SFP

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  • Pat

    And there is the trap. How will you be ready? By being a tyrant and making people be ready. Enforcing your idea of fair on others.

    Oh well Alison, you tried.

    • Ryan Gauvreau

      Turns out that Gurawara is a government agent, sent to assess the likelihood that Allison will turn into a tyrant.

      A SWAT team with not-Kryptonite will be bursting through the window in a page or two now.

    • I am absolutely aghast at the number of people in the comments who believe that there is absolutely no way to convince other people of anything and force is the only answer to disagreements.

      Given some debate and handouts and other forms of completely-non-tyrannical prep, the outcome of the next iteration could very well be different. Why can’t anyone believe that that’s how she intends to be ready?

  • chaosvii

    Say what you will about that guy having a bit of trouble paying proper attention. he has outlined my new personal axiom: This class rules.

  • Sterling Ericsson

    I still don’t have a problem with the tyrant option, personally. You make sure all the stones are black by taking away everyone’s white stones.

    There are selfish people in the world. There are people who hold opinions that other kinds of people don’t deserve rights. The only way to make the world a better place is literally to overrule their opinions and decision. While we do have checks and balances like the Supreme Court to make sure there isn’t a tyranny of the majority that harms the minority, we still use the tyranny of the majority to enforce equality on the minority, even if the minority might not want others to be equal to them. (And in some cases, we directly have the Supreme Court override the majority in that way too).

    But it is a simple fact that the only way to make the world a better place, since the world will always have selfish and bigoted people, is to literally remove their ability to be selfish and bigoted.

    In that respect, I do see some form of tyranny as the only option.

    • Abel Savard

      I don’t know if I would call it tyranny the fact is we have agreed upon laws rules and norms of behaviour. If you violate those things there are consequences. People know and can attempt to change those three things and they might succeed or they might fail. The definition of tyranny is an usurpation of government and law or unrestrained rule, western governments are restrained by multiple checks and balances ( the judiciary the media elections etc.) and have relatively robust rule of law

    • MrSing

      Give 80% of all your possesions to the poor people of the world. It’s for the good of all.
      No, you can’t be a singer, we need sewer workers. It’s for the good of all.
      No, you can’t marry who you like. We need genetically strong peope. Don’t be selfish.

    • Insanenoodlyguy

      Taking everybody’s stone however, is not in her axiom. That would become “I got this.”

  • Markus

    Notice how she says “I’ll” instead of “we’ll.” Next time she’ll be ready to make them work together.

  • Kid Chaos

    Well, at least someone’s impressed. 😜

  • Gluten Tag

    I’m with this kid.

  • Soqoma

    I am that guy.

  • Christophe2314

    Congratulations, Alison, you have just demonstrated a stellar lack of understanding of how life works. There is no “next time I’ll be ready” in life, so why should there be in a thought experiment designed to emulate real world dilemmas? More importantly, how exactly will you be ready? You can try to convince everyone to play a black stone, but as long as the possibility to play the white stone is there, there remains the possibility of someone playing it just for kicks. And, as long as that possibility remains, there will be people who cynically assume it’s going to happen and play white too. How do you go about preventing that?

  • Peter

    I kinda agree with Mister “I didn’t listen when he explained the rules”.

  • Abel Undercity

    “CURSE YOU! YOU HAVE FOILED ME, BUT THERE WILL BE A NEXT TIME! I SHALL HAVE MY REV- wait, this doesn’t sound like my script…”

  • Boojum

    Your axiom is fine, Alison. It’s how you go about it that’s the hard part. When he offered the decision to everyone, you should have spoken up then to organize everyone, made the choice and results clear. He even asked a question about that with a pause for such an interjection. Next, you learn that in life, the choice and results aren’t always so clear, and “next time I’ll be ready” might be your words after a bloodbath when you run afoul of the Law of Unintended Consequences.

  • SerialPeacemaker

    It almost seems like he’s actually trying to make a supervillain. or at least bait her into hauling off and leveling the room/scool/continent.

  • ∫Clémens×ds

    Alison, third grade:
    “And you Al, what do you want to do when you grow up?”
    “RECLAIM THE MEANS OF PRODUCTION”
    “Jesus Christ Alison”
    “The uniting of all these contradictions in a single group, where they will stand face to face, will result the struggle which will itself eventuate in the emancipation of the proletariat.”

    • Balthazar

      “Jesus Christ Alison”
      “THE OPIATE OF THE MASSES!”

    • masterofbones

      Totalitarian communism lead by a benevolent invincible leader? That actually has some potential. Granted, Alison has some pretty significant psychological issues, and doesn’t always think things through as much as she should, but it has potential nevertheless.

      • Devlerbat

        Isn’t that the plot to the Superman alt universe storyline “Red Son”?

        • Pol Subanajouy

          Was about to say.

        • Izo

          More like Injustice: Gods Among Us

  • Tsapki

    I’m guessing, like many of the commentors, at least some of the students are aware that no one is actually going to fail this class based on a stone game.

  • bryan rasmussen

    yo, this class rules – yeah now you’re paying attention.

  • Alex Bennett

    This comic also rules.

  • Arcian

    This is why I enjoy this comic.

  • Tylikcat

    Oh, Alison, that sounds so… villainous!

    • “Curses, Philosophy Man, fighting me with logic breaches the superhero code, you should have fought me with an Axiom Atomiser, or an Ethical Engine, not {shudders} mere words. You may have beaten me this time, but I shall return!” {Exit, stage left, with a flounce}

  • Demonlogan

    “Awesome is happening!”

    Yeah, sometimes you have to just keep rephrasing the question until you get the answer you’re fishing for.

  • danny in canada

    Prof. Gurwara really needs to hurry up and make it clear that nobody has failed and nobody has gotten an automatic pass. Upsetting Ms. Green isn’t always the best idea.

    • Tylikcat

      If she’s actually a danger to her classmates or instructors, there are deeper problems here. I’m actually a little appalled that people keep bringing this up as if it’s reasonable. They are having a discussion about ethics in class. Shouting or swearing – well, okay, that happens. (There are difference schools of thought here, but I can certainly cite a lot of history for shouting and swearing.) Violence? That’s right out of line. (Though come to think of it there’s history…)

      I do not care how powerful she is. Either she can act in a civilized manner, or she shouldn’t be participating in grownup space.

      (And, okay, sure, I often think it’s *really incredibly stupid* when people physically assault me – most are playing on gender stereotypes, not size and skill – all things considered. But that’s assault. And I usually do things like pin them or put them in joint locks when it happens, depending on the precise circumstances – not harm them unless it’s a pretty major kind of assault and it’s the only way to keep myself safe.)

      • It’s only a short segue from the Prisoner’s Dilemma to the Stanford Prison Experiment, In fact as Gurwara set this up he’s almost blurring the distinction between the two.

        (And the only reason it’s ‘almost’ is most of the class didn’t realise they’re effectively in the Stanford guards role, able to persecute no-white-stone boy at will, but at least two did).

    • ukulady7

      Why is it the rest of the world’s responsibility to control Alison’s temper?

    • Insanenoodlyguy

      If she’s saying she’ll be ready next time and talking about how this doesn’t disprove her axiom, I think she’s already figured that out (Allison isn’t stupid). She’s not upset because she thinks she or that other kid failed, she’s upset cause she’s a bit embarrassed and a lot pissed off (both at the teacher and, if she’ll admit it, all the students for failing her ideal)

  • Frank

    Obviously, you take the white stones, like a true tyrant.

    The best form of government is that of the benevolent tyrant. Restricted freedom, but good choices made for the prosperity of all. (Then they mysteriously die and their successor turns out less than benevolent.)

    • Abel Savard

      The problem is tyrants may see themselves as benevolent but in fact are slaughtering innocent people. The fact is without any check on a single leader such as elections rule of law independent judiciary etc. abuse is envietable and catastrophic

      • Frank

        The real problem is that, to serve the greater good, you must sometimes let people die, even knowing that it’s going to happen.

        As an example, Bletchley Park and the cracking of Enigma. They knew where German patrols would be, and could have told all civilian and military ships to avoid them. If they had, a few weeks later the cipher would have been changed, and the Allies would have been in the dark. Instead, they let ships sink to preserve the secret, and in so doing won the war. They purposely chose to let innocent people die.

        If you had put that up to a public vote (ignoring the fact that this would reveal the secret anyway), people would have voted to save the innocents.

      • Frank

        The real problem is that, to serve the greater good, you must sometimes let people die, even knowing that it’s going to happen.

        As an example, Bletchley Park and the cracking of Enigma. They knew where German patrols would be, and could have told all civilian and military ships to avoid them. If they had, a few weeks later the cipher would have been changed, and the Allies would have been in the dark. Instead, they let ships sink to preserve the secret, and in so doing won the war. They purposely chose to let innocent people die.

        If you had put that up to a public vote (ignoring the fact that this would reveal the secret anyway), people would have voted to save the innocents.

    • MisterTeatime

      I don’t know if you intended to call back to how Gurwara did exactly that (take somebody’s white stone) to set up this situation, but it’s an excellent point either way.

