Welcome to Grixis Week! This week we'll be exploring the blue-black-red shard. As I explained during Bant Week, I'm using the shard theme weeks to explore the colors' philosophies from their vantage point. Today, for example, I am going to interview black (the central color to Grixis) so we can see how black sees black's philosophy. I'll also ask about the other four colors so you can see how black views each of them. If you enjoy this series of color pie columns, please check out the first series where I explored each color's philosophy in detail complete with pop culture references (white, blue, black, red, green, and artifacts—check them out) and my second series where I explored the philosophies of all ten of the two-color pairings (Selesnya, Golgari, Dimir, Boros, Gruul, Izzet, Orzhov, Azorius, Rakdos, and Simic—check them out). Now that my linking to seventeen past columns is out of the way, let's get on with the interview:
Black, thanks for joining us.
No problem. I'm always eager to find untainted avenues to present my philosophy.
My enemies really, really don't like me. They have spent a lot of time and energy framing me as the embodiment of evil. I believe in White's interview with you, for instance, White referred to me as "evil incarnate" and the "greatest cause of pain in the Multiverse." It's hard to get a fair shake when I'm painted with such inflammatory strokes.
That's why you're here today: to explain what you believe in your own words. I'm beginning each interview with the same question. What do you believe?
When you talk to each of the colors you'll hear them explain how they would like the world to be. Each of their philosophies rests on how they want to change things. They talk of what needs to happen in order to reach their goals. That's where I differ. I'm not trying to change the world. My philosophy revolves around trying to accept the world as it is. My ultimate goal? Survival. I want to give people the tools to allow them the best chance at survival.
I'm not going to sugar-coat it. The world is not a nice place. People are selfish and greedy and, when push comes to shove, they'll prioritize themselves. My enemies like to blame me for these things, but here's the catch. I didn't cause the world to be the way it is. I'm not responsible for basic human nature. The big difference between my philosophy and the other colors' is that I accept what reality is, and I don't think it's something that can change.
What is your philosophy?
My philosophy is simple: You have to learn to adapt to the world the way it is not the way you want it to be. I accept that people are selfish. My philosophy takes this as a given. We can sit and moan about how it isn't fair, or we can take steps to give ourselves the best chance to thrive within this environment.
Which is what?
If everyone else is selfish, you have no choice but to be selfish as well. If you try to be selfless in a selfish world, guess what happens? You get taken advantage of. My philosophy is that no one is going to look out for you better than you. You are more motivated than anyone to make sure that you have the things you need—so much so that I believe that the only way to get ahead is if you act as your own advocate.
You're saying that you believe people have no choice but to be selfish.
I'm saying that people by their very nature are focused on their own needs. Which, by the way, isn't such a horrible thing. It creates a system built upon individual rights.
There are essentially two ways to create a system to shape a society. One stems from the group working its way downward; the other starts from the individual and works its way upward. In the first, the structure comes from on high and it forces every one to conform to whatever system is set up. The second allows the system to form as the conglomerate of individuals each look out for their own self-interest. In economic terms, you can think of socialism and capitalism. Socialism says that the welfare of the individual is the responsibility of the state and as such the state provides everyone with equal provisions. Capitalism gives each individual motive and opportunity and allows the system to establish its own baseline. Socialism promises stability, but with no variance. Capitalism is very open-ended, but each individual carries his or her own risk. Essentially, in capitalism the highs are higher and the lows are lower.
It sounds like you believe one way works better.
No, I believe only one way works. Humans are inherently selfish. Systems like socialism depend upon every one being willing to act selflessly. I just don't believe it's possible.
So you condone people acting solely in their own self-interest.
I don't condone it. I acknowledge that it is the way it is. Let me stress this one more time. I did not invent human nature. It's not as though humanity had endless possibilities and I personally chose selfishness for it. I'm the only color with the guts to just call things as they are. Yes, it's ugly. Yes, it results in many bad things happening, but it also allows much good to happen. It allows people to take control of their own destiny. When you give individuals freedom, you allow people to rise to the occasion. You give people the tools to make something of their life. You empower them. Yes, some get trampled along the way, but others are given the freedom to stand tall. If you want to give people the chance to succeed, you have to also give them chance to fail.
What happens to those that fail?
I'm not trying to put on rose-colored glasses like the other colors. Does my philosophy result in suffering? Yes, because life results in suffering. The weak will be preyed upon by the strong. Are we supposed to lose sleep because a lion eats a zebra? Look, lions eat zebras and zebras get eaten by lions. That's just life. The other colors can put their fingers in their ears and go "la la la," but that doesn't change the reality of the situation.
You seem upset.
I'm just sick and tired of being the fall guy for human nature. I'm tired of being blamed for things that happen regardless of my intervention. Bad things are going to happen. People are going to suffer. Life is very, very hard. I don't see colors blaming Green for natural disasters. My enemies like to make my name synonymous with suffering, but that flies in the face of what my philosophy is about. My philosophy empowers people to take control. It gives them tools to stop being the victim. It allows them to take responsibility for their own future. I help people end their own suffering.
So you're not the embodiment of evil?
