Tau Are Just The Worst.
“I hate this. It’s rubbish; not even real. Who even likes reading about things that aren’t real?”
One of my years 10s was enjoying studying Stave Three of ‘A Christmas Carol’ about as much as a trepanation. I could have told her that she needed to in order to pass her GCSE English and thus gain access to those employment opportunities that remain forever locked to the illiterate… But I’d already played that card at least five times more than even I could bear it, and anyway, what would be the point? She could see no value whatsoever not merely in the novel, but in the very concept of fantasy itself.
As her comment drifted across the room to me, I could hear literally every eye in the room roll, then swivel over to me, every eye eager for me to raise an eyebrow, then put this girl in her place, telling her that with ideas like that she might as well just leave the room, fill a sink, then hold her head under the water until the bubbles stopped in order to prevent her stealing precious oxygen from those who might contribute more to the species than she.
The rest of the class may have wanted that. They weren’t going to get it.
It’s one of the classic demands for rationalisation made of every English teacher. Every educator faces them, and, while they seem different, they’re not really. ‘When am I going to really need this later?’ is basically the same question as ‘Why do we need to know this?’ They all derive from a single, ur-question:
‘How will knowing this help me make me money?’
This, built around the assumption that the sum of human knowledge or worth can – and should – be boiled down to financial gain.
Looking across at the bored face of a girl who could see no value whatsoever in human imagination or the potential of fiction, I knew what my go-to example would be.
Jessie The Yodelling Cowgirl And Me
As I’ve probably mentioned before, it was in late 1999 that I was dumped for the very first time. As an asocial freak with all the personality of an angry and almost ferociously tumescent lettuce, I’d obviously never known love before then. So, to say that I was ill-equipped to deal with the emotional fallout of what I thought at the time was the love of my life leaving me, well?
I like to think I handled it with the same good grace as a two year old discovering that Santa’s not real when he finds Grandad dressed in a stinking Santa costume, face-down in a puddle of beery vomit and blood-tainted piss. Which is to say that I can’t recall much of those days, but I’m fairly confident I cried for something like six months solid, then intermittently for the next twelve.
I had never known such pain before. Never. No-one could possibly ever have plumbed such depths of desolation and despair, no-one. It was inconceivable. I wept, wailed, lamented, cursed, sobbed, snuffled, moaned, bawled, and blubbered with all the ferocity and commitment of Kylo Ren upon the discovery that his favourite brand of hair conditioner is no longer in stock.
Then a yodelling cowgirl came along and she was me.
For those of you who haven’t seen ‘Toy Story 2’, it’s one of very few children’s films to posit the radical notion that there’s no such thing as True Love. Jessie thought she’d found her True Love; that she could only ever love Emily. Her rejection has ended with her sealed away from everyone in a lightless box, and if there’s a better metaphor for how it feels to get dumped, I don’t know what it is.
Then she meets Woody, and rather than living in cold, dark box for the whole of her life, or cutting herself off from everyone in the name of letting them admire her from a distance, she takes a chance on a second, new love. It works: she gets to enjoy that perfection of happiness all over again.
Because True Love is a load of old bollocks. In real life, there’s just love, and while finding someone to love you may be tricky, falling in love itself is ridiculously easy. You like them, they like you, and – assuming you’re not toys (or asexual, in which case you just need the first two) – you decide to f**k each other a lot. In my experience, love tends to come quite quickly after that.
Now, that doesn’t mean your relationship’s going to work; if love was really all you need, there’d be no such thing as relationship counsellors. Or PornHub.
Pictured: a committed relationship, based on a solid bedrock of trust, good communication, and three hours a night of amputee fetish videos.
Anyway, back at the point I was making, ‘Toy Story 2’ uses the fantasy of talking toys enables the discussion of a very real – and very difficult – truth, in a way that’s easily relatable for the majority of people.
Pixar films does this sort of thing a lot. For example, ‘Up’ is about death, and how just because the love of your life has died, that doesn’t mean your life is over, or that you’ll never be happy again: you’ll forge your life anew, and meet new people who make you just as happy – albeit in different ways. ‘Monsters University’ is about how sometimes, no matter what your dreams or hopes may be, you’ll never get to achieve them, and how that’s actually okay. ‘Frozen’ is all about how you shouldn’t look for love in the wrong places, as well as the fact that abusive boyfriends can look and act pretty perfect from the outside.
Pictured: yes, I know ‘Frozen’ isn’t a Pixar film. Why don’t you let it go? *rimshot*
Metaphor is a powerful thing. It’s how we’ve taught our children important life lessons for years. We assemble the pieces of the puzzle in their minds, and let them assemble the message as they will. When an issue is too big or too powerful or too horrible to talk about directly, we can use metaphor to take the personal out of it, and look at it more objectively.
