We ARE Struggling Together
[the group whips off their cloaks]Infighting. Always a hindrance, never pretty. The government is evil, decadent, corrupt or all three and it's time for a revolution. Only one thing stands in the way: your fellow revolutionaries. All of you can agree on only one thing: The government must go. Beyond that, you and your fellow revolutionaries couldn't decide on pizza toppings, let alone the shape of the world to come (or how to get it there). This can lead to squabbling that prevents any coordinated action from taking place...or it can escalate to the point where the different revolutionary factions are spending as much time and energy shooting at each other as they are shooting at the ones in power. Such factionalism is very common in the real world, and is usually very depressing, even deadly. Crank it up a notch, and it's comedy gold. This is the 'before' picture of the obsessive bureaucracy. The definitive case where being right is more important than doing right (or doing much of anything). Subtrope of Divided We Fall, specifically when the separate factions are not just ignoring each other or working in isolation but are actively engaged in conflict with each other. Contrast Enemy Mine, where two groups of people work together due to one common goal despite other differences in beliefs. See also A House Divided, With Us or Against Us, Misfit Mobilization Moment, Right Hand Versus Left Hand, Interservice Rivalry, Enemy Civil War. And expect both (if not more) parties to subject each other to Poser Hating. Also compare Jurisdiction Friction for when two factions are bickering over a common goal from within one or more government agencies. Compare Not-So-Omniscient Council of Bickering. When it's two heroes of the same cause fighting because they mistake each other for the villain, it's Let's You and Him Fight. When the heroes are directly manipulated into fighting each other by a villain, it's Divide and Conquer and/or a False Flag Operation. The many, many Real Life examples are listed here.
Haley: THE RESISTANCE!
Isamu: Wait — "The Resistance"? I thought we agreed we were going to call ourselves, "The Azure City Underground"?
Thanh: I thought we were going with, "Sapphire Liberation Front".
Niu: I still prefer "Rebel Alliance".
Haley: THE RESISTANCE!
Isamu: Wait — "The Resistance"? I thought we agreed we were going to call ourselves, "The Azure City Underground"?
Thanh: I thought we were going with, "Sapphire Liberation Front".
Niu: I still prefer "Rebel Alliance".
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Anime & Manga
- In Attack on Titan, one of the major problems that the Survey Corp has with the royal government is that they don't know why the government is doing anything. Why suppress technology? Why hide knowledge of the Titans and the world before the Walls? They could be doing it all for the good of humanity, or they could just be desperately trying to retain their own power. In chapter 61, Commander Pixis fakes a report saying that the next Wall has fallen in order to gauge the council's reactions. When they immediately order the gates sealed and half of humanity sacrificed to save themselves, he decides that they don't deserve to lead.
- Axis Powers Hetalia:
China: We're too busy fighting together to figure out if we should be fighting together anyway.
- The Allied Powers seem only moments from tearing each other's throats out, even the ones that should have a lot in common (like America and England). As described here, this is Truth In Web Manga. Other historical examples are also mentioned, including the political fracturing of Italy and the decline of the (neither)Holy (nor)Roman (nor)Empire.
- The song "United Nations Star" performed by all five of the Allies, is basically We ARE Struggling Together: The Song.
- In The Movie Paint It White! China has this brilliant line.
- Code Geass
- The Japanese resistance is like this in the beginning, until resident Magnificent Bastard Lelouch and his Black Knights consolidate the remnants of all the other groups.
- It's even mentioned as being part of the Kyoto Group (the main benefactor for all the Japanese rebellion factions) main motivation for funding so many groups. Lelouch forces them to pledge their complete allegiance to him, by which anything other than minor resistance factions have been rolled into the Black Knights.
- In the world of Freezing, the world is being invaded by Eldritch Abominations, and yet most of mankind's hopes are more interested in rankings and beating the crap out of each other. Well, that's what you get when the fate of the world is in the hand of temperamental teenage girls.
- All of the military factions (Mustang, Grumman and General Armstrong at least) in Fullmetal Alchemist agree that King Bradley needs to be 'dethroned' and seem to understand that part of each other- yet when it all comes down to it the cooperation starts to disintegrate into 'who-will-get-the-big-seat-afterward' plotting rather than standing as a more united front.
- In Mahou Sensei Negima!, there are several important factions. One, Negi's group. Two, Cosmo Entelechia. Three, Megalomesembria politicians led by Kurt Godel. Mahora academy seems to be involved to some extent. The goal: save everyone possible when the magic world collapses. Negi and Fate are archenemies, Negi thinks Kurt is too practical (and Kurt thinks Negi is foolishly idealistic) and Fate's group just wiped out most of the military as part of their plan to "help". And it's not clear what Mahora is doing, but they definitely disapprove of Fate's destruction of the gates. It's getting to the point that Negi and Fate are only fighting about who can do a better job of saving the world.
- In "Gintama", about the only thing Katsura and Takasugi seem to agree on is that the current government has to go. While the extremist Takasugi is cutting deals with intergalactic crime syndicates or mass producing weaponry, Katsura's plans typically involve something petty like secretly flipping all the Shinsengumi's toilet paper rolls upside down.
- The Patlabor OAV 'Seven Days of Fire' starts off with a rebellion against the maintenance chief over privileges (basically, fishing and girly magazines). Within days, there are literally dozens of splinter groups, each with its own agenda (some pro-chief), soon resorting to violence (with paper fans — this is Japan). Director Mamoru Oshii hung around a lot of radical student groups during his college days; one gets the impression that he wasn't left with a very high opinion of radicalism.
- Early episodes of Transformers Headmasters had elements of this trope between the Trainbots and Headmasters, until they had to team up to save Japan from Sixshot.
- In Vandread, the various factions/groups that the crew of the Nirvana come to assist them in the final episodes of Season 2, when the Big Bad's fleet shows up. Prior to this, they were either being harvested by the Big Bad, or were at odds with each other.
- Superheroes in the Marvel Universe since the Civil War have spent about as much time fighting each other as they have fighting super villains.
- In The Dark Knight Strikes Again, The Question and Green Arrow come to blows over whether the new world order should be a Marxist Socialist Utopia, or a Randian Objectivist Utopia.