      • Yes, he’s proved that the rules of his system are axiomatic (because they have no justification beyond “I said so”) and tyrannical.

        Some people aren’t willing to oppose him because they don’t realize that they can, while others see the punishment for participating in a failed revolution and choose to minimize their personal risk (because they are not the ones that he’s come for . . . yet). Of course, were he to attempt to oppress everyone simultaneously by taking ALL the white stones, he would guarantee a revolution because there would be no-one benefiting from the system to act to preserve it. A very good demonstration of tyranny indeed!

  • Nightsbridge

    So angry Allison! He could be less abrasive about it but he’s doing his job. You’re a superhero with incredible power and that kind of open display of rage can be easily read as a threat, intended or not, when you can shatter buildings and walls. Especially now, when he’s doing what he’s supposed to. Restraint thyself.

    • Tony Lower-Basch

      Uh … no? How about “No, I won’t restrain myself, I am acting angry because I am angry.”

      Calm is not the same thing as right. Angry is not the same thing as wrong. I think Allison has plenty of reason to be pissed off … and the student response at the end of the strip makes it clear that her rage is NOT being seen as a threat, so no harm, no foul, right?

  • Calm down, Ms. Green — do not punch a hole in the classroom wall. Or in the teacher.

  • Bob67546

    And now she becomes the Tyrant – forcing others to work for the greater good

    • Richard Griffith

      Those who are willing to stand on the shoulders of those before them but unwilling to lend their shoulders to others should be left naked without tools in the Siberian wilderness. We all owe a great deal to others, the reason we are no longer hunter gatherers is thanks to our society structure which requires others to do some of our work. We gain great benefits from the efficiency of specialized workers. To reject helping others means one should be ready to do without the help of others.

  • Tony Lower-Basch

    “How do you make sure all the stones are black, Ms. Green?”

    That question is a category error that would get you failed from philosophy 101. The answer to that from a person (yes, even Allison) who hasn’t been deliberately wound up by bullying is “*I* don’t. What a ridiculous question. Getting all black stones must be, by design, a communal effort. My *part* in that is to play a black stone, as I did. I’m only one person. I can’t do more than play my part.”

    How many times does she have to reiterate that her axiom is one for -community- action, rather than -individual- action? We’re up to … what … ten or twelve times she’s stuck by that in this conversation alone, and Gurawara has been snide, dismissive or outright insulting each time?

    That would provoke an emotional response from a STONE. And that’s been Gurawara’s end-game from the start. Be an insufferable ass, then when it finally pushes somebody past human endurance, declare victory. As Stephanie Gertsch pointed out last episode, “Being calm is not the same as being right.” Gurawara is calm here. Allison is right.

    The correct follow-up question to her axiom is “How do you help to persuade your community to adopt the same axiom in sufficient numbers to make a real-world difference?” Does anyone really doubt that Allison would have interesting ideas on that subject? Screw it. Gurawara doesn’t want to hear it. He wants to WIN.

    • Ryan Gauvreau

      Allison will not always have the benefit of being able to think clearly or “take ten” before making a decision.

      Gurawara isn’t in this to win oneupmanship points. Allison seems capable of killing at least a city’s worth of people, and that’s a conservative estimate based on her *current* powers, with no estimate of possible future growth. It is not implausible that she could grow into an existential risk.

      TBH I wouldn’t disapprove even of Gurawara literally poking her with a stick until she blew up. Allison does not get to make decisions without reflecting on them. She has too much power, to also have that privilege as well. (I’d also approve of Gurawara pushing her to figure out where her boundaries are, and emotionally stress-testing her until she breaks, because, again, *potential existential threat* here).

      Everything is simplified in this exercise that has been carried out, but Allison can still learn from this.

      • Tony Lower-Basch

        Ryan: You raise fair points about the level of risk that Allison carries to the world, but I disagree with you as regards what that justifies.

        I don’t think that Paladin (for one) is unaware of the danger that Allison would pose to the world, if she went crazy. And yet, she took a different approach (successfully). So, I don’t think Gurawara gets a pass on any of his actions because they’re -necessary-. It seems like there’s a whole constellation of possible ways to get through to Allison. He’s chosen his method, that’s his responsibility, nobody else’s.

        In fact, I really, really wish Paladin were here to ask (as in issue 5, page 166): “Prof. Gurawara, are you asking those questions [about the difficulty of community action] because they’re great and deserve to be answered, or are you asking those questions because you want to excuse yourself from doing something with the risk of failure?”

        • Ryan Gauvreau

          > I don’t think that Paladin (for one) is unaware of the danger that Allison would pose to the world, if she went crazy. And yet, she took a different approach (successfully).

          I don’t think that she stress-tested Allison, though. She may have helped Allison in some ways, but the job isn’t done.

          Paladin’s exact priorities are also less clear than I would like–would she kill Allison if she judged a 10% likelihood of [event] happening? What if the odds were half as high, but the casualties three times as great?

          > It seems like there’s a whole constellation of possible ways to get through to Allison. He’s chosen his method, that’s his responsibility, nobody else’s.

          If you want to win, then you use every option available to you. It’s great that Paladin is doing her thing, but that doesn’t make Gurawara’s strategy redundant.

          > In fact, I really, really wish Paladin were here

          We know that Allison’s abilities can develop beyond their original limits. We don’t know how far that can go, however. It’s even possible that Allison might lose control of her powers at some point (to say nothing of someone lacing her drink with a hallucinogen).

          Allison could very well turn into a planet buster. She could also solve a dozen major problems all on her lonesome. If the probability of the former option ever gets too high, then I fully support killing her to keep that from happening.

          Paladin might be helping to make the “planet buster” possibility less likely, but so is Gurawara, and neither of them makes the other’s actions ineffective.

      • MisterTeatime

        > (I’d also approve of Gurawara pushing her to figure out where her boundaries are, and emotionally stress-testing her until she breaks, because, again, *potential existential threat* here).

        You realize that every human being is a potential existential threat to someone, right? (Probably at least three or four someones before the cops show up, depending on how carefully they go about it.) Alison’s not alone in that; any of these kids has the potential to give up on being civil and kill somebody because someone hit their emotional weak points too hard.
        Clearly Gurwara would be equally within his rights to provide each of them with a disassembly of their most deeply held beliefs and a public emotional beatdown. That’s what college professors are for, right? /sarcasm

        • Ryan Gauvreau

          If he had infinite time, then I would be absolutely fine with Gurawara putting each and every human through the axiomatic beatdown ringer.

          As it is, he has finite time and resources, and eventually he would reach the point where he would save more lives by campaigning for the Against Malaria Foundation than he would by doing this.

          Allison, though? She has the potential to kill more people than the Against Malaria Foundation has ever saved. If Gurawara is able to reduce the probability of those deaths by any appreciable margin, or to improve our understanding of that probability, then he has an obligation *as a human being* to do so. That he is Allison’s professor just puts him in the right position to do so.

          (Granted, I’m not sure that this is the sort of comic to consider the problem of extinction-level threats, so Gurawara might turn out to have some really stupid reason for pressing Allison.)

    • masterofbones

      >That would provoke an emotional response from a STONE.

      Really? I would be mildly amused at this point were I in her shoes. Sarcasm and intelligent arguments are *fun*. You have a really low bar for what counts as bullying.

      • Tony Lower-Basch

        Maybe!

        Personally, I think I have a higher bar for what counts as honest intelligent argument. Gurawara’s argument strikes me as either unintelligent (if he really doesn’t realize the cheap rhetorical tricks he’s pulling) or dishonest (if he does). But it’s a matter upon which rational people might reasonably disagree.

        • Walter

          ? It isn’t super complicated.

          He is proving that her axiom befits a tyrant.
          He presents an imperfect situation, salvageable with collective action.
          An uncoordinated try fails, like it do.

          The next step is obvious, yeah? What is it that she’ll “be ready” to do? The only way to win is coordinate. She’ll tell everyone what to do, and he’ll call her “your majesty” and she’ll remember the tyrant thing and be like “woah, mind blown”.

          • Monica Gorman

            Why can’t she sit down with people as equals, and be like, Hey, let’s work together?

        • shink55

          Guawara’s argument is neither unintelligent nor dishonest. what he is is doing is conducting an experiment on Alison, one meant to replicate a real situation that Alison will face if she attempts to pursue her axiom in the real world. The actions of the students mimic the actions of people: Some are inherently disadvantaged, some uninformed, some selfish, some distracted, some assume the worst in others. The professor represents whatever authory(ies) are responsible for the the state of things. Authorities don’t tend to feel a need to feel sympathy for individuals, nor do they owe them information or an explanation, but if you make direct inquiries of them you will frequently get some kind of response. Authorities certainly don’t help a revolutionary find answers (which is what Alison is with her axiom) but rather challenge revolutionaries to find their own path, which exactly what the professor is doing.

