1. CMastah
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    CMastah Active Member

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    As a reader, would you be convinced by this?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by CMastah, Jan 10, 2015.

    I don't want to give away any details on my story's plot, but would you be convinced by a military captain quitting her position over the massacre of creatures she deems animals?

    To expand on that: She's studied at universities that stressed the humanities, particularly morality, and believes in integrity. She's a person who believes in the philosophical lectures she was taught.

    The reasons she quits:
    1. The conscripted troops are undisciplined, they take pleasure in killing the harmless creatures and mock the dying.
    2. The commander's special relationship to the royal family allows him to shirk his duties for years and to abuse the power of his position
    3. The commander who ordered this massacre refused to give the real reason behind it (hence it just comes off as unnecessary brutality and goes against everything she'd learned about humanity's higher moral ground (the philosophy they're taught is extremely pro-human)).
    4. She'd saved a survivor from the massacre and saw its distress clearly, in addition to witnessing the infant creature's traumatic slumber (sobbing in its sleep, etc). I should however stress that she sees the infant creature as an animal, not a person (although she's mentioned previously that she was taught that animals were deserving of moral status equal to humans due to their (animal's) ability to feel negative and positive emotions just like humans).
    5. She comes from a prestigious family who are.....for lack of a better word....civilized? They don't believe in indulging in barbarity/base behavior and are very philosophical, kind of thing
    6. Probably a minor point, but she's raised animals when she was younger and the infant creature reminds her of those times (as in, she had lovingly raised them).

    She quits essentially the next day after the creature's fitful rest makes her feel shameful over the (what she feels unnecessary and little more than wanton acts of cruelty) actions of the armed forces.

    Given the above, are you convinced that she'd resign?

    I'm going to add (probably unnecessarily) this note, but I'm hoping you've answered that previous question first:

    When I first developed the idea that she resigns, I hadn't made it the very next day. Since I hadn't written down much of her part in the story until later, I no longer remembered the details of WHEN she finally decided to quit (the above was true regardless, they weren't shoe-horned in. Due to there also being two MCs living in separate locations (and both are in correspondence), timeline became an issue as well. This is why I need to make the above sound convincing.
     
  2. thatoneauthor
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    thatoneauthor Member

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    No, I'm not convinced. If shes a captain she has gone through some intense training and has definatly hardened to become a leader for men who train to kill other men. I don't understand why she would quit over men killing animals, even for fun.
    She can make the men look stupid and inhumane by slapping one of them in the face and making the whole group do push ups.
    IF the data of telling her why they're doing such a thing is classified, then i would make a bigger deal out of the animals. Like they're flesh eating nazi's that know how to use guns. There has to be a reason they're just killing animals for fun, other than to just be immoral, i don't think any soldier would do such a thing.
    But if that's what you want to happen, then make one of her soldiers get so out of control that they kill other soldiers and run off, and she comes home to find out they killed her own animal, like a dog.

    We can have her quit over that, especially if you make her a really huge animal lover.

    Thanks for the read! Let me know if I'm wrong in something, and we can discuss.
     
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  3. odolmen
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    odolmen Member

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    I agree with thatoneauthor.
     
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  4. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    How does she quit?

    She would have signed up for a set period of time. She can't just hand in her one-month's notice the way that you can in civilian life.
     
  5. CMastah
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    CMastah Active Member

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    To discuss these three points specifically:

    1. The men don't kill other men, the kingdoms are united against one (inhuman) common threat. Their USUAL foe ARE like flesh eating nazis, humans haven't gone to war with one another for centuries due to this (think like stories where humans are united against a single alien threat, except this time it's fantasy).

    2. It's 'classified' but even the royal family are being kept in the dark about the truth of the matter (a section prior to this reveals that the commander is after a certain item he's SURE this tribe of creatures have, he's acting on his own without the royal family's consent). He's the only one aware of the real reason he's doing this, and it's due to a personal agenda.

    3. I can't have that creature she takes be killed because THAT'S the MC :p

    I was thinking of two possible solutions:

    1. She can recall that this wasn't the first time the armed forces committed an unnecessary act of barbarism (and I can briefly mention the other instances) and that it's a source of great shame and disillusionment for her.

    or

    2. The armed forces are at war with a powerful threat, however she can transfer to join the local police force instead.
     
  6. CMastah
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    CMastah Active Member

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    The reason she was able to quit was because the province they're in have their own laws that govern retiring military personnel.
     
