Halo Nation


An Exercise In Discourse

Morhek August 5, 2009 User blog:Morhek

“Discourse (L. discursus, "running to and from") means either "written or spoken communication or debate" or "a formal discussion or debate." The term is often used in semantics and discourse analysis.”

It is so rare that we engage in true discourse - or, at least, that I engage in proper discussion. Most of the "conversations" I participate in are muted sentences back-and-forth, with no real enthusiasm. That isn't just on Halopedia - I'm also referring to my "real" life. Discussion should be enjoyable - the exchange of ideas and opinions should be a truely great thing. So far, on Halopedia, I've engaged two people in such an enjoyable discussion. The first Kougermasters, with whom I had a very enjoyable discussion about the Lord of The Rings character Boromir; then there was The All-knowing Sith'ari, where we had a long and intricate discussion about the nature of Covenant energy shields, electromagnetic warfare, and stealthed spacecraft, but that was a while ago, and a long discussion, and part of that has been sadly lost. The most recent was a debate on the nature of the Forerunners, with Exalted Obliteration, especially on their appearance and culture, and the potential for revelation. These were true discussions - ideas going back and forth, and I derived much from them. So, with their permission, I would like to share them, to show what discourse looks like. Its an examination of the Forerunners, but its also more than that - hopefully, its a sign of things to come.

-- Administrator Specops306 - Qur'a 'Morhek Honour Light Your Way! 07:03, 4 August 2009 (UTC)

A true, joyous discourse indeed. What would become this blog began as a thought, an idea that might help shed light on one of if not the central element of Halo's deep story. It was also a response to a long-running trend that is a common sight amongst forums, wikia's, and other artifacts of the internet; the unfocused and unpredictable phenomenon of discussion.

They appear every day, every hour, every minute, and perhaps every second as well, as the participants of the internet discussion groups begin their work. While their content, quality, and coherence vary widely, if the right note is struck, if the subject is ripe, then much discussion will follow, but for all its energy and intentions, if indeed because of it, the discussions can be difficult to follow, which is unfortunate, for the information, flow of ideas, and other factors can be hard to find.

But no worries. This recorded discussion between myself and Specops306 is the type of discussion that we relish, and can be hard to find amongst the innumerable multitudes of conversations that come and go around us. It is my hope as well that this can help active and frequent discussions thrive in this community, so I hope that the readers will enjoy it.

That said, we shall turn to the discussion itself, which began with a critique of the frequently visited, edited, and opined on pages, the article on the Forerunners. I had a sudden thought about an issue that has vexed me for years, specifically their appearance, culture, and psychology, and the wide range of speculations, assumptions, and other trains of thought that could easily get off their original tracks, or be difficult to decipher. I approached the problem with the coolest, most tempered, and logical way I could, and by sharing my thoughts with Specops306, the conversation ensued.

I am proud of what we have been able to create, and I thank both Specops306 and the wonderful community here at Halopedia and abroad for allowing this to be shared with everyone here. I sincerely wish that you enjoy it, and even help bring even more excitement and energy here.

Thank you.

--Exalted Obliteration 02:02, 5 August 2009 (UTC)

  • Specops306
  • Exalted Obliteration

Greetings, Specops306.

As usual, the Forerunner article's talk page is being clogged with poorly written and constructed speculation that makes no sense when read.

Another thing that strikes me on that particular subject is endless speculation on the Forerunner's physical appearance and phsyiology, and people act as if it is such a big deal. From my perspective at least, their exact appearance is hardly a mystery, at least not being worthy of such efforts.

Though the specifics are not clear, the hyperbole employed with statements like "You are Forerunner" and "they may hold answers to our mysteries" combined with related pieces of information tell us a great deal via inferrential logic.

By that logic, a typical Forerunner is simply a technologically, genetically, and physically "advanced"/idealized Human of variable appearance, most likely being a blend of different regional and/or environmental adaptations in one package.

From our perspective, such a "Human" would look like a blend of different adaptions of Humans from different part of the world merged into one, put into a sort of mildly cybernetic and very "idealized" form.

Picture something along the lines of a living version of a Human avatar of a deity, or a more politically correct version of Annunaki and Nordics from UFO mythology, or more generically, a variation on the overdone Elf's of fantasy fiction. Space-Elfs, maybe?