- In the revival of The Punisher that made him famous again, "Welcome Back, Frank", three copycat vigilantes appear in the wake of the Punisher's return. One's Payback, a guy who targets corrupt rich folks. One's his polar opposite, a well-dressed man called "Elite" who's obsessed with killing people who "dirty" his neighborhood, starting mostly with some minor drug-peddlers moving in but working his way down to hot dog vendors and dogs that make a mess on the sidewalk. Between them is a literally Axe Crazy priest who tends to chop up gang members who confess their crimes in his church. When all three meet up, none of them can decide on how to cooperate. And then when they finally just about figure out how to get along, the Punisher -who doesn't look kindly on copycats- delivers a "Reason You Suck" Speech and shoots all three of them.
- The Defenders, in almost all incarnations, are comprised of people who have almost nothing in common but will still unite to face major threats, often of a magical or supernatural nature. Typical Defenders dialogue consists of a lot of backbiting — sometimes affectionate, sometimes not.
- Jackie Chan Adventures and W.I.T.C.H. crossover fanfic Kage (part of Project Dark Jade):
- When There Was A Tomorrow:
- In What About Witch Queen?, generals Potter and Windsor present why you shouldn't have two equal-ranked commanders in the same army. One believes in More Dakka, other prefers to be sneaky. With Arendelle army so close, the two of them should probably focus more on fighting the enemy than each other.
Films — Animation
- Happens with the chickens in Chicken Run.
Films — Live-Action
- This is a major part of The Avengers (2012) exacerbated by Loki's manipulations. Tony and Steve dislike each other on principle, there's some Jurisdiction Friction with Thor, Bruce would rather be anywhere else lest he hulk out, and no-one except maybe Natasha trusts SHIELD. Clint, who's under Loki's control for most of the movie, is actually one of the better team players once he snaps out of it. It takes the death of a Sacrificial Lion for the team to get down to business.
- The trope takes its name from this scene in Monty Python's Life of Brian. When the People's Front of Judea runs into the rival Campaign for a Free Galilee in Pilate's mansion and they start fighting, Brian pleads "Brothers, we should be struggling together!" One of the revolutionaries immediately responds, "We are!" Then, when Brian attempts to remind them that they should be fighting "their real enemy", the revolutionaries initially think of another rival movement, the Judean People's Front. The various factions were modeled by the Pythons on British left-wing political groups of the 1970s (the year the movie was released, the left was represented by no less than 15 separate parties, plus more sub-factions within both Labour and the smaller splinter groups).
- In Braveheart, after the Scottish army deals a major defeat to the English at Stirling, William Wallace is disappointed to see the Scottish nobles feuding with one another over claims to the Scottish throne.
Wallace: We have beaten the English, but they'll be back because you won't stand together.
- The high command of the Continental Army in The Crossing. Both General Lee and General Gates try to subvert or sabotage General Washington, and Gates outright calls Washington unfit for command. This even though the whole revolution is in imminent danger of collapse, regardless of who is in charge. (Truth in Television here, too.)
- The various factions in Russia after the overthrow of the Tsar, as shown in And Quiet Flows the Don. The anti-White Cossacks split up into Bolshevik Cossacks that want political union with Bolshevik Russia, and anti-Bolshevik Cossacks that want an independent Don Cossack homeland.
- In Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings books, the elves, dwarves, and men are constantly squabbling with each other when they should be joining forces to fight the Evil Overlord. Lothlórien's elves distrusts Gimli the dwarf, and so all the Fellowship must go blind into the path to Lórien:
"Alas for the folly of these days!" said Legolas. "Here all are enemies of the one Enemy, and yet I must walk blind, while the sun is merry in the woodland under leaves of gold!"
"Folly it may seem," said Haldir. "Indeed in nothing is the power of the Dark Lord more clearly shown than in the estrangement that divides all those who still oppose him."
- This is taken Up to Eleven in The Silmarillion, where Mandos actually states in a prophecy that the elves will fail to defeat Morgoth because they are too busy fighting each other. 500 years and several million corpses later, he is proved right.
- The Wheel of Time series may as well be called Fighting The Wrong People. While everyone agrees that everyone needs to work together in order to win the imminent Last Battle, most factions are also of the opinion that this needs to happen by them conquering the world. For instance, the Seanchan follow mostly the same prophecy everyone follows - but their version disagrees with everyone else's, maybe by as little as one sentence out of an entire book, so they believe they need to subdue the Dragon Reborn in order to have a chance of winning. The Dragon Reborn controls about half the continent, which required forcibly overcoming many struggling factions, embodying this trope right there. The outcome is predictable. Others such as various Aes Sedai factions see the need to cooperate, but only so long as they control everything behind the scenes (even if it means they have to kidnap and abuse the Chosen One.)
- It certainly doesn't help that, for a while, every major faction had a Treacherous second-in-command loyal to the Dark One.
- Lord Vetinari has secretly set up several of the organisations dedicated to his overthrow, in order to keep the real ones busy with infighting. In The Discworld Companion, Vetinari's rule is credited to realizing that even revolutionary anarchists want stability so they can fight their real enemies; people with a slightly different definition of revolutionary anarchy.
- Vetinari doesn't just deal with potential rebellion this way: it's practically his whole political philosophy. "If there are two sides to an issue, see that they quickly become two hundred."
- Further used in Night Watch, when the People's Republic of Treacle Mine Road can't even agree on what they're fighting for beyond "Truth, Justice and Freedom" (those are free, you see). They settle on "Truth, Justice, Freedom, Reasonably-Priced Love and a Hard-Boiled Egg!" Subverted in that they still manage to be an effective fighting force and outright zigzagged because it dosn't actually make any difference if they have a decisive victory or a crushing defeat. The real changes are made far away by The Chessmaster.
- In the Strugatsky Brothers' novel Prisoners of Power, the mind-controlling totalitarian oligarchy is opposed by what may initially seem to be an unified rebel "Underground". However, to quote the novel itself, "the Underground wasn't a political party. What's more, it wasn't even a front of political parties". Its members couldn't even agree as to whether or not the mind control has to go. Factions range from blatant fascists (who want to overthrow the government and keep the mind control towers) to "biologists" (who just want to destroy the towers, but don't mind keeping the government - so they can't even agree about that), and there are factions within factions as well. It is explicitly pointed out that many prominent Underground leaders are either agents or secret allies of the government. The protagonist ultimately doesn't even bother trying to rally them, instead striking a deal with one of the less secure government leaders for inside information, recruiting a few of the more sensible Underground members and blowing up the mind control center without consulting anybody else. It is implied in later Noonverse novels that he and his allies then had to put down rebellions by some of the other groups, even though the country was already a terrible mess by then due to mind control withdrawal and such.
