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Journal of No. 118


May 18th, 2018

Educated & Far Cry 5 @ 04:36 pm


 Educated , by Tara Westover, is another book pick of the NYT/PBS Now Read This book club.

Westover grew up in Idaho in a strict Mormon family that stands out even among Mormon families in Idaho. Her father was not merely religious, but mistrustful of the government, doctors, vaccinations, medicine, education. Tara (after the fact) diagnoses him with bipolar disorder, but it's hard to separate mental illness from the extremes of conspiratorial antigovernment survivalist thinking. At any rate, while some of her older siblings had some schooling, Tara as the youngest grew up during the most extreme era of dad's thinking. She didn't go to school at all, and it would be charitable to call her home life 'unschooling'.  Not only that, but she didn't have a birth certificate until she was 9.

Mom makes herbal remedies and gets training as a midwife. Dad makes a living at scrap dealing. Much of her childhood reminiscences are of horrible industrial accidents caused by willful negligence on her father's part, usually with her or her siblings as the victims. One brother somehow studies enough to go to college, and form a role model for her. She studies enough to get a decent ACT score and get admitted to BYU, where she is soon a fish out of water, even moreso than you or I would be at BYU, but for different reasons.

One significant event is a lecture class where she has to ask what the word "Holocaust" means. That's how profound her ignorance was. And although her ignorance was 'honest', being ignorant of the Holocaust was probably too close to Holocaust-denial, so she faced a certain amount of moral censure from the class.

I wish there were more details like this included, that track the change from ignorance to knowledge, or from false knowledge to true knowledge (as when she slowly comes to understand that aspirin and antibiotics are not, in fact, poisons.)

But while her life story is certainly one of gaining degrees at BYU and Cambridge and Harvard, there is not enough insight (to satisfy me) about how her worldview changes. The actual story she's telling is more about the increasing distance between her and her parents (and the shifting alliances among siblings and other relations). 

Perfect segue into Far Cry 5, set in the Mountain West, where a religious cult with doomsday prepper attitudes takes over a county. It's not much of a stretch to cast Tara's family as the bad guys. As a rookie law enforcement agent, you get sent in to arrest the head of the cult. Let's just say it doesn't go well, and pretty soon, you're in Far Cry mode. Hiding in the bushes with a bow and arrow, slowly taking out the bad guys and liberating territory for decent folk.

Now coming from a series which has been justly criticized for regressive attitudes, this entry sends some subliminal prosocial attitudes. Sure, it's violent as fuck as you kill bad guys with bigger and larger explody things (although the bow and arrow combat system is still extremely satisfying). But the bad guys are anti-government forces. And you slowly gather allies among the good honest folk. When you take over an outpost, you literally put up an American flag. Now, if this were set in the Middle East or Africa, it would be jingoistic colonialism (and most of the rest of the Far Cry series has been set in remote parts of the world where it's been easy to see it as white dude versus nonwhite dudes.) But here they've twisted it around, and made the treasonous rebel scum the enemy. America, Fuck Yeah!

Lots of good stuff to flesh out the game. Some good creepy music from the cult. A few hilarious characters ("I've been shot!... In the wiener!"). Recreating the stunts of daredevil Clutch Nixon. And the simple joy of slinking around a compound with Peaches the mountain lion, slaughtering cultists.
 
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Journal of No. 118