Do you think I am making sense here, or is am I going on a tangent?

I know the link between humanity and the Forerunners is a strong one, but I just find myself unable to get behind the theory that we are descendants of them. Of course, the term "human" is surprisingly broad - the Hobbits of Indonesia, the Neanderthals of Europe, the older Australopithecines of Africa, and so on - not exactly the most homogenous group, are we? I'm not sure about the cybernetic nature you suggest - is there anything that suggests it? Its an intriguing possibility - perhaps they thought evolution needed a helping hand?

I also have to agree about the talk page, but when we're the most well known wiki for Halo its almost unavoidable. I wish people would take their discussions to the forums or blogs, where they belong, but if I tried to keep it clear of all the speculation I'd have to constantly monitor it. Its a popular page, after all, with a lot of opinions.

Coincidentally, someone mentions there a theory disappointingly similar to that of Stargate - of non-Earth origins for other, older species of man, and that we're the next in a cycle. As much as I wasn't a fan of the human-origin theory, the only thing worse would be if they really were aliens, and still looked identical to us. I hope to god that Bungie didn't take that route - and coming from an agnostic, that's saying something!

A good point about the non-homogeneity of the hominid group. As for the cybernetic augmentations, I was referencing the Latin term for "Reclaimer" from the Halo 3 Bestarium, and one of the terminals, specifically #4, where it speaks of Forerunner military personnel dealing with Combat Skins, weapon platforms, and the interface between the users and the machines. From that train of thought, and the immense use of inferrence and hyperbole that the Halo backstory relies on, it seemed to me at least that such augmentations were commonplace if not outright mundane for the Forerunner. As for the cyclical origins of Humans idea, I also find it not only disappointing, but outright repulsive. Given our ingrained egotism and assumptions that Humans are the center of the universe etc., it is only natural for such ideas to be presented in such a self-aggrandizing way, especially something for popular consumption. Given that the Halo story relies heavily on established scifi tropes, it is inevitable that such an idea is used or at least seriously considered. In fact, that is one of the reasons that I wrote the long, critical, and occasionally loopy blogs on the Forerunner (especially "Aliens: Acceptable or Anethema?" I regret writing what I did there). By following those ideas, you basically get this ridiculous ideas that Humans are these great paragons of justice, compassion, etc., and that only they are fit to sit upon this big pedestal of power, privilege, and "guardianship." What's even more repulsive is that it's couched in all this self-assurance and justification that makes it look good at a first look, saying why they deserve it, but it is really self-aggrandizing and arrogant. It also says, in a roundabout manner, that every other species is inferior, as if in some way some way or form that they are somehow deficient, as if they can't do something themselves, and that they need to be "protected" as "charges". In other words, they can't think, fend, and live for themselves in any appreciable way and have to be guided and chivvied along by their superior "protectors"/rulers because of their inferiority. If part of being an advanced and mature culture is so important, then why is it that the Humans have such a deep-seated need to place themselves on a pedestal above everything else, especially when it is couched in politically-correct and nice-sounding compassion-based conservational rhetoric? If anything, ideas like the "Mantle" are largely self-serving justifications for assurances of superiority and reasons for telling others how to live, and even rendering them defenseless in order to validate the ideology/cult-of-self of supreme "guardianship" and rule. With that said, I somewhat fear the coming of the Forerunner Trilogy and the "Origins" segment of Halo: Legends. How much will the Forerunner be painted as perfect, do-no-wrong, innocent saints loved by all those they "watched" over? Such thoughts make me cringe. It is a serious risk, given the zeal already made to paint the Flood as this all-powerful, invulnerable and absolute evil, and the almost certain urge to make their opposites, well, the opposite of that.

Your idea on the cybernetic aspects are very interesting, and make for some intriguing ideas. I remember the old idea, pre-Halo 2, that the Forerunners were a Geth-like machine race, and that the Sentinels were just primitive forms. A silly idea, but there is potential to expand - Forerunner AI's are certainly more sophisticated than any the galaxy has yet seen. And humans have always thought that machines would assume themselves logically superior, thought I have no idea why, and its an attitude that fits the Forerunners well.

