Monday, October 20, 2008

Speculative exobiology.

I can't claim to be an expert on Icelanders, Icelandic culture, or anything Iceland really, as I've only paid a couple visits to Reykjavik, and have no more than a remote familiarity with the country's history or social reality.
This being the internets, my cluelessness certainly won't stop me from voicing my opinion on Icelandic matters however, since the handling of the current financial crisis by Iceland's banking and governmental authorities connected at high velocity with other proto-Icelandic stuff while under the shower this morning.

The resulting sparks reached my slowly awakening brain, to provide me with — maybe not an opinion — at least a hunch about the nature of Icelandic ethics — or lack thereof.

He has a mike ! take him down !

If you take a comparative look at the Icelandic government, banking authorities or CCP during any attempt at PR, especially in the damage-control department, especially after some clueless, ill-informed and unilateral decision was taken by someone in office who had the technical means but not the legitimacy to make such policy by himself, you'll find striking similarities.

From this limited sample you can spot a clear trend of Icelander administrators being prepared to take any decision they feel like at the time, ignore warnings, objections, criticism and outcries, then lie through their teeth and spurt whatever they think may appease the crowd, and get it wrong every single time.

At first glance, this may look like run-of-the-mill old-school cynicism combined with gross incompetence and disconnection from street-level reality, and nothing to write home (or a blog entry) about, but my shower sparkles tell me otherwise…

Islande, terre de contrastes…

The most striking thing about Icelanders, from a visitor's perspective, is how free-spirited and gently chaotic Reykjavik's denizens behave. From a middle-european perspective, Iceland seems like the result of a wild experiment conducted by mad Japanese scientists to run a fantasy Amerika Park™ populated by displaced baby Norwegians, who they raised to speak Klingon and revel in kawai gothic punk.
For visual aid, see Björk: her apparent level of idiosyncratic psychosis is illustrative of mainstream Iceland's youth.

Don't take it the wrong way, that makes for fairly chummy — if poorly hairdressed — people, and Reykjavic is rightfully famous for its high-octane night life and cultural open-mindedness.
In fact, unless you're a spectacularly tight-assed bigot, it's hard for the visitor not to enjoy Iceland, as there's something to find and do for (almost) anybody's taste.

The downside to the casual and easygoing ways of Icelanders could be that their cosmopolitism may at core be fueled not by unversalist bias, but absolute lack of concern for anything that isn't them, or part of their inner circle of family and friends.

My hypothesis is that the same legendary endurance and tight sense of community that allowed Iceland as a society to survive and remain strong through several centuries of isolation translates at the individual level in a peculiar sense of self-worth which entirely shields the Icelander from hearing criticism or generally giving a flying fuck about what other people think.

While this may fit some loose definition of cynicism just right, it breeds a different mindset and behavior from the commonly understood Machiavellian brand of cynicism attributed to "The Man" in many western cultures.

This is not the PHB you're looking for…

Although your classicaly corrupt/ebil CEO or governor may do genuinely awful stuff, lie to cover it up, throw a few bystanders under the bus when it gets too hot, and eventually run for the hills or bargain his way out of trouble, he knows all along what he's doing is wrong on some level and his shit-o-meter is tuned on the 'not getting caught' frequency (even though you'll frequently hear weak rationalizations drawing from social darwinist/objectivist lines of thought).

The Icelandic version of the ebil overlord is arguably better intentioned (of the pave-hell-with variety), and simply thinks he's doing what's right, albeit with the Magic Bubble Of Impervious Cluelessness +5 switched on.

Shit-o-meters in Reykjavik also come with a default setting of sleep mode after 5 secs of non-crisis, and a shitstorm activation sensitivity preset to "Hurricane and above only": by the time the red light starts to glow, there's usually a thick layer of feces all over the boardroom's window already. Much panic ensues.

Once a crisis hits, things are made worse by the lack of awareness as to what the ruckus is about, and subsequent damage control efforts are random at best, focusing on pointless attempts at shushing the outcry, then when censorship fails, eventually providing a formal venue for it — yet failing to understand a shitstorm vent will clog in seconds unless the operator at least pretends to hear and act on the actual content of the recriminations.

Are we dead yet ?

How does it tie to this blog topic: EVE is broken ?
Well, nothing new on the surface: CCP still behaves like a posse of midlleclass drunken teenagers in a frat house, and show no more political acumen or perspective than their navel-gazing OCD allows, but the reason why they thoroughly suck at both governance and PR may not be they're Machiavellian cynics or sadists… rather they could just be clueless and oblivious beyond spontaneous belief about what matters to people who don't share their office/bed/corp ticker.

Don't wonder why IA and CSM have no visible impact on the level of collusion, nepotism and game interference by EVE management, or why nonsensical policies are implemented overnight to the detriment of both the playerbase enjoyment/retention and the company's finances, CCP is not willingly ignoring criticism: they're culturally hardwired to fail at hearing or addressing it.

Is it better or worse ? I don't know for sure, but I'm willing to be optimistic here, and bet that the growth of the company's staff has already exceeded what you can reasonably hire in the way of insular pals and relatives, and bet on the faint hope that more staffers coming from beyond the sea and/or the hardcore fanbase may eventually tip the balance in favor of a corporate culture that gets why it's not a good idea to repeatedly spit in the collective face of your customers and then accuse them of standing in the wrong place as a way of apology.

Keep in mind all of the above is the direct result of sparks in a shower: for all you know, this could have been a short with the boiler, so don't go and steal it for your socio-psychology term paper.


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