A More Complete Look At The Halo Franchise
Written, Researched, Produced And Published By Halo-Nation member "Synth Samurai"
Always A Stranger, In A Strange Land
Written, Researched, Produced And Published By Halo-Nation member "Synth Samurai"
WARNING: THIS ARTICLE MAY OFFEND THOSE WITH RELIGIOUS FAITH. WHILE I BELIEVE THAT RELIGION IS A BEAUTIFUL THING INDIVIDUALIZED, THIS POST WILL TOUCH ON ORGANIZED RELIGION WITHIN HALO AND THE DANGERS OF RADICALIZATION WITHIN OUR OWN SOCIETY
The Covenant is very intriguing to me, it always has been since Halo 2's narrative. Admittedly, when Halo 2 came out I was just a young teenager and wasn't really educated enough to truly see the subtleties behind Halo 2's core themes. Now that I am more wise, shall we say, I am able to really appreciate the brilliant writing of Joseph Staten. I say brilliant because Mr. Staten wrote The Covenant to be something of a tragic failed state, one that I think I can empathize with while at the same time looking down upon their actions.
In simple terms The Covenant is a conglomeration of various species based on a caste system. Sans the caste system, in theory this is actually very akin to the United States of American. The good ol' US of A is a cultural and ideological melting pot, and for every new culture it takes on the more the entire nation is diversified and strengthened. The Covenant actually use to be much more like a socialist structured society than a Prophet lead dictatorship if you delve deep enough in the novel "Broken Circle." Again, it was never perfect or ideal, but it was highly stable and beneficial to most (poor Unggoy) client species. So what happened between then, and The Covenant that almost brought humanity and the entire galaxy to it's knees?
Halo does a lot of things right in it's narrative (and as of recently a lot of things horribly wrong) and one of those "right" concepts is the the cautionary tale of what happens to a society that is brainwashed into radicalization and extremism. It's one of the most unappreciated themes in Halo, and I'm here to shine some light on it.
We give ourselves a lot of credit for a lot of amazing discoveries and innovative evolutionary thinking. We put a probe into space, then launched man to the Moon so after. We are masters of technology and adaptation. We have done some incredible things, and some very awful things as well. The wars we have fought in the name of country and king, genocides committed and terrible self made tragedies are also what we must give credit to ourselves for. If only to never forget our barbarism. We share a lot with The Covenant, a terrifying thought but one that is both true and necessary. Ironically, it is the fictionary tales our species tells itself that warn us of other tales we have told in order to manipulate and conquer. A lot of our very own society is nothing more than a Prophet looking in the mirror. Where the followers see faith, the teachers see opportunity.
In 1095 CE (and mind you this is a complex topic condensed into a small blurb) Pope Urban II responded to a request for military support for the Byzantine Empire. The Byzantine Emperor, Alexios I, needed military reinforcements for the conflict with the westward migrating Turks in Anatolia. Now a lot of debate goes on about why exactly what we now call "The Crusades" happened and for what reason. The most accepted is that Urban II wanted to guarantee access to holy sites that were located within Anatolia. What all can agree on however, is that the cleansing (this is where it starts getting familiar) of ethnic Turks by Christians led by Urban II was one of the largest genocides in human history. So how was Urban II able to make millions of people fight under the banner of Christianity against fellow man?
It's actually quite devious. Urban II preached that anyone who participated would be forgiven by God of all their sins and be given a free pass into Heaven. Oh boy, here we go again...Urban II rallied his entire population around a message he said had been given to him by god, and that those who were able should rise up and purge the heretics in holy fire. Urban II took a text (The Bible, although back then it was much different) that was meant as a moral guide to being an honest and good person and warped it into a message of hate, intolerance and murder. Since most peasants at the time did not know how to read, it was extremely easy to twist words and meaning.
The Crusades consolidated the collective identity of Christians, which have followed into the modern day with the appearance of congregations, churches and organized religion. The Crusades is only one example of an much longer and larger issue. It wasn't just Christianity who committed such horrors, oh no. Every major religion with the exception of a few Asianic spiritual movements have had some sort of upheaval tied to their organization. The most recent major upheaval being the radicalization of Islam (also known as Wahhabism) under the Islamic State and other terror groups.
Many beautiful ideas, doctrines and written texts have been warped into something horrific in the name of conquest and lust for power.
Does any of this ring a bell? It should.
