David L. Farr
The Journal of Felix Longstrider
115th day of the Fourth Era, Post-Shattering.
On display, Bermathestian Museum of Villainous Heroes.
Dated prior to the Jorundic Wars.
The Personal Essay of Felix Longstrider on Cancel Culture
I have faced many challenges in my short-lived life. By the age of twenty-five, I have been: abducted by a coven of witches; returned to my family only to find that they had been slaughtered in a raid on our village; squired to Sir Jonah Kestor, Knight-Guard of the Emperor and founder of Gnollbane’s League of Adventurers; fought in numerous battles, and prevented an elemental cult from bringing about the end of the world. And, that is only what I can ‘officially’ discuss.
Now, I face a battle against a foe I never expected- a foe I’m not sure I can overcome. It is a foe you cannot harm, not with a blow from my mighty maul; not with the radiant energy of ‘divine’ power. One cannot smite, Cancel Culture. You read that right, I, Felix Longstrider, am being cancelled. If I could find a way to capture my audible, inescapable sigh at writing that I’m being cancelled; it would be loud and drawn out.
For those of you that have had the pleasure (or the poverty) to have avoided the repugnant cesspit that is Flitter, I am being cancelled on the ‘social magic sphere’. This is happening for no other reason than saying, (in a private conversation, may I add) that I “don’t believe in the gods”. This was overheard by an unknown party, who decided to post their extracted memory of the conversation on Flitter.
Ironically, I don’t even have a Flitter orb myself. I was only aware that something was agitating when I was asked to stand down from duties until all of this blew over. Currently, it has been about a month, and I am still atop Flit. As it is with Flitter though, once one thing has surfaced, the trolls will find anything in history they can use to drag you further into the mud. (Literal trolls. They are the bottom feeders of Flitter HQ. Scouring through all the muck and grime of the Flits, they find anything that sticks)
Unfortunately, as a Knight of the League, they have a plethora of choices to anger one spectrum of the political landscape or another. Be it the pacifists, the warmongers, the religious, the atheists—there is always something for someone to be offended about. Seriously, just the other day I was trending for being part of a group that had hunted down and killed a feral werewolf that was terrorising the town of Little Beckton. I gave them a swift and painless death. If it wasn’t for me, the fire mage would have burnt the poor bastard alive. (Burnt. Him. Alive. And I’m being cancelled!) One group hates me for killing the Werewolf; apparently, their fondness for human flesh was ‘just a passing phase’. Another group hates me for killing it too quickly, and I quote, “Dem [sic] wolfboys [sic] gotta [sic] have the sin burned outta [sic] dem!!!! [sic]”.
That raises the question, what is the outcome of cancel culture? As I mentioned, I have been stood down from my duties as a Paladin of the League. Funnily enough, there is no legal requirement for me to be a follower of any particular god (or one at all) to be a member of the League, to be a Paladin, or to do my job. But, because of the public outcry at this (honestly not so shocking) revelation, Jonah has been forced to respond to the clamour. Luckily (or unluckily depending on how you look at it), my employment won’t be permanently affected. Instead, I must wear the brand of heresy. A brand that will be forever burnt into my skin—a reminder that no matter how I may change—I will forever be a heretic in the public eye.
So, I’ll ask again; what is the desired outcome of cancel culture? The Bermathestian dictionary describes cancel culture as: “the practice of excluding somebody from social or professional life by refusing to communicate with them on Flitter, or in real life because they have said or done something that other people do not agree with” (n.d.). This doesn’t really give us a definitive answer though, as each individual likely has their own ideas about what they would like to see happen to me. As an example, here are some of the pigeons the League has received about this situation:
“I don’t normally do this, but I could not look past this ridiculous situation. Felix Longstrider should be hung out to dry; his statement is sending a bad message to the children.”
“Fire Felix Longstrider!”
“Are all your members are [sic] stupid as Felix Longstrider? He should apologise to us, and to the gods!”
“Send Felix to slay a dragon, then we’ll see if he believes in the gods.”
“I’m writing to register a complaint about the Paladin, Felix Longstrider. He punched me in the face when I refused him entry to our workplace. This godless, violent man should be prosecuted!”
These were some of my personal favourites, but I will say in defence of the last comment that I did knock him unconscious with a well-placed punch to the face. The part he left out though, was that his “place of employment” was actually the dungeon of an elemental cult that the League was sent in to stop. So we can see, in these few examples, that I should be either: fired, forced to apologise, killed, or prosecuted. Granted, these are the more extreme opinions but that is exactly what Flitter is; the extreme.
