Is Pokémon a Leftist Utopia? Pt. I

Is Pokémon a Leftist Utopia? Pt. I

A quick look at government and society in the world of Pokémon.

The Pokémon games are a phenomenon to say the least. Stretching across a variety of formats since its creation in 1995, the Pokémon franchise has managed to create an impossibly charming world of friendly monsters and idyllic society. Very little in-game attention is paid to the governing bodies and economic systems of the regions that players traverse, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there is no observable evidence of their existence. Buried in the typical deluge of gameplay and story-centric fan forums are a handful of threads dedicated to debating the political landscape of the Pokémon world.

Scrolling through these conversations, some of them years old while others have sprung up more recently to coincide with the latest releases, one question seems to pop up quite a bit more often than others. Time and time again politically minded fans, have wondered, “Is Pokémon socialist?”

Now obviously no concrete conclusions can be made, seeing as this is mostly a fan base looking way too far into a family friendly video game series, but being a student of history and politics, I decided to venture down the rabbit hole and throw my own observations into the conversation. After all, isn't that part of the fun of being in a fandom?

While I consider myself a leftist, I would like to focus purely on the world of the games themselves. I won’t be arguing whether or not these ideas or systems work in reality, nor will I be using Pokémon as some sort of pro-socialistic talking point. My goal is simply to relate my own observations and then follow up with more in-depth research. This article is being split into two pieces, with this week focusing on my own personal opinions, while the second part will focus on more thorough research into the games themselves and the fan theories online.

From my time with the Pokémon series (mostly spent playing Yellow, Gold, Y, Alpha Sapphire, and now Moon) I’ve come to think of it as an Eco-Socialist Utopia. Throughout the series, as players strike up conversations with the NPCs they encounter, a heavy cultural emphasis on an environmentalist, egalitarian society is established. Themes of friendship, camaraderie and acceptance are all common topics in every region from Kanto all the way to Alola. Pokémon X and Y's Professor Sycamore even opens the early game with this message. The citizens of each town and city are also absurdly generous, gifting passersby with supplies for their journey ahead and warmly sharing tips with travelling trainers. The cultural norm seems to lean more towards communal and collaborative ideals rather than purely individualistic ones.

Scientific progress is not only an important factor in Pokémon’s world, it is a priority. The professors of each region do not seem to be privately funded as they usually tend to function outside of the need for consistent monetary profits from their research (Professor Kukui being a prime example of this). Not only that, but almost all research and technology present in the Pokémon universe exists in tandem with nature. If something negatively impacts the environment or the Pokémon that inhabit it, the common citizens are almost always quick to voice their distress. There is a balance of science and technology with progressive environmentalism and the mysticism of Pokémon lore.

Healthcare in the world of Pokémon is the key element that often sparks these conversations and debates online. Medical assistance is provided rapidly and free of charge, with almost no questions asked, to trainers and their superpowered pocket monsters. While this can be partially attributed to the fabulous science-fiction technology that exists in the games the fact of the matter remains, Pokémon seems to have a socialised healthcare system in place. Pokémon Centres, the buildings where trainers go to access the free healthcare system, are often uniform across a region, (though from one region to another their designs tend to change) and, in Sun and Moon, they also contain the PokéMarts. The PokéMarts are storefronts where trainers can pay for supplies or sell items that they no longer need, and their existence within Sun and Moon shows that they are likely under the same jurisdiction as the Pokémon Centres. If players venture into the City Hall building in Hau’oli City in Sun/Moon, they will encounter an NPC standing off to the right of the information desk who states that the city hall’s functions include, “supporting the folks who work at the Pokémon Center,” showing that these establishments fall under some sort of government programme.

All of this being said, if it were some sort of socialist utopia, it would be incorporating elements of Social Democratic/Democratic Socialist values in its allowance of free enterprise. Corporations and stores that are not operated by the government exist throughout the Pokémon universe, and while much of the transportation seems to be publicly funded and municipally controlled, there are several examples of private transportation. It is interesting to note that of the instances where large scale companies are present in the games, these corporate entities are at times seen as shady and sometimes even directly connected to criminal activities.

Though the world of Pokémon is left fairly vague, there seem to be quite a few pieces of evidence to support the idea that it all takes place in some sort of leftist utopia. I’d personally argue that it is an Ecological Social Democracy with elements of other leftist ideologies, but this is all a raw response. Next week I’ll be delving into the fan theories, wiki pages, and other sources of evidence for a more complex look at the world of Pokémon!

