Base Facility: Recycling Tanks

“It is every citizen’s final duty to go into the tanks and become one with all the people.”

— Chairman Sheng-ji Yang, “Ethics for Tomorrow”

The player is generally confronted with a quote at three different points in time.  First, you see quotes whenever a technology is acquired by the faction through either research, espionage, or trade.  Second, you see quotes at the end of every secret project video.  And third, you see a quote every time a base facility of a new type is first constructed.  This quote is of the latter kind.

In the game, Recycling Tanks are a base facility that don’t cost any maintenance, add one to each yield on the base square, and that are fairly cheap to build.  They require the Biogenetics technology to build.

As the player, you generally want them everywhere as soon as you can manage, and it is often worthwhile to speed their construction along with energy credits to get new bases contributing as soon as possible.  By the mid-game they fade into the background.  You’re never excited to see Recycling Tanks go up in a base; they’re just always there.  A constant part of the background of life on the new Planet.

But the first time you build one, you’re treated to this little gem by the Chairman.  Of course the colonists can’t afford burials on the new planet.  Certainly not after they first land.  The air is toxic outside of the small base domes and it’s probably not safe to go outside to dig up the ground.  And nutrients are hard to come by, so cremation is definitely wasteful.

So, on Planet, Soylent Green is made of people.  And of course Yang is the guy to stand up and proclaim the positive utility of this course of action.  Some sort of burial ritual or commemoration is a human universal.  And, of course, there’s a strong taboo in virtually every human culture against eating other people.  But in the Hive, they just toss a corpse into the tanks without a whole lot of comment.  This is how a citizen serves after death.  It doesn’t matter how anyone might feel about it: it’s obviously the most efficient course of action.  The community will be stronger for it.

It’s one thing to hear Chairman Yang wax philosophical about his nihilistic outlook.  It’s another to see a casual application of his inhumanity.  Note that I don’t mean that last statement as a condemnation.  Yang’s entire angle is to mold humanity into something radically different.  Openly breaking taboos like these – not merely out of exigency or desperation, but as considered policy – is one of the methods by which Yang intends to craft the Hive into his utopia.

The other interesting thing about this quote is the collection that it is found in.  “Ethics for Tomorrow” is probably quite the read.  Knowing Yang, it’s probably required reading in the Hive, a la Mao’s Little Red Book, complete with each sub-collective required to study and apply the lessons using Maoist-style education techniques.

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2 thoughts on “Base Facility: Recycling Tanks

  1. Anonymous

    Hiya, nice blog. Just found it today. Good to know there are others out there appreciating Reynolds’s genius, especially given that his more recent efforts have been less than stellar.

    I’ve actually never agreed with the notion that the Recycling Tanks quote was implying something like Soylent Green. The fact that the base facility provides not only nutrients, but also minerals and energy always made me imagine the tanks would be used to create fertilizer and other reusable materials, not food meant directly for human consumption. That interpretation also seems more in line with the fact that factions besides The Hive will readily build them as well. I do agree that the “become one with all the people” part of the quote is rather murky though.

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  2. Anon

    Hi, I just found this blog yesterday and I’ve been browsing it for hours. I had spent much of my teens playing this game and seeing such an in-depth discussion about it brings me back. It’s hard to find people who can even remember it, much less analyze the lore to this extent.

    Anyways, I originally had a different interpretation about the recycling tanks quote. I thought he meant the last job of the day, as in going to the bathroom before bed. Yang’s penchant for bureaucratically regimenting everyday life and the lowest scoring autobiography cover (X’s Book of Recycling Tank Humor) combined with my juvenile sense of humor led to this conclusion. Only after reading the novels did I figure out it was about corpse disposal.

    So, nice blog! I wish I found it sooner and sorry for the toilet humor.

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