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Inherent in the System
"You know, I've spent ten years detoxifying this party. It's been a bit like renovating an old, old house, yeah? You can take out a sexist beam here, a callous window there, replace the odd homophobic roof tile. But after a while you realise that this renovation is doomed. Because the foundations are built on what I can only describe as a solid bed of cunts."
Stewart Pearson, The Thick of It

Sometimes, it's not anyone's fault. The world everyone inhabits is just broken in some way, or badly designed so that perfect functioning still causes problems somewhere. Stories like this don't actually require a Big Bad, since the world itself comes with free conflict, but they often have one of those, too.

Can overlap with the incompetent version of The Government; whether this is Truth in Television depends on how cynical you are. Vast Bureaucracy is notorious for the way that the bureaucrats don't have to be personally evil to bring about horrors.

Compare Crapsack World. See also Society Is to Blame, Wretched Hive. Compare also As Long as There Is Evil, which is when supernatural evil is inherent in the world. Contrast Industrialized Evil.

Examples

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    Anime and Manga 
  • In the world of Berserk, between the heresy-crushing Holy See, the corrupt nobility, the warmongering kingdoms, and the evil Godhand and their ravenous demonic Apostles, life just keeps getting worse. Between those four elements, effecting change for the better is about as possible as pushing over a mountain. The Godhand and the Idea of Evil that created them only exist because humanity can't accept that their suffering is Inherent In The System. They want a Big Bad to blame for all of their problems.
  • Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex mainly deals with problems inherent in human social systems. But there's also a great deal of government corruption and organized crime.
  • The world of Stray Little Devil has a basic flaw: the Law of the Conservation of Luck. The Law states that an angel's good luck is a devil's bad luck, and vice versa. In practice, this means that helping out a member of the opposite species will cause bad things to happen to you, which is one of the primary reasons why angels and devils are so hostile to each other.
  • In Akumetsu, pretty much all of Akumetsu's targets claim that they are little pieces in a great puzzle, powerless to do anything to improve Japan's lot despite the high positions they almost invariably have. He refuses to accept that as an adequate excuse for sparing them.
  • The shinobi villages of Naruto face a constant cycle of hatred and war due to their nature. Attempts by individuals to improve the situation are usually met with even greater violence than the usual cycle, resulting in an even larger backlash. It is prophesized that one of Jiraiya's students will break this cycle either by saving the world from the violence... or by destroying it utterly.
    • Pain in particular was so jaded that his plan to achieve peace was to nuke the entire world into a subsistence state, thus destroying the system, and nuke them again any time they started getting uppity so nobody would ever have the will or ability to fight again. He recognized that this system was also inherently flawed, but felt it was still better.
    • Tobi and the real Madara are so jaded that they believe the only way to achieve peace is to mind control everyone into a state of illusory bliss. They have completely given up on the real world.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica: The eventual demise of the universe as the entropy increases. Madoka's wish only remedies this somewhat, but it can never be completely solved.
  • In Attack on Titan, the way the military works essentially guarantees that the people who are the most qualified to fight Titans are also the ones least likely to ever fight them. It also ensures that the people who would be most likely to fight other humans are the least qualified to do so. Annie points out that any system that relies on everyone being a paragon of virtue is flawed.

    Comic Books 
  • In content cut from the original release of Kingdom Come but included in the trade paperback, Superman goes to Apokolips; it is revealed that Orion had killed Darkseid and taken his place. Orion had tried to give the people freedom, however, after countless years under Darkseid's rule, the people of Apokalips simply couldn't bear to live without a despot. Orion eventually (and at first, reluctantly), steps in to fulfill the same role as his father.
  • In Judge Dredd, a combination of an oppressive Police State government, mass unemployment, and chronic overcrowding lead millions of people to simply freak out and turn to crime out of boredom and/or despair. It is often said that Dredd's main enemy is not Judge Death, PJ Maybe, Orlok, or Mean Machine, but Mega-City One itself.