Its also one of the problems I have with organised religion - once you accept that only one way, such as the Mantle, is the correct one, you make all others wrong by default. I have no problem with people of faith, and religion has produced some of the best scientists, physicians, philosophers and leaders the world has known, but eventually almost all religions are abused in the name of more earthly desires - money, power, or perhaps just the need to destroy. "Extremist" is an understatement - they are more superficial than that. I refer to true zealotry, which has been a strong part of history. But as much as that attitude is repetitive and pervasive, I also find the ability to recognise it to be interesting. The Didact would have found the moralistically arrogant attitude appealing, and the Mantle may have just been used as justification for an attitude held by Forerunner society in general. But the Librarian certainly shares our views, and that makes for an interesting dichotomy - its not a one-sided debate by any means. Forerunner society had become decadent and begun to crumble from within out of self-aggrandised arrogance, and the Librarian and certainly Mendicant Bias recognised the signs. Absolutely fascinating.

As for the depiction of the Forerunners in upcoming media - there's plenty of ways to deal with that in a novel series without implicitly stating it, leaving much as implied or vague. As for the Legends "Origins" shorts - I really doubt they'd show a Forerunner in such an anti-climatic manner. More likely to be silhouettes, if at all, and even more likely to just be represented by the more familiar Sentinels and other constructs. The Forerunners will remain a mystery for at least a while longer.

Good, good!

I agree with many of your points, and its good to see that we are largely on the same page. And it seems that the story itself backs up the idea of the self-aggrandizing and moralistic arrogance culture of late Forerunner, as you have pointed out in referrence to the Librarian and Mendicant Bias. Well said.

As for the issue of the Forerunner's physical appearance, isn't it possible that that particular issue has been blown out of considerable of proportion and logical significance? Think about the "mystery" regarding the Master Chief's true appearance; his appearance had been cemented as far back as FoR and Halo: the Flood, and more recently backed up by the first issue of Halo: Helljumpers. His appearance was clear and easily found, and yet people continued to speculate for the sake of doing so despite the truth being so accessible.

Like the Forerunner, the issue of his true appearance pales in comparison to what is truly important; what he stood for, what he did, and his legacy. In summary, we know that the Forerunner were humanoid, and almost entirely "Human" in appearance.

My imagining of a typical Forerunner being came from thinking of how they would presumably have an "advanced", idealized Human form, of course with touches of their culture upon themselves as much as their constructions.

I envision them as possessing an ethnically "blended" idealized scifi Human appearance with touches of their technology and artistic flourishes upon themeselves combined with touches of the worlds and places of where they lived.

Basically a more interesting, stylized variation on the standard idealized far-future Human form. Again, logical from what we know of their psychological, cultural, and technological tastes combined with what is presumably the reality of their lives. What is important is their actions, intent, and legacy, not niggling and obsession over their physical appearance.

It only takes me a few seconds to envision a living Forerunner(s) moving about their installations and habitations. I don't understand why it is difficult for so many people, unlike for you and I.

I have to agree that it's been blown out of proportion, but I find myself in the opposite position - I can't bring myself to imagine it at all. The Forerunners, ever since their inception, were designed by Bungie with the expressed purpose of being the stereotypical ancient, extinct, nearly godlike species that left next to nothing behind when they disappeared. They were made for mystery, and that was the appeal for me. When we started getting so many clues to the link between us and humanity, I was hesitant to embrace them, and when the link was implicitly confirmed in Contact Harvest it was perhaps the moment when the Forerunners lost their mystery for me. Suddenly, the Forerunners went from near-gods to the Ancients from Stargate. I guess that was the reasoning behind the Precursors.

Just my opinion.

Regardless of their appearance, I agree that the Forerunners embody much more than simple human history. They are the ultimate example of hubris - the most powerful species known, reduced to extinction by the Flood by their arrogance; and also the ultimate example of sacrifice. The contrast between them and the Flood is also an interesting - a race of pure biology, forming weapons as needed out of its biomass, facing a race that fields war machines of unparalleled sophistication, a clash between the "primitive" Flood and the "Advanced" Forerunners. Its ironic that the Flood considered its opponent to be the primitive one.

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