wisdom. She has shown strength. She has shown compassion…selectively, to the people she trusts and loves. And that’s another problem: if you’re going to set out for peace, you are surely looking to do what Lexa did: propose a coalition. How do you propose a coalition if you are not open-minded enough to trust? To take those risks, like Lexa took with the Skaikru? Some paid off—Clarke was a brilliant ally to have; some didn’t—Pike is an absolute monster. But seeing the skitterishness and sheer apprehension and immediate distrust Luna placed Clarke & co under, I’m not entirely convinced that she is charismatic enough to hold negotiations and wind up with a coalition. I’m not at all convinced that she has the foresight to see that the coalition does not just mean twelve-clan-wide peace; it also means extended growth of the society, open trade routes and pooled resources among many others. A ‘pacifist’ is a very easy word to throw around, and a very easy word to believe in that makes you think “darn, that pacifist is a good person!” but it’s not. It’s a moral and ethical standpoint. And in The 100 world, pacifism will eat you up alive.

 

ONTARI AS THE COMMANDER

Dude, this girl took the chip. She’s hideously insecure and she massacred a bunch of sleeping, child Nightbloods. Next.

 

LEXA AS THE COMMANDER

Here are the facts we know about Lexa:

  • She was trained to be a warrior since she was two years old
  • Shortly after establishing herself as the commander, she forged a coalition across all twelve clans—even after the Ice Queen cut off her love’s head
  • She’s not a pacifist—she’s a skilled warrior, unafraid to fight on the front lines.
  • Though Clarke had killed 300 of her Grounders, Lexa was willing to listen to her negotiations
  • She was due to face Luna in the second round of the Conclave, in which Luna clearly thought she would’ve won, as she stated something like “I would’ve won” (okay, can you tell I don’t pay much attention?)
  • Tropetropetropetropetropetropetropetropetrope
  • She is well-loved by her people; it’s evident in the reception she gets from the single combat scene in episode four.
  • She’s a good teacher: she regularly teaches her Nightbloods, and reminds them they are all ‘worthy’ of their Nightblood status. She reinforces the three pillars of being ‘heda’: wisdom, compassion and strength. She regularly trains in combat with them in preparation for the ritual.
  • She’s highly spiritual, and believes in the whole reincarnation stuff.
  • She’s dead (hence this whole BS ‘plot’ I suppose).

Going by what I’ve seen on the show, I will put it here now: Lexa was simply the better candidate for ‘heda’. She was not a pacifist like Luna, but that’s because she was intelligent enough to know that if you’re going to sit by pacifist ideals from the beginning of your reign, you will die at the beginning of your reign. Lexa was a fighter: she accepted responsibility and burden, instead of running away from it like Luna did. This responsibility was her people. Her people did not stretch out to just her army: they stretched out to every civilian under the twelve-clan coalition—which she forged, at a very personal cost.

Altruism, simplistically, is the standpoint where you put the needs of others—or perhaps the betterment of others—ahead of your own. Utilitarianism is often associated with the ‘end justifies the means’—as in, if you sacrifice [X] now, it will pay off later because you will have reached your ‘means’. This was most notably demonstrated in the Tondc missile episode, in which Lexa had moments to decide between sacrificing 250 people in the village or keeping Bellamy alive. In saving the 250 people, it would’ve been the morally right thing to do: life-saving’s always a good check in my book. But it would’ve alerted the missile-spotter from Mount Weather, and Mount Weather would realise that Lexa knew about the missile about to hit Tondc (why else would you randomly evacuate a village to a distance as far as possible, when you were about to hold a summit there?) and report this back to Mount Weather. Mount Weather would’ve increased and squeezed the search for Bellamy until someone ratted him out or discovered him, thus devaluing his job as the inside-man. The acid fog would never have been turned off at the Grounders would have been back at step one: unable to breach the border of the acid fog’s reach.

This is the scenario Clarke fought so ferociously for in that episode. Still a little fresh-faced in terms of war, and perhaps a nice set-up for a bit of an egalitarian, somewhat deontological clash (that is—every step towards the means must be moral and just) versus Lexa’s values. Yet Lexa had the foresight to know what this meant, and know of the consequences. In the end, she was right. Bellamy remained hidden and alive because of her decision, and he in turn later deactivates the acid fog.

But the betrayal was so cruel and [yadayada]. I absolutely, 100% agree with you. The betrayal Lexa carried out in episode fifteen was cold and sudden—like a stray bullet from nowhere (sorry). So yes, I agree—on the surface.

If we did a little digging and thought of why Lexa betrayed Clarke, that’s where things get a little messier. Clarke’s Skaikru were not officially initiated into the coalition until season three; up until the end of season two, the coalition consisted of twelve clans, and the Skaikru were saved from impending doom and wipeout due to Clarke’s negotiations with Lexa and Finn willingly giving himself up to the Grounders to face punishment for the massacre he carried out. I’ll refer back to what I said earlier: Lexa is somewhat, if not mostly, an altruist—she repeatedly sacrifices her own chance at happiness for the sake of her people’s, and that is a duty she carries not with some teen angst, but with honour. If you took fan favouritism out of the picture and anonymised everything…if you were a commander of an thousands-strong army, would you sacrifice their lives, upon seeing Mount Weather’s range of guns and knowing they have missiles pointed at your villages, possibly causing the loss of hundreds of more lives—for the sake of 40-something Skaikru stuck inside the Mountain, but mostly, the woman you fell in love with?

