2018/01/25/vicarious-ugly-man

I spent a sizeable chunk of my adolescence hooked up to assorted video toys, my favourite of which were first-person shooters and RPGs set in bleak locales where the player character had to survive using their grit, determination, and ability to exploit predictable enemy AI patterns. STALKER, Fallout 3 and New Vegas, Bioshock, Left 4 Dead, Dark Souls, etc. fed a shared cultural fantasy among young men of going it alone as Chief Badass in a cruel and violent world. Long after that phase should have expired in me (and in bundles of other young men around me), I've retained an immature fascination with the most grim titles.

The locus (for me, anyway) was Far Cry 2. Outside of a big portion of the game around two thirds in, I found its pacing addictive. You head into a war-torn country and visit the town that's under cease fire, grab the first job that comes your way from either of the two fighting factions, and start fires and blow a bunch of shit up, further destabilizing the country. There's a nice (if a little on-the-nose) Heart of Darkness moment building up towards the end of the game where how much of an asshole you are is really drilled into you as you play.

I especially liked many of the buddies. You get a choice to be one of nine hardened mercenaries with shady pasts in on-site security and whatnot, but your choice just amounts to your arms looking different in-game while holding a variety of apprently off-model firearms. The characters you didn't choose to play as then litter the world and mumble at you about their shady pasts whenever you meet with them, handing them something like a briefcase full of drugs or gold or whatever: "oh yeah, just like my time in the IDF." "My friend in Bulgaria? He could move this stuff in a week.". Getting those little bits of their horrid character was a great source of fascination for me, with the best horrid character of course being the game's antagonist, The Jackal, whose moral treatises were conveniently scattered across the game world and waxed poetic about how selling weapons made by German union workers to warlords is as equally abhorrent as selling radios made by Bangladeshi kids to Wal-Mart.

Around the same time as I finished Far Cry 2, I read a Wired article about John McAfee. He's a leathery old man with a storied curriculum vitae which includes time spent in the seventies playing Power Gringo and dealing drugs in central America before developing a mediocre antivirus software:

In Belize, offending the Police Commissioner will immediately get a policeman fired, with no repercussions to the Commissioner, and, depending on the offense, may even get the officer "erased". So it gives an officer serious pause when you say: "The drugs belong to Commissioner (insert name). I am delivering them to a friend for him". If spoken with authority and condescension, they can have a dramatic effect. No policeman in his right mind would try to validate the story. Resident Gringos, for odd reasons, are prized as friends by wealthy and prominent locals, so it would not be out of the question to be close with the Country's Police Commissioner.

Things have been adding up for me since. I've basically been fetishizing criminals and soldiers who do shitty things in dangerous places, places that my cushy upbringing and lifestyle allow me to never approach. One of my favourite films is Sorcerer, about a handful of criminals who all accept a suicide mission to escape the unnamed jungle town where they're lying low. I've got photos of soldiers from a smattering of places: the seige of Sarajevo, the old Spanish civil war, the Russia-Chechnya border, next to a bunch of unimpressed Afghani kids. I thought that Kane and Lynch 2 essentially being LiveLeak: The Game was great, and its amateur video style and effects were a great way of getting its themes across.

At this point I'm thinking thease are some major red flags. I'm sharing this interest with neocon reactionaries, after all. At least I don't think Brad Pitt was cool in Fight Club or that the Rhodesians were right, but outside of my politics I'm not so far removed in aesthetic tastes from the people that do. At the time of writing, if you visit /fa/, the fashion board on 4chan, some of it's posters are busy trying to push a new style called terrorwave: wearing military surplus items with cheap-looking clothes like thrifted Levis and Adidas beaters with ridiculous soles.

I've been against every -core or -wave invented by the board since I first visited, but this is the first time I've seen an /fa/-invented idea follow fashion industry guidelines: find some dangerous or disenfranchised group of people from the past, like gangsters, skinheads, bikers, what-have-you and then appropriate what they wear as the New Thing. I wonder if this style will see some traction. It's another opportunity to pay homage to the adolescent Chief Badass.