  7. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    What author?
     
  8. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    My problem with this is, as far as I understand from your other questions in other threads about this plot:

    - The creatures that she sees as non-human have a language, am I right? And she knows that?

    - To me, a creature with a full-fledged language is sentient, and is therefore entitled to the priileges of being human.

    - For someone to NOT see it that way, I think that person needs to be particularly invested in seeing those creatures as not worthy of human treatment, invested to the point that they would reject all evidence of worthiness of those creatures. They would likely be invested in hating those creatures.

    - A person who is invested in hating a set of creatures against all evidence that they're sentient, is not likely to change her mind just because they're slaughtered. I'd think that whatever makes her need to and want to hate them, might well make her enthusiastic about the slaughter.

    Of course, I may have misunderstood those other threads, so I may have any of these elements wrong.
     
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  9. CMastah
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    CMastah Active Member

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    Actually the first guy to post after me was called 'thatoneauthor' :p

    @ChickenFreak , Actually yep, those creatures are sentient and they speak the trade language. The issue is that she's never encountered their people before (even though she knew of them). During one scene where she tells the child to eat off a plate on the floor and she (the kid) rejects it, the woman yells at the infant which causes it to cry in fear and she even thinks to herself 'why isn't she acting like the other dogs I've raised?' and she wonders how she's supposed to try raising it.
     
  10. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sounds like hand-waving to me. Anybody with military experience is likely to look at this and ???

    Also, the army doesn't like recruiting bleeding-hearts, and officers would have to be psych-tested to weed them out. As a captain, she's already been through two promotions, so has impressed her superiors sufficiently with her military qualities. It's as high as she's likely to get if she's merely "adequate", so a higher rank would be totally unconvincing. At this stage, it would need to be a massive thing to convince her to become a liberal.

    OK, it's your call, I'm just pointing out problems that I see that would, if uncorrected, turn me off.
     
  11. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm still befuddled. Is this the same character that was referring to them as "savages" and "it"? As I see it, humans have a natural tendency to anthropomorphize non-humans. For her to resist that tendency seems to require a reason, and I struggle to think of a reason that's consistent with liking animals.
     
  12. CMastah
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    CMastah Active Member

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    I may end up being forced to drop the whole 'it' thing (the grammatical difficulties of its use are bad enough, and yep, same person). One of the reasons I went with the whole 'it' thing was to show how much she distanced herself from non-humans, though yeah....I may have to have her use 'she' in reference to the child. When considering how folks treat dogs, I suppose it is true that you'd never get an owner telling a female dog 'good boy' and yet folks still DO use good girl/good boy in reference to their pets.

    @Shadowfax , The original reason she joined the military was because she believed in the human cause (just to be clear, this is a fantasy setting so.....psych test...?), plus the military are pretty much exclusively at war with a single race in the world (which are pretty much as evil as flesh eating nazis (though since this is a fantasy world, think midieval nazis), they don't even have civilians on their side, they're just a dark force) and have not been deployed against others in several centuries. The bleeding heart thing would not have been an issue since most skirmishes with non-humans OTHER than the dark force (such as say skirmishes with goblins and kaltsirs) have been conducted by frontiersmen with almost no military aid. One solution I was thinking (because resigning due to this issue with animals....regardless of how much integrity you have, this is still pretty out there) is that she could ask to be transferred out of the standing army to a local police/guard force.
     
  13. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not quite getting the scenario...

    You start out by making her a captain in the army...I'm seeing something fairly modern-day, perhaps a little more advanced than we are, but basically 20/21st century. Now, you're saying "mediaeval nazis"...so this is set around 15th/16th century? But skirmishes with goblins are done by frontiersmen...18th/19th century wild west?

    The problem I'm having is that your MC resigning would only be a point worth making in a 20th century type scenario. Mediaeval wars are full of times when the army, having fought a battle and got loads of loot, went home to gather their harvest rather than following their leader to win the decisive victory...so desertion/resigning were irrelevant.

