Jack-booted thugs

If you have played Half Life 2 (or been watching the LP on my Youtube channel), you know these guys:

Civil Protection

They’re the “Civil Protection” (police, in other words I think) of the Orwellian nightmare that is City 17. (And other cities; Dr. Breen apparently rules over at least one other city and probably more.) From what some in the comments have said, and from the fact that Barney is able to successfully infiltrate them (at least that certainly appears to be what he’s doing), these Civil Protection…er…officers (?) are nothing more than regular humans under the employ of The Bad Guys. Who those Bad Guys are, we don’t know yet. We DO know that Dr. Breen is their liaison and their envoy…but even he sounds as if he’s under their thumb. He’s just a propaganda spouting mouthpiece that (I would wager) doesn’t have much power. I actually assumed he was the one in control on first seeing him, but his second speech (the “reproductive suppression field” one) shows that he really has little to no say over what actually happens. (Unless that’s all an act, of course…) Are the people controlling him human? Alien? None of the above? Dunno. Assume we’ll be finding out down the road somewhere.

Coming back to my original topic, which are the Civil Protection cops: I expressed surprise in my LP when not *every* single cop tried to beat me. This led to the following, very interesting exchange in the comments section:

Comment by Half Life nerd on July 14, 2011 8:37 pm
Actually I have to say I never really noticed this when I went through the first time but at the start of the game the Combine seem to have mixed relations, most of the time they will just hit you but others will wave there hands or put it in front of you, so some of them may not be as much d***heads as you might of thought.

Or i could be wrong and there just a bunch of evil steroid monkeys who developed a 3 strike system.

Comment by Alamo on July 15, 2011 3:09 pm
Actually, that would make sense. Soldierhawk missed it, but if you talk to one of women at the food line, she says that she’s considering joining the Overwatch because they get ration increases.

Comment by Half Life nerd on July 15, 2011 3:45 pm
So I guess more people are just desperate rather than plain brutal.

So remember Hawk under the gas mask the person is not always a demon.

So, these thugs are more than just aliens or monsters. They’re people who have–for whatever reason–gotten into bed with the enemy. Given what I’ve seen of the way these invaders treat people so far, I would gauge joining Civil Protection as the rough equivalent of joining the Nazis in a similar capacity–the major difference being that the Nazis only expected their representatives to grossly mistreat minorities; the Bad Guys, it seems, see everyone as something to use, abuse and discard.

As was pointed out in the comments, I’m sure there are good reasons for joining Civil Protection–food being a big one (that was specifically mentioned by an NPC I missed talking to, it seems). One could surmise that they afford their officers and families safety from the constant harassment that other citizens endure. Maybe even better places to live. (Not that anywhere in City 17 looks particularly nice, but then we’ve only seen a small part of it so far.) And it’s true: whether by design or by a fluke of AI/programing, not all of the Civil Protection cops seem “out to get you.” Mr. Soda Can did, obviously, but there were also the cops at the security check, who didn’t touch me at all (except the one who shoved me when I tried to run away, but hey–he could have used his electric night stick.)

All of this leads me to believe that the Civil Protection cops are, like Half-Life Nerd says, more desperate than brutal. Naturally this kind of opportunity WOULD attract the type of bully who enjoys inflicting pain–like Mr. Soda Can–but I’m sure some are just trying to get by, and not particularly interested in hurting others for the sake of it.

It’s an interesting conundrum, and a classic moral dilemma: how far do you go to protect yourself and the people you care about? Is it worth having to hurt many, many other–albiet nameless–people? I mean, from where I sit, I like to think that I’m the sort of person who would much rather take a beating than give it. But after months, maybe years? And if my family was starving and there was no other way to get food? I don’t know. I think if we’re honest, none of us are really capable of knowing how we would react to a terrible choice like that one. Let’s hope none of us ever have to find out.


18 responses to “Jack-booted thugs

  1. And i have found a situation like this in real life where a family has has had there house repocessed and in a final humilition the bank hired them to dispose of the stuff they couldent bring with them.

  2. Very interesting. I don’t think I’d ever followed that line of thought as far as you have.

    It occurs to me that once you’re considering joining them, you’d start to sympathize with them. Which, given that oppressing you and your friends seems to be their job description, would do a hell of a job transmuting rage against the system into quiet existential despair.