          The social sciences have a concept called debriefing subjects. There is an acknowledgement among social scientists that in order to discover how people work they will sometimes have to place individuals under stress or duress during the course of an experiment. A properly done debriefing comes after the experiment is complete and acts to inform the subjects of what was really going on during the experiment and to relieve any stress or duress they may have experienced during the experiment. Watch for it, this class will end with the professor coming clean about everything and revoking the grades he declared (both the A’s and the F’s). Patience is required to learn, and learning about philosophy and the social sciences can be incredibly uncomfortable.

      • Guilherme Carvalho

        I have to agree with Tony here, this is only “fun” when you’re on top.
        I love intelligent arguments, but Gurawara has moved past that point a while ago, he is indeed just bullying in many ways, some subtle some less so.

    • SuddenFan

      I’d argue that even if this question was a category error, many of the previous ones were perfectly reasonable. Allison has also been acting the goat for a few pages now.

      More important, Allison needs to develop a better sense of what the stakes are. This was a very low stakes situation compared to literally everything else she’s dealt with recently. That’s true even if he was actually failing people. This cannot be how she responds to antagonism if she has any intention of bringing them together, I’m hoping that’s one of the lessons she takes from this.

    • Kyle Kettler

      This is especially difficult to deal with even when the target is not a Superhero dealing with PTSD. The Professor has a level of institutional power that Allison would struggle to overcome in the best of situations; being the one student who challenges an authority figure is a rhetorical disadvantage that Gurawara is exploiting to the maximum possible degree.

      • Elaine Lee

        There is always a greater level of institutional power that we must struggle to overcome. That’s the point of the exercise. Do we simply save our own skins, or take the risk of sacrificing ourselves for the common good? Alison chose the common good and then became angry at those she was sacrificing for. “I’ve just sacrificed myself for a bunch of selfish idiots!” It’s often easier to love the idea of The People than to love actual people. The Professor was the stand-in for institutional power and did a good job playing his role.

    • Scott

      I do agree that, in this page at least, Gurawara has leaned more heavily towards antagonism than towards education.
      However, I don’t entirely agree on your interpretation of his behavior or that his question is ridiculous. The answer “My *part* in that is to play a black stone, as I did. I’m only one person.” requires that person to be accepting of an outcome in which white stones were played, which Allison currently is not. If that genuinely were Allison’s answer, she would not have reacted so angrily when other people played the white stones. As it stands right now, Allison would only be happy with the outcome if everyone played a black stone. The point Gurawara is trying to make is that outcome will not happen. I firmly believe that if the class were to repeat the experiment right now, complete do-over, at least one person would still play a white stone. Perhaps it would be the girl who spoke up earlier who just still felt that she couldn’t gamble her entire college future on the altruism of a dozen strangers. Perhaps it would be someone else. But it would be someone. As it is, this reality has no place in Allison’s axiom and Gurawara is simply pointing this out.

      • pidgey

        This is actually where I presume this to be going. Gurawara is going to say, “Will you now? Okay, let’s repeat the same experiment” and Allison will be faced with the choice to be the tyrant Gurawara suggested she might have to be, or else let rational self-interest defeat her completely.

        • VariableNature

          And here is the core problem with doing what you suggest: One option is, objectively, better than the other in every way, shape, and form.

          If everyone plays a white stone, everyone except Davenport (and whoever else plays a black stone) gets an A in the class. If everyone plays a black stone, everyone, including Davenport, gets an A in the class. Everyone getting an A is better than everyone but one getting an A, right?.

          Now, if the rule was “if everyone plays a black stone, then everyone will get a C+” or something similar, still receiving a passing grade but not the best one, THEN it would be interesting to see Allison struggle with that. But how it’s currently set up, Allison can assert her will, and there is LITERALLY NO GOOD ARGUMENT AGAINST IT.

          • pidgey

            Sure, there’s a good argument against it. It goes like this: what if someone doesn’t want to?

            The idea of forcing them to do something – to *risk* something – they don’t want to is tyrannical. You might argue that it’s for a greater good, but ultimately that’s not helpful because a world where people don’t get to make choices if thee are objectively better ones to make is a world where no one gets to make choices.

            A tyrant looks at the situation, sees an “optimal” solution, and says we should go for it. Screw everyone who thinks it isn’t optimal. They’re stupid, short-sighted, and hopeless, and depriving them of the opportunity to choose for themselves is only helping them. And the thing is, maybe the tyrant is right! Maybe everything would be better if they were in charge and nobody could argue different. But life isn’t about optimization.

            If Allison forces the issue, she has to do it by raising the stakes somehow. Even if all she does is make some kind of impassioned plea to the classmates, she’s still asking people to put their grade on the line where it wasn’t before. In the most extreme case she threatens violence or worse, but even without doing that, it is absolutely impossible to do what Allison wants to do without asking other people to risk things that matter more to them than any of this does to her.

            You think about how religions work: they tend to put a lot of weight on personal development. There is often some kind of idea of a greater goal to be achieved someday, among a society of people who are all willing to act in service to some grand Good like getting everyone to pass a class, but they also tend to avoid forcing people to act like that. Doing more to accomplish their goals than showing people that they can contribute to a more optimal version of the world (and hoping they take it seriously) would mean they’re on the absolute slipperiest slope of all.

            Getting one person to choose to risk anything they care about in defense of another is hard, but doable. Getting *everyone* to do it would be a miracle, even in a relatively small group like a classroom. Argue all you want that there’s no reason not to do it, but the fact is that even if that’s mathematically true, you could spend your entire life looking for a group of 20 people who would all make your “right” choice and not find one.

    • Ben Posin

      “That question is a category error that would get you failed from philosophy 101. The answer to that from a person (yes, even Allison) who hasn’t been deliberately wound up by bullying is “*I* don’t. What a ridiculous question. Getting all black stones must be, by design, a communal effort. My *part* in that is to play a black stone, as I did. I’m only one person. I can’t do more than play my part.””

      I don’t know what comic you’ve been reading, but I can’t imagine Allison believing this for a second. True, her most recent insight was that she doesn’t have to do everything alone, that the answer is “We got this” rather than “I got this.” But she really does seem to see it as her responsibility to try to bring everyone on board.

      • Prodigal

        Gurawara is doing everything he can to bully her out of being able to stop and think any of her answers through.

    • That Allison can’t make sure, short of being the elepha^?^?^?^?^?^? tyrant in the corner, is, I rather suspect, Gurwara’s point.

    • Seer of Trope

      It is indeed a ridiculous question, but let’s think about Alison’s axiom and Guwara’s remark for a moment. Alison believes that “it is self-evident that people are better together” and that a better world to be striven for is a world where people cooperate. Guwara said this is “the axiom of a true tyrant”. He demonstrated that this is not always possible because of imperfection and mistrust. Then he asks Alison, “how do you make sure all the stones are black?”. How do you make sure everyone works together?

      Your criticism of that question is that it is impossible because an individual categorically cannot determine a communal action. I disagree. To ensure that everyone puts down a black stone is to ensure that everyone has the same and one desire, to save Jon. This is one crowd under one will, the scenario of a tyrant. If cooperation is the means and result of a better world, then one should always strive for optimal cooperation. Whatever means were used to achieve that goal, whether it be violence and/or persuasion, the end result is the same: you are ensuring everyone is guided by one will, hence the “axiom of a true tyrant”.

      In the end, I would say they are both right because their statements do not contradict each other. Guwara’s point is not that Alison’s axiom is bad; rather that it philosophically leads to a tyrannical result. I think the point of conflict is that when Guwara calls Alison’s axiom one that belongs to a tyrant, it hit a sore spot because Alison constantly tries to keeps her self in check because of her powers and that comments suggests that the idea she holds very dearly contradicts her efforts.

      • Let me put a practical example before you: The U.S. House just voted 419 to 0 to pass the Email Privacy Act, which actually does something substantive (if not everything I would have liked). According to you, because they are acting according to the same desire/will—at least as far as we can determine from the outcome—anyone persuading the others to cooperate must be a tyrant. Are you willing to classify all of the 315 co-sponsors of the bill (a majority of the entire House of Representatives) as “tyrants” because they successfully persuaded the remainder to vote the same way?

        • Seer of Trope

          Before I delve into my counter argument, I would like to make it clear that I do not think Guwara was calling Alison a tyrant, rather that her belief will lead to a tyrannical result. I know this sounds strange, but bear with me. To take your example, I do not think the 315 co-sponsors of the bill are “tyrants” because as far I know, they did this for the sake of passing the bill alone. What would make me call them tyrants is if they want every bill they lobby to pass the same way.

          What I should have clarified about tyrannical result is that it’s not one instance of complete cooperation, but the instance where complete cooperation for goals connected to one will is consistent. The axiom states that it is self-evident that people are better when they work together. The natural path of this axiom is to ensure that Congress, either by unanimous or majority vote, passes good bills. This would be quite amazing … but who gets to decide which bill is good? Someone has to. What happens when a substantial party disagrees? According to the axiom, they must be converted.

          Tyrants are not inherently evil. In fact, it would be impressively altruistic to have the faith in believing that their idea of good will help everyone strong enough to have the resolve to carry them out. But it’s reality that not everyone will agree to the agree to one person’s idea of good, enough so that what the idea cannot be executed. If all polite methods such as persuasion fails, what does the person do? If he or she did nothing and accept that reality, then they have prioritized decency above their idea of good. But if they prioritized their idea of good above decency, they would be able to do anything in order to achieve their “good”.