Cover Image Credit: sketchappsources

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A Goodbye To Paul Ryan, I Guess

An Open Letter To Paul Ryan.

Saying goodbye to Paul Ryan is a troubling and confusing thing to do. He has been around for me since he joined Mitt Romney's ticket back in 2012, and was thankfully smashed by Obama and Biden, the super friend duo of Washington. I was introduced to Ryan as I was introduced to Romney; rich white people who have had a fortunate run of life, and don't seem too crazy or gray to put their name in the hat for President. Now, call me cocky but in 2012 I was certain they were not going to win. I knew Obama had the black vote, and once Romney said that unbelievable stuff about "47 percent of America" I knew we were safe. I thought that was the damage Ryan would cause, and that's all. He would be complicit to one of the rudest most out of touch things a presidential candidate would say in my lifetime. I was wrong.

No one saw Trump coming, really. If they say they do, they are lying to sound informed and interesting, don't buy it for a second. Rather than focus on Trump and his mess like the collective United States seems to do, I want to say something about Ryan, and give him my goodbye, as he has decided to retire at the ripe political age of 48. A young age, really. Especially for a congressmen. There are congress members in their 80's after all. Ryan is ending his tenure in 2019, and will not seek reelection. Goodbye Ryan, and good riddance.

I can't say I truly hate you, Pauly boy, but boy do you make me uncomfy. You are like the uncle at the cook-out saying awful stuff I can't imagine agreeing with, and getting louder with every hour that goes by. You are the one who name drops their church, slyly implying that it is just a bit more holy than the one most of the family goes to. Even worse, you aren't the racist uncle, really. Or at least not the racist uncle that wasn't invited to the cook out due to last years alcoholic outburst, but you don't denounce him either. When you work with him, you say that neutral and infuriating cop out stuff about how "he is allowed his points" while not commenting on them yourself. Sure, Pauly, Trump and yourself can have your own points. However when you say you are grateful for Trump, it will raise some eyebrows.It will break some hearts too man, really. Who is supposed to be normal in the GOP these days?

I have watched you dismantle as many things set in place to eliminate social assistance to the poor as possible. I have seen you quietly post your thoughts on neo-nazis on Facebook while Trump was refusing to damn them on television. I saw that all white intern hire too, whew. That was awkward. I watched you pass tax laws that benefit essentially only your tax bracket. I watched your bug eyes push farther and farther out of your head by Trump's bull over the past year, and I worried. I worried you were going use him to get more done, and I guess you did.

I watched Cameron resign right after Brexit and thought "Wow, they made such a bad call the leader feels unable to continue taking part of the country. Holy cow." And I never thought I would see that here. I never thought Trump was capable of admitting he was unable to do his job, and I still doubt that. I never even thought of you, Pauly, but here we are. What do you know? What is coming buddy? Why are you getting out when the getting out is good? You gonna run in 2020? I wouldn't put it past you. I don't know what will be destroyed by the tax plan you put through, but I am worried. I don't know exactly how to feel with you retiring. I am not proud of you, I honestly don't think of you much. I think you're weak, Pauly. I don't care how often you work out.

I know you are connected, and I know your day is a storm of trying to get as much of your own policy through the kindergarten playpen of racism and entitlement that is Trump. I can't seem to bring myself to see you as anything but a quiet affiliate of his, running off when his storm gets to be too much and praising his ability to say yes to the hurtful classist policies you have backed your entire career. I feel like you cuddle your free weights at night and mutter to yourself "at least we appointed a Supreme Justice." Well, you did. You denied Obama his clear Presidential right (well the senate did but you get my drift) and now you are exploiting all you can while dealing with how integrally horrid Trump is. I guess I would quit too.

I don't respect you Pauly, but I can't be too happy about you leaving. I don't know what comes after Trump, after you, after any of this. Just get the hell out of my Congress, and get ready to get smashed in the mid terms.

Go vote. If you read this far, you probably care also. Go vote. Shake Pauly harder than he is already, and stop the orange giggly fat man in the White House. Thank you.

Cover Image Credit: Gage Skidmore

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It's The End Of The Road For Paul Ryan

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is not running for reelection.

Since President Donald J. Trump's ascendancy to the Oval Office in 2017, Capitol Hill has seen a number of key Republicans resign or announce that they won't be seeking reelection in 2018 from both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Among the lot includes Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), the former Chair of the House Oversight Committee; Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), the former Chair of the House Benghazi Committee and Chaffetz's successor at the House Oversight Committee; as well Orin Hatch (R-UT), the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and the longest-serving Republican Senator in US Senate-history. Last week saw the announcement of the end of the road for another key Republican member of Congress: Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI).