I don't even believe in the concept of evil. It relies on the existence of absolute truths which, to the best of my knowledge, no one has ever proved the existence of. White loves to talk about right and wrong. According to whom? Apparently according to White. White just makes up rules and then expects everyone else to follow them.
This seems like a good time to talk about White. Your feelings?
Life is hard enough without someone making up arbitrary rules acting as if they hold some moral high ground. White can believe whatever White wants—just stop trying to impose it on me. Stop telling me how I have to life my life by your rules. Part of championing the individual is fighting the forces that try to strip individual freedoms. Why should anyone have to suffer because someone else was incapable of solving their own problems? White's actions punish those that took the initiative. It pulls down the strong because of the inefficiencies of the weak.
You feel as if White coddles the weak?
Absolutely. In white's philosophy, why try to achieve anything? No matter what you do, you're going to be treated the same. There's zero motivation to excel. In fact, white's whole philosophy punishes those that try to stand out. That's my major beef with White. White not only won't mind its own business, it actively tries to undo everything my philosophy works for.
What kind of relationship does that create?
Obviously an adversarial one. White believes I need to be eliminated. The color of peace and harmony actively calls for my destruction. It takes a lot of ego to be that hypocritical. White is irrational and dangerous, and actively seeks to destroy me. I talk all the time how one has to overcome one's own obstacles to succeed. For me, White is one such obstacle.
Which brings us to another obstacle, Green.
White is full of itself. I like to think that Green is just naïve.
Green blindly feels as if nature is the solution to any problem. Just propagate nature and all will be revealed.
What's wrong with that?
How do you think we got to where why are? Why is suffering at such a crazy high level? Why is the world the way it is? Because nature has been left unchecked. For starters, there's too many people. Half of suffering comes from the fact that there aren't enough resources. Why is that? Because nature keeps pumping out new life. I know everyone likes to think of nature as this wonderful thing, but it's not. Life unchecked causes pain and suffering. You make a lot of lions, they have to eat a lot of zebras. Think of it this way. A family with one baby is a blessing. Two babies is a joy. Twenty babies is a problem. Fifty babies is a disaster.
And this is Green's fault?
It's Green's philosophy that got us here. Green has bamboozled all the other colors into believing that life is this sacred thing that can't be messed with. As if there's nothing that can be done about this constant stream of new life but just deal with it.
What can be done about it?
Life, like everything, has a counterbalance. It's called death. When life over-delivers, there's an answer. I know this sounds heartless, but it's not. For instance, in nature, when an animal population gets too high, what is done to help it? They kill some of the animals. The population is trimmed to help those that remain to survive. When plants overgrow, you trim them back. Death is an important tool to keep the balance. Just don't let Green see you kill something.
So you believe that White and Green are the major causes of suffering?
Ironic, I know.
Let's talk a little bit about the colors you do like. I'll start with Red.
Red's great. Nobody can make me laugh like Red can. Red just enjoys life. Red is willing to get its hands dirty. And Red gets the importance of the individual. Red understands why you sometimes have to do something to benefit yourself at the sake of another. Red is always willing to do what it takes. I have a lot of respect for Red.
What don't you like about Red?
Red is a little too reckless for my taste. I'm all for destruction for a cause, but too often Red seems to be destructive solely for the sake of being destructive. Red also embraces randomness a little too much for my taste. When I plan something, I need to know it will go exactly as planned. Also red's emotions often cause it to make poor decisions. There's probably no force in the universe more prone to cause people to act stupid than love, and Red just wallows in it.
How about Blue?
Blue is sneaky. I love that about Blue. Blue understands how to size up a problem and find ingenious ways to solve it. And Blue will do it subtly. You don't often understand what Blue is up to before it's too late. I also like how Blue thinks. Blue studies and looks for weakness in its opponent which it then is more than happy to exploit. When I work with Blue I always know I'll get quality work.
Blue's biggest problem is that its motivation is a bit off as far as I'm concerned. For example, blue's a little too focused on the process. Blue gets easily caught up in understanding why and how when all I care about is whether it worked or not. Blue can also be painfully slow and often sets itself up to wait on something else happening first.
Lets talk a little bit about Grixis. What is it like working so closely with Red and Blue?
It's been a lot of fun. As the center color, I really have the freedom to pull out the aspects I liked of each of the other colors. I love mixing the zeal of Red with the manipulation of Blue. It allows for a world that's more actively conniving. I get Red's impulsiveness with Blue's smarts. Grixis is a world not to be messed with. It's taken survival to the nth degree.
What's it like not having White and Green around?
It's awesome. It's like walking around for miles with a pebble in your shoe and then finally getting rid of the pebble. Grixis has no morality, no spigot of life pouring out. Everything that's in the world has earned its spot. There's no greater environment anywhere to test one's mettle than Grixis. If you can survive there, there's nothing left in the Multiverse that should frighten you.
Thanks for taking the time to talk.
Happy to do it. It's great to explain things in my words rather than hearing them twisted by propaganda.
That's all for this week. Join me next week when I finish up my wedding and let you peek at the ceremony itself.
Until then, may you find your own inner strengths.