NationStates Puts You In Control Of Your Own Political Paradise

NationStates Puts You In Control Of Your Own Political Paradise

Ignorance is bliss and escapism is ignorance.

Paying attention to politics can be a frustrating, exhausting task. Arguing with relatives and e-mailing representatives only gets you so far. Most of the time, it feels like you have no influence on what happens in your own country. For me, the perfect escape from political helplessness lies in NationStates.

NationStates is an online “nation simulation” game. You begin by creating a fictional country and can personalize things such as the national flag, animal, motto and currency. Then, issues will start to pop up. How you deal with these issues is how you shape your simulated nation. For example, your citizens might complain about traffic. You could pave a new freeway, which would alleviate traffic issues, but hurts the environment. You could boost public transportation, which would be more environmentally friendly but would also increase taxes. Every issue has two or more proposals from which you can choose, and you must carefully weigh the benefits and costs of each decision to determine which would best suit your nation.

A new issue will appear every five hours until you reach five pending issues. If none of the choices for an issue are appealing or the decision is too difficult, you can dismiss it, which is the real-world equivalent of ignoring it until it goes away. Each decision you make influences your nation based on an extensive array of metrics: the simulation tracks everything from Political Apathy to Agriculture to Public Nudity. After each decision you make, you’ll see some relevant fake headlines that show the effect the decision has had on your nation. The “public” commentary on your decisions and the witty quip about the result of your decision can sometimes open your mind to a new side of the issue you might not have considered. Here’s an example from my nation, The Republic of Krete Island, after I lowered the salaries of government officials:

If you scroll down, you can see much more specific details on how that decision affected your nation:

This is where it becomes apparent how much effort is put into NationStates. Any decision you make can have a butterfly effect on dozens of metrics that seem completely unrelated to the decision you made. From the NationStates FAQ: “Because of the way so many factors can interact, it's hard to predict the effects of a decision even when you know all the variables. Banning skateboards, for example, can lead to unhappier teenagers, who generate more youth crime, which increases the level of fear amongst the general populace, which spurs insurance sales.” You can track trends and see your rank for any metric. The simulation keeps track of leading causes of death, government expenditure and economic factors, and displays each in an informative pie chart. All these tools make keeping track of your nation, identifying issues and seeing the effects of your decisions much simpler.

There is also a social aspect of NationStates. The region system allows you to create a world region with your friends or join one of the monolithic regions of the thousands of members that already exist. These regions organize nations and make them more powerful together in the World Assembly (WA). The World Assembly is like the United Nations. Joining the 25,691 members of the WA allows a nation to vote on human rights issues in the General Assembly and commend or condemn nations in the Security Council. However, joining the WA requires your nation to abide by the legislation it passes, so reclusive or tyrannical nations might want to steer clear.

NationStates is a fun simulation to play and allows you to observe the growth of a nation, while learning by tackling its most prominent issues. Seeing Krete Island develop from a fledgling nation to a powerhouse of social, technological, and environmental progress has been and will continue to be a source of satisfaction for me. It’s also immensely therapeutic to be able to close social media and news sites, put real-world politics out of my mind and mold my own ideological paradise with a few clicks of the mouse.

Cover Image Credit: Wikipedia

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An Open Letter to the Person Who Still Uses the "R Word"

Your negative associations are slowly poisoning the true meaning of an incredibly beautiful, exclusive word.

What do you mean you didn't “mean it like that?" You said it.

People don't say things just for the hell of it. It has one definition. Merriam-Webster defines it as, "To be less advanced in mental, physical or social development than is usual for one's age."

So, when you were “retarded drunk" this past weekend, as you claim, were you diagnosed with a physical or mental disability?

When you called your friend “retarded," did you realize that you were actually falsely labeling them as handicapped?

Don't correct yourself with words like “stupid," “dumb," or “ignorant." when I call you out. Sharpen your vocabulary a little more and broaden your horizons, because I promise you that if people with disabilities could banish that word forever, they would.

Especially when people associate it with drunks, bad decisions, idiotic statements, their enemies and other meaningless issues. Oh trust me, they are way more than that.

I'm not quite sure if you have had your eyes opened as to what a disabled person is capable of, but let me go ahead and lay it out there for you. My best friend has Down Syndrome, and when I tell people that their initial reaction is, “Oh that is so nice of you! You are so selfless to hang out with her."

Well, thanks for the compliment, but she is a person. A living, breathing, normal girl who has feelings, friends, thousands of abilities, knowledge, and compassion out the wazoo.

She listens better than anyone I know, she gets more excited to see me than anyone I know, and she works harder at her hobbies, school, work, and sports than anyone I know. She attends a private school, is a member of the swim team, has won multiple events in the Special Olympics, is in the school choir, and could quite possibly be the most popular girl at her school!

So yes, I would love to take your compliment, but please realize that most people who are labeled as “disabled" are actually more “able" than normal people. I hang out with her because she is one of the people who has so effortlessly taught me simplicity, gratitude, strength, faith, passion, love, genuine happiness and so much more.