Ever since Politico's Tim Albert's reports that in interviews with “three dozen people who know the speaker — fellow lawmakers, congressional and administration aides, conservative intellectuals and Republican lobbyists — not a single person believed Ryan will stay in Congress past 2018.” In March of 2018, Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV), who isn't known to be all that close to Ryan, let a rumor leak to the press corp that the Speaker was on his way out. Speaker Ryan has continuously and publicly dismissed these claims as nothing but rumors and "rank speculation" until now.

When Ryan took over the post of Speaker following John Boehner's (R-OH) retirement in late-2015, his ascendency was meant to usher in a new era of Republican politics, unified behind the Obamacare repeal and replace increased tax cuts, and dismantling the welfare state established by the Democratic Administration. Instead, Ryan ended up with a president who has no interest in his agenda, or in the many cases such as immigration, trade, and entitlement reform, has no interest or concern for the party's agenda.

At the start of Trump's presidency, Congressional Republicans put forth an ambitious agenda, having gained control over both chambers of Congress as well as the White House. They sought to repeal and replace Obamacare, implement a major budget deal and enact significant tax cuts.

Unfortunately for Republicans, the crusade that is the Obamacare repeal failed. They managed to pass tax cuts, but Republican members of Congress are already worried the bill won’t be popular enough in November to provide them with the edge to help them win elections in 2018. Meanwhile, Trump, who doesn’t seem interested in talking taxes nearly as much as his colleagues on Capitol Hil, is stuck on the one policy issue that was never truly been at the forefront of modern American politics and seemingly will only deepen party divides: immigration.

From what he has stated, if it were up to Paul Ryan to lead the direction of the Republicans, the party would steer clear of the topic of immigration, as it would do little but divide the two parties and in-turn make other, more important pieces of legislation even harder to achieve bipartisan agreement on.

From "build the wall" to "bad hombres," Trump's radical stance on immigration played a big part in getting him elected in the first place. Consequently, Congressional Republicans have had no choice but to follow suit, as this seemed to be the direction conservative Americans, their constituents, wished to head. Immigration, however, is among Ryan’s biggest political vulnerabilities in the "Trump-approach" to Republican politics. His own views often said to have been shaped by his mentor Jack Kemp (a pro-immigration New York Republican whom Ryan worked for early in his career and with whom he remained close until Kemp’s death in 2009), are in stark contrast to the hardliner views enforced by the President.

While failing to meet his as well as his party's set agenda as Speaker of the House, Ryan has also been met with incredibly strong criticism by the far-right for his apparent hesitation when it comes to Trump's radical immigration policies.

In July of 2016, long before confirmed reports of Ryan's resignation came to light, known white supremacist contender for Ryan's seat, Paul Nehlen (R), showed up at the Speaker's personal home in Janesville, Wisconsin, with a convoy of four mothers who had lost their children "at the hands of immigrants." Nehlen is seeking Ryan's seat in the upcoming elections as well.

Additionally, Breitbart News, the far-right media outlet formerly run by Trump's former adviser Steve Bannon, has gone on the assault in regards to Ryan. Breitbart articles, since Ryan took over the speakership, have stated that Ryan is no different from a “mass amnesty” Democrat. “Speaker Paul Ryan goes silent as Refugee program claims victims at Ohio,” and “GOP Rep: Paul Ryan’s immigration policy not ‘in best interest of America." They have accused Ryan of having an “expansionist immigration agenda.”

Since Trump first ascended to the Presidency, Ryan has just managed to keep the Republican Party afloat. Trump threatened to shut down the government over Republican leaders’ latest policy push: the spending bill, which was largely considered to be the last major agenda-based policy fight of the 2018 Congressional year. As the party vies to push forward with its agenda, the President seems intent on picking at old wounds: the failed attempt to resolve the "immigration crisis" in Congress.

With Democrats determined to win back the majority in the House of Representatives in the midterm election cycle, the only way for Republicans to retain their power is through unity, something the President doesn't seem too interested in. Given this, alongside 25 House Republicans and three of their Senators, it's only logical that Speaker of the House Paul D. Ryan is ready to depart from Capitol Hill.

Cover Image Credit: Gage Skidmore on Flickr via Creative Commons

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