- In The Obernewtyn Chronicles with the main rebellion against the oppressive Council and Herder Faction. The various rebel leaders all act pretty much independently, and have rather different ideas about both methods and what they want to happen afterwards - in particular who will replace the Council. Eventually resolves into Malik and cronies reluctantly and temporarily agreeing with everyone else. Or at least pretending to...
- The Thrawn Trilogy:
- Being the earliest-written look at the New Republic after the Emperor died, shows an unfortunate amount of political jockeying. Most of this can be blamed on Borsk Fey'lya and his attempts to gain power, but he's not alone. Garm Bel Iblis, after Bail Organa's death, had actually split off and formed his own rebellion against the Empire, since he thought Mon Mothma was becoming too authoritarian. One of the many plot points in the trilogy is his realizing that a great deal of her reasoning was due to The Chains of Commanding, and they could work together again.
- Later Star Wars Expanded Universe books have the Empire shatter into squabbling warlords who fight over the true leadership while only weakening each other. In the Jedi Academy Trilogy, the one success Admiral Daala had was in reuniting those fragments and handing them over to Pellaeon after she'd lost a lot of the newly-reformed Empire's forces. Pellaeon worked at keeping the Imperial Remnant together, then decided that it could only survive by making peace with the New Republic. Of course, parts of the Empire didn't agree...
- In Harry Potter, years of Fantastic Racism have caused various magical creatures to be suspicious of wizards and avoid them at all costs (at the same time, wizards are equally suspicious or determined to avoid said magical creatures). Almost all of them are threatened by Voldemort, but aren't really willing to work together until they see that Harry "died" at the end of Deathly Hallows, at which point virtually every living being against Voldemort takes up arms to fight against the Death Eaters. All are later seen gathered peacefully in the Great Hall together.
- To some extent, the Last International in The Star Fraction, which seems to be mainly an umbrella label for all the forces fighting USUN. "...the ultimate conspiracy— nothing BUT front organizations. The fronts are real, the conspiracy isn't."
- The forces of good in the original Chronicles trilogy are hampered in their opposition to the Dragonarmies because their leaders are bickering over political matters that are petty by comparison. It takes drastic action, including Tasslehoff's destruction of the MacGuffin the leaders were fighting over and a "The Reason You Suck" Speech from the leader of the gods of good to get them to smarten up and unite.
- This trope is later inverted after the Dark Queen's defeat, as her subordinates' fear of her kept them in line. Without her uniting presence, the Highlords begin fighting among themselves for control of the Dragonarmies, and become splintered into five mutually hostile factions.
- The situation that prevailed on Barrayar at the beginning of the Vorkosigan Saga:
Aral Vorkosigan: I could take over the universe with this army if I could ever get all their weapons pointed in the same direction.
- The Stormlight Archive:
- In The Way of Kings, while the Alethi Highprinces are not actively fighting against each other, they are much more focused on outdoing each other and getting wealth and glory then they are on working together in battle, making and pursuing a long-term strategy, and generally winning the war they came to fight.
- While the Alethi Highprinces don't fight each other on the Shattered Plains (where they are all camped, and which has become the de facto center of the kingdom), back home their armies still fight each other over land, uniting only when foreigners try to invade. In a sane world it would be called civil war, but they've been doing it for so long that it's just normal.
- It's revealed to be worse in the sequel, Words of Radiance. Not only are the Highprinces still squabbling, but there are a dozen different conspiracies all working at cross-purposes to stop the Desolation their own way.
- First and foremost, we have Dalinar, the only one trying to fight honorably and unite everyone against the coming darkness. Sadeas spends the entire book undermining him every single way he can.
- The Sons of Honor think that by bringing back the Voidbringers and the Desolation, the Heralds will come back as well, bringing the Church back to prominence and fixing everything wrong with the world. They're completely unaware of the fact that the Heralds never left, having abandoned their oaths millennia ago in favor of wandering the world in anonymity.
- The group serving the Diagram are following a plan Taravingian wrote in his most brilliant moment, detailing how to put him slowly in control of the whole world, manipulating spren and people alike—including assassinating pretty much every other ruler in the world.
- The Ghostbloods are searching for Urithru, seat of the Knights Radiant, for an unclear reason, and rival Jasnah Kholin for the knowledge. They will kill anyone who stands in their way, and have at least one world-hoppper among their number, likely more.
- Eshonai, the Parshendi Shardbearer, ordered the death of the Alethi king to keep the gods of her people from returning and turning them into Voidbringers, and are now fighting a losing war against the Alethi; too bad her sister is some sort of Voidbringer mole, and causes exactly what Eshonai was trying to prevent.
- And finally, several of these are implied to be splinter factions of the same group, as the Diagram and the Sons of Honor both take their cues from the murdered king Gavilar, and the Ghostbloods make a passing reference to the Diagram and seem to know what they're up to.
- In For Whom the Bell Tolls, Hemingway shows us the ragtag coalition of liberals, anarchists and communists that make up the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War, and he hints at the pathological purge-mania of the Stalinists. This is a case of Truth in Television.
- Homage to Catalonia, George Orwell's nonfiction work about the Spanish Civil War, depicts the same thing as in the For Whom the Bell Tolls example.
- The Republican-SJC coalition in Bug Jack Barron.
- The underground in William Rotsler's To The Land Of The Electric Angel, which comprises everyone from the Pope to free-love hedonists. They actually pull off a successful revolution under the protagonist (who gets elected Pope so he can lead the uprising, and thereafter has to answer "Is the Pope Catholic?" with "No".
- In The Left Hand of Darkness, Estraven cites the "old proverb" (which Genly suspects he made up himself) that "Karhide is not a nation but a family quarrel." Ironically, the main villain is the one trying to do something about this.
- Darkness at Noon has a flashback to Rubashov excommunicating a Party member for suggesting that revolutionaries should make common cause with more moderate opponents of tyrannical regimes.
- The Capitol uses this to their advantage through their cruel ritual of The Hunger Games. The Hunger Games were, in fact, first employed because the thirteen districts rose up against their oppressors. After they were thwarted, ending with the total annihilation of District Thirteen, the Capitol decreed that each district had to send one boy and one girl to an arena where they would fight to death and only one could survive. Understandably, all the districts despise the Capitol for what they do to them and their children... however, the Hunger Games became so ritualistic that the districts are more preoccupied with training their chosen children so that one of them can survive and beat the kids from the rivaling districts, rather than trying to overthrow the Capitol and end the oppression once and for all.