That’s how ‘Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’ was able to discuss the problems of Israel and Palestine withoutangering either side. The two real-life factions become the Bajorans and the Cardassians… And at no stage do the writers explicitly state which side is which. They simply present the issues and leave you to think about them. In a similar vein, during ‘Battlestar Galactica’s third season, Colonel Tigh uses suicide bombers and leads a terrorist insurgency… against robots. The parallels to the real-world are clear, but with the serial numbers filed off, he could be showing… Well, any parallel you might care to draw.
Pictured: Saul Motherfrakking Tigh.
There are two terms which describe this use of metaphor: allegory and applicability. Allegory is when the writer has a clear real-world parallel in mind (so, for example, George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ is a clear allegory about the development of Stalinist Russia). Applicability is when the writer just writes stuff and lets the audience make up their own mind what it’s about (so, for example, in ‘Lord of The Rings’, The One Ring is a metaphor for drug addiction, with Smeagol/Gollum looking and behaving exactly like a junkie, and Frodo turning into one by the end). The difference is that allegory is deliberate, and applicability is inadvertent, and may end up with things that the writer did not intend (or does not like) being drawn out by eager fans, the aforementioned One Ring=drug addiction one being a famous example that annoyed JRR Tolkein (although how much the writer’s opinions matter is very much a question of where you stand.
Now, not every piece of fantasy or speculative fiction uses fantasy this way, using metaphor to explore difficult real-world issues, but I would argue the very best do. Allegory is the great strength of speculative fiction; at its best, it allows a discussion of the big ideas surrounding the human condition. Warhammer 40,000 has always had some level of metaphor and allegory to it, especially when it comes to the Imperium. Which makes sense, because the Imperium are explicitly the most ‘human’ culture.
Of course, it’s possible with the other 40K species as well. Which neatly brings us to the Tau.
The Tau, And Why They’re Evil.
As I’m sure we all agree, part of the joy of 40K is that every faction is evil beyond words. There may be ‘good’ individuals on almost all sides (with the obvious exceptions of the Dark Eldar), but where other imagined worlds present grey-on-grey, 40K jumps cheerfully into black-on-black horror and doesn’t ever look back.
‘Except for the Tau!’
When they were first introduced, perhaps that was what was intended. Very much the ‘anime’ faction, the Tau seemed simply not to fit. Bright, brash, with a design aesthetic that lacked even a single skull, this was a faction in which not one person has access to a chainsaw-sword. Not one!
Pictured: an army with chainsaws trumps an army without.
Needless to say, there was a gnashing of teeth and a pulling of hair and all the usual things that happen whenever nerds are confronted with change, but eventually it became clear the Tau weren’t going away and that was that.
The complaints stayed, though, and the main one about the Tau was that they were unashamedly ‘goodies’. Over the years, GW have done a lot to fight that perception, but it still lingers. In a world of GRIMDARK where even the good Elves are evil, the Tau stand out like a sore thumb to some. Mostly people who take what looks like a noble philosophy – ‘The Greater Good’ – entirely at face value.
Picture included without comment.
Now, those of you expecting me to start talking about how they’re actually evil because they’re Space Commies and all that jazz, well, you’re going to be disappointed. Not because it’s not true (it is), but because that’s a well-worn path already trodden by a thousand pairs of boots and I’m not going near it.
No, they’re evil f**ks because they have a caste system.
The Horrors Of Making Life Conform To A Story.
I don’t know about you, but the first time I ever realised that one day, I was going to die, I very nearly screamed. Lying in bed, I just realised that one day, I was going out like a candle, and that would be that.
The universe is pointless.
Your children will die. The people who remember you will forget, then die, and it will be as though you never were. Your family line will die out. The books you write will be lost. Your gravestone will crumble, the marker removed to be used as gravel. The things you fought for will pass first into insignificance, then irrelevance. America will disappear like Rome and every other empire before it whose names are forgotten. Eventually, the Earth will be consumed by fire, and the Universe – a place simply too impossibly vast and harsh an environment to sustain humanity as a species – will choke our species into extinction. The universe is meaningless, life serves no purpose and nothing we ever do or say or create will last.
Now, you may agree with that assessment. You may not. One thing though: it’s a viewpoint that’s impossible to remain ambivalent over.
Now, the reason I bring this up isn’t because I’m a lunatic nihilist; it’s actually because there’s this thing called Terror Management Theory which – in grotesquely simplified terms – argues that literally everything humans have done or will ever do, is designed to stave off the knowledge that, one day, we will die. ‘TMT’ argues that we are a species dedicated to building a house on sand, and the only way many of us can meaningfully function in the face of that is to deny that’s what we’re doing.
Confronted by a universe where we are hilariously unimportant, we do the only thing that makes sense to us, and create things in defiance of that cosmic irrelevance. We have children. We write books. We create empires. We build cultures… All to stave off our sheer existential terror of death.