    Film 
  • According to The Human Condition humans are (on the whole) flawed and will always place their own sole lives above others.
  • The Trope Namer comes from a peasant (or, in his words, a worker in an anarcho-syndicalist commune) in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, who criticises the rule of monarchy as system of violent oppression and launches into a tirade when King Arthur tries to assert his authority. "Come see the violence inherent in the system! Help, help, I'm being repressed!"
  • Many Our Vampires Are Different films and series subvert this to take out some of the inherent antagonism implicit in such settings by making a readily available alternate blood source, leading to Friendly Neighborhood Vampires. Happens in Underworld with cloned blood (though they aren't that friendly).
    • It even goes back farther than that. Before cloned blood, they fed on donor blood, and before that, on animal blood. The ban on human feeding was imposed by Viktor nearly a millennia ago in order to avoid provoking humans (a ban he himself frequently violated).
  • The movie Traffic makes a similar argument to Frederick Forsyth example below about the War on Drugs in relation to international politics.
  • According to Agent Smith, both this trope and Humans Are Flawed form the logic behind the dystopian design of the simulated world of The Matrix. The initial design of the Matrix was to be a utopia, but abandoned when no one would accept it and kept trying to "wake up"-this caused massive human casualties. Evidently, human beings just weren't physiologically and/or psychologically capable of living in an ideal world. Surprisingly though, this trope is actually not a major theme of the series: what irks the rebels most about the Matrix and what most spurs them to fight it isn't the fact that it uses their bodies for energy or that it's a massive lie; the main reason they're trying to free people from the Matrix is because the Matrix isn't real.
  • Nixon: Argued as the real reason Nixon cannot stop the Vietnam War:
    Young Student: You don't want the war, we don't want the war, the Vietnamese don't want the war, so why does it go on?
    [Nixon hesitates. Haldeman whispers "We should be going" to him]
    Young Student: You can't stop it, can you? Even if you wanted to. Because it's not you, it's the system. The system won't let you stop it.
    Richard M. Nixon: There's... there's more at stake here than what you want, or what I want
    Richard M. Nixon: [Firmly] No. No, I'm not powerless. Because, because I understand the system, I believe I can, uh, I can control it. Maybe not control it totally, but tame it enough to make it do some good.
    Young Student: Sounds like you're talking about a wild animal.
    Richard M. Nixon: Yeah, maybe I am.