- The first Martian Revolution in the Red Mars Trilogy fits this trope to a T. The general disorganization of the revolution leads to catastrophic destruction, the death of several main characters, and the total retreat of all rebels into hiding. This failed revolution is what makes them get it right the second time.
- Discussed in The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. Professor Bernardo de la Paz, the brains behind La Résistance, advocates using a cell system, with no more than three members per cell even at the very top echelon, because in his words more than three people can't agree what to eat for dinner, let alone how to fight a revolution. Much later in the book, when Manny seeks advice from an ad hoc council of people he respects, he finds himself agreeing with Prof as they all begin bickering.
- Julian: Libanius and Priscus intend to write a biography to help combat the rising tide of Christianity in Europe... if they can agree on who pays what to copy the manuscript.
- The Resistance Trilogy by Clive Egleton depicts La Résistance to a Soviet-occupied Britain. In the final novel the Soviets are pulling out of Britain due to war with China. This should be a time of victory, but instead the 'moderate' wing forms an alliance with The Quisling government to eliminate their hardline members (including the protagonist).
- A Song of Ice and Fire: A major problem during the War of the Five Kings. Nobody likes the Lannisters, and while some of the kings do try to make alliances the other side is never willing to cooperate. Stannis attempts to ally with his younger brother Renly, accurately citing that he (Stannis) has the proper claim anyway. Renly essentially replies "no one wants you as a king (including yourself), I do want to be king and am popular enough to do it, and I have the biggest army." Robb Stark tries to make alliances with both Stannis and Renly, and even Balon Greyjoy, but Stannis sees Robb declaring Northern Independence as treason, Robb himself wont give up his own crown, and Balon sneak attacks the North due to a (misplaced) grudge he had against Robb's dead father. All of which allows the Lannisters to win.
- Comes up again in A Dance with Dragons. Jon Snow, having become Lord Commander of the Night's Watch allows and encourages the Wildlings to come through the Wall and into the Seven Kingdoms. He does so because he realizes that every Wildling on the other side of the wall will become another Wight they will have to fight. Most of the Wildlings see his logic, but his own brothers in the Night's Watch only see this as him breaking traditions and vows.
- And in a broader sense, the lords of Westeros are all so focused on their complex political gambits and petty feuds that they've forgotten their true enemy- perhaps the enemy of every living thing- the Others. The only ones doing anything about them are treated as jokes or loonies.
- In the web-novel Domina, the cultures of the city have been fighting each other for a very very long time, and the fact that there's some sort of supernatural zombie master running around isn't going to stop them. One of the running subplots is the local Reasonable Authority Figure trying to get everyone to understand exactly how dangerous the enemy is, with slow success. The worst is probably the Nosferatu vampires; two broods were fighting when they were attacked by screamers, and it didn't even slow them down.
Adam: This is the same city where people were perfectly willing to fight a civil war while a zombie apocalypse dropped on their heads.
- This is the ideal state of the Romulan government in Rihannsu. The Romulans have had bad experiences in the past with dictators so the senators and praetors are supposed to spend lots of time infighting to prevent tyranny. Unfortunately the Three (a trio of praetors) managed to work around this in the novels' timeframe.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine mentions that after the Cardassian occupation ended, Bajoran factions that had fought in unity against them began struggling for power. A good portion of the first couple seasons talked about how "provisional" the Provisional Government was, at the second season began with an attempted coup against them.
- The Cardassian Resistance during the Dominion War had some cracks in it, mainly between hard-liners who wanted to just reinstall the old Cardassian Union and the faction led by Damar that understood the old government's corruptions allowed the Dominion in.
- The West Wing:
- In one episode Toby is assigned to show up at a townhall meeting for anti-globalization protesters, who are depicted as people being more in love with the sound of their own loudly expressed self-righteous outrage than the actual issues at hand. Within seconds of Toby introducing himself and being asked the first question, the audience start shouting over the top of each other, before the entire gathering degenerates into chaos and splinter groups in-fighting with each other. Toby, for his part, watches with amusement until he gets bored and leaves, everyone having forgotten he was there. Of course, this being The West Wing, he later goes back in and blows them out of the water with a speech we only get to hear about from Josh.
- Season 6 of the show focuses on the build up to the party primary elections to decide who each party's next candidate for President will be. A key running theme is the fractured bickering between the various factions of the Democratic party, represented by three major candidates for President, versus the Republicans unifying relatively quickly behind their candidate. It culminates in a chaotic convention wherein no candidate can get a clear majority over the others and then one of the state governors tries to get themselves nominated from the floor, thus splintering things even further. Eventually provides a subversion in that the Democratic candidate who eventually manages to knock enough heads together to get themselves nominated ends up rallying and winning the election, albeit narrowly.
- Several episodes of 'Allo 'Allo! are based on the (historically based—see the WW2 entry below for more information) rivalry between De Gaulle's Resistance and the Communist Resistance.
- A few episodes of Stargate SG-1 deal with the attempts at a Tok'ra/Jaffa alliance. Essentially, what it boiled down to was the Jaffa couldn't see the differences between Tok'ra and Goa'uld, and the Tok'ra couldn't see the differences between a Jaffa serving a Goa'uld and a Free Jaffa. This caused problems.
- On Stargate Atlantis, this was the basic history behind the Wraith civil war. Atlantis appears? Blast it. Not enough food? Blast each other so that there IS enough for those left. Replicators killing our food? Blast them then resume blasting each other per point 2. We have some Atlantean buddies? Recruit them to help us with point 2.
- On Entourage, Ari Gold's marriage is about as turbulent as any given war and yet they've remained together. "When we got married we agreed to suffer this monogamy together baby!"
- Yes, Minister:
- Sir Humphrey argues that this trope is essentially how Britain managed the liberation of its former colonies through partition — in dividing the territories (such as Northern Ireland and Eire, or India and Pakistan), the idea was that they'd spend more time bickering with each other and less time taking shots at Britain.
- He also asserts that after Britain failed to break up the EEC from the outside, they resorted to joining it, as from the inside "We can make a complete dog's breakfast of the whole thing. We have now set the Germans against the French, the French against the Italians, the Italians against the Dutch... and the Foreign Office is terribly happy. It's just like old times."