Speaking for the people who cannot defend themselves: choose a new word.

The trend has gone out of style, just like smoking cigarettes or not wearing your seat belt. It is poisonous, it is ignorant, and it is low class.

As I explained above, most people with disabilities are actually more capable than a normal human because of their advantageous ways of making peoples' days and unknowingly changing lives. Hang out with a handicapped person, even if it is just for a day. I can one hundred percent guarantee you will bite your tongue next time you go to use the term out of context.

Hopefully you at least think of my friend, who in my book is a hero, a champion and an overcomer. Don't use the “R Word". You are way too good for that. Stand up and correct someone today.

Cover Image Credit: Kaitlin Murray

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My First Political Debate Experience Only Revealed The Messed-Up Reality Of American Partisan Pandering

More sinister than fake news, more timeless than Trump and Kavanaugh, the deceit and radicalization of modern politics is poisoning America.


Given my age (almost 16 and a half!) and my nonpartisan perspective on most issues, it's rare that I attend any politically motivated function (much less in person). Unfortunately, my first taste of official political discourse only encapsulated everything I dislike about American politics.

Upon learning that my high school was hosting a debate between two candidates for the district's representative position, I was immediately intrigued. Admittedly, I had my expectations set high. I had jotted down "House Rep. Debate" on my calendar a week in advance and marked off the days the event neared. I would finally get to learn firsthand about the issues affecting my community and about the people with plans to fix them.

To a certain extent I got what I had hoped for, but certainly not in the environment I had anticipated.

When the student moderators introduced the candidates, Democrat Angelika Kausche and Republican Kelly Stewart, to the stage, it was already abundantly clear how ideologically distinct the two opponents would be.

The first question, which asked each candidate to describe how their views aligned with their party's platform, revealed just how cut-and-dry the candidates were at representing their respective factions. On the left, an unwavering conservative with a keen avoidance of overspending and socialist policies. On the right, an equally grounded liberal with a passion for tackling humanitarian injustices and enforcing moral correctness.

This circumstance certainly isn't unprecedented, but the rest of the night only proved how their narrow-minded partisan loyalty served as barriers to productive discourse.

Right off the bat, Kausche avoided the clearly stated question by taking the time to thank the John's Creek Community Association for hosting the event.

Stewart, however, dove right into her response, which turned out to be a fine-tuned diatribe about Georgia's budgetary deficit and Kausche's supposed lack of budgetary experience and the budgetary concerns and the budget. Finally, Stewart concluded that perhaps the most important thing to consider is, you guessed it, the budget. She even printed out budget sheets for attendees, which I found extraordinarily useful as a handy notepad.

My head perked up when I heard a question regarding Georgia's healthcare policies. Admittedly, I know less than I should about the subject and was curious to know what each candidate thought.

Shockingly, Republican Kelly Stewart opposed the expansion of Medicaid while Democrat Angelika Kausche vehemently supported it. I start to wonder what the point of having candidates' names on the ballot is when their political stances just as much could be conveyed with the letters "D" and "R" to the tee.

Neither candidate veered from their party platform for the rest of the night, with only a few moments of forced agreement (always around the fact that an issue exists, never about how to solve it). On a few occasions, a candidate would utter an especially radical idea (i.e. Obamacare is at blame for the opioid crisis. Medicaid should be for all people. Teachers should be armed.) and was almost always met with either overwhelming applause or a sea of groans.

The room's reaction was so powerful in either candidate's favor that I was genuinely confused who was the more favored of the two.

To be abundantly clear, I wholeheartedly support voter efficacy and staying informed, and I understand that debates inform voters of their representative's ideals. I also don't mean to criticize Kausche or Stewart or even the policies they endorse. I only question the point of debate when it's anchored in stiff, unrelenting party platforms. This is symptomatic of the larger trend at work in American politics: the exploitation of party differences by politicians to entice a demographic of their constituents.

If you're wondering what that means or demand evidence, just take President Trump. Back in 2016, his presidential campaign threatened to run as independent when he felt he wasn't getting enough support from the GOP. Now, he champions radicalized views of the right and has emboldened members of the far-right (along with alt-right neo-Nazis and racists) with his entirely anti-PC attitude.

Similarly, it's rare to find a democratic politician that deviates from the extensive list of liberal ideas that are expected of them. Consider Trump's opponent Hilary Clinton, who originally made it clear in 2014 that she was against nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage. Isn't it suspicious that in 2015, without explaining why her stance changed, her presidential campaign later advocated for this right, thus garnering support from the LGBT community?

There's so much more wrong with the state of American politics than your opposed party controlling political office.

The effect of the American people allowing this pandering and doublespeak is political inaction among policymakers, who can preach a set of ideals independent of their actual intentions.

The other result is voter apathy among constituents, who therefore feel their vote holds little weight.

With such deceitful rhetorical tactics dominating the political sphere, it's easy to believe that we've all been given a voice. But when that voice only ever tells us what we want to hear, it's important that we stop to question whether we're really being heard.

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