The Patriots' Legacy - "Who are the Patriots?" - Page 1"

I: Introduction

The political character of the Metal Gear Solid series remains largely ignored in conversation about the games. A host of topics prevails: How does Liquid survive in Ocelot's arm; why did Big Boss turn evil; and, inevitably, who are the Patriots?

The introduction of Big Boss's pre-Metal Gear experiences suggested answers to many questions left hanging after the conclusion of Sons of Liberty. At the very least, speculative answers to these questions have been wrought from information provided by Snake Eater. As the son of the Sorrow, Ocelot possesses some psychic power and may communicate with the dead, thereby allowing Liquid to speak through him as a medium. Big Boss established Outer Heaven to revolt against the Patriots, who abused his service and his skills.

And the Patriots—well, the answers here are only halfway satisfying. In order to understand the Patriots, we must first understand the Philosophers in Snake Eater. In order to understand the Philosophers, we must understand some of the historical context surrounding the Cold War as the continuation of the relationships established between states during World War II. The material may sound dry, but it becomes quite engaging—especially as one realizes that real-world philosophers and patriots have determined the quality of our daily lives. We must look to the series’ political subtleties in order to answer the largest question—“Who are the Patriots?”

II: Snake Eater

As established in Snake Eater, the Philosophers were comprised of societal elites from the United States, the Soviet Union, and China. These elites joined their influence and their fortunes to remake the world in the image of peace and economic contentment. The key to the successful execution of their plans was the Philosophers' Legacy: over one billion dollars scattered across the globe in a variety of bank accounts. Volgin's father, a Treasurer for the Philosophers, embezzled the Philosophers’ reconstruction funds—which Volgin then stole in order to finance his military organization.

Between the time when Volgin's father robbed the Philosophers and the events of Snake Eater, the absence of the reconstructed funds resulted in a loss of direction among the Philosophers. They argued and split according to national affiliation, and each respective faction ate away at its own innards. As the societal elites who formed the Philosophers during World War II passed away, younger elites assumed the positions of power. These younger elites lacked the temperance on hubris and ambition that the incipient members had earned during the hardships of the Second World War. While each faction’s nationalist goals required the Philosophers’ Legacy, the new Philosophers were still wealthy enough to remain involved in warfare across the earth. The new blood was hot and warmongering, and the Philosophers' Legacy would finance each nation's glory at the expense of the others'.

In Snake Eater then we see the final showdown between the inheritors of the Philosophers' organizations. EVA was tricked into returning to China with a fake microfilm, and the Boss secured the real microfilm for America by infiltrating Volgin’s ranks. For reasons that are unclear, half of the Philosophers' Legacy remained in Soviet Russia's possession until the end of the Cold War. The United States won the Cold War when it claimed the entire Philosophers’ Legacy.

Snake Eater impressively dramatized the economic struggles of the Cold War without directly mentioning economics at all. However, the importance of economic ideals cannot be ignored with all the clues dropped in the game. Historically the Cold War was a conflict between the opposite economic ideologies of capitalism and communism, in addition to the nuclear arms race at the center of Snake Eater’s plot. The "division between East and West" that "marked the beginning of the Cold War" (as explained in David Hayter's introductory monologue) was primarily an economic division. After World War II, Western nations formed economic relationships with each other via capitalistic exchanges. Most Eastern nations became self-contained and shunned free trade with capitalist economies, the most significant of which were Soviet Russia and the People’s Republic of China.

Social ideologies came with economic policies. Capitalist economies placed more emphasis upon individual achievement and identity; Communist economies placed more emphasis upon dedicating oneself to society’s greater good and government service in addition to sacrificing the spoils of one's work to the community’s welfare. Individual accountability is everything in capitalism; in Communism, no one takes ownership of anything.

The Philosophers’ fictional history parallels the development of the historical relationships between the United States, Soviet Russia, and China, as each nation redefined its stance toward former allies from the Second World War. During World War II, the United States gave economic and material support to China, which (at that time) was not a Communist state. America supported the anti-Communist Chinese forces because China shared the Pacific War against Japan. The Soviet Union and America likewise shared membership among the Allied Powers mostly because of their coordinated wartime activity against Japan. Soviet and American military forces also shared the burden of resisting and counteracting Nazi Germany's continental aggression. The Soviet Union, non-Communist China, and the United States all shared the work of containing and neutralizing Nazi Germany and Japan. Both of these World War II Axis powers justified their wars according to ideologies based on racial superiority, holy war, and the desire to reform the world in their respective images.