- In the PBS documentary Constitution USA, host Peter Sagal says that this was intentional with the United States government. The system of checks and balances set up by the writers of the Constitution are intended to keep the three branches in tension with one another to prevent any one branch from amassing too much power.
- In Arthur of the Britons, one of the biggest problems faces in attempting to unite the Celtic tribes against the Saxons is that the Celts are just as willing to fight each other as they are to fight the Saxons. Pwerhaps even moreso, due to ancient grudges.
Religion and Mythology
- In The Bible, Korah leads a revolt of Levites who object to Aaron being the High Priest; Moses responds by saying that God will do a miracle for the person He picks, and holds a contest where all 250 rebels and Aaron compete. Some commentators have noted the hypocrisy here: all of them ally against Aaron, yet each clearly thinks that he's more worthy than his fellow rebels.
- Dungeons & Dragons:
- The Blood War contains a fair bit of this. The Chaotic Evil Demons would be a much greater threat to the Lawful Evil Devils if they weren't so keen on fighting that they turned on each other at the drop of the proverbial hat. For the Devils' part there's a fair bit of resentment simmering between many of the Archdevils, which Asmodeus, Magnificent Bastard that he is, subtly encourages so that none of them ever decide to ally together and overthrow him. The Celestials also try to ensure the blood war continues, reasoning that as long as the evils are fighting each other, they're not trying to destroy the heavens.
- More generally, the forces of good and evil in many D&D settings are also like this. The good guys, such as they are, can easily bicker and snipe with each other over their own personal or political interests, allowing the villains to gain in strength. This tends to be balanced by the fact that the bad guys can just as easily be at each other's throats, whether through an Enemy Civil War or just plain Evil Versus Evil.
- The Scarlet Empress actually encouraged this infighting among her subordinate governing and administrating organizations, so that they would be unable to effectively overthrow her and have the less-than-instant decision-making process of a multi-person body give the enemies of Creation time to re-invade. Which was all well and good, until she disappeared...
- Which is the smallest cast on the trope in the setting. On a grander scale, Creation, the normal world that is, has at least three whole groups of mortal enemies roughly as strong as itself, bent on it's destruction; that is, Old Unseated Gods, Old Dead Gods (who, being dead but unable to cease to exist, just wish for everything to cease to exist so they too can) and Mutating Energies Of Aether. Creation would be surely doomed if only those three forces wouldn't hate each other with roughly the same passion and fight on every opportunity, because their image of what should be are so different. Only two times in history have two of those forces seriously joined an effort against Creation, and both times they did landed a mighty blow. Ironically, the first attempt still in many parts failed because of poor coordination. (Mutating Energies attacked lands struck with super-Plague engineered by Dead Gods; they really should have made sure all of Creation's defenses were down...)
- As for the defenders of Creation, they're not even pretending to be on the same side. Broadly, the Dragon-Blooded are the ruling power of Creation, and by and large most of them are as interested in plundering the riches of their vassals as they are in guarding Creation. Out in the boonies, you get the Lunar Exalted, who are barely a faction at all; they're in a guerilla war against the Dragon-Blooded, but exactly what they hope to accomplish is unclear and often Depending on the Writer (not helped by the fact that a lot of the elders are insane in some way). The Sidereals are themselves divided between upholding the Dragon-Blooded and manipulating them from behind the scenes, lifting up the resurgent Solars and manipulating them from behind the scenes, a couple of jokers who want to manipulate the Lunars, and a bunch who are just trying to do their jobs and not play politics. And then the returning Solar Exalted...no. There is no "the Solar Exalted," there are about a hundred and fifty individuals who are reincarnated heroes of the First Age with the power to reshape the world, all of whom are either developing their own agendas, becoming pawns in someone else's agenda, or just trying to survive (and "surviving," for a Solar, tends to wreck a lot of people's plans).
- Hunter: The Vigil:
- Hunters in general are prone to doing this, since any two cells are likely to have very different ideas on what they are hunting, why, and how. Going up the higher tiers doesn't improve matters. At the Compact level, you have things like the Long Nightnote vs. Null Mysteriisnote , or the Unionnote vs. the Barett Commissionnote , or more active Compacts hating on Network Zero, Null Mysteriis and the Loyalists of Thule for being the Non-Action Guy by comparison. Conspiracy tier brings things up even higher, where you have the Lucifugenote , the Malleus Maleficariumnote , and Cheiron Corporationnote .
- The Loyalists of Thule are prone to a lot of intra-personal strife. Beyond the fact that one faction is eyed carefully by the other two for being alarmingly close to the Volkisch mentality that condemned them to being The Atoner in the first place, a Compact where the vast majority are only in the Compact in the first place because they are being blackmailed by one or more of their superiors is... well, it doesn't cooperate very well.
- The Ascending Ones have three factions that are so diverse they're almost like three Conspiracies sharing a common Endowment. You have the Knife of Paradise — militant Islamic/Christian/Jewish zealots, the Order of the Southern Temple — paganistic alchemist-magicians, and the Jagged Crescent — drug dealers. Needless to say, when two factions have to come together, things can get very terse.
- Legend of the Five Rings: The Clans are extremely guilty for this. They are supposed to do what their hats tell them to do all the while protecting the Rokugani from Shadowlands threat, but they are too busy getting at each others' throat. About the only clan that averts this is the Crab: no one wants to invade their land for they are right next to the Shadowlands and are tasked with manning the Kaiu Wall, and the Crab don't have the resources to invade anyone else. But even they have a fair bit of bad blood with the Crane...
- Mage: The Ascension:
- The Traditions can agree on exactly one thing - they all hate the Technocracy and want it gone. The fact that just about every one of the nine Traditions loathe and despise the other eight may just be a large part of the reason why the Technocracy (which is all about working together for the greater good - well, for a given value of "good," anyway) has been kicking their butt for the last six hundred years...
- However, by the time of the books, the Traditions have been better at cooperation for quite some time. Apparently, differences in outlook seem smaller when you are on the brink of destruction (they still don't like each other, but they are working together).
- Also, in their own books, it is shown that the Technocracy isn't half as unified as it looks. The five main groups are constantly politicking, both internally and against the others.
- The 20th anniversary edition introduces the Disparate Alliance, a group of Crafts who also can agree on only one thing - in their case, they all hate the Technocracy and Nephandi and want them gone.