    Just my take on what you've written. Your intentions and execution may make a sense of this that I'm unable to.
     
  14. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Having been in the military, my answer is no. I am not convinced by this or the subsequent rationalization. She's already clearly invested in the institution of the military at this point, as is evidenced by her rank, and that investment is to something that functions more like a religion than people are aware of. The only way a modern military works is for everyone to always obey "the contract". When you and I are in a foxhole, your uniform is an unbreakable promise that you will do exactly as you have said you will do and as you have been trained to do. You will do it to the cost of life and limb. You will. And so will I. Our obeisance to the greater mission is a fact, a knowledge. Belief isn't even remotely close to good enough. And when you die, I will create a monument to you and the rest who have died and I will go there and worship (though I will say "remember") your fallen soul. And there's a reason you physically separate military personnel from civilian personnel during their time of service, other than simple logistics. You separate them because there are things a military will be called upon to do that, in normal civilian life, would be illegal and immoral. You have to separate the two things or confusion sets in as to what is right and what is wrong. It's also why you don't let the military and the police be one and the same.

    Your captain, for me, especially being written as a woman, reeks of unfamiliarity with the military and an expectation that she will "behave like a woman".
     
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  15. CMastah
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    CMastah Active Member

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    To give some more details:

    The fictional world (and the continent this is all happening on) is pretty human-centric (almost all lands have been conquered by the human empire). There IS a standing army, complete with military ranks and such, but also large amounts of conscripts (they have offices where they keep track of all birth and death records and they draft many folks). They subsist on the massive and numerous farmlands. I'm not concerned with the whole 'military ranks' thing because I've seen it before in such books as the codex alera series (where their army is very well developed) and as for frontiersmen, they had that concept too in the same series, which is designed to be much like the Roman era.

    @Wreybies , I've seen such tropes in fantasy before, it's certainly nothing new (and besides, soldiers even in the modern day have still called it quits over immoral acts, not all and not even most, but it's happened (and they've subsequently been court martialed admittedly)). This trope isn't new, the only problem is convincing the reader that she's not being irrational but making a choice on principle (as for the whole 'behave like a woman', there's one fatal flaw here: When I made her character I had to decide between either a male character or a female one and thought 'it would be a nice change of pace if I made her female'. Any one of my characters (except the two MCs and one important character) could have been male OR female (even the villain could have been female)). While I do agree that a REAL military (heavy, HEAVY emphasis on real) would be comprised of folks who are 99.9999% exactly as you said, in fiction (especially fantasy fiction) we've seen tropes like this before. Drizzt from the forgotten realms novels for instance (yeah yeah, crappy books, I know) went against his own culture and people and we know for a fact that folks don't have personalities that are completely counter to their culture without SOME influence (and he's got NONE, just that he was born to a good father who ALSO suffers from the same lack). If I checked on a forum I regularly visit (not this one), I'm sure if I asked about a military character from sword and sorcery style novels (or even sci-fi novels) who quit their position because he/she believed it was the right thing to do I'd get more than one recommendation.
     
  16. Swiveltaffy
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    Swiveltaffy Contributing Member Contributor

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    @Wreybies: Thanks for that great post; never thought much but real eye-opener.
     
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  17. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Well then, @CMastah, take my words as insider research. Perhaps the things I present to you as obstacles are the things you need to tackle - not gloss - in the telling of the story to bring believability to the actions of your MC. "The contract" I mentioned is often thought of by those who have never served in the military as brainwashing, a way to make puppets out of soldiers. What they don't get is that "the contract" is really the thread that holds a human's sanity together when they are on the front line and insanity is literally whizzing over their heads trying to kill them. When soldiers appear to not be holding to the contract, fragging happens. And it does happen. So again, take my hurtles and make of them meat to flesh out your story. ;)
     
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  18. CMastah
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    CMastah Active Member

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    Thanks guys, I'm seeing that I may end up having to change her position to something perhaps less military to be honest. I was thinking that I could make her serve in the local garrison instead of the standing army and to have instead been required to oversee any operations happening within the vicinity of the nearby city (which is actually a day away, the tribe was located in one of many hidden valleys nearby). Her leaving the military (especially over a massacre of creatures she deems animals) in the span of a day is not really convincing, I can't even sell it to myself.