    Literature 
  • This is the premise of Ursula K. Leguin's very highly-regarded short story The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas. Essentially, it's a thought experiment about a perfect city, with the caveat that it requires a single child to live in absolute suffering to sustain. The title comes from those who cannot abide benefiting from such a system.
  • David Wingrove's Chung Kuo series: The world is simply a big, corrupt, spirit-crushing prison for both the Europeans and the Han (most of them). The world-encompassing City was created to fulfill the promise of having as many children as you want, a fundamental wish for the clan-oriented Han society. The drawback: you don't get to see the sky and the sun, all birds are in cages, the very nature of the City makes it impossible to improve without physically tearing it down. Which in a world of 35+ billion people would mean mass death.
  • Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files: A Crapsack World where humans are picked off by various preternatural predators daily whom we have no way of protecting ourselves from, are too delusional to band together or even recognize they exist, and the few people who do have said power are too busy bickering among themselves to do anything. Oh, and using an act of black magic once is tempting enough to send you Jumping Off the Slippery Slope and start thinking about using your kids for raw potion ingredients or sacrificing your friends to an elder god, among other things.
  • Tom Godwin's short story "The Cold Equations" (along with its various media adaptations) tries for this, but the gross negligence shown by everyone with any authority, and lack of any sort of safety protocol kind of misses the "no one's at fault" mark.
  • This is a major theme of Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure. There isn't really a Big Bad, but Jude and Sue's hope of a happy life is doomed from the start because of the strenuous moral standards of Victorian society.
  • In Brave New World, it's a more-or-less irreversible choice between a brainwashed, hedonistic social hierarchy or grim, egalitarian destitution and misery. If everyone were truly equal and free to determine their own destiny (as was attempted once before), society would collapse into turmoil. Huxley himself notes that he inadvertently created a third option when he invented the islands that the handful of people who don't fit into the system are routinely banished to, and just didn't notice it as he wrote the rest of the book. He later explored this in Island.
  • The ridiculously well-researched works of Frederick Forsyth leave one with the feeling that the Real Life criminal underworld is something that cannot be effectively dismantled and only small "victories" can be won against its denizens.
  • This is addressed by Emmanuel Goldstein in his book in 1984: there are three classes, the High, the Middle and the Low. Since the High is oppressive, the Middle asks the Low for help to overthrow the system, so, while the Low continues to be the Low, the Middle is now the High, and will be until the new Middle reacts to the new oppressor, and so on.
    • The beauty/horror of IngSoc and Big Brother being that they have essentially locked everyone into their roles by inverting the levels of oppression. The poverty stricken uneducated Proles (the Low) have the most freedom, the capable Middle live in subjectively better conditions but as members of the Outer Party are subject to the Thought Police and other insidious means of control, while we have O'Brien's word that the Inner Party themselves (the High) are subject to even greater scrutiny and required orthodoxy. The system inherently steers those who crave Power as an end unto itself into the upper ranks while ensuring that the Low will never join with the Middle to overthrow the High again.
  • Ira Levin's This Perfect Day gives us the choice between The Family, a society of helpful, pacifist, cooperative members who never hurt each other, because they are controlled via drugs and genetic engineering by an omniscient supercomputer that euthanizes them at age 62 simply to conserve resources...and islands of untreated "free" people which are either anarchic hellholes where the Law of the Jungle rules, or tyrannical military dictatorships complete with an Apartheid system. You can't solve the problems of the second without causing the problems of the first, and vice versa.
