A World of Men, Not Snakes
By Ravi Singh, Posted on October 17, 2010
This is the second part of a two-part series of editorial articles covering Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. The first part questions the consistency and logic behind Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops and Peace Walker existing within the same fictional canon.
With the sequel of Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker already practically guaranteed to happen by Hideo Kojima himself, it is of little use discussing the necessity of one. Such a debate never seemed to be of great importance with regards to the creation of Snake Eater, Portable Ops, Guns of the Patriots and Peace Walker itself–and in this case, Peace Walker actually did leave plenty of plot holes behind.
To speculate what to expect in a sequel is no different than authoring boring fanfiction, with less homoerotic scenes. In essence, nobody gives a fuck about what a fan thinks could be in the sequel unless said fan has a crystal ball. Considering all of the theories cooked up by fans at the end of Sons of Liberty and what actually ended up happening in Guns of the Patriots, Peace Walker 2 might actually be a remake of Metal Gear where Big Boss is actually an AI and the real Big Boss loses his memory and is re-branded by The Patriots as Solid Snake. It's farfetched, sure, but we didn't think Eva was a brilliant plastic surgeon, but look at what happened in Guns of the Patriots!
Instead, much like the conversation on the problems that arise from Portable Ops and Peace Walker being in the same canon, we should focus on Peace Walker itself and what it is trying to say on it's own. Yes, yes, of course, nukes are bad and peace is good. Everyone got that and Hideo Kojima apparently made it so that everyone would get it by slapping us with "peace" as much as possible. However the one thing people are rightfully confused about is the ideology of The Boss and Big Boss. What the fuck is all of this business about "being a gun" and "putting guns down" or whatever?
In order to make sense of Big Boss' defection from The Boss despite him crying over a misunderstanding in Guns of the Patriots, we have to understand the ideology that Big Boss eventually championed: the ideology that Solid Snake opposes and an ideology that The Boss would have disapproved of.
OUTER HEAVEN PRINCIPLES
A lot of fans assume Big Boss was always a one dimensional "evil" character up until Snake Eater where he is shown to be a lovable guy who likes to shape plastic explosives into butterflies. It's true that in the first Metal Gear, Big Boss is your typical villain with the minor twist of being your commander, but once Solid Snake sets foot into Zanzibar Land, the real Big Boss is shown.
Yes, he's batshit insane. However, he has his reasons. While the final battle in Metal Gear has Big Boss irate over shooting himself in the foot by sending Solid Snake to Outer Heaven, his speech in Zanzibar Land is more of a lecture on the political and economic structures he wanted to replace with his own . Big Boss isn't a villain just because he's a villain, he actually had motives, much like anybody in real life. Too often the "villains" of history are (rightfully) shown in a negative light, but rarely do people look into why they did what they did, instead summarizing them as evil.
Backtracking from the grand speech before his defeat at Zanzibar Land, we already see the sympathetic Big Boss and his savior status with Gray Fox's tragic childhood, Dr. Pettrovich Madnar's inability to return to the scientific community due to his Metal Gear research and even far back to near the beginning of the game when Snake realizes that Black Ninja, the guy who is throwing ninja stars at him, is Kyle Schneider–the Outer Heaven Resistance member who provided Snake with assistance back in 1995.
Snake: Schneider? …You were in the Resistance at Outer Heaven! But… I thought they killed you!
Black Ninja: You've still got a lot to learn, Snake. I was almost killed, but not by them. By you, and your country.
Snake: What are you saying, Schneider?
Black Ninja: …Snake, after you destroyed Metal Gear, NATO launched a massive bombing campaign against Outer Heaven. All of us Resistance fighters…and the children of Outer Heaven…they didn't care about any of us. There was no escape from the flames… They died like animals in a cage.
Snake: I… can't believe this…
Black Ninja: Think about it. The children of Outer Heaven were originally was orphans and refugees from all over the world. They were a liability… and NATO didn't want to deal with them…
Black Ninja: You're no different. They'll forget about you, too…
Big Boss would have been completely justified to kill him at the spot when he ran to him after getting fucked over by NATO. Instead, Big Boss takes him in and lets him rise in Zanzibar Land's ranks.
Black Ninja: He came… and saved us from annihilation. He forgave us for what we'd done. He gave us a new land to call home… A new family…
Snake: He did…? You mean…
Black Ninja: Snake, you'll understand soon… what a wonderful man he is… Snake… I owe you a debt. There's no hate between us. I'll tell you where Dr. Marv is. It's what he would want me to do…
That final line is also a curious one. It's a theme played throughout the Metal Gear series; Big Boss is a consistent man of honorary principles who helped soldiers and war orphans during times when nobody gave a shit about them. Things get even more complicated with the introduction of The Patriots and at that point, even fans begin to wonder if Outer Heaven was an authoritarian state set up to take down the totalitarian rule of the Patriots, much like how Metal Gear RAY was a Metal Gear designed to destroy nuke-launching Metal Gears.