    The thing is I've seen this done in other places such as:

    The movie season of the witch: Nicholas Cage and the other one leave the holy army because they're massacring innocents and they're not convinced.

    There was a star wars novel where stormtroopers left the empire because they were being asked to kill civilians.

    There was also a worldwar series about an alternate timeline WW2 where a SS guy realized what Germany was doing to the Jews and he knew it to be wrong (though the war against the invading aliens meant he had to go on fighting).

    I'm sure even in real life there were nazis who were turning against their regime.

    The problem with my story however is that.....at the end of the day she'd be leaving because of a massacre of animals as opposed to a massacre of people (and if she considered those creatures as people then her place in the story changes massively and removes a primary conflict from the MC (the infant creature (the woman is not the MC)). Honestly I can't even sell that idea to myself :/

    Heheh, even when I wrote that scene I was telling myself 'I'm sure I had a more convincing idea' :p
     
  19. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Admiral Canaris, for example. The Nazis hanged him with piano-wire to drag out his death.
     
  20. Swiveltaffy
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    Swiveltaffy Contributing Member Contributor

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    It isn't necessarily about, simply, will people buy it. It's also about where your character comes from. Your past is the closest thing one has to a self, and if this person is raised military, I'd pay close attention to what @Wreybies has said. If your character was raised military, they may not view these killings the same way as another. Does this character makes sense with herself? Also, why is the character anything? Why are you putting her in the military opposed to elsewhere? Why does she care about these creatures? I'm not just asking about how but why does it matter? Not just plot.

    I'd apologize, too, for not reading every post here to full depth and if I repeated something else said, as I'm sure I at least partially did.
     
  21. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    But unfortunately, I believe that you may have a problem there as well. I asked if they had language, but what I meant was that I thought that she actually used language with the creatures? If she's using language with something, that something is socially human. For her to regard it as an animal, despite using language, despite it clearly having intelligence, would IMO require an incredibly strong, and IMO dysfunctional, determination to ignore any and all evidence to the contrary. The question to me is not why she doesn't regard it as human, but why she doesn't. (Edited: Er. "Not why she does, but why she doesn't.")

    I'm wondering if you may need to split this woman's function into two roles: A human who loves the creatures, treats them kindly and treats them, at the very least, as a kinda-sort-if-inferior human, and a human who hates and despises them and ignores (edited to say: More than ignores--rejects) all evidence that they are essentially human. Because some of this character's actions fit the first and some the second. Maybe your human character has a child or partner who takes on the contempt and hatred role?
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2015
  22. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    I think the term you're looking for is AWOL or desertion, which is what she'd be doing: deserting the army. Her rank of captain might be tricky though, I'd make her a fresh recruit. If she were captain, she would have had years of extensive experience under her belt and would know what to do if several of her men went on a shooting spree. To be honest, I was reading your outline thinking, Why in the Hell wouldn't she simply order them to stop committing the massacre? She's their superior, right?

    As for the animal=non-animal thing, I'm guessing this is a case of the humans sees this alien race as vermin to be slaughtered, but she grows a conscience? In that case, if she were captain/commander of the group, I would imagine she'd be able to stop them and exact whatever measure of discipline on the perpetrators.
     
  23. CMastah
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    CMastah Active Member

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    Does the word captain really conjure such images of a modern day army? :confused: (I ask because you're the second guy to make the assumption)

    It takes place in a fantasy setting, and she's not the one who ordered the massacre in the first place (the guy who did, SPECIFICALLY said 'no survivors', and he's her superior).

    @ChickenFreak , To answer the 'why she doesn't' question, this is a matter that gets explained to the other MC when he's warned that humans will only think of him as no more than a talking dog. The people are highly un-enlightened in such matters and buy everything the ruling governments tell them hook, line and sinker (because the ruling families have seeded these thoughts into universities, subsidized plays, rumor-mongering, literature (libraries operate under government restrictions not to hold books that might disagree, and since books are all hand-written, scribes are subsidized to make additional copies of the RIGHT work), spreading mis-information and generally there's a cultural revolution akin to Mao Tze Tung's China). People would (for instance), still eat beef even if the cows could talk and beg for their lives, the ability to speak (and consequently having sentience) doesn't make them people, it just makes them talking food. Even good people who wouldn't needlessly kill innocent CREATURES, would still only ever view them as CREATURES. In this fantasy world, humanity has already eradicated (complete genocide) several races in the past due to successful propaganda programs.

