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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Dear Convocation: What Are You?

Are you a pulpit, a political tool, or a public space of ideas?

If you're a student at Liberty University here in Lynchburg, Virginia, you know that Convocation is nothing short of incredible. It's a dizzying experience at first, being surrounded by 13,000+ peers and staff, joining in a communal worship service, and being able to hear speakers whose names may be passed around your dinner table during school breaks.

Every residential, on-campus student attends Convo three times a week. We sit in assigned sections. At Convocation, it is a humbling experience to recognize that you are not just a student, but part of a student body, part of the body of Christ.

But a growing part of that student body is now beginning to question not just who is speaking on a said day, or what was said, but what Convocation actually is.

According to Liberty's website, Convocation is not a chapel service, despite the 15-20 minute worship held before speakers rise to the podium. This distinction allows them to host any number of diverse speakers, as Convocation "allows people from all walks of life to compel, equip, and challenge our students to think clearly and with conviction."

Guests at Convo are chosen by “relevance,” and if the speaker happens to “possess a message that will contribute to pivotal cultural conversations that stretch both the hearts and minds of our students, faculty, and staff.”

In these past few years, however, it's not been hard to find students in the halls or at the gym or simply walking down University Boulevard and hear them dreading yet "another political Convo" and "another pastor selling a book," or squealing, "I can't believe so-in-so said that!"

That's not to say that these kinds of speakers are featured prevalently at our school—but they come often enough that we notice and make memes like the brilliant millennials we are. As far as political Convos go, it's no secret that our school president, Jerry Falwell Jr., supported and continues to support now-U.S. President Donald Trump.

But just how much of that support trickles into our Convocation remains to be seen, as right-wing commentators, journalists, and Trump Campaign affiliates have often been under the Convocation spotlight.

What pains me personally about Convo, however, is that last semester, (including those in panels and grouped speakers) only 22% of all Convocation speakers were women. Only 30% of female speakers spoke unaccompanied. While it is uncommon, and in many cases unheard of for women to speak with authority from a Christian pulpit, Convocation is clearly defined as separate from Chapel.

Considering that the majority of undergrads at Liberty are women, this poses a interesting question: If Convocation is not Chapel, then what is it, and do the same traditional criterion of the pulpit also apply to Convo?

An initial response may very well be, no, of course not; we've had speakers all the way from Social Democrat Bernie Sanders to Republican Ted Cruz and his presidential bid in 2015, from Christine Caine and her "Propel Women" initiative, to the Robertson family of the A&E reality show, Duck Dynasty.

However, if that truly were the case, then why do these numbers exist in 2017? Why is the ratio of female speakers to male speakers so unequal?

Dear Convocation, what are you?

This is not to say that male speakers are unable to teach, preach, or persuade female students at Liberty; rather, this is a matter of representation. Of the percentage aforementioned, only 33% of female speakers were of color, compared to an even more disappointing 23% of the male speakers.

In the world of #blacklivesmatter, #metoo, or #timesup, where does Convocation fit in?

If Convocation is not Chapel, if it is meant to enrich our college experience by exposing us to diverse and culturally relevant speakers in order for us "Champions for Christ" to better engage with the world around us…why are those beautiful and powerful and culturally-relevant discussions on fighting racism, domestic abuse, sexism, why are they so few and far between? The voices we hear matter.

Dear Convocation, are you a pulpit, a political tool, or a public space of ideas?

Let me know when you've figured it out. In the meantime, I'll go find my seat in section 101, and I am looking forward to what this new semester will bring.

Cover Image Credit: Pixabay

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To Create Big Change With Sexual Assault We Must Start Small

What do we do now?

The Time's Up Movement, USA Gymnastics, and the Me Too Movement. What do all of these things have in common? Sexual harassment. More and more stories of sexual assault are appearing in the news whether it’s celebrities, athletes, or your twitter feed. We keep hearing about women and men speaking up about the endless accounts of harassment but what do we do now? And how do we continue to make day-to-day life a safer place for every individual?

We must do more. More than just tweet and forget about it in a month. More than march and raise money. More than blame higher institutions for which we have no control over. To create a big change we must start small, change starts with each one of us.

We need not to accept this kind of behavior from one another but to instead create an environment that no longer allows people who enact or support these crimes. We need to teach our sons and daughters that when someone says no, they mean no. We need to raise kids with ideals and standards that advocate that sexual harassment is not okay.

The first step is simply making the conscious decision to pay attention and keep paying attention. Don’t allow for this to be talked about for just a couple of months in the media. Don’t let this be a passing moment. Don’t allow people go back to their naïve way of thinking. Don’t let people forget. We must use our voices to change the way in which we treat one another, and we must learn from our mistakes in order to create that change. And it simply starts with you.

Better Brave:

EEOC: +1 (800) 669-4000

Equal Rights Advocates: +1 (800) 839-4372

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