  • George Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire is set in a World Half Empty that dramatically illustrates what happens when this trope goes really bad. It's understandable, since during the main series, the Seven Kingdoms are being ripped apart by civil war, and the prequel novels illustrate a kind of a golden age. However, many of the problems within the system led to the civil war, and other wars, in the first place.
    • Very much Truth in Television, as any student of European history knows, and George Martin was nothing if not true to that with his own world.
    • A Dance With Dragons is this trope taken Up to Eleven. There doesn't seem to be anything Daenerys can do with the best intentions for Meereen that doesn't make the situation worse.
  • In Anne Rice's The Vampire Chronicles, the psychological weight caused by needing to feed off the blood of the living drives many vampires to suicide. Lestat manages to remain sane by determining to drink only from those he judges "evildoers" (it helps that he has a limited ability to read human minds, so he can pick the vile murderer or rapist out of a crowd and even hear how evil the man's thoughts are), while Louis spends much of Interview With the Vampire drinking the blood of rats and other small animals.
  • In L. E. Modesitt's Saga of Recluce novels, it's eventually revealed that the amount of Order and Chaos in the world must be balanced; if you kill a great Chaos mage, another will be along shortly, and if the forces of Order build a dozen Order-infused ironclad ships for self-defense, the number (and power) of Chaos mages will increase—-oh, and maintaining your fleet by making replacement Order-infused parts will also increase the amount of Chaos, without really helping your defenses. The eventual solution is to seal away a big pile of Order and Chaos at the same time, making both sides weaker.
  • The Hyborian Age of Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian suggests you are born into one of two destinies: the nasty, brutish and short life of a barbarian, where only the strong survive, or into oppressive, corrupt, decadent civilization. If you aren't a decadent noble, a monster-worshipping evil sorcerer, a ruthless sellsword, cunning thief or perfumed courtesan, you're a slave or dead. And even that's no guarantee.
  • A slightly lesser example, but the Deliberate Values Dissonance of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan reads like this in regards to footbinding. Tiny, crippled feet are the sign of beauty, grace, and good breeding; the line of mothers crippling their daughters in a mutually agonizing tough-love scenario is never shown as having an ending in the course of the story. It won't be done away with for hundreds of years.
  • Terry Pratchett's Discworld pays homage to this trope. In Night Watch, a young Reg Shoe is convinced Sam Vines' only interest in him is to deliver a savage beating and then to hand him over to the secret police for daring to stand against the system. Sam becomes ashamed of the unintended cruelty of his reply, "Nobody is in the least bit interested in you." He expounds on this at length, as the ineffectual revolutionary Reg looks crushed and about to burst into tears. And in Snuff, the radical blacksmith Jefferson picks a fight with Vimes, the hated symbol of authority on two levels (police chief and Lord of the Manor) for exactly this reason.
  • E.M.Forster's A Passage to India, British racism and the inability of the English and the Indians to get along with each other isn't going to go away while the English stay in control of India. One of the main critiques the book levels against the Raj is that it co-opts even the most well-meaning of the English into viewing the Indians as inferior. Also no matter how badly Aziz and Fielding want to be friends, they can't.
  • Invoked and believed in by Nicholas Hunt, the protagonist of Jacek Dukaj's Black oceans.
  • Beetle in the Anthill has a retrospective postscript by the authors which hints that the events of the novel were largely unavoidable. The very existence of a Precursor artifacts in the form of human embryos combined with a Secret Intelligence Service that regarded said embryos as a possible threat to humanity as a whole inexorably led to a Downer Ending.
  • The Republic of Haven in the first three novels of the Honor Harrington series are forced to be expansionist and steal what they can from conquered systems because they have a dysfunctional economic system. The Solarian League later replaces them as an example: the political system has become so corrupt and useless that it's almost impossible to get anything done legislatively, especially if you're an honest politician (or planetary government), because you have to be corrupt to get anything done at all.