          This is, of course, just goes to show that the axiom by itself is flawed. But I appreciate Guwara as a character because I think only a few of us readers were critical of the axiom that Alison presented. In fact, I think most of us, including me, were impressed by Alison’s axiom and were ready to accept it without thinking about its flaws. Alison is not a tyrant, but the axiom that everything is better when everyone works together will eventually lead her to a choice where she would either have to decide to commit to that ideal by any means necessary, which is to be a true tyrant, or decide that the ideal cannot be applied.

          • I think your view on the necessity of unity-implies-uniformity is one possible implementation of the axiom but not the only one. Consent and agreement are not synonymous in decision-making—you can consent without agreeing[1]—and unanimously supporting the group’s decision doesn’t even require having consented to the decision first place, merely agreeing to the principle of unity in action (not unity in thought) or presenting a united front.[2] Alison’s statement didn’t specify a particular level of unity, so I find an analysis of it that assumes the strictest possible standard to be overstating her actual claim.

            [1] For example, by being neutral or even personally hostile to a proposal but agreeing to abstain from the vote or recuse yourself from the decision.

            [2] See, for example, the history of per curiam decisions from the Supreme Court of the United States.

            Furthermore, when you answer the question, “If all polite methods such as persuasion fails, what does the person do?” you assume that her axiom of unity requires her to be right at all times, which it doesn’t. It’s not an axiom that requires her personal opinion to be followed in all cases, it’s an axiom for people choosing and implementing a decision as a group.

            Someone who finds themselves a minority dissenter might accept that they’re in the wrong (or at least that it’s significantly possible). Even if Alison believes in unity-in-thought—which I have already said isn’t necessarily true—she hasn’t proven that she thinks that she should be the tyrant by saying so; perhaps her axiom is the axiom of a true minion.

            More generally, if her view of good is predicated in pertinent part on an axiom of unity, then agreeing to support the group’s decision is itself a form of good to her. Forcing an unwilling majority to go along with her opinion on some specific subject rather than giving in to the majority’s decision would itself be a violation of her axiom and thus “evil.”

            Now, it’s entirely reasonable to argue that her reaction to the vote violates her axiom. But that doesn’t make her axiom that of a tyrant; that makes her (potential) tyranny a violation of her axiom.

            Finally, she’s describing what she believes is “a better world,” not laying down rules for getting there. The fact that she might think it better if everyone agreed to make a decision as a group and then respect and implement it even if they were on the losing side of the proposition does not necessarily mean that she thinks that it would be good to force people to do so. Most people—not to mention systems of math and logic—operate on more than one axiom, but we don’t even need an additional axiom to resolve this: If by “people uniting as one” she means a voluntary action (as opposed to “people being forced to act as one”), then enforced compliance would violate her axiom. Her axiom about what would be “a better world” may describe something that she thinks would be better but also happens to be impossible to achieve, which does not necessitate any action on her part.

          • Seer of Trope

            Working together as a consesus rather than an execution of a will. That is a very interesting interpretation of Alison’s axiom that I haven’t thought of. People uniting in action, but not necessarily in thought.

            But there is one detail that nags, and it’s that people will voluntarily submit their service to the decision of the consensus. Is that not uniformity in action, a tyranny by which party has the winning vote?

            (Although I suppose that assumes the party as a whole agrees on every policy. But considering that people within the party are going to tend to sharing belief, it’s not too far fetched of an assumption.)

            I guess whether or not it is the axiom of a tyrant or of a minion depends on whether or not you’re on the winning side or losing side because you’re either deciding what everyone will work toward or working together for a goal even if you don’t want to. That is a very interesting dichotomy.

          • Thank you. 🙂

            I think the term for that nagging detail is “tyranny of the majority.” It’s a valid concern, but I think that this is one of those areas where perfection is impossible and you just try to construct a system that breaks down as infrequently and non-catastrophically as possible. See:

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyranny_of_the_majority
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consensus_decision-making

            As a side note about parties, there’s at least one study about this. Newly-minted parliamentary democracies tend to start out with a lot of tiny startup parties which then have trouble getting anything done because there’s too many competing groups to easily form a stable majority. After some number of years they consolidate down to just a few major parties. (I don’t remember the exact range, but it’s something like 3±1.)

          • I think your view on the necessity of unity-implies-uniformity is one possible implementation of the axiom but not the only one. Consent and agreement are not synonymous in decision-making—you can consent without agreeing[1]—and unanimously supporting the group’s decision doesn’t even require having consented to the decision first place, merely agreeing to the principle of unity in action (not unity in thought) or presenting a united front.[2] Alison’s statement didn’t specify a particular level of unity, so I find an analysis of it that assumes the strictest possible standard to be overstating her actual claim.

            [1] For example, by being neutral or even personally hostile to a proposal but agreeing to abstain from the vote or recuse yourself from the decision.

            [2] See, for example, the history of per curiam decisions from the Supreme Court of the United States.

            Furthermore, when you answer the question, “If all polite methods such as persuasion fails, what does the person do?” you assume that her axiom of unity requires her to be right at all times, which it doesn’t. It’s not an axiom that requires her personal opinion to be followed in all cases, it’s an axiom for people choosing and implementing a decision as a group.

            Someone who finds themselves a minority dissenter might accept that they’re in the wrong (or at least that it’s significantly possible). Even if Alison believes in unity-in-thought—which I have already said isn’t necessarily true—she hasn’t proven that she thinks that she should be the tyrant by saying so; perhaps her axiom is the axiom of a true minion.

            More generally, if her view of good is predicated in pertinent part on an axiom of unity, then agreeing to support the group’s decision is itself a form of good to her. Forcing an unwilling majority to go along with her opinion on some specific subject rather than giving in to the majority’s decision would itself be a violation of her axiom and thus “evil.”

            Now, it’s entirely reasonable to argue that her reaction to the vote violates her axiom. But that doesn’t make her axiom that of a tyrant; that makes her (potential) tyranny a violation of her axiom.

            Finally, she’s describing what she believes is “a better world,” not laying down rules for getting there. The fact that she might think it better if everyone agreed to make a decision as a group and then respect and implement it even if they were on the losing side of the proposition does not necessarily mean that she thinks that it would be good to force people to do so. Most people—not to mention systems of math and logic—operate on more than one axiom, but we don’t even need an additional axiom to resolve this: If by “people uniting as one” she means a voluntary action (as opposed to “people being forced to act as one”), then enforced compliance would violate her axiom. Her axiom about what would be “a better world” may describe something that she thinks would be better but also happens to be impossible to achieve, which does not necessitate any action on her part.

          • As a side note, I would argue that a democracy, like most forms of government, is in part a means of answering the question “Which bill is good?” Specifically, democracy relies on the marketplace of ideas to determine which idea is good, with voting being a method of polling those involved to discover the result. There’s theoretically no distinction between passing a bill and determining that it is good.

          • As a side note, I would argue that a democracy, like most forms of government, is in part a means of answering the question “Which bill is good?” Specifically, democracy relies on the marketplace of ideas to determine which idea is good, with voting being a method of polling those involved to discover the result. There’s theoretically no distinction between passing a bill and determining that it is good.

  • Kris Dunlap

    If that’s not a declaration of global domination I don’t know what is.

    • Rumble in the Tumble

      “Global domination” are such strong words. I prefer “global optimization”.

  • sal

    Yo, this arc rules.

  • sammybaby

    And that was the point at which I actually started worrying about Alison.

  • Arthur Frayn

    He’s really pushing her buttons. She needs to discover what his buttons are.

    • Rumble in the Tumble

      *wink* Goodnight, everybody!

    • Even more important, she needs to discover what her own are, and how they straitjacket her thinking.

  • Lostman

    Alison, clam down. You have axiom changed and she already riled up, no wonder she so much collateral damage as mega girl; Alison hot bloodied.

  • Liz

    *sigh* Next time WE’LL be ready, Al. You just proved Professor Jerkface’s point.

  • Pol Subanajouy

    Dude, you’re not helping.

    And yeah, this is hitting Al hard, because this is really puncturing her idealism. I’ve always maintained the world peace and total social equity is not achievable, but still something to be aimed for. Kinda like total efficiency in a mechanical system, beyond friction and heat loss. You can’t reasonably attain it, but your systems will certainly end up better for you having aimed for it.

    However, for someone like Al, who is used to more power than any normal human can ever wield, there has to be time she has fooled herself into thinking that the a utopia and infinite motion machines are within reach. I mean, she threw a nuke at the moon. lol.

    • Tylikcat

      Actually, if the dude you’re addressing is the one who thinks this class rules, this might be helping a lot – at least in (if she’s paying attention, once she calms down and thinks about it) demonstrating to Alison that just going and talking to each person individually about why they should all do what (to her) is obviously the best action might not work. How often, after all, are her classmates going to get a chance to take down Megagirl?