    To put it specific to Aristide (the captain in question), she has trouble understanding the infant she's raising because it's just not acting like any animal she's ever raised and she just can't get it that it's a person. It's not that she's DENYING that it's a person, it's that the infant's ability to talk is akin to that device people are trying to make to understand dogs (I heard there was some kind of cap some folks are working on that'll 'translate' dogs' barks and such). It gets hungry, feels sorrow, feels joy, gets angry and sleeps like any dog. The infant's ability to learn and enjoy literature (although the infant takes up learning combat instead) is akin to dogs learning tricks and enjoying fetch, heck, rats can learn up to 300 tricks supposedly, it still doesn't make them human. Do you understand the difference between a 'I'm hungry' bark and a 'play with me' bark? Well, with the infant's race that's all that's happened, you now have a pet that speaks more intelligibly. The ability of the infant to reason would be little more than an advanced form of 'animals know to fear fire'.

    But there ARE creatures considered monsters in the world, like goblins, they're not considered animals at all but monsters instead. THAT'S due to the propaganda that's being spread (goblins and some of the other creatures in the world are actually benevolent, but humans are being filled with a fear and paranoia about them so that farmlands can continue to expand without any humanitarian crises). That being said, some provinces have their own laws regarding these creatures due to benefits of leaving them alone.

    Aristide WILL grow as a character (if you read another thread of mine, then I'm going to add that she survives that attack :p), but not in this first story (even when she finally begins to realize the infant is actually a person (when the infant is now in its/her late teens), she gets killed so....:rofl:)
     
  24. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    A sidenote: just because some published authors have done something in their stories doesn't make it a good idea, especially to an unpublished author. Already established writers can get away with a lot more stupid stuff, plot holes, inconsistencies etc. than those looking to get their first MS out there. Likewise, the fact that somebody else has done thing X in their novel doesn't make the thing any better in and of itself because e.g. illogical characterization is still illogical characterization wheter it's done by you, me, Stephen King, or Umberto Eco.

    That being said, I wouldn't buy that from a captain in a million years, not even in a medieval fantasy setting. Besides, if she's seen combat during her several years of active military service, she's probably already seen (possibly even done) much worse than killing "animals" for shits and giggles.

    If you still want to stick to that plot twist, I'd forget her military career and maybe set her into some voluntary, expanded "neighborhood watch" -type thing consisting of locals (maybe folks from neighboring villages too) to help protect their homes, lands etc. or some such much less binding than the military, partly because of the repercussions of going AWOL, but mostly because of what @Wreybies was talking about. "The contract," as he puts it, isn't something someone of the rank of captain would take lightly; to make someone like that take a hike and break that contract would require something along the lines of discovering a massive pedophile ring formed around her ranks plus an extensive cover-up by her superiors or something of similar magnitude of severity.
    I've never served in the military, but I have a bunch of friends who have, some of them professional soldiers, some of higher ranks, and I couldn't picture any of them skedaddling over a massacre of animals. I still don't understand the contract all that well because I'm just a civilian, but I'm starting to get a grasp on and appreciate just how deep of a commitment that is to those men and women who dedicate their lives to serving their countries for better or worse, even at the risk of killing or being killed.
     
  25. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I feel that this is going to be a hard job of reader persuasion. While we as humans do eat animals, we rarely make pets of the same animals that we eat. The ones that we make pets of, we coddle and anthropomorphize and we condemn people that abuse them. I've read arguments (from, admittedly, vegetarian organizations) that the ones that we eat, we actively demonize--for example, we made up the idea that pigs are stupid and dirty, when pigs are actually quite intelligent and would really really like to be clean.

    I'm not saying that you can't do it convincingly. I am saying that there's no way on the face of the earth that I could do it convincingly, but I'm not the one who has to do it. :) I guess my main point is to emphasize what a very, very hard job I think you've set for yourself.
     

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