    Live Action TV 
  • The Wire makes this argument in fictional form about the real-life War on Drugs, and for good measure takes on the police system, the dealers, labor unions, local government, the schools, and the media. One gets the impression that David Simon is not optimistic about institutional reform.
  • * In Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger, when Big Bad Agent Abrella is finally defeated at the end, he basically says that as long as laws and special police exist, there will be criminals and Alienizers, and as long as they exist, there will be someone with the same ambitions and dreams that he had.

    Tabletop Games 
  • There's a reason White Wolf calls both of their flagship series The World of Darkness.
    • Vampire: The Masquerade and Vampire: The Requiem don't have a readily available alternate blood source. Even if you want to be good, the whole friggin' game system seems designed to have you kill people, lower your Karma Meter, and generally eat the puppies. It's as though the game designers want you to be as casually cruel as possible. (They do.)note 
    • And then we have Mage: The Awakening where it seems there will always be immoral or amoral mages willing to use their powers for their own selfish ends simply because the lure to do so is so strong, and the consequences can be so underwhelming. This is even without considering the anti-reality filled with Eldritch Abominations which seeks to destroy the universe, and can offer mages (and other mortals) dangerous, corruptive powers to further its goals. The saddest part is, that it was the early mages' fault that things got to be so bad in the first place.
    • Add Werewolf: The Apocalypse to the list. Of the three most powerful spirits in the Old World of Darkness (and mostly in charge of running it), two are insane and malevolent, while the third lacks any ability to plan and is probably also insane. Actually opposing any of the three is largely futile, and if destroying one of them were possible it would wreck the world even further.
    • Then, Demon The Fallen actually explains what's wrong with the Old World of Darkness: if you read through the Neberu backstory carefully, you'll see that the world they built was a self-sustaining, self-perfecting system with enormous potential to shrug off abuse. Then, soon after the Fall, God in His righteous fury just went and kicked the Creation so hard, it just didn't work anymore. "Righteous", my ass! And ever since that time, the world has been gradually falling apart, descending into the proverbial darkness. No wonder the Neberu hate Him with every fiber of their souls.
  • Warhammer 40,000. Two reasons: 1. Chaos has always existed, and always will exist, unless someone finds a way to nuke human emotions. (And considering the fact that one of the Chaos gods was born from the decadence and hedonism of another species entirely, even that's not guaranteed to stop it.) 2. It's not like a revolution is feasible. Yes, the world is horrible. Yes, everyone's worshiping the corpse of a dead god. Yes, any other alien species is pretty much exterminated on sight. Yes, the anti-intellectualism is horrifying. Yes, the dogma is stifling, and everyone's just a little bit too quick to scream "Heresy!" But if the infrastructure fell for any amount of time, the odds are good that the Dark Eldar/Tyranids/Orks/Necrons/Chaos would be on humanity like vultures on a dead zebra.
    • Technically, that's incorrect. Chaos did not always exist, but was created by sentient emotion (note Codex: Necrons on the time of the Old Ones, and Realms of Chaos on the birth of Chaos). Chaos is also potentially defeatable, through the gradual improvement of humanity. There is a slight problem in that the best hope for the defeat of Chaos is biologically dead, his last few body cells surviving on an arcane continent-sized life support system powered by human souls, and has been for the last ten thousand years, but it remains hypothetically possible, and will never be achieved or finally prevented.
      • There's a few errors there as well. The Emperor could possibly have defeated the Chaos gods, but Chaos itself would have still existed as long as emotion still existed and new gods would probably have been born, or already had been (like Gork and Mork).
    • Each god actually has good aspects as well as the evil ones. Khorne is the embodiment of rage, martial prowess and courage, Tzeench is the embodiment of change and hope, for better or worse, Nurgle is the embodiment of despair and acceptance, and Slannesh is the embodiment of pleasure, in all its forms. The negative aspects simply outweigh the good ones, due to the nature of the universe.
  • Paranoia: Alpha Complex is a perfect utopia by the kindly wisdom and matchless grace of Our Friend the Computer. Any suggestions to the contrary are treason, and should be reported to Friend Computer or to your nearest friendly Internal Security agents at once. Citizens experiencing the urge to suggest that Alpha Complex or Friend Computer is less than perfect are strongly encouraged to report to the nearest Confession Booth. Remember, spreading dissatisfaction among your fellow citizens is treason! Stay alert! Trust no one! Keep your laser handy!
    • The game system itself is a meta-example, sometimes by design, but it also acknowledges problems inherent in any tabletop system and encourages the Game Master to exploit or subvert them.
  • In Infernum, the reason that there aren't any real NobleDemons in said setting (Just less evil ones) is because, even if they are decent and loyal to their fellows, they still have to torture human souls to produce Illiaster, which is their only food.
  • In Exalted, it is occasionally pointed out that humanity's dependence on the titular demigods is not at all healthy and has caused a lot of problems—and yet, is utterly necessary in the face of all the demons, Fair Folk, and Eldritch Abominations out for the entire world's blood, and which un-Exalted humans are incapable of dealing with.
    • And yet, there are people who try to change this sad state of the world. A significant number of Lunar Exalts are social engineers who aim to create societies that can function without Exalts (this is no doubt because Lunars themselves were raped by Solars in ancient ages). Another Lunar faction seeks to proliferate Sorcery so that everyone can do reality bending without having to be exalted first.
    • Scarlet Empress engineered the Dragon-blooded regime so that it would collapse without her at its center. Which it does, after she disappears. After the Ebon Dragon raped her into marriage (long story), the problem really shows because the embodiment of dickery have become the de jure king of Creation.