      • Pol Subanajouy

        Actually, in the short term, I’m thinking more about joking around the upset person of mass destruction. But even if viewed in the lens of Al needing more humble pie, I don’t know if that’s going to illustrate the point any further? She already got her rude awakening, after awhile and if you’re proverbial cup is already full, compounded shocks to your world view might just roll off without making an impact.

      • Weatherheight

        The problem with having a particular form of power is that, as time goes by, exercising that power becomes the easiest option to use. When all you have is a hammer, every problem starts to look like nails. Alison has been a bit quick to use force several times along the way when information gathering might have served her better (or maybe not – armchair superheroing a bit here 😀 ).

        In this case, communication is pretty clearly the better option, but that may not always be true. Brute force might work, but that may cause more problems and unintended consequences down the line.

        Guwara is trying to make a complicated point without giving it out. Someone once said “We value what we earn; charity we hold in contempt.” That goes double, IMHO, with education.

  • GreatWyrmGold

    I’m starting to think Allison isn’t disproving the “tyrant” thing.

    • 3-I

      Only because the scene required it. I’m not even going to accept an in-universe explanation for this one: this whole scene is only progressing this way because of contrivance.

      • Insanenoodlyguy

        What have we seen of Allison that suggested she’d keep her cool in a philosophy argument based on an exercise that was (inherently, by the professor’s admission) unfair? This is the first time this has happened to her. And having an EMT as a close friend, I can tell you the ability to handle yourself flawlessly in a crisis does not reflect to all other forms of stress. Also, consider, the very nature of a superhero is to have others act according to your will, and MAKE them when they don’t.

      • ukulady7

        I find it hilarious when people disagree with the author. Someone else created this world but you know if better than they every could.

    • masterofbones

      As I said before, tyranny definitely has its benefits. Especially with an intelligent and benevolent tyrant. Efficiency, speed, and no need to compromise are a pretty powerful combo.

      The biggest problem is often how to keep the government running effectively after you die, as opposed to some inherent issue apparent immediately.

      • Sterling Ericsson

        But if you’re immortal, like Mega Girl very possibly is, the problem’s solved!

      • phantomreader42

        The biggest problem is often how to keep the government running effectively after you die, as opposed to some inherent issue apparent immediately.

        I’d say the fact that the kind of person who would become a tyrant is disproportionately likely to be an arrogant, narcissistic, oppressive asshole is a bigger problem than that. And so is the likelihood of the tyrant having no idea what they’re actually doing.

    • Richard Griffith

      It is not a “tyrant” thing. But that is the way the prof has pharsed it. True freedom means you can kill everyone around you no consequences. The “tyrant” way is a no murdering law and enforcement of same because that is how “we are all in it together”.

  • Hawthorne

    “Miss Green…put down the dragon-headed cane.”

    • sammybaby

      Put on the suit.

      (That was the reference, you were making, right? I just re-watched The Avengers the other night…)

  • Some guy

    “Next time, the class will all choose black stones, because I, Megagirl told them to.”

    “And no, that totally doesn’t make me a tyrant shut up!”

    • I suggested earlier that something like this might happen: if the professor can get Al to basically say something like “everyone will choose black because I’ll beat them up if they don’t”, then he can say he proved his point.

      • Walter

        I sincerely doubt that Alison will threaten violence against any of her fellow students. I give her a lot of grief, but fundamentally she’s heroic, and they are basically mist people by comparison. Hurting them would be pathetic. Hurting them in order to prove a point would be despicable.

  • Insanenoodlyguy

    Best teacher status solidified. Also confirmation that Allison does understand she’s not actually failing the class, thankfully. I was prepared to judge her a little.

  • Daniel Vogelsong

    Ah, the final payoff… the professor’s original intention was to make the class rule.

    • MrSing

      Now that’s an axiom I can get behind.

  • Philip Bourque

    In the comments people have alternated between saying that the prof is a good teacher or a bad teacher. I think it is far too soon to make such judgements. In my mind what makes a teacher good or bad is whether or not the students learn what the professor is trying to teach. Now, since the rest of these mindless automatons are there simply to be bodies in class, Alison is the only person by which we can judge the professors teaching ability. If she doesn’t learn anything from the professor, or learns lessons other than what he is trying to teach, then he would be a bad teacher. If she does learn, well, she most likely will learn since it is that kind of a comic, then he would be a good teacher regardless of his methods. All we can really do with this limited interaction (it’s still only the first class and he might not be here next time) is make a cursory judgement as to if he is a good person or not based on whatever criteria we have. I can’t say either way, since I cannot fathom his motives. I think he should have used this time to explain his methods and madness, instead of continuing to taunt her.

    • Tylikcat

      Well, I wouldn’t *ever* go as far as saying that you can extrapolate the performance of a teaching from a single student. (Did I mention I teach pre-meds? I have some really great students – we’re a competitive school, so really mostly great students. But OMG, the stories I could tell. Especially around cheating. Cheating just depresses me.) But I agree that it’s too early to tell. I find him amusing as a character, and he seems to be effectively engaging the class. And Alison is flailing impressively, in ways that are consistent with her character – which I mostly see as good writing, but also see as establishing a fair bit of skill on his part for thinking on his feet and dissecting arguments effectively. (Though also a lot of commentary on her tendency towards bull headedness.)

  • David Bapst

    As someone who has been involved in college education for almost a decade, I don’t think this is probably very good long-term pedagogical routine. Getting a student this worked up isn’t useful, its just a distraction, and it means students will be bored next class if something even bigger and crazier doesn’t happen. The stakes are now raised and there is no going back.

    Admittedly, he’s already given almost the entire class passing grades, so I guess maybe he isn’t planning on more classes, in which case… I think someone would likely get some harsh annual reviews from his department chair when they find out (and they will… all of the chairs I’ve ever met love reading those end-of-the-semester teaching reviews).

    However, I admit that this may all be a very important life lesson for Allison…? Contra the cinematic concept of college teaching, good pedagogy does not create soul-searching moments of realization. Rather, (good) college teaching is implicitly designed to help students come to the sort of realizations that take weeks of reading, discussion and thought… which is why real college is so boring compared to college in the movies.

  • Richard Griffith

    Next time she will have developed heat vision and will be able to destroy all the white stones. 😉

  • shivathedeceased

    And there’s the tyranny: “Next time I’ll be ready”. Ready to make everyone work together, regardless of their motivation or opinion. Ready to make everything right without asking everyone what right is. Why didn’t she say “Next time we’ll be ready?”
    Mr. G’s point has been proven, but sometimes I wonder whether or not Alison is dumbed down for the purposes of this comic. She worked as a superhero for all those years; watching crime after crime be committed. She’s dealt with a super villain who turned out to want to change the world for the better, watched Feral turn herself into an organ harvesting factory, and let Moonshadow (a literal murderer/Knight Templar) get away from her. She can’t possibly believe that people will work together in the ‘right’ way or even think that there is one right way to handle any solution. Right now, she just seems a bit like a crybaby who got taken in by one of the most basic of philosophy exercises. Most people I know were familiar with the Prisoner’s Dilemma way before college and it’s actually suspension-of-disbelief breaking to me that Alison would have this kind of reaction to the outcome of this situation.
    Alison knows the world is a complicated, scary, morally ambiguous place; that’s what makes this comic so interesting and why this whole scene just feels out of character.

    • ukulady7

      She was a child soldier. That’s not the same thing as being a beat cop on the streets, observing and learning. Everything she’s been through has viewed through the lense of a child which is why I’m not surprised she takes this sort of thing so personally. It’s not just a job she had but hey entire identity.

    • Insanenoodlyguy

      Consider that she worked first with a bunch of people trying to be superheroes (pulling together for the greater good) then after she left that, as a volunteer firefighter. Allison fought supervillians, then she fought fires. And she’s always held others to her own standards. She figured out the solution that would let everybody win, and assumed by default everybody else could see it as well. The fact they didn’t has left her upset.

  • Mechwarrior

    “How do you make sure all the stones are black?”

    *CRUNCH*

    “Well played.”

  • Jeremy

    I think Alison’s biggest lesson from this should be not to get rattled. With her goals she’s going to end up having a lot of intense discussions with a lot of people.

    It’s funny, because she’s learned to stay cool during life or death battles – now she has to learn to do it in philosophical discussions.

  • Weatherheight

    Ready? Ready for … what, exactly? 😀

    I both worry for Alison and adore her here. On the one hand, even after taking a rhetorical beating, she still has hope that she can create a solution to this problem – I admire refusing to give in to despair (“There is NO Kobyashi Maru.” “There are FOUR lights!”).

    On the other hand, using the contraction “I’ll” shows at some level she’s missed the point. One definition of evil involves using power to coerce others to do your will and increase your own power. Guwara is at the very least saying “People don’t always work together. People don’t always risk their own benefits in order to benefit others. How does one provide incentive to do so without crossing the line from incentive to coercion?” The contraction “I’ll” implies that, to some degree, she thinks she alone can determine this kind of change. She may be right, but how will she handle it when she cannot? We’ve already seen a few examples in her life where friends have let her down, and her reactions have been at best panicked.