- In the spiritual sequel, Mage: The Awakening, the Orders are continually at loggerheads. Their war with the Seers of the Throne is only kept from being one-sided because the Seers are themselves suffering continual inner strife - far too many of their factions are too interested in gaining advantages over the others for them to focus and take out the Atlanteans.
- The Humanists want the Computer to be subordinate to human governance, and might actually get somewhere with it if they weren't constantly bogged down by infighting and red tape.
- The whole world of Alpha Complex plays this trope straight (unless the GM says otherwise, of course). The various Service Groups are meant to be all on the same side, yet are likely to spend more time getting in each other's way rather than serving the Computer, and Communists play into the whole People's Front Of Judea/Judean People's Front archetype at the best of times. Not to mention the First Church of Christ Computer Programmer, which is otherwise basically just a bunch of Computer loyalists.
- The Revolutionary League from Planescape. Best summarized by asking a cell of them "How many Anarchists does it take to change a torch?"
"Just one. Why sacrifice more effort when it could be spent on other causes?""All of them! Only by a concerted effort can the Revolutionary League...""Affairs such as torch-changing should be handled by the elite (namely us) while the others concentrate on ensuring a supply of torches for the future...""If we get in, we won't need them. Infravision will be compulsory...""Torches are tools of corruption! Extinguish them all! We don't need them!" **Extinguishes torch, bangs head on wall** "Ouch!"
- Warhammer 40,000:
- The wildly assorted powers of Chaos regard the destruction of the Imperium of Man as one of their main goals, especially the Night Lords and Iron Warriors legions, but as one might expect of Chaos, they are, well, chaotic, and spend as much time fighting each other and anyone who happens to be nearby as working against the Imperium.
- The Imperium, meanwhile, considers the destruction of everything that is not the Imperium to be its main goal. Precisely how this should be achieved is a matter of dispute between the Astartes, the Imperial Guard, the Sororitas, the Inquisition, the Adeptus Mechanicus, the Ecclesiarchy, and so on - and that's before you get to the divides in individual factions. Fortunately (for them) most of the Imperium don't think these divides take precedence over killing the nearest alien/heretic/mutant.
- Mix in divides within the divides within those factions. i.e. the Inquisition is split into multiple branches and each of those branches ends up arguing both with each other; and individual Inquisitors within those branches tend to argue with each other as well (along such lines as radicalism vs orthodoxy and so on). All in all it gets rather messy.
- The Imperium intentionally invokes this. All organizations and individuals are taught to foster an inherent distrust of each other, and the command structure is designed to be as loose as possible while retaining some level of cohesion. On one hand, this makes the Imperium a bureaucrat's worst nightmare, and allocations of military and humanitarian aid are haphazard at the best of times. On the other, this means that the Imperium is ironically less vulnerable to inside threats, as if not a single high-ranking official with his own agenda could be a huge problem. This is the same reason why Imperial Guard regiments are often incredibly specialized and Imperial Navy fleets aren't allowed to carry troops that would be useful in land battles. As for what reason that is... Well, let's just say it was a harsh lesson learned long ago.
- Also the defining quality of the Orks; they like to talk about Da Orks iz gonna tak ova', but are constantly infighting. This is taken to a quite hilarious extreme with the Orks, as the generally accepted view is that if the Orks were ever to stop in-fighting and actually unite they'd probably easily defeat everyone else. However all that is required to stop any Ork force of any size is to take out the Ork in charge of it; the inevitable fight for dominance between subordinate Orks being all but guaranteed to cause the whole enterprise to fall apart.
- The Tyrannids subvert this. While different hive fleets will attack and eat each other if they meet on the same planet it doesn't diminish the overall strength of the Tyrannids one bit. The winner simply consume the loser's biomass and uses it to become much stronger.
- Arguably the Tyranids are heavily involved in this trope with regard to the other species as well. Given that the Tyranids are believed to be flat out on their way to consume the entire galaxy and everything in it then you'd perhaps expect that at the very least the likes of the Eldar, Tau and the Imperium could see their way clear to putting aside their differences and uniting against the common foe. But this being 40k they tend to be too busy trying to get one over on each other to worry about diversions such as galaxy-devouring swarms.
- The Craftworld Eldar mostly avert this. Anything less than full unity would mean their quick and horrible deaths. That said, disagreements between Farseers have been known to result in conflict from time to time, as both will be convinced that their path is the one that will lead to future Eldar prosperity.
- Dark Eldar play it very straight, however. Most Dark Eldar exist in Kabals which are perhaps most simply described as a cross between tribe-like social constructs and paramilitary organizations. Given that the way of advancing in Dark Eldar society is (in most cases) to murder the person above you and take their place the leaders of the Dark Eldar literally can't trust any of their subordinates (who may be plotting against them) and the subordinates can't trust their leaders (as the leaders might kill them off out of fear of a plot). This results in senior Kabal members having to hire independent mercenaries known as Incubi to act as bodyguards against their enemies (i.e. basically everyone else). Dark Eldar society, and life on Commorragh generally, is effectively one long struggle for power and survival where the weak are subjugated and enslaved by the strong and the strong are constantly having to fight to stay at the top. One wonders how they manage to cooperate long enough to successfully pull off any raids at all or, indeed, where they find the energy to do so after all that in-fighting.
- This is (or, at least, was) totally averted by the Necrons. Being near-mindless automatons under the sway of the C'tan, they existed only to wage war against the living. It was later revealed as more arose that there were actual separate dynasties, lead by individual Necron Lords who were a little bit loopy before going into stasis for about sixty or so million years. While the Necron typically devote more time to fighting non-Necron forces than each other, aided by the spread out nature of their dynasties' locales, there's nothing stopping them from warring against their fellows.
- Werewolf: The Apocalypse:
- The game suffers from this trope big time. There are thirteen tribes that struggle against each other; they have a combined set of rules called the Litany but all have different ideas on which rules are important; there's also a lot of struggle within most tribes; and the fact that all werewolves are prone to berserk frenzy if mildly provoked doesn't help. As a result, the werewolves have all but annihilated all non-wolf shape-shifters, and completely wiped out one of their own tribes, the Bunyip.
- The sequel Werewolf: The Forsaken applies this trope primarily to the antagonist faction, the Pure, with the three Pure tribes being so outright mutually exclusive that, despite outnumbering the Forsaken (player faction) two to one and theoretically placing their shared enmity toward the tribes of the moon high on their priority lists, they rarely actually get anywhere so far as actual extermination goes.