I find this to be one of the more interesting aspects of cancel culture, that there is no real definitive line in the sand of what is considered to be a cancellable offence. There are literal criminal offences, or acts of racism, or abuse. These should be left to guards and law-mages to deal with. Flitter isn’t some ad hoc bounty hunting platform. For clarity, I’m not suggesting we don’t have a responsibility to do something about these things if we witness them, on the sphere or otherwise, but Flitting about it isn’t the answer. On the other turn of the coin, we have people who just make genuine mistakes, except they are mistakes that go viral and ruin their lives.
An example of this is mentioned in an article written by Evan Gerstmann titled Cancel Culture Is Only Getting Worse. He tells us about a few unfortunate victims of cancel culture, such as a professor that was being boycotted for attending a pro-guard rally in Bermathest. He didn’t participate in the rally and only attended out of curiosity. Unfortunately, just being seen at the rally was enough to gather the staff and students of the campus he worked at against him. It’s the 115th year, of the fourth era and we have regressed back to an age of ‘guilty until proven innocent’. Actually, at times it’s just ‘guilty, and any attempt to defend yourself’ is also a cancellable offence.
That gives me a good segue into my own defences. Originally, I was told to “keep quiet”, “stay off Flitter”, and “don’t talk to the reporters”. I found that to be such a strange concept, as that is exactly what a guilty party would do. We are trained to interrogate, and if I was pursuing someone in the course of my League duties, that kind of behaviour would likely lead to a *legal* smiting.
Regardless, until now, I had done exactly that. I didn’t talk to anyone, and I am being hounded in the streets whenever I leave the keep. I’m getting really tired of saying nothing. I have a theory, and to mention it is likely bordering on heresy, but I am already a heretic, so what does it matter? I think my cancellation has to do with the revelation that my power, my divine magic doesn’t stem from the gods after all. It’s public knowledge (now) that I am faithless, yet I am one of the Leagues strongest Paladins. That scares people, it challenges the very foundations of their faith. Solex, the father of all the gods is meant to be the source of all divine magic.
I’d never push the ideology that there are no gods, even with my doubts. Solex could well be the source of my divine magic, but my faith, my beliefs, are irrelevant to my power, and my ability to do the job. I’d go as far as to say that my lack of faith allows me to do a better job than someone overshadowed by the divine. Especially when we are working with (or against) followers of a different faith. That’s something that Flitter-heads should stick in their cancellation pipe and blaze: religious zealotry.
Katherine Federie writes that “Theologically based crime stems from dissonance, (perceived or real), between secular law and religious principle; when the dissonance is significant enough, secular law is rejected in favour of the religious belief or practice.” (98, 4th era) in her work on Religion-Related crime in the nation of Bermathest. Religion-Related crime. We have seen a lot of that going around, especially in the lands to the South where they still oppose the Emperor’s rule.
So, why don’t we cancel the Emperor? Because he is a divine-elect. Chosen by Solex himself to be the leader of all peoples of Aenoth. He regulates the laws of the people, but they are superseded by the law of the gods. As an example, there is always the occasional Flit related to the Emperor, but due to the magic of Flitter having a lack of anonymity, they usually disappear, along with the user. (Read: The League doesn’t always operate in the best interest of the “people”.)
That is the one benefit to Flitter, it’s not anonymous. Everyone that uses those Pixies spheres is registered, their minds are literally on public display. I say ‘benefit’, but that means there are thousands of real people out there who hate me. They hate me because I don’t have faith. One (private) conversation has completely cleaned the slate of all the good I have done.
To conclude my essay-turn-rant, I didn’t deserve this. Most people don’t deserve the crushing weight of community-based justice. If you ignore it and try to move on, you are hounded until the mob catches a whiff of the next pungent wreck. If you fight, you are overwhelmed by the Flitter mob with greater fervour for having the audacity to try and defend yourself. There are no winners when it comes to Cancel Culture, there is only the temporary satisfaction of the Flitter mob.
Author: David L. Farr is a third-year creative writing student, stay-at-home dad, and motorcycle enthusiast. He served seven years in the Royal Australian Navy and now regularly DM’s games of Dungeons and Dragons. His favourite class is a Paladin.