    I’ll say it again – so MANY good points in these posts. It’s rare that the comments elevate the comic and the comic elevates the posts.

  • Preacher John

    It’s a flip of the cloak from here to: “I’ll be ready for you next time, Spiderman / puny humans / Earthlings!” :p

    Seriously tho’, Al’s saviour complex is in full effect here, and it’s totally understandable given her tremendous (but limited) powers and (child) super-soldier experiences. Hopefully her work with Robot Inventor girl and her DV protection network will teach her how much of life is about developing consensus with other people, and how awkward and difficult that can be even in orgs where everyone already agrees on the goals.

  • snapJuice

    I think the point Gurwara has been trying to make is that Alison’s
    power is the source of her capacity to say that teamwork and community
    is axiomatic. As the stone exercise proved, generally speaking, people
    will look out for their individual selves unless organized to work
    towards a common goal. Communal effort requires leadership and
    accountability. And accountability requires some sort of leviathan.
    “We’re all in this together” is the axiom of a tyrant because quite often, behavior
    based on that axiom has to be enforced. A tyrant has the ability to
    force people to work together. (It’s not the only way, but it is one way.)
    Alison can say that teamwork is the ideal goal because she is powerful
    and can make people work together. (“Next time I’ll be ready!” = “Next time I will organize everyone”) Her power also means that she can afford to look beyond protecting her own interests and look to the collective good. Her classmate on financial aid seems to demonstrate that those with less power can’t always risk putting the collective goal ahead of their own individual needs.

    This does strike me as an important thing for Alison to understand. It’s come
    up a few times in the comic- when she rescued the drunk girl from the rapist at
    the rooftop party and brought her back to her friend’s apartment- her roommate
    told Alison that not everyone can afford to stand up and protect themselves. Again
    during the fiasco with Moonshadow- she tells Alison essentially “you have
    no idea how to help the world because you have no idea what it’s like to live in it”,
    pointing to her lack of vulnerability. If Alison wants to help people, she has
    to understand that she can’t drag everyone along and expect them to take the
    same risks that she does.

    All that being said, it makes sense that Alison is upset. Gurwara is touching a nerve. Throughout the story we’ve seen that Alison struggles with being labelled any kind of tyrant or
    monster. She was very upset upon discovering she was responsible for the death of
    her previous professor’s boyfriend, that she destroyed her school’s playground, that
    Moonshadow separates her from other people. I would guess that she is pretty torn
    up about the violent and destructive things she’s done, and doesn’t want to be
    a tyrant- aka doesn’t want to make the same mistakes. So it makes sense that she’s
    reacting so strongly to Gurwara, who is essentially calling her out on her power.
    Though it’s interesting that Gurwara has essentially stolen her power in this particular
    situation, because the only way out for Alison is to do things she has
    moral reservations against doing (ie. ripping up the classroom, getting him fired).
    To a degree, she’s been put in the same position as the other students. I don’t think Alison is used to having to defer to the choices of someone more powerful than herself- she generally doesn’t have to put up with anyone screwing her over. And Gurwara is screwing her over. Maybe that’s an important lesson in empathy for her. He may be an ass, but I think he’s forcing some important self-consideration.

    • chaosvii

      Agreed, I was considering using that parallel with the gals who alluded to Alison’s “she shouldn’t have to change her behavior because others are assholes” being fine in a better world but not one where the only person that is able to always avoid making allowances due to personal vulnerability is Mega-Girl.

      “Her power also means that she can afford to look beyond protecting her own interests and look to the collective good.”
      And yet this is the catch-22 of Alison’s life. She can afford to ignore the typical risk associated with always choosing the heroic choice, but there’s no way that she can convincingly communicate that she wants to make the heroic choice that other people wouldn’t make. Everyone knows that she cannot be meaningfully held accountable for her actions if Alison ceased to desire the benefits that can only come through playing by all the rules. What exactly is keeping that desire stronger than any contrary desire that might pop up?! Not even Alison knows, and hopefully this class will enable her to sort that sort of thing out.

      As was discussed with Cleaver, Alison knows that the rules are a choice that most people are scared to break and she simply chooses to avoid breaking because she doesn’t want to do wrong. What makes something so wrong that Alison won’t do it?! She hasn’t had to examine this yet.
      Her desire to contribute to a better world is both a damning indictment against her and the only publicly known motive for why she continues to be heroic. If this class enables her to know for herself why she is motivated to be heroic in almost all cases ever, she might be able to confidently see why she does the things she does and express it accurately to anyone that wouldn’t take her at her word.

  • Balthazar

    Alison: And I would’ve gotten away with it to, if it wasn’t for you wry professor and that prisoners dilemma of yours!

  • Zmm

    yeah i’d love to be in that class.
    though “next time i’ll be ready to clearly explain my plan and see if everyone wnants to do it” would’ve been a btter

  • Sterling Ericsson

    That’s why I said possibly. And you can still be immortal, but not age-less, so long as she can’t actually be harmed by the things that usually kill old people.

  • Loranna

    That would be one option Alison could employ, yes. But, were she to do that, I think it would hurt her assertion that “We’re all in this together.” She would be opting out of the game, opting out of the class, rather than seeking a solution where everyone, including her, benefits.

    The fact that she COULD opt out of the class, and do so without fear of consequence, would further weaken her assertion. As Financial Aid Girl’s plight demonstrates, not everyone in the class shares Alison’s level of freedom to choose a failing grade without fear of consequence. Alison taking that choice, and then moving out without suffering as another student who chose that course of action would have, may have unintended consequences as well: damaging peoples’ faith in the academic validity of the university, breeding resentment among the student body, et. al.

    Loranna

  • Again, I’d like to point out that the standard English use and definition of “tyrant” requires oppression and things; it’s not just a synonym for “dictator” (which itself has a specific meaning in technical analysis of voting systems).

    That being said, one of the things that I’ve liked about this comic has been its exploration of what can be done by the individual to help individuals vs what must be done by society to correct systemic injustices and how we can balance all of the above in our persona lives.

  • I think she’s here to learn axiology. That isn’t NECESSARILY the same thing as psychological self-exploration.

  • The U.S. House just voted 419 to 0 to pass the Email Privacy Act, which actually does something substantive (if not everything I would have liked). Which of the 315 co-sponsors would you say was the “tyrant”?

  • Christophe2314

    Another problem, sure. But how often are you faced with the exact same problem twice? Happens sometimes, but it’s not really something you can rely on. Generally, a thought experiment repeated with insight has far less value than the first attempt, unless the point was specifically to observe how people handle the same problem multiple times.

  • Campor

    The issue comes when that tyranny is run by people who are also inherently selfish. Which will almost always inevitably happen- Leaders die, and new people have to take their places. Ambitious and selfish people tend to settle at the top. You’d get maybe one generation of goodness out of it before the person at the top says ‘Okay, yeah, this whole ‘controlling all of you’ thing is working out. How about I use it to gain more power for myself and my friends? And how about we ensure that any people who follow me are only my children, so they benefit from all of this?’

    Tyranny doesn’t allow for choice, and that includes for good people as well as bad. The moment the tyrant is a bad person, everyone under them suffers.

    • Sterling Ericsson

      Well, that’s why i’m talking about in regards to the above scenario. There is quite a decent possibility that Mega Girl can’t die due to old age. Her cellular structure likely stops cancer and other such things from happening, meaning she is functionally immortal in regards to time.

  • That’s really not proving anything because Alison rejects the idea of that kind of sacrifice as it lead to essentially, a permanent living death for her friend Fury. She wants to save EVERYONE not sacrifice herself.

  • UnsettlingIdeologies

    Strongly trying to convince people of something is the act of a tyrant?

    • The_Rippy_One

      By the original definition, yes, actually. The original tyrants had power based on convincing the proletariat populace to support them over the “proper” noble authorities. Convincing everyone to act as you tell them to is classically tyrannical, in that sense.

  • phantomreader42

    yup. in her heart, she feels it’s her job to “save every one of us; stand for every one of us.”

    Well who gave her that idea? Everyone she has ever known ever.

    • The_Rippy_One

      We aren’t exactly knocking her for believing it, nor are we saying that it is unreasonable for her to think that way, based on her background; we are noting that that belief is problematic taken to the logical extreme.

  • Jared Rosenberg

    She could have gone around the class room and destroyed all the black stones. Nothing screams dictator like wanton destruction of property, she’s in a total no-win situation.

  • Arthur Frayn

    But many forms of literary analysis and criticism *ARE* invalid. Don’t tell me you’ve never read a piece of publish-or-perish presumptuous tripe and said, “This is total BS!”

  • Elaine Lee

    The Professor means to be a stand-in for government, religion, ruling class, or whatever institution has power over human beings. By acting in this role, he is making a point to Alison, but more importantly, to the rest of the students who are watching the interaction. If Alison freaks out with this amount of “bullying,” what chance does she have against the real powers that are arrayed against her? If I were a student in the class, I would be much more afraid of Alison than I would the “bullying” professor.