A weaker being would say yes. A weaker being would fight with Clarke and stand her ground, watching as her grounder army would undoubtedly storm the Mountain—but at what cost? The Mountain Men had a lot of guns (some weapons expert is going to have to explain this part) and the grounders would’ve suffered huge losses. From Lexa’s perspective, that is already too much. In season three, after the 300-grounder genocide (don’t…even…) a quote sticks in mind, and it comes from one of the young Nightbloods—that the commander feels every death of her people. It’s evident from the look on Lexa’s face in 3×05 (I wonder if the murderers can feel the death of all 300…) Just from hypothetically standing her ground and fighting the Mountain Men, Lexa would’ve been hit with huge losses. Moving farther from that, each grounder would’ve had circles of close friends, families, lovers—how would it affect them? What about the missiles pointed at the village? What about the hundreds of lives lost there, if Lexa stood by Clarke?

As really shown to us in the Tondc episode, Lexa is somewhat of a utilitarian. And so she would’ve thought of these scenarios. She would’ve thought of the skewed numbers; the families and friends; the villages; the fact that once the grounders realised they’d suffered such substantial losses for a bunch of Sky people who weren’t even part of the coalition, they’d rebel. It’s uproarious to think Lexa would even have to consider that choice, of standing by Clarke—because in a war scenario, it doesn’t make sense. Even in season three, Nia managed to stage an entire coup against Lexa because of ‘wanheda’. In season three, the clans are uncertain and mistrusting of introducing Skaikru as the thirteenth clan.

To go back to Grounder tradition, that’s just how things are! Strength is a commodity—it’s proven in the belief that if you kill the wanheda, you assume her power (okay, why haven’t there been ten billion assassination attempts on Lexa’s life already? Aside from Titus’). To stand by her ~true love’s side~ at the Mountain would’ve been weakness. And Lincoln had already told Kane that a commander could be deposed if seen exhibiting such.

Lexa’s such a tyrant—she literally took all the clans and [dalskdjksf]. Firstly, I would most wholeheartedly disagree with you and advise you look up what a tyrant actually means. A tyrant would be Pike. A tyrant would be Ontari (a shit one, but a tyrant); a tyrant would be Nia. Lexa, who herself installed the ‘vote of no confidence’ as established in 3×04, installed democracy herself. I don’t know about you but that does not sound like tyranny to me. Lexa’s advised by Titus; she liaised with clan leaders to form the coalition; she literally fell in love with the girl who dropped out the sky, set 300 of her grounders on fire, had a part in the other 250 killed, and still invited her to join the coalition formally.

Lexa kept Clarke a prisoner at Polis. Now I don’t wish to expand on this too much because it takes away the impartiality of this piece (I suppose there was never any in the first place, seeing as this show is a dump) but first of all, Clarke’s plushy room in Polis is way bigger than any bedroom I’d ever hope to sleep in. It’s bigger than hers at Arkadia. I also don’t see any chains or cages or restrictions in sight. I also saw an episode called ‘Thirteen’ in which Lexa literally—literally, verbally—acknowledged that Clarke had rebuffed her offer of staying in Polis to go back to her people, and accepted (literally!!!!!!!!!!!) this. Disappointed, she still understood, and she was willing to let Clarke go. Jeez, Guantanamo Bay’s changed a lot….

Lexa’s not a pacifist—so [is it that she’s not a better person? I haven’t even…] As stated above, being a pacifist does not make you a good person. What even does? It’s a very subjective topic and one for another discussion another time (like, holy cripes, I have ranted). I won’t reinforce the points I’ve already made: that pacifism wouldn’t have created the coalition/won the civil war; that pacifism is not possible in the position of leadership. One thing I didn’t touch on was the ability of Lexa’s to make peace. It was clear from the creation of the coalition that her end-goal was to strive for a future that was peaceful. Her speech in episode [whatever one Emerson was in] was this:

Silence! The crimes of the Mountain cannot be answered by one man. Wanheda knows this. Her actions show us a promise for a new future. A world in which violence does not always answer violence. A world in which our children can flourish. Without the shadow of death. This prisoner is banished from my land. He will live but he will live with the ghosts of those he has lost. Haunted until the end of his days by the knowledge that he is the last of his kind.

I’m kind of dumbfounded reading that speech myself because if people cannot grasp that Lexa was obviously aiming to revolutionise Grounder society as we knew it, in a positive and difficult way in order to achieve some sort of peace—then I really cannot reason with that.

Luna is the true ‘blood must not have blood’; she’s a pacifist—oh for goodness’ sake.

This isn’t as much an opinion piece as it is a piece explaining why certain ethical principles do not fit the ideal jigsaw of The 100 world, and why pacifism as a word cannot be thrown around to be meant as ‘good’. If I erased all names, would you rather—I’m literally shunting Ontari out of this—someone who ran away from grounder tradition to live on an oil rig, who selectively chooses who to favour, who is paranoid and who refuses to accept the responsibility and burden that is becoming the commander…or would you rather someone who was intelligent enough to make egalitarian decisions in the midst of a war (I’d like to make a point that simply being a pacifist doesn’t just end the war that surrounds you, jeez, what kind of City of Light world are you in?) for the altruistic belief in the betterment of her people?

“Maybe there are no good guys”—isn’t that a phrase ‘The 100’ likes to use a lot? So why is Lorde Luna the purest of the pure because she’s a pacifist? Because she holds one ethical stance? Is that honestly what makes a good person? A good commander? (Well, it still ranks her above Ontari, but I’m going to get profane here if we discuss Ontari).

I can’t even find an emoji that describes the look on my face right now.

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