What if the Enclave are the good guys? “What the hell are you saying?” What if the Enclave are the GOOD guys in Fallout
3? I know what you’re thinking. “But Austin,” you say, “What about–” Okay. Sure. You have a point. And you’re
not going to catch me arguing in favor of Eugenics. I’ve seen how that story ends.
But let’s put that aside for a second and just take a look at the world that we live
in in Fallout 3, and to an extent the entire franchise.
You grow up in a vault–a hardy relic of the Pre-War era. Safe. Secure. Regimented. Everything
from when and where you sleep, to what you eat, to your job, clothes, and technology
you use is predestined and controlled by the all-powerful, ever-watchful Overseer. Safety,
but at the expense of Liberty. Safety, but at the expense of Liberty.
Nice, but it would make for a very boring game. Oh. Well. Shit.
Anyway. The game begins, the system fails, and you’re thrust into the Post-Nuclear
Wasteland, and it’s… FUCKING. UNHINGED. There’s dirt. Raiders. Super Mutants. People
living on a boat that is clearly going to evaporate into powder in five years, the sun,
fucking ZOMBIES, zombie BEARS, and unbelievable, unprecedented levels of freedom on a level
we’ve not seen since a time predating the Age of Agriculture, except NOW there’s shotguns
and nuclear bombs you can launch from a slingshot on your SHOULDER.
Sure, you may die at any moment when a Super Mutant Behemoth decides to play golf with
your asshole. But that’s the price you pay for total freedom–anarchy at the cost of
safety. Philosophy majors and the few of you who payed
attention in High School Government probably know where this is going by now, and you’re
right–we’re about to talk about Hobbes and Rousseau.
Thomas Hobbes believed that a long time ago we all lived in a hellish landscape of selfish,
brutish monsters, and those monsters were us–we took what we wanted when we could,
and suffered people taking what they wanted from us–might was the only law of the land,
and this was the way things were. He called it the “State of Nature.” In order to
protect ourselves against stronger bullies who would kill us for our stuff, we grouped
together, agreed to some basic rules, at the expense of total freedom. He called that arrangement
the “social contract.” Like, “Dear Everybody else,
I will not steal, rape, or murder. I guess maybe I’ll pay taxes for roads and stuff,
too. Everybody else, you agree in return to follow these rules, and to stop other people
from not following them. Signed,
Austin.” Jean-Jacques Rousseau came later and was like
“Hey, um, yeah, but what if instead of the ‘State of Nature’ being awful it was awesome
and we just had sex all the time and then people who were jealous were like ‘No! You
can’t do what you want! I want to control EVERYTHING.’ And now we all live under the
dictarial thumb of the oppression of the masses, man! The Social Contract is a Sham!”
But what does this have to do with Fallout? Or the Enclave? While here in the real world
we’re doomed to argue about the reality of state of nature until our species inevitably
goes extinct, Fallout has already done the homework–in their world at least. When the
bombs dropped on October 23, 2077, the big “reset” button was pressed on Human Society,
and Nature was returned to its original state–the State of Nature. And which does it more resemble:
idyllic and awesome, like Rousseau thought it would be? Or more like Hobbes: a shitty
bad place where the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must? “What the hell does this have to do with
the Enclave? Eden wanted to put a modified strain of the Forced Evolutionary Virus into
Project Purity and wipe out every ‘non human mutant’ from the Capital Wasteland.”
Yeah, but the Enclave isn’t lead by John Henry Eden in Fallout 3– It’s lead by Colonel
Augustus Autumn–when you’re in the Enclave Base, Raven Rock, and Colonel Autumn says
“oh, shit, the President’s lost his mind, do what I say” who do the Enclave Soldiers
follow? It’s not Eden. It’s Colonel Autumn. And all Colonel Autumn wants to do is seize
Project Purity and use it to lend weight to the authority of the Enclave and start forming
a functioning, centralized government again–using WATER to enforce the social contract.
And sure, of course Autumn was planning on killing you! People who survive in the Shitty
Wilderness of the Wasteland are only able to really do so by murder-bludgeoning everyone
in the vicinity to death with a lead pipe like Mad Max in the beginning of Fury Road.
Outsiders who haven’t been socialized are a liability. And he was right! You, as the
Lone Wanderer goes on to utterly mess up his plans, either by putting a bullet in his brainpan
or by the world’s most disappointing speech check.
And then there’s the– BROTHERHOOD. OF. STEEL.
THey take control of Project Purity, inefficiently try to distribute water to the scattered inhabitants
of the Wasteland–for FREE, with NO support or sacrifices from local citizens. And the
system is exploited by snake oil salesman, religious fanatics, and violent criminals.
And the entire expansion campaign, Broken Steel, is just the Brotherhood of Steel charging
through the Wasteland, ragemurdering remnant Enclave with their giant Toy Robot–an Enclave
that they think is essentially neutered until they Nuke Liberty Prime from Orbit.
“Hey. What’s your fucking point?” Right. Fallout builds its entire narrative
structure exploring the balance between order and chaos, the social contract and the state
of nature–upon this premise, it asserts that the State of Nature is the Hobbsian one where
everything is awful and it’s just big people punching small people for their bottle of
Nuka Cola. The logical solution to the Hobbsian State of Nature is the Social Contract, where
we all band together as a group and give up our freedoms to Nuka Grenade our neighbor
in the face for being annoying in order to keep him from shoving rusty spikes up my fingernails
for pocket change. The Enclave, as the most technologically advanced faction with the
most access to education and materials are a totally suited (although not exclusive)
candidate to spearhead such a thing under the banner of Project Purity–clean water
for all, at the price of not shooting your neighbor in the skull–instead, the Brotherhood
of Steel murderdeaths everybody in order to preserve the status quo, a status quo that
only seems to benefit them, and then proceeds to REINFORCE that status quo by taking their
Big Bad Robot and punching the weak Enclave remnant in the face. It’s a Rousseuian response
to a Hobbsian problem. Sure, the Enclave isn’t perfect–but extreme-as-hell times call for
extreme-as-hell solutions. The first laws in our world weren’t “you go to jail for
a year and then you’re on probation.” They cut off your hands or beat you to death
with rocks. The Enclave is awful, but maybe, just maybe, they’re the Government the Wasteland
Deserves. Thanks for watching.