    • UnsettlingIdeologies

      Then is his point that the government/religion/ruling class/whatever institution is purposely trying to screw people over and inhibit cooperation? I’m not saying I disagree with that idea, but it’s a very particular stance to be taking.

      Also, people have every reason to trust that teachers won’t be shitty to them more than strangers or government institutions. If the activity is a metaphor, and he doesn’t explain the roles of the metaphor ahead of time, then he has demonstrated nothing other than the fact that some students will take teachers’ words literally/at face value. That’s not a particularly insightful or interesting claim.

  • Which can only interpret the law. The UK government (representative/instigator of the majority) has lost multiple legal challenges on this stuff, going all the way up to our Supreme Court, and its response has repeatedly been to change the law to legalise the point it lost on, at times retrospectively.

    And all the while this is happening, disabled people are being attacked in the street as ‘frauds’ and ‘fakes’, because that is what they believe we are. When I was interviewed about disability hate crime on the evening news, the Tory MP for the neighbouring constituency was interviewed to counter my points (yes, really,the BBC thought ‘balance’ demanded countering individual experience of hate crimes) and stated that non-disabled people (that would be the majority) were ‘entitled to be angry’.

    The systems of state are no protection when the majority has been persuaded it it is perfectly ethical to abuse the minority in the street. And there is a long, long history of that tyranny of the majority in pretty much any culture you care to name. The current situation with UK disabled people demonstrates how easy it is to convince the majority that the vulnerable minority are the ‘selfish’ ones, and that by abusing them the majority is imposing ‘fairness’.

  • Arthur Frayn

    Gurawara is trying to manipulate Alison into acting like the tyrant he called her, and so far he’s succeeding (by deliberately pushing her buttons, as I pointed out previously). But I think she is *not* a tyrant, and can overcome his deliberate provocation the way she did Patrick’s. She is neither a fascist nor a communist, just recognizes that humans are social animals and can and do accomplish great things by voluntary cooperation and networking.

    The thing is, the Prisoner’s Dilemma isn’t accurate and true if you aren’t prisoners cut off from communicating. They are only prisoners of Gurawara’s tyranny.

  • MrSing

    Mate, I never said anything about freedom being roses and sunshine, I only said that taking choices away from people is a very immoral idea.

    • Rumble in the Tumble

      Well, I never said that tyranny ain’t immoral. I’m just saying that if one had an opportunity to become a tyrant and fix the chronic problems of humanity by simply taking what’s needed and fixing them, and one would choose not to, because ephemeral freedoms > very tangible human lives… I’m pretty sure there are people who’d call that kind of inaction “immoral”.

      • MrSing

        The problem is people tend to get very violent when you infringe on their freedoms. Unless you very strictly surpress people and the enevitable alternate ideals and voices with their own ideas on how to solve problems, you’re going to get a riot.
        Not even allowing people to make their own choices on what is right, how they should live, and how you’re going to spend their tax money creates resentment. That resentment needs to be surpressed to keep society stable. A society like that is not exactly nice to live in.
        Another thing. A tyrant basically says which way society goes, what the laws are, etc. It is already incredibly unlikely that one person could find a perfect and viable solution for one of societies ills. It would take years of experience, expertise, insight, and knowledge to do so.
        To have this for ALL of societies ills combined would require a super human effort, as in, no one human could do so.
        You would need several advisors, or multiple leaders working together. Thus not being a true tyranny anymore, where one person stands above law and morality. Besides the obvious issues of getting several of these individuals who are not bound by anything, even each other, to get to actually work together and make concessions.

  • MisterTeatime

    Uh. No.
    In biology class, students don’t examine their own bodies and hold discussions about them. (In a psychology class, they sure as hell don’t examine their own mental health in front of the class.) In English class, the novels and poems they examine and discuss aren’t written by the students discussing them. In math class, the students don’t provide the problems they’ll be solving, or the methods they’ll use to solve them.*
    In a philosophy class, as in any other topic, it’s the teacher’s job to provide the curriculum. That includes the basic concepts and the techniques of discussing and applying them, and the specific examples to be discussed.
    Asking the students for examples is one way to provoke discussion, but the teacher’s job is to have examples to discuss, with or without student contributions.
    It’s certainly not to use the students as the examples whether they like it or not, or to pressure them into volunteering while conveniently not mentioning that the process will involve shaming and interrogating them in front of their peers.

    *(I’m not saying that none of these would ever be good ideas- just that they wouldn’t meet the needs that school is expected to meet, i.e. acquiring new knowledge and skills through instruction from someone more expert than yourself.)

    • Christophe2314

      If that’s how you see it, then you would make for one hell of a boring philosophy teacher. The entire point of the class is to learn how to think for yourself. Examining the ideas of other philosophers is not the end in itself.

      • MisterTeatime

        If the entire point of the class is to learn how to think for yourself, then what is the girl in panels two and four worried about? A, F, either way she learned something, right?

        • Christophe2314

          Do you honestly believe those grades are going to stick? Pretty sure they won’t.

  • ukulady7

    So how much time did you spend building that straw man?
    Nobody gets to hold the threat of physical violence over the entire world’s head.

    • Arthur Frayn

      -Except for governments.

    • Not very long. I just took your comment about who bears responsibility for responding when provoked and applied it to a set of circumstances where the legal and moral answer are the opposite of the point you’re pushing. I don’t think you were pushing for such a universally-applied concept of provocation-bears-no-responsibility, responder-bears-all-responsibility, but I did want to demonstrate that the provoker bears some responsibility in at least some contexts, so perhaps more nuance was warranted than your response contained.

      And unless you’re saying that @dannyincanada:disqus is threatening violence from Alison, I haven’t seen Alison threaten anyone with physical violence in this situation.

  • Ryan Gauvreau

    Yes. She might be able to grow stronger over time as well, so if “planet buster Allison” seems at all likely, the time to use those nukes is *now*.

    (Preferably with her permission. “We don’t know how much more powerful you will be able to get, and at this point all someone would need to do is slip a tailored hallucinogen in your drink and boom, you’ve gone and leveled the city. So, um, weighing lives and probabilities, this might be the best thing that you could possibly do. Please say yes.”)

  • Ryan Gauvreau

    Now that’s very interesting.

    In that case, this is probably a bad idea, and with that information I’d advise Gurawara against it. I’d also suggest that that experiment be run a few dozen more times over the next couple of years, so that we have better information.

  • Ryan Gauvreau

    No. So long as she does *something* without thinking about it, progress will have been made. Although, if she *was* too likely to turn into a planet buster, I’d approve tricking her into killing a city and then guilting her into committing suicide in some fashion. One city is a small price to pay for saving everyone else.

    I don’t think the probability is high enough for that right now, though (but somebody in Allison’s world had better be working on crunching the numbers!).

  • masterofbones

    >There’s a lot that’s gone on in this segment where the import could be changed a lot by vocal tone.

    Ah, I didn’t think about that. My brain just analyzed the comment as “obviously” teasing the class with what was “clearly” dry wit. Upon thinking about it I can now understand why people would proclaim “BULLYING!” – If he has been speaking in a condescending and dismissive tone this entire time I agree 100%.

    But I still think his tone is more likely to be teasing and light-hearted. It just makes way more sense to me, especially with how the other students have been reacting.

    • Tylikcat

      This one is definitely about reading commenters rather than characters. Clearly a lot of people see him as being completely awful. Therefore, it must not be that hard to read him as awful. (Of course, an awful lot of people just plain hate that kind of dry wit, even if they recognize it. Somethings just don’t translate.*)

      There’s so much that can’t be inferred from just text and drawn image. And I don’t get the impression the students quite know what to make of him. I mean, sure, it’s easy to enjoy the show when you’re not in the direct line of fire, but I think you’d have to be pretty foolish to be at ease there at this point, no? So until I have evidence to the contrary, my reading of him is teasing, but also… reserved I guess? In the sense that he’s not laying his cards on the table, either in terms of his intentions, or his emotional tone. I find him amusing, but more than a little opaque. (This, admittedly, is a deliberate choice – I’d rather read someone as opaque, while attending to the possibilities, than over-interpret.)

      * At one Thanksgiving a bunch of my friends had a cheerful discussion of which James Bond movies they liked the most, and why, in large part specifically so as to include my now ex-mother-in-law who was a fan. (Everyone was on super best behavior.) Later it was relayed that she thought all my friends were a bunch of awful intellectual snobs because they discussed James Bond critically.

  • Iarei

    Subjectively false. You can’t really say something is ‘objectively fun’. Well you could, but you’d be objectively wrong.

  • Peter

    I don’t know. Do you remember anybody saying something about never getting ill or does her power just prevent her from external wounds? It may be that something was mentioned and i just don’t remember.

    • Sterling Ericsson

      I don’t think even she or her doctor knows. Especially since her power now seems to be some sort of force field esque thing? But she still has healing abilities, I believe, so…

  • masterofbones

    She was the first person to respond, and she has been speaking for the entire class from the beginning.

  • MrSing

    Also, you basically agree with me that not having a choice is a bad thing. All those examples you give are people having merely the illusion of choice while they have no real power to actually chose. Much like people under a tyrant.