- BattleTech: in the Clans' invasion of the Inner Sphere, the invading clans tend to have personal grudges with each other, the most notable being Clan Jade Falcon and Clan Wolf. The Clans are also divided into two groups: the Crusaders (led by Jade Falcon) believe it is their right that they should conquer Terra, and the Inner Sphere, while the Wardens (formerly led by Wolf) believe they should be its protectors, not conquerers.
- Eclipse Phase:
- The Autonomist Alliance is composed of practically every anarchist faction in the solar system plus one sympathetic state and the only reason they work together is to ward off the Planetary Consortium and Jovian Junta. The Extropian anarcho-capitalists and collectivist Anarchists in particular despise one another with the mutualists caught in between. While the Scum heartily embrace Anarchy Is Chaos. The collectivists and Titan are on slightly better terms considering that they both use the same money-less economy, but the Titanian Commonwealth is still a state, albeit one governed by direct democracy, so the Anarchists have issues with them.
- The Barsoomian movements on Mars range from runaway Synthmorphs to primitivists, the only thing they agree on is an end to indentured servitude.
- 1776 is another case of Truth In Fiction, at least in its full, unexpurgated form. The only thing the members of the Continental Congress can agree on is that the status quo is untenable. Everything else, from declaring independence from Britain to slavery to deep-sea fishing rights, is contentious and even getting a simple majority is difficult. (Watching the film makes it clear that, ante 1783, the "original 13" were a semi-random subset of a much larger and more diverse jumble of British North American possessions.) What drives most of the plot is the requirement that independence be approved by all 13 state delegations, and it takes a LOT of dirty, dirty politicking to get enough votes. And what was going on in Congress was the bloodless part of the Whig ascendancy—see the entry below on the American Revolution for more information.
- The hatred between the human and servile rebels in Geneforge is matched by the hatred between the drayks and drakons, but each pair is held together by a greater hatred for the other pair, and all of them are forced to work together against the Shapers. In the fifth game, the four allies finally split off, with the humans and servile allying with the Trakovites and the drayks and drakons forming the Ghaldring faction.
- Command & Conquer's Brotherhood of Nod is unified in that they need to defeat GDI. That is the only thing they are unified on, and usually when Kane isn't around, they voice their disagreements with laser beams and fire. And when Kane is around, they still formally lodge their complaints with laser beams and fire...in the back. As for humanity as a whole, the war between GDI and Nod is so bitter that an alien invasion doesn't do much more than make them pause....for a couple of hours. Then they go back to blasting each other.
- In Wrath of the Lich King, the Horde and Alliance agree on one thing: We need to destroy the Lich King. That doesn't stop them from insulting each other, stealing supplies from each other, and it certainly doesn't stop the war that they have been fighting. Actually, they manage to restart their own war while The Scourge is still up there trying to wipe them out. If not for the Ashen Verdict, which is comprised of Death Knights and the Argent Crusade, you would be dead. That's right, you're killing your allies, while the Ashen Verdict is saving the world and actually doing what you guys came up here to do in the first place.
- And the moment the Lich King bites it the war becomes more prevalent. Even the giant dragon ripping out from the core of Azeroth while setting half of the land on fire isn't going to stop them.
- Red Faction: Guerrilla:
- Fridge Logic has this being the only plausible outcome after the end. The Marauders and Red Faction unified in the name of defeating the Earth Defense Forces and shoving a gigantic torpedo with a Nanite Disassembler Swarm warhead down the throat of a huge warship capable of annihilating all life on Mars (and Earth, for that matter,) but what comes afterwards? The Marauders are the xenophobic, murderous descendants of Ultor scientists who survived after the EDF came down like a ton of bricks on Ultor and restored order to Mars (the first time around.) Red Faction are the spiritual successors of the original Red Faction, the miners who revolted against Ultor's brutal conditions. The Marauders have been for the last fifty years or so killing anyone they see, whether EDF or civilian. It can't end well.
- Bonus suck is awarded for the fact that the only primary character other than the player who survives from start to finish, Samanya, the Wrench Wench Sledgehammer Ninja (as revealed in the DLC bonus campaign, Demons of Mariner Valley,) is a Marauder by birth, but wound up joining Red Faction when she risked life and alienation from her people to rescue Kepler and Hugo Davies (better known as RF Commander) from an EDF internment camp before a gigantic Marauder offensive wiped the captive civilians out along with their captors. She's going to be caught between both sides of the coming war.
- That's basically what ends up happening in Red Faction: Origins; the White Faction tries to pit the Red Faction and Marauders against each other, first by killing Samanya, then engaging in a False Flag Operation in the hopes of getting the two sides to destroy each other and allowing them to pick up the pieces.
- Red Faction: Armageddon seems to show the two sides ended up agreeing to leave each other alone for the most part. There are definite tensions between the two camps, but they band together once again fairly quickly once the aliens show up to threaten the human populace.
- The Hua Lian Rebels in the People's Republic of Da Han Zhong in Front Mission 3 suffered from this, especially after they were about to win the revolution, leading to a crushing defeat of the whole rebellion.
- Mass Effect:
Major Kirrahe: Regardless of what the politicians decide, you can count on my support retaking Earth.
- Several factions are vehemently still locked in some kind of conflict despite the looming Reaper threat. Most notable is the quarian Migrant Fleet, whose Admiralty Board is considering an almost-suicidal attack on the geth.
- In Mass Effect 3, getting the races to co-operate is the main objective, with even those who are not actually at war with each other proving to be very unhelpful. In the most extreme case, the quarians have launched their attack on the geth, despite the Reapers actually starting their invasion in other parts of the galaxy. Unless Shepard has done literally everything right with regards to both species, the genocide of one of them is inevitable, despite most of the geth having actually wanted peace for the past several centuries--the remainder having sided with the the reaper Sovereign back in the first game, being Shepard's primary enemy back when the quarians were barely surviving on their own.
- This trope is also very much in evidence with the Illusive Man, who spends a lot of effort and resources openly opposing the Alliance and Council rather than joining them, partially explained by his being indoctrinated, (the DLC Prothean character, Javik, says that this happened during his cycle too, suggesting that divide and conquer is one of the Reapers main tactics). In fact, one of the few powerful characters who does recognize that personal goals need to be put on hold for now is the ruthless crime lord Aria T'Loak, who gives Shepard genuinely useful advice and prioritizes the overall war effort above her own short-term gains.