    Theatre 
  • Wicked is about two friends who want to become famous and change the world for the better through magic. When Elphaba realizes how corrupt The Wizard is and how he's encouraging the oppression of the Animal population, she forgets becoming his partner and instead goes on a vigilante crusade against him. Glinda, meanwhile, would rather stay in the Emerald City and try to help from within (albeit, part of that is not being brave enough to give up her dream life, the way Elphaba is). In the end, neither path really changes anything in Oz.
    • Probably because under the Wizard's rule, Glinda was a powerless figure-head who's real job was to appease the masses and keep them distracted. The finale seems to indicate with The Wizard and Madam Morrible out of the way, the Grimmerie in her hands, and Elphaba's blessing, Glinda has the ability to make Oz a better place.
  • Che and Eva's Waltz in Evita both follows and seems to defy this trope (though it depends on how you define the "system") with its chorus: "There is Evil/Ever around, fundamental/System of government quite incidental!"
  • In The Pirates of Penzance, the Pirate King believes this and uses it as a justification for piracy:
    Away to the cheating world go you
    Where pirates all are well-to-do

    Video Games 
  • Kingdom Hearts is a prime example, as the potential for Black Magic and people becoming The Heartless are a fundamental part of the stories cosmology.
    • The problem of The Heartless tends more towards As Long as There Is Evil, since there's no reason why they need to stay around apart from the fact that human nature makes it really hard to eliminate them. Nobodies are a better example of a problem that's Inherent in the System - they're sentient beings whose very existence prevents their Others from existing. 358/2 Days takes this even further with Xion's link to Roxas, which effectively makes it impossible to coexist.
  • Shaping in the Geneforge series seems exceptionally prone to With Great Power Comes Great Insanity. The Shapers do their best to control it but never quite can, while making themselves look like complete bastards in the process. Eventually, a sect develops that wants to eliminate shaping entirely... but given that shaping is completely ingrained into the society and the first game reminds us that "you cannot unring a bell," you can guess how feasible that would be.
    • Geneforge takes it a step into the broader scope, showing the many ways great power leads to great social insanity, as those who have it, those who want it, and those who rebel against it, all have their own brands of madness. The first games had sympathetic characters from various sects with understandable viewpoints based on their experience, led by crazed and callous demagogues. Geneforge 4 inverted this: charismatic and well-intentioned leaders with well-reasoned motivations leading sects filled with desperately crazed individuals justifying atrocities at all levels.
  • Dragon Age, in any number of myriad ways. Most obvious is the situation of children born with magical potential. They are taken from their family and locked in a tower under armed guard for what is usually the rest of their life, barring certain exceptional circumstances. When they come of age, they must take a dangerous test with death the penalty for failure—and even afterwards, they always face the looming threat that the fanatic Knight Templar guards will execute them if they step out of line. The alternative to this brutal treatment of innocents for an accident of birth? The very real possibility, even probability, that they will become possessed by horrors from beyond.
    • The worst part of it? Most mages turn to Blood Magic only to escape from the Circle. Many may have never become abominations or blood mages if they were not faced with a possibility of lifetime imprisonment, being made Tranquil or getting killed.
    • To add to that, there exists an example of an alternative, with mages policing themselves. That example being The Empire where mages lord over muggles and human-sacrifice-powered Blood Magic is par for the course doesn't inspire anyone's confidence.
    • There's also the Grey Wardens themselves, who undergo an initiation that frequently kills recruits — and even those who survive will die or turn into a monster because of it a couple decades down the line. If they didn't, however, the only way to end a Blight would be to kill every darkspawn in existence, everywhere.
  • Mass Effect uses this with A.I. Is a Crapshoot. Organic life will inevitably evolve and advance to the point where it can create synthetic life, which will then (apparently) destroy all organic life. The Catalyst reasoned the only way to prevent this was by destroying organic civilizations before they could develop synthetic life, and so created the Reapers. Shepard/players don't seem overly convinced but have little way to state otherwise..
  • Touhou takes Clap Your Hands If You Believe in a fairly depressing way: Youkai are born of human fear, and as such have to attack humans. Now, the problem isn't that getting rid of creatures born of belief is hard; it's happened in most of the worldnote , with the setting being a Fantastic Nature Reserve. No, the problem is that youkai are people too, and often nicer and smarter than the humans. While they've managed to set up a formalized system that lets humans and youkai non-lethally duel instead of being at war, they'll never be able to truly get along with each other.
  • In the Disciples series, the world sucks because all of the gods are selfish flawed jerks. The most sympathetic gods are the gods of evil because they were Driven to Villainy. A big part of this is that the creation process itself was flawed, tainting the world forever. It also doesn't help that the god who pointed this out was misblamed for it and imprisoned in hell, pissing him off. It gets so bad that, in the third game, the gods just want to hit the Reset Button on the world.
  • In the Shin Megami Tensei franchise, the universe itself is broken and God turning evil is merely a symptom of the problem. Unless the flaw is identified and fixed, the universe isn't getting better anytime soon.

    Web Comics 
  • Tower of God: The climbing system of the Tower requires people to drop out on every floor, often resulting in betrayal and death. Some characters are so sickened by this they drop out by themselves, content with the progress they madenote . Other more important characters have started voicing their discontent with the system and the Tower itself seems to be subtly working against it as well.
  • Girl Genius: "Mad scientists rule the world. Badly." The existing despotism is far from ideal, but before it was around there was lots of violent anarchy, and it's hard to think of a better alternative.
    • Othar Trygsvassen (GENTLEMAN ADVENTURER) has a pretty good idea on how to fix it.
      • Except, he's the only one trying, and he's really bad at it. Plus, y'know, outnumbered hundreds or thousands to one. So not really a practical solution.
      • Not to mention that anyone could be born a Spark so it would never be fully contained.
  • Similar to the Underworld example above, in Last Blood the vampires can live off of small amounts of blood... but still prefer lots.
  • In some Talking Animal worlds, Carnivore Confusion may invoke this trope. For example, Talking Foxes might have to eat Talking Rabbits to live, but Talking Rabbits have names and families too! A certain amount of tragedy is inherent in the system, but that's just how life is. Example: Kevin & Kell.
  • Erfworld: The 'rules' of Erfworld are effectively designed to force the various sides into near perpetual war. People are created for no other reason than to be soldiers.
  • Gunnerkrigg Court subverts this here.
    Paz: The Court isn't a big monster that does as it pleases. Es a collection of people, working to do what they think is right. And, over time, other people see what is wrong, what mistakes were made, and work hard to fix them.