  • MrSing

    How is not having the right to chose how to live your life and what opinions you can hold not a massive negative effect to people?

    • Sterling Ericsson

      Doesn’t affect your ability to hold opinions at all, it just doesn’t allow you to “choose to live your life” in a manner that negatively affects other people. You have to treat people equally. You can still hold an opinion separate from that, but it doesn’t change anything. That’s how non-discrimination laws work, for example. A shopkeeper can hold as many racist opinions as they want, but they still are required to provide service to people of all races.

  • Walter

    That’s kind of unfair, yeah?

    Like, persuading senators to vote about stuff is more or less the job description. Making other students put their grades on the line to help win your pissing contest with the prof isn’t the same thing at all.

  • Walter

    It’s really weird how Alison has pivoted away from “Fuck You”. I’m once again impressed. By both participants, actually. Ordinarily that kind of vulgarity would kill the exchange, but they are both kind of caught up in it here. I think Alison is in the wrong here, but I was expecting her to fly out through a wall in a huff, so props.

  • Rumble in the Tumble

    “The problem with benevolent tyrants is that you can’t always depend on
    having a benevolent tyrant. What if someone has a bad day? What if the
    benevolent tyrant dies?”
    According to history, you can always revolt. But the inevitability of a benevolent tyrant becoming a bad one aside, here’s a not-so-hypothetical scenario:
    Your country is a post-soviet shithole. Twenty years ago, the ruling communists made a sweet deal with the opposition – they’ll let the chosen few into the seats of power and money, trumpeting it as “the beginning of democracy”, and in turn, the opposition won’t cut the communists off from power and throw them into jail or something.
    Twenty years later, those same communists are still in the government. Those who are not, are the 1% of the country, having the money and the connections to push whatever legislations they want. Over twenty years of democracy brought about only a parade of incompetence and corruption. Those of the old guard too old for running this business are replaced by their families/direct protegees, undoubtedly with the same shady connections and lack of morals.
    tl;dr
    The government, and every secret agency, business of importance and such, are completely blocked by crooks and thieves. They make sure that any new faces step in line or get out of the politics. Nothing changes. There is no end in sight.
    Would it be so wrong and immoral to wish for a tyrant to step up and flip the gameboard?

  • The_Rippy_One

    It’s actually both, really. If you had a Perfectly wise ruler with Perfect knowledge, a benevolent dictator is by far one of the best forms of rulership. The benefit of a single commanding voice is it’s efficiency. if that will is then carried out instantly, then you will have a system that will also be maximally efficient – as long as that will does not fuck it up. Which is the problem with human leaders being despots – there isn’t anything wrong with the position, and everything wrong with having an imperfect leader filling it, in an imperfect system, with imperfect knowledge (and potentially a non-benevolent intention, but that’s hardly a limiting factor, comparatively)

    With tyrants, the better the leader, the better the resulting system. the poorer the leader, the faster the wheels come off the cart and we all suffer a horrific crash. Note I said faster – no one human can be so good a leader that the wheels won’t, eventually, come off, its just a question of when. Imperfect information, if nothing else, promises the eventual failure.

    Engaging more minds gets you better results, but it costs efficiency – you have to communicate, and potentially argue, weigh considerations (because everyone involved is imperfect), and discuss until you find an optimal path, balancing both current needs and future difficulties. Which is hard, and complex, and needs a lot of sharp minds working really long hours to get right.

    This is, effectively, why the best systems of governance (that we’ve found) involve both an executive (which consists of a single person, or a small group) and a much wider governing body – one creates decisive action, the other creates nuanced planning. At least, ideally *glares at the current US government*

  • The_Rippy_One

    Okay, see, I’m the guy in the last panel. I AM LOVING THIS CLASS! I can see other people hating it, but dang is this fun to me.

  • Weatherheight

    Please see Chapter 18, page 19 of another Webcomic dealing with issues of power, agency, and consequences. Trust me, it’s relevant. 🙂

    http://www.genocideman.com/

    The Singularity is coming. Maybe Alison will rescue us? 🙂

  • The_Rippy_One

    what break, if not Allison making that sort of response? I’m not saying you are right or wrong, but that seemed the obvious thing to draw from hat you said, so now I’m confused.

  • The_Rippy_One

    I dunno, I’ve had some early morning classes where we, as the class, did not have more than 10% awareness in the first 30 minutes because there wasn’t a cafe open in time for class, and we all more or less asleep.

    As to having the stones on hand, there are actually a fair number of exercises to be done with such, and we don’t know what else he’s carrying. Decks of cards seem likely, and a certain amount of string, for example. Also, this isn’t a particularly good version of the prisoner’s dilemma – it feels very ad hoc, in certain respects – very much like he’s fitting the scenario to suit the supplies on hand, more than having the supplies to suit the scenario. If this was custom fit, then he would have started out with one less white stone than needed, rather than arbitrarily snagging one after.

    • Christophe2314

      Not necessarily. Giving and taking a white stone was done as part of the demonstration. He wanted to make it very obvious to the class what was happening. What I find strange about it is the lack of the “all in” penalty. In a classic prisoner’s dilemma, if both prisoners talk, they both get a bigger sentence than if neither of them talked. In this one, there was no penalty for everyone playing white. Granted, that was impossible anyway due to Davenport only having a black stone.

  • The_Rippy_One

    True…but, Feral’s organs might prove to being useful in continuing her existence, even if she isn’t properly immortal. Then it’s just keeping her brain in order XD

  • chaosvii

    She’s not a tyrant, sure, but she doesn’t yet clearly understand what separates her from a tyrant, whilst holding a few of the philosophically consistent ideals of tyranny.
    And I’ll note that a lot of people do this, but most of them are separated from fascist/totalitarian ideologies by a number of more strongly held contrary values that tend to counter sympathy with such schools of thought. Alison is having trouble with sorting out her priorities, and hopefully Gurwara’s irreverent style of speaking will afford her & others the comfort necessary to see that being wrong or being very close to the worst kind of wrong is not something they should be scared of. It should be something they accept as part of growing past your initial biases & naivete to reach a relatively firm basis for approaching more & more of life’s conflicts.

  • Arkone Axon

    This comic does an INCREDIBLE job of deconstructing the traditional “hero/villain” roles. The people here who are insistent that the professor is a bully are attempting to make him into… this:
    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/DesignatedVillain

    Yes, he’s being very antagonistic towards Alison. He is being deliberately antagonistic towards a student who spoke up and attempted to take control of his classroom – but instead of asking her to be quiet or leave, he’s both using her to teach the class AND teaching her at the same time. He has forced her to examine her most deeply held beliefs, to THINK about them. He’s using antagonism as a teaching tool.

    His question in the second panel is the line that proves his true nature. He’s not trying to convince her that optimism is stupid and idealism is for idiots and grim and gritty grunge in darkness is “realistic.” He’s asking her a very pertinent question. How DO you make sure all the stones are black?

    Alison spent years looking for answers. Now she’s finally met a professor who can help her find some.

  • SerialPeacemaker

    and they propose to stop her…how exactly?

  • SerialPeacemaker

    probably not, but we’ve already seen the roiling well of fury alison is waiting to unleash in her conversation with cleaver

  • Kyle Kettler

    http://strongfemaleprotagonist.com/issue-2/page-46/

    Allison has a flashback and subsequent meltdown. Allison was a child soldier. I think it’s unrealistic to consider her emotionally stable.

  • Gurawara: “Now if only SOMEONE would precommit to viciously beating up whoever puts out a white stone, threatening the class to keep them in line and get the ideal outcome…”
    Gurawara: “…turning into a tyrant in the process.”

    Alison: “…If I’m beating up people anyway, it would save time and effort if I just forced you to GIVE THE WHITE STONE BACK.”
    Alison: “You know, since in this context, you’re clearly the supervillain.”

  • Ben Posin

    Well, yeah–but that’s the opposite of what I’m quoting and responding to.

    • My comment was, perhaps, not properly oriented as a reply to yours. Stripping out the context, I meant to say that I think that
      (1) she intellectually believes in the necessity of collective action,
      (2) she emotionally blames herself for failure,
      (3) this is a contradiction, and
      (4) that contradiction is in keeping with her characterization.

  • Ben Posin

    Well, yeah–but that’s the opposite of what I’m quoting and responding to.

  • Mitchell Lord

    Hm…this actually shows an interesting issue with Allison. She’s incapable of abandoning her axiom “Everyone can work together to succeed”…EVEN IF THAT AXIOM PROVES UNWORKABLE. Now, theoretically, it’s possible for everyone to work together. In PRACTICE…it’s very hard.

  • Bob

    You know what I like most about this comic?
    All the discussion it provokes in the comments that is ACTUALLY DISCUSSION!

  • crazy j

    She has a job and a shit ton of money. She can afford to flunk a class. She could just swap out her white stone for the other kid’s black stone and solve the problem.

  • Monica Gorman

    “You have just had it demonstrated to you that you won’t!”
    Um, this is why repeat play is part of game theory. Even I know that from high-school economics.