After the fall of Zanzibar Land, the other products of the Les Enfant Terribles Project ended up mirroring Big Boss' efforts and, ironically enough, The Patriots themselves seemed to have set up a war economy. The reasoning behind it for both parties are completely different though. Big Boss found a war economy a necessity in human nature. The Patriots found it as a great way to expand it's powers.
Historically speaking, nations in war tend to increase in their size and scope even in non defensive institutions, using the war effort and national security as excuses. The Patriots managed to create an illusion of a privatized free-market war, which in reality was controlled by The Patriots and thus allowed the United States to be directly engaged in war without appearing to be directly involved. Not too far from the truth today, actually.
Big Boss' war economy on the other hand was very transparent and decentralized. Outer Heaven and Zanzibar Land were militant states. Their main export is kicking ass. To this degree, maybe Big Boss' forgiveness is more of a trait of a good businessman than a saint–an army at war is willing to get any able man it can, and Black Ninja was certainly able. The war orphans Big Boss rescues, from Gray Fox to the kids at Zanzibar Land, all seem to be capital for Big Boss' enterprises.
BIG BOSS, BIG EGO
It should be clear from the actions of Ocelot and Big Mama that Big Boss was meant to be revived and fill the vacuum which The Patriots would leave behind in their destruction. I've already explained this a bit as fans still mistake Ocelot and Big Boss as the heroes of the Metal Gear series, but it is Naomi Hunter who somehow convinces Big Boss to face Solid Snake in order to prevent Snake's suicide and bring himself to zero stead via FOXDIE. Before this change of heart though, Big Boss has shown an arrogant elitist behavior.
Big Boss was a founding member of The Patriots. While it could be argued that The Patriots were never meant to be what it ended up becoming, it planned on basically controlling nations behind the scenes and dictating what they do. After disagreeing on multiple points such as how he is being portrayed to the world, Big Boss drifts away from Zero's Patriots and starts his own version of The Boss' will in Militaires Sans Frontieres, or MSF. Even here he is seen as somewhat of a pushover, easily agreeing with his partner Miller's demands to relocate, expand, get involved with foreign conflicts and other activities Big Boss–who at this point still refused to be referred to by this name–initially was wary of.
Then, in 1974 something happens. A machine that minutes ago was about to launch a nuke that would probably have ignited all-out nuclear war starts to sing and march off into the ocean, killing itself. This machine is equipped with artificial intelligence that is based on The Boss built by someone who loved her in a way Big Boss probably couldn't understand, and once it is set to launch, it's supposed to launch on principle. Then it fucking hit him, or at least he thinks it does; The Boss didn't just let herself be killed, she let herself and her ideals die. At this point, he throws away that The Boss' bandana he still wore and officially accepts the title he earned for killing her.
Miller: She what?
Snake: In the end, she put down her gun. And when she did… she rejected her entire life up to that point… including me.
Miller: What do you mean?
Snake: In giving up her life, she abandoned everything she was as a soldier…
Miller: And you consider that betrayal?
Snake: I won't make the same choice as her. My future's going to be different.
Snake: Yeah, that's right. From now on, call me Big Boss.
Fast forward a couple of decades and it's clear that he has grown past his taste for snakes and instead feeds on his own ego. Observe when Snake uses Big Boss' own quote during his FOX-HOUND days as a way to explain how he'll defeat Big Boss empty handed:
Big Boss: Even I make mistakes from time to time.
It's no surprise that this leader complex projected itself to people like Ocelot and Big Mama who gave a large amount of their effort to destroy The Patriots by reviving Big Boss. After all, what good is your so-called liberty when your perfect leader is burnt to a crisp?
Snake might have taken Miller's advice over his own gut feeling, but Big Boss definitely took matters into his own hands afterwards, especially after Pacifica Ocean reveals herself as Zero's spy and Miller revealed that he knew it all along.
Big Boss and the cult of personality that was developed believed in the fall of The Patriots, but also believed in Big Boss becoming the leader of Outer Heaven. Only he can offer people such as Solid Snake himself "a reason to live." Maybe someone else has better ideas? At this point, it doesn't matter. Big Boss will only listen to Big Boss. As an orphan told Snake:
Perhaps Big Boss hates "grown-ups" because he hates other people telling him what to do? It would be a stark contrast with his days at MSF when he was always open to ideas, suggestions and advice. Children tend to be more open to other people's ideas and are usually far more dependent than adults. This is perfect for a place where there's no room for individuality. Otherwise, the great armies of Outer Heaven and Zanzibar Land would have been a clusterfuck of soldiers who'd fight each other to the death over trivial matters such as military food rations.