    Which… huh. Which goes a long way toward fleshing out a couple of other elements of the setting, making them both more meaningful and more plausible. Valve is very good at this indeed.

  3. Yeah, to my knowledge CPs are volentire “law” enforcement.
    just normal people in body armor and gasmasks.

    Of course, every bullying scicophath in City 17(and the other cities) would have sighed up, and as for the ones that are here just for extra rations, maybe they[seculation] get more for each “criminal” they bring in?

    Also there are some cool HL2 videos by Ross Scott called “Civil Protection” that are awesome, but have spoilers, not to HL2’s plot but to it’s setting, if that makes sence…
    I recomend it to anyone that has beaten HL2 and Episode 1.

    • [speculation], sorry for spelling.
      + the reason I said Ep. 1 was becouse there is a breff shot of a location* from Ep.1 in the “Oil’s Well” PSA

      *this location is modified to remove looks of [spoilers] is has ingame but still can beconsiderd a spoiler for now.

  4. also, it’s not soda, if you read the vending machine it says
    “DR>BREEN’S PRIVATE RESERVE”. or on the cans “>B”
    Now how many dictaters* have a brand of canned water(or any other drink) named after them?

    *or what ever Breen’s position is.

  5. If you listen carefully to the CP dispatcher later, it give them another motivation in addition to better living conditions and/or power over thier other citizens but I won’t spoil it here.

    That said, I think the CPs are sort of analagous to the Nazi SA and Gestapo, primarily ment for social control but not that useful once the shit starts flying. You’ll see what I mean

  6. There’s an experiment that was conducted by a Yale University psychologist named Stanley Milgram once. It focused on seeing how willing participants would be to obey instructions from a higher authority even if it conflicted with their own feelings.

    Each experiment consisted of three people – the authority figure; the subject of the experiment; and a ‘victim’. The test basically revolved around whether the subject would administer increasing levels of electric shocks to the ‘victim’ if the authority figure told them to do so. (There’s more to it than that; https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Milgram_experiment has a full explanation of the experiment.)

    In reality, the ‘victim’ was a plant who never received any electric shocks. Instead, when a ‘shock’ was administered, they would see a light flicker on, and depending on the experiments and the intensity of the ‘shock’, would respond accordingly by crying out, which could be heard by the subject of the experiment.

    Disturbingly, the experiment found that most people in the experiment would continue obeying the authority figure to administer the ‘shocks’ despite the pain they could hear. People find it easier to do it when there’s an authority figure who tells them that they must go on and they have no other choice.

    Maybe that’s what’s happening here, with the Civil Protection guys?

      • You can also consider the Stanford Prison Experiment ran in 1971 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanford_prison_experiment) in which student volunteers were divided up into prisoners and guards and observed as they interacted. Things went downhill very quickly and the easiest observation to make is that even if they KNOW they are being observed, people misuse power very quickly.

        If students at a university who knew they were all being observed would abuse their power that quickly, how soon do you thing the folks who joined Civil Protection would wait do start charging up their truncheons?

    • I should add that they found it easier because they believed they would not be held responsible. In other words, if you tell people that you’ll take the responsibility for it, you can get people to do a lot of things they wouldn’t otherwise do. If you’re already in a position where you’re the ruler of a totalitarian state…

    • i also believe the combine are brain washing citizens by making them forget using the drinks in the water as the one guy in the train station says ;dont drink the water they put something in it i dont even remeber how i got here; and if they forgot about what the combine have done they may sympthasize with the combine

  7. I went in and replayed the section with the raid on the apartment block and paid close attention to the Overwatch Announcer and what she had to say during the raid. I think it has some significant information.

    Attention Residents:

    Miscount detected in your block. Cooperation with your Civil Protection can result in ration rewards.

    Priority identification check in progress. Assemble in your inspection positions.

    This block contains potential civil infection. Inform. Cooperate. Assemble.

    Failure to cooperate will result in permanent offworld relocation.

    The first bit plays as you climb the stairs from the first set of apartments to the second, the other three loop randomly during the raid.

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