Friday, August 10, 2007

Unstructured Archetypes: The Swarm

Locutus of BorgThey are the Borg. They are the Daleks. They are the Berserkers. They are the Zerg.

The parts of The Swarm may be male or female, but the Swarm is none of these. Gender roles are irrelevant to The Swarm.

The Swarm is Many. The Swarm is made of many parts. Its components are living beings.

The Swarm is One. The Swarm is an It and not a They.

The Swarm is not Evil. The Swarm is not Good. The Swarm is amoral. It does not think in terms of Good and Evil, because it does not find those concepts useful.

If sex has any place in The Swarm, it is strictly as a method of reproduction. Sexual pleasure is unknown to The Swarm. Reproduction is all that matters.

New parts of the Swarm may be built in factories or grown in artificial wombs.

The individual is unimportant. All that matters is the good of The Swarm.

Each part serves The Swarm. Each part will sacrifice itself without hesitation to protect The Swarm. The Swarm is all.

The parts of the swarm may be able to think for themselves, but none of them truly have a Self. Any flickering sense of identity is subordinated to the whole.

The Swarm is often, but not always, caste based. Within a caste, all members are identical. There may be a leader or a ruling caste, or the group as a whole may make decisions. The former case must never be mistaken for individuality. The latter case must never be mistaken for democracy.

There are no names in the Swarm. There is only the name of the Swarm. There may be labels made of random letters or numbers, but these are not names.

The Swarm cares only about Itself. All other races and beings are either obstacles, enemies, or raw material.

The Swarm craves power and strength. The Swarm values survival and expansion. The Swarm does not tolerate inefficiency or imperfection.

Corollary: The Swarm shows no compassion and no mercy. It will eliminate any part of itself should that part show any flaw or any sign of weakness.

Second Corollary: Individuality is a flaw and a sign of weakness.

The Swarm is the ultimate xenophobe. It sees all other forms of life as weak, impure, and unworthy of respect.

The Swarm will do one of two things when it encounters the Other: Eliminate it, or incorporate it.

Assimilation is consumption. The only thing The Swarm retains are those things which improve its strength. Culture and identity are completely obliterated, save for those bits that The Swarm finds useful.

The Swarm is relentless. Once it has decided on an objective, it will never stop pursuing that objective. It can be driven back temporarily, but it will always return.

Every part of The Swarm is dangerous. However, the parts of The Swarm are crippled when they are separated from the Swarm. To the extent that they can, they will feel distress.

If you isolate a single part from the rest of The Swarm, it will either summon others or create new ones.

If isolated and cared for, a part may become a person and thus be redeemed. Such a person will be a potent weapon against The Swarm. The Swarm will go to great lengths to recover or eliminate these rogue elements.

The true danger of The Swarm lies in their numbers, their relentlessness, and their willingness to sacrifice themselves for the good of The Swarm.

You cannot intimidate The Swarm. The Swarm does not feel fear. Its parts have no instinct for self-preservation.

You cannot negotiate with The Swarm. You have nothing to bargain with. If you did, The Swarm would simply take it from you by force.

You cannot run from The Swarm. It is faster than you. It does not need to rest or refuel.

The Hero knows that The Swarm cannot be reasoned with. This never stops The Hero from trying.

The Swarm could easily defeat The Hero and his army, but The Swarm is arrogant. Its arrogance leads it to underestimate The Hero. This invariably leads to its defeat.

The Swarm can be defeated, but never *utterly* defeated. It always lives to fight another day.

The Swarm may view God as a fable for the weak, or it may view its own actions as the will of God. It may even view itself as God. Whatever the case, do not expect religious tolerance from The Swarm.

This post has been contributed by Rob Berry. Rob Berry is a programmer who lives in Hilliard, Ohio with his wife and three sons. He epitomizes the archetype of The Geek.


magidin said...

Interesting; as I was reading it, a number of historical parallels took shape, in which certain groups are viewed (or portrayed, or caricaturized) as within the archetype. The barbarian hordes invading Roma; the Huns invading Europe; the Mongols riding on China; to a certain extent, it is how terrorist organizations (particularly those that employ suicide bombers) are portrayed....

Andrew Lias said...

That's a very astute point. I would add the dreaded Yellow Hoard from 1950's anti-Communist propaganda.

It would seem that there were a lot of precursors to this archetype. Science fiction (and, to a lesser extent, fantasy) simply literalized it.

magidin said...

Oh, good point about the anti-communist propaganda. I mean, after all, "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" is an instantiation of The Swarm, and also a rather thin-veiled metaphor for "The Communists are A-coming!"

yesbob said...

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Andew Lias said...

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