Big Boss wouldn't have any of that. He shouldn't either–he's a military leader, not a philosopher. He's not writing non-fiction books or lecturing at university halls, he's running an army. In a military, there is leadership and you do not question that leadership. In Outer Heaven and Zanzibar Land, that leader is Big Boss. Seems simple enough, but what happens when the military becomes the state? Same thing that happens when this phenomenon occurs in real life: the head of the military is now the head of the state.
There is a misconception that anarchy is a simple belief that there are no rules so you can do whatever the fuck you want. This might be true for some young people who just want an excuse to cause a ruckus at their culdesac but in reality, anarchism has a wide variety of schools of thought. Anarcho-collectivists for example believe that the state and private property should cease to exist and instead the means of production will be collectivized and thus owned by everybody. In contrast, anarcho-capitalists believe that the markets would be the natural non-aggressive means of life in the stateless society. Anarcho-collectivists believe that anarchy also includes doing away with hierarchies while anarcho-capitalists mock the democratic processes that anarcho-collectivism would require despite being stateless.
Outer Heaven might seem like an anarcho-collectivist idea, but it's not. The workers do not engage in a democratic process to determine how things will be. It's Big Boss who chooses–clearly there is a hierarchy here. There are more anarchist doctrines that varies between social and individual schools of thought but none seem to fit Outer Heaven. It's definitely an anarchist philosophy though due to the lack of desire for an established state. As a result, I've decided to coin the term anarcho-militarism to describe the goal of Outer Heaven.
Instead of communes or the free market, anarcho-militarism suggests that people will be free of nations and citizenship, instead taking up arms and join tribal militaries so that they can fight others. To Big Boss, this is "logical" and perhaps only natural for humans.
Anarcho-militarism is Big Boss' will. While the idea of having no choice outside of being a soldier seems totalitarian to many in the modern western world, in Big Boss' view, it is the only means of true liberty in the world.
LETTING THE WORLD BE
So what is The Boss' will? It seems like after forty years, Big Boss finally understood it.
It is often misinterpreted that The Boss meant, literally, to let things be the way they are. In that case, The Boss is rooting for some kind of pacifistic neutral political philosophy. However, this is closer to what Big Boss incorrectly believed in 1974 The Boss' will was. Really, it seems more like a catch phrase to yet another anarchist philosophy: voluntarism. Voluntarists believe that all forms of human actions should be as voluntary as possible. The initiating use of force is against voluntarist principles although self-defense towards those who initiate force is acceptable. If we apply this thinking to what is The Boss' will, we see that "leaving the world the way it is" means to leave individuals the fuck alone. They see government as creating conflicts internationally through means of force. Remember, it is the state that took everything away from The Boss.
The Boss isn't necessarily an anarchist, mind you. She seemingly sought to restore the Philosophers to their original form and to some degree believed in liberal institutions. However, the key principles of voluntarism do echo with her words. Similarly, while Solid Snake might not be an anarchist, he certainly following similar volunatrist thinking at least through Philanthropy.
It's no coincidence then, that Philanthropy's motto is "To Let The World Be." The group clearly has an ideology but it doesn't use force to get closer to it. Remember, Snake was armed with a non-lethal weapon during the Tanker incident and had to arm himself with a handgun only after Gurlukovich soldiers invaded the ship killing Marines left-and-right. Even with regards to Metal Gear units, Philanthropy simply leaks information as opposed to destroying what's essentially private property. Even as individuals within Philanthropy, Snake pulls the voluntarist line of thinking:
This seems similar to Big Boss' rhetoric in his speech to Outer Heaven near the end of Peace Walker:
However, while Snake is talking about individualism, Big Boss is merely speaking for the collective that he is controlling. It's true that many, if not most, of Outer Heaven's soldiers are under Big Boss by their own free will. However, while Solid Snake mentions the different reasons behind Philanthropy's involvement for each individual, Big Boss merely groups their reason for action simply because it's "needed." In fact, he states "we need no reason to fight." Compare this once again with Snake.
Raiden: You mean start over?
Snake: Yeah, a clean slate. A new name, new memories. Choose your own legacy. It's for you to decide. It's up to you.
In an ironic twist, Solid Snake seems to have taken on the will of a woman that he never even know about who happened to have had a profound influence on his enemies. It was the people who knew her–Zero, Ocelot, Big Boss, Sigint, Paramedic and Eva–who twisted it into their sick ideologies. In the end though, Big Boss rejects anarcho-militarism and unlike the other founding members of the Patriots, embraces voluntarism. Indeed, Big Boss lets Snake know of the new liberty that he can now experience.
Big Boss in regret over his actions in 1964 and his transformation in 1974.
Without The Patriots and the cult of Big Boss dictating the events in the world, there is no need for men like David to become Snake. His associations will now truly be voluntary. This is the world The Boss envisioned and seems to be what Snake wanted as well, where there is no need for "Snakes" for free men will live in a non-aggressive, but self-protected, society. How long such a society can exist has yet to be seen though, both in real life and within the Metal Gear canon.