Long ago within the Halo universe two species, the Sangheili and the San'Shyuum fought a bloody and horrific war. A war fought over religious and technological differences, mostly over ancient technology left over by The Forerunners. Eventually, the two races conceded and connived The Writ of Union, a pact that would be based on fear and force. The two species took to the stars, seeking more Forerunner technology and other species that would be beneficial to it's pact. Under the threat of superior force and devastation, other races joined and formed "The Covenant." The races who did not were deemed "Heretics" and were burned away.
Somewhere down the lines of their history, The Covenant discovered an ancient Forerunner ship dubbed "The Dreadnought." One of their client species, the Lekolo, could penetrate and decipher Forerunner technology, so they began to glean facts from the ancient ship. Three San'Shyuum, who would later become known as Truth, Regret and Mercy then learned that the ship was alive. Within the ancient vessel laid dormant a relic from a war long ago, one that left the galaxy devoid of life. The artificial intelligence within, Mendicant Bias, told the three San'Shyuum that they were not the rightful heirs to the galaxy, but instead a species called "Humanity was."
See the similarities with our own history? It gets better. An excerpt from Halopedia sums it all up.
The Covenant encountered humanity for the first time on the planet Harvest. While many within the Covenant's leadership felt that this new race would make a welcome addition to the hegemony, the newly-appointed Hierarchs of the Covenant—Truth, Mercy, and Regret—had other plans. The Hierarchs were aware of humanity's status as the Forerunners' chosen inheritors, and knew that revealing this information to the Covenant would lead to the Covenant falling into chaos. Greater than the cultural significance of the invalidation of the Great Journey, the leading San'Shyuum knew the truth about the Forerunners would lead to the loss of their personal power. As a result, spurred on by a violent incident following the first human-Covenant contact, the Hierarchs declared humanity an affront to the gods and demanded that their entire species was to be exterminated. This decision would spark a war that ultimately would crumble the very foundation of the Covenant's religious and political alliances.
Everything the San'Shyuum's power was based on was now in great peril. Their trumpeting of The Covenant being the rulers of the galaxy was untrue and unfounded. So the three San'Shyuum became "Prophets," warping the words of Mendicant Bias and proclaiming that the "relic" had said that Humanity was heretical and needed to be burned away so that their ascension to the "Great Journey" could be achieved. What followed was a Crusade all it's own, the mass murder of not a people, a culture or a nation. But the systemic elimination of an entire space faring species from existence. Planets were burned to cinders, Human and Covenant lost billions perhaps even more and by the end the galaxy was once again on the precipice of extinction.
All because those in power, who feared loosing it, warped and twisted something meant to be passed down as (we assume) something of galactic benefit.
And when I saw him, I fell at his feet dead, and laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, fear not, I am the first and the last. John - 117
That is a quote from the Bible, John 117. The same name as our believed hero, the Master Chief.
You see, Halo shows us the absolute failures when a text or spoken word is taken to the extreme and made as truth based power. But it also shows that within these texts and words, lay hope and a deeper meaning of ourselves. How many folks within the Halo lore looked to Master Chief for hope, belief and inspiration? For a man who spoke very little, you would have thought he had spent hours preaching a sermon.
Master Chief is the antithesis of extremism, he is the destroyer of evil. Heroes like him and the less developed DOOM Marine (DOOM just released after all) do not speak, they act. It is the heroes in both our fiction and our reality whom do not twist words or speak loudest that show the best we (or any other) species has to offer. They walk into the gates of hell without so much as a sigh, and inspire the rest of us to do as they did. That is what those texts eons ago were made for, those tales of heroes who did not speak but instead did. They were tales to inspire and be told in reverence, to take a page out of the book and live as the heroes did.
Halo has an extremely deep message hidden behind all of it's intricate lore. One that has eluded us all as of late and has led to some very horrible acts. Actions Speak Louder Than Words, Do Unto Those As You Would To Yourself.
So to all the Master Chiefs, DOOM Marines, Commander Shepards, Jim Reynors and the plethora of other fictional heroes that inspire out everyday lives. Let no one ever twist your actions, words or deeds for an unjust purpose. We are all inspired by something, inspire others in a positive way as your own heroes have you.
A Halo fan since the beginning, 2001. Also a games industry consultant, writer, and educator. These are my thoughts, praise and advice concerning the past, present and future narrative of the Halo franchise.
Halo, all assets within, characters and merchandise are property of the Microsoft Corporation and is developed by its subsidiary 343 Industries.
I do not own, claim to own or retain any rights to the Halo franchise. This is a fan based work, and is strictly non-profit.
All other images, articles linked, materials and franchises that are not strictly specified as my own are property of their respective owners.