- It's easy to ignore the Salarian threats about curing the genophage, since they quickly come crawling back when they realize the Reapers are threatening them. Depending on your actions in previous games, most of the Salarian military (and potentially their own Council Representative) will basically give the finger to their government and rally themselves behind you.
- Then there's BioWare's other RPG epic, Dragon Age: Origins, in which Logan decides Orlesians are more dangerous than The Blight, betrays the Grey Wardens. Meanwhile, Orzammar is more concerned about crowning a new King than immediately helping out with the Blight.
Alistair: "You know, one good thing about the Blight is how it brings people together."
- Continued in Dragon Age: Inquisition, where despite the hole in the sky which demons are constantly pouring out of, the Inquisition created to combat the threat is declared a group of heretics by the Chantry, the templars have broken from the Chantry, feeling they weren't doing enough to combat mages, are now in a gigantic Civil War with the mages, another Civil War in Orlais, and an elven uprising over their second-class conditions in human society.
- If we take ambiguously-canon "midquel" Cataclysm as canon, this happened to both sides after the events of Homeworld. The death of the Taiidani Emperor and the ensuing power vacuum resulted in a swift descent into out and out civil war ending in the messy Balkanisation of three quarters of his regime's former territory, with the newly-formed Taiidani Republic squaring off against multiple Imperial Loyalist factions -most of whom are implied to hate each other as well- plus a number of Former Regime Personnel who've turned warlord or Space Pirate. For their part, the Hiigarans have achieved the goal that compelled them to unite under one banner and are now going back to business as usual, various "kiithid" note jockeying with one another for greater power and influence, though their preferred medium is apparently equal parts Proportional Representation and behind the scenes wheeler-dealing.
- In Neverwinter Nights 2, there are at least three factions trying to bring about the downfall of the King of Shadows (The Player Character and his/her allies, the Githyanki, and the fiend army led by Ammon Jerro), who end up spending a lot of time at odds with each other and interfering in each-other's plans. There's also a fourth faction, the Githzerai, who refuse to involve themselves in the war, because the Githyanki hate them even more than the King of shadows, and would put their conflict with the King on hold in order to wage war against the Githzerai, allowing the King to grow in power unopposed.
- In the first Crysis, after the aliens wake up and freeze Lingshan island, you'd expect the Americans and the North Koreans to put their war on pause and turn their attention to this new threat. Wrong! As a matter of fact, in the Crysis Warhead Expansion Pack, your commanding officer will even give you explicit orders to consider the North Koreans the priority threat... after the aliens have woken!
- In Rome: Total War, Rome is divided by three houses, the Brutii, Scipii, and the Julii. The three plan on conquering Rome and eliminating each other, they also have to deal with the Senate who will give them demands and will turn on the house who won't comply.
- In Far Cry 4, the leadership of the Golden Path is split between the traditionalist Sabal and the progressive Amita. The player is occasionally given the options of siding with one over the other in certain missions. Eventually, you are forced to choose one as an uncontested leader, who will later task you with assassinating the other. Depending on who's alive, Sabal becomes a full-on religious extremist who issues purges of non-followers of the native religion of Kyrat while Amita becomes a dictator who forcibly conscripts women and children to work in drug dens.
- Part and parcel of Imperium Nova.
- Typically occurs during Trouble In Terrorist Town. Teamwork between innocents is regularly undermined since nobody knows who the real innocents are. A sufficiently paranoid and trigger-happy group can often wipe themselves out while the traitors just watch and Pass the Popcorn.
- Subverted in Reds; the socialist revolution in the United States in the 1930s proves to have sufficient ideological flexibility to enable opposing points of view to be heard (both among competing left-wing ideologies and more conservative voices that nevertheless oppose the military junta they're all fighting against) while still ensuring an overall socialist victory, and ultimately proves more successful in this regard than the rigid ideological inflexibility of the Soviet Union. The relationship between the Soviet Union and America following this, however, plays the trope straight, since they ultimately split due to ideological differences and spend as much time plotting against each other as their capitalist enemies.
- Twitch Plays Pokémon is essentially tens of thousands of people simultaneously attempting to button mash their way through a single copy of Pokemon: Red. There is several subgroups fighting each other because of personal interests, like having a Vaporeon or a Lapras, but ultimately, everyone, after fighting themselves over those things, collaborate on the greater goal of finishing the game. Even if they don't know what the next step is, as long as someone comes with a clear and straightforward next step, they will struggle together.
- This is typically how the Yogscast series Cornerstone progresses. Despite all having common goals to work on and very pressing survival issues, such as hostile mobs and a lack of food, the various members have to furiously fight to get themselves elected, then need to struggle with what little materials they have (for such a large group). Even when needed materials later become available, Hat Films form a cult devoted to a giant golden hand and start antagonising the others.
- This The Order of the Stick strip parodies the trope while members of La Résistance argue about some nonsense, adding some necessary Monty Python references. A later strip reveals there are also three rival resistances, distinguished (somewhat) by their views on who is to blame for the invasion and who should take over once the revolution succeeds (they were united, eventually, by their common loyalty to the deceased former Lord of the city).
- A succinct, if somewhat arguable, social commentary in Digger sums it up nicely:
Murai: He's not an evil man. Not really.Digger: There really aren't that many evil men out there. It's mostly just good men working at cross purposes.
- By Act 6 Intermission 3, there are at least three active, conflicting plans to defeat Lord English. Each plan has exactly one person who is completely behind it...and beyond that it gets very fuzzy, with most of the other characters either being doubtful of any of the plans' chances or outright apathetic to the whole thing. Mix in interpersonal drama, hot-tempered teenagers, and an extremely complex relationship situation and "opposition to Lord English" doesn't look so much like a side as a hot mess. The tension reaches a head when Vriska and Meenah end up coming to blows rather dramatically over nothing more than getting on each others' nerves.
- Making matters worse, there is one side against Lord English which plans on conquering everything and ruling with an iron fist afterwards. All the other anti-Lord English sides are also at odds with one another to the point of coming to blows about how to deal with that problem.
- In Ben 10: Ultimate Alien Charmcaster and the other rebel factions of Ledgerdomian immediately started fighting each other after overthrowing Adwaita because they all wanted to rule. Charmcaster won.