However, Stalin feared President Truman’s America when he beheld the power of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He anticipated an America one that would hold economic superiority over Soviet Russia because of America's superior weapons. Thus the arms race began. Around the same time, China's Communist leader Mao Tse Tung effectively won the Cultural Revolution. Non-communist China (which America had supported militarily during World War II) was put down and its advocates executed by order of the People's Republic of China. The Communist Chinese revolutionaries had been the United States’ implied enemies; they naturally feared the economic consequences of America's superior weaponry. Thus the arms race gained momentum in China.

The drama of changed international relationships parallels the change in the Philosophers' relationships. The organization’s fictional history illustrates developments in world history—but why then would the organization bear the name "Philosophers"? What type of philosophers existed in all of the major Allied Powers, determined the structure and methods of war, and was vital in post-World War II politics?

The answer: Economic Philosophers.

The organization's name bears a haunting similarity to a highly influential book by Robert Heilbroner titled The Worldly Philosophers. The book details the importance of economic philosophy and its effects upon both human behavior and thought. Knowing what we know about the shadow-government operations of the MGS Philosophers, the following excerpts from The Worldly Philosophers seem uncannily relevant.

This is a book about a handful of men with a curious claim to fame. By all the rules of schoolboy history books, they were nonentities (Heilbroner).

A few paragraphs later, we read:

[What] they did was more decisive for history than many acts of statesmen who basked in brighter glory, often more profoundly disturbing than the shuttling of armies back and forth across frontiers, more powerful for good and bad than the edicts of kings and legislatures. It was this: they shaped and swayed men’s minds (Heilbroner).

It should be noted that Heilbroner does not cast his "worldly philosophers" as figures who lived as insidiously and craftily as the MGS Philosophers. The essence of their significance remains nearly identical, however. Both the "worldly philosophers" and the MGS Philosophers remained invisible; both used the materials of the world in conjunction with their ideals to direct literal history; and both provided the foundations for the 20th century's major wartime history.

There historical and literary references paint the Philosophers as mythologized forms of each of the most powerful Allied nations' political and economic characters. The Philosophers amassed their Legacy to give motion to their ideals of global unity after World War II. As the last direct descendant of any of the original Philosophers, the Boss describes their vision best when she describes her view of Earth from outer space: "No nations, no countries."

However, the figures died whose ideals grew from suffering. Their successors were given mere power without the guidance of their predecessors' maturity as it developed during the Second World War. This coheres with the spirit of the entire Metal Gear Solid series. We can trace the theme of incomplete inheritance through the entire Metal Gear Solid trilogy: in Metal Gear Solid, Big Boss passes genetic power to Liquid Snake without the maturity to guide those genes toward true glory; in Metal Gear Solid 2, Peter Stillman passes on his demolition theories to Fatman without the wisdom to use those theories best; and in Snake Eater, the Boss's relationship to Naked Snake revolves around the gift of knowledge without the communication of the values required to use knowledge for either virtue or vice.

As we learn in the epilogue to Snake Eater, the American Philosophers obtain the full Philosophers' Legacy and change their organization's name to "the Patriots." The transformation marks the death of all scraps left of the original Philosophers’ values. The movement toward economic single-mindedness in American political life began.

A philosopher asks: "What should I do to make life better for all people? What sort of person must I become in order to live justly with respect to my neighbor? And, lest it go unnoted, all of humanity is my neighbor." A patriot however narrows his focus and asks: "What should I do to make life better for my countrymen, at the expense of other nations' populations? What sort of person must I become to live justly and respect the needs of my country? And, lest it go unnoted, my country is not the world."

The Philosophers intended to establish global economic relationships that would annul the possibility of future wars fueled by race supremacy ideals. We may deduce that their most concrete goal was to abolish any chance that one nation might use force to dominate the world in the interest of cultural reformation. (We should remember that both of these ideals were characteristics of Nazi Germany and WWII Shôwa Japan.) The Philosophers’ ideal was to establish a world wherein holy war could not occur: they saw the need to reckon all human beings as residents of Earth.

The Patriots intended to exploit all available avenues to advance American welfare at the expense of global welfare—even to the extent of reforming information according to their ideologies and controlling world culture. The Patriots used the Philosophers’ momentum to achieve ends that the Philosophers specifically abhorred.

The Patriots no longer identify themselves as human beings at the end of Sons of Liberty. The transformation’s literal process remains unknown within the context of the games. Nevertheless, we may infer the Patriots’ development from the events described in the timeline provided before the credits in Snake Eater. The Les enfants terribles Project was the most crucial step in their evolution from "merely human" toward something indefinable and greater-than-human.

-- Article by James Clinton Howell

Get Connected and Share

Fan Metal Gear Solid - The Unofficial Site on Facebook Follow Metal Gear Solid - The Unofficial Site on Twitter Watch Metal Gear Solid: The Unofficial Site on YouTube