    Web Original 
  • In Worm, gaining powers usually requires a Traumatic Superpower Awakening, which as you might expect happens more often to the disenfranchised and ne'er-do-wells of the world, with the end result that villains constantly outnumber the heroes.

    Real Life 
  • Truth in Television: Diffusion of responsibility is related to this trope.
  • Lobbying in general. It's a revolving door between politicians, corporations and lobbyists themselves. Give a little money during an electoral campaign, and they'll pass laws that benefit the pockets of their donors.
  • Some Marxists (but not Karl Marx himself) believe this is why Hobbes Was Right. Whether they are right or not is a discussion for another place.
  • A lot of the defenders of the system of slavery during the 19th Century used the argument that slave labor was too inherent to the function of the economy, and that getting rid of it would cause a catastrophic collapse of the system. Which, arguably, it did. Although that collapse could have been averted or at least mediated more than it was by a gradual phasing into another economic model. Even the abolitionists couldn't come up with a coherent, practical way to get rid of slavery and deal with its aftereffects. For example:
    • Do you compensate the former slave owners? If so, where does the money come from? If not, you're impoverishing people who had never broken the law.
    • Do you compensate the former slaves? Again, who pays and how much?
    • Where do the newly-freed slaves go? Back to working on the farms? Would cities in the North accept them? What jobs would they be qualified to hold? What about elderly or disabled slaves? Or orphaned children?
    • How about sending them back to Africa? Well, the slaves were probably born in America and had no means or desire to go to a foreign country, and what would they do when they got there?
      • Civil war made the answer to the first two questions rather tidy: the secessionists were obviously in the wrong, so they deserve no compensation. Instead, they owe reparations which can go to the former slaves. And the rest of it? Well, time marched on and the social adaptation wasn't easy, but even with the benefit of hindsight I don't think anyone could suggest any way it could've been done better, nor suggest that abolition shouldn't have been done in the first place.
      • However, there was no such lucky civil war in the UK, and so the former slave owners were compensated quite handsomely, partially by their former slaves being forced to work as their apprentices after having been freed.
  • Buckminster Fuller had a quote relating to breaking free from this, saying that nothing is gained by fighting the system, and that the solution is to create a new system which renders the old one obsolete. Essentially it's Take a Third Option, or perhaps create new options instead of choosing the existing ones.
  • The international relations branch of political science routinely has jargon-filled fights regarding this trope for tenure. The three major paradigms-realism, liberalism, and constructivism-all believe that the international system forces nations to act within certain constraints in order to survive. The Great Politics Mess-Up and subsequent rise of constructivism have led to a version of Take a Third Option: it is possible for the international system to change, albeit incredibly difficult. This is the optimistic perspective.
  • Studying neuroscience and psychology will hit you in the head with this (pun intended). The more you know about the processes inside a person's brain, the more you realize that you actually have very few course of actions in any given situation, unless you consciously go against what is wired in your brain. All kinds of bigotry-against nationality, creed, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, any label you can come up with-have their roots in the way a person or a society try to preserve themselves, and it's no justification for atrocities committed to fellow beings.
  • Executive Meddling. It's only natural. Want your book or screenplay published? Most people don't have the capital with which to accomplish such. Things like paper to print each page with, actors, props, designers, and what have you cost money. A lot of money. Those with the budget and resources to fund anything still only have so much, so they have to pick and choose what they'll support, based on what they predict will sell the best, and those predictions are often wrong. This gives them the power to insist on modifying something or another, at the threat of pulling out and funding something else instead, and they are well-known to do that anyway. Their drive to make money often prevents them from taking risks and funding something creative instead of more of the same stuff that smashed in the first place. And none of that says anything about any decisions they make for the sake of their egos, a trait inherent in all human beings.
  • The military, of whatever country you choose. As good as some of the individual soldiers who serve in it might be, itís still horribly prone to war crimes, sexual abuse, hazing gone wrong, et cetera.


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