Culture, once created, then breeds itself. Each generation takes what the previous ones did and embellishes upon those things. It takes what it likes, shines them up real nice, and – assuming no disasters – prepares it for the next generation. We see this in everything. Technology gives us morse code, then wireless, then telephone, then email. Stories give us Flash Gordon, then Luke Skywalker, then Neo, then Star Lord. Religion gives us animism, then pantheism, then monotheism, and so on. Every idea is tinkered upon by the generations that follow, keeping the parts they like, discarding the rest, all as the culture sees fit.
The problem with all of this, is, of course, the people themselves. Culture can come from people’s hopes, but all too often, it comes from their fears too. As TMT tells us, while the main fear is of death, when the threat of that death isn’t immediate, the fear changes; becoming sublimated from a terror of immediate threats to fear of vague, unknown ones. Given time, and enough people telling you you’re right – which is all any culture is, really – that fear can escalate.
So, a fear of strangers (because you don’t know anything about them, so they might want to kill you) becomes a fear of foreigners (because they’re different; they’re Not Like Us). If there’s no foreigners, maybe it becomes a fear of difference (because that guy rolling the dice is Not Like Us, so maybe he’s dangerous? Who knows what a man who plays with toy soldiers is up to?)
Left unchecked, that fear of difference can lead people like to believe in really, really dumb things.
Like, for example, in the concept of castes.
So what actually is a caste system? And why is it so bad?
Says Wikipedia: ‘Caste is a form of social stratification characterized by endogamy, non-commensality and hereditary occupations.’
What in The Rock’s sanctified name is endogamy?
Pictured: you mean to tell The Rock you don’t know?
Okay, ‘endogamy’ means only marrying within a specific social group. You see this all over the world in almost every culture. It could be for religious reasons – for example, in today’s Israel, the idea of a Jews marrying Muslims is so unthinkable that books featuring the idea are banned, and in Northern Ireland during the 1970s, the idea of a Protestant marrying a Catholic was likewise intolerable to either side of that divide.
But endogamy doesn’t just have to be driven by a religious prohibition. It might be cultural – for example, Romani Travellers are generally forbidden to marry outside the Romani community. That’s even before we get to mostly secular conceits, such as good old-fashioned racism. After all, there’s a reason that the word ‘interracial’ is still an emotive word – as well as a favoured search entry on certain websites amongst those people who view such things as in some way risqué.
Pictured: just the tip of a cultural iceberg.
Okay, cool. Now what in The Emperor’s name is ‘non-commensality’?
‘Non-commensality’ is a posh way of saying ‘different groups don’t eat together’.
Now, that may not seem like a big deal, but it’s actually pretty huge, because what it really means is ‘different social groups never get to interact with each other socially’.
And if you don’t interact with other groups socially, they’ve got no idea what each side is like. In this climate of ignorance, people fall back on stories, myths, and rumoured half truths.
A modern example might be Muslims.
‘Sir, I’m not being funny right? But these Muslims? They are all terrorists and bombers, aren’t they?’
This nonsense from an otherwise lovely year 11 girl who I thought generally rather intelligent.
‘Yeah sir, I knew you were going to say that. But they are though, aren’t they?’
And so I told her about my friend Nuruz (not his real name), who I shared a house with for five years. Nuruz who believed in Allah, never once prayed to Him, but who did give 10% of his income to charity, and so considered relatively cool with the Five Pillars of the faith. Nuruz, who had cerebral palsy, whose favourite TV shows were ‘Buffy: The Vampire Slayer’ and ‘Judge Judy’, and who was once summarised by my mate Neil with the words: ‘I thought it was his condition made him hard to understand. When I realised that every third word out of his mouth was the word ‘f**king’, I understood what he said just fine.’
Nuruz who, years later, came to visit me with his sister and her sons. I suggested popping into York city centre for a proper meal, and his sister asked if her hijab was likely to lead to an Islamophobic attack. When I assured her that she’d be fine, she responded with one of the best things I’ve ever heard.
‘Oh good. I didn’t really feel like wearing it, but I was having such a bad hair day, I just couldn’t be bothered. So I thought f**k it, and threw it on.’
If you don’t eat with people, you don’t find out what they’re like, and misinformation spreads like a disease.
Okay, good. So what’s a hereditary occupation?
That’s when you do the job your father did. Which was the job his father did. Which was the job his father did, on and on and on and on and on.
Which kind of sounds lovely; people do seem to have a love for tradition, which is cool and all. Of course, what happens when you don’t want to do what your father did? What happens when you – like every Disney Princess – want more?
The Tragedy Of People Made Into Stories.
Caste systems are predicated upon these three core ideas, all of which come from an number of underlying assumptions. And you can see how, in small, tribal communities, they kind of make sense.
After all, endogamy ensures that your particular culture stays strong; if everyone marries inside the community, their children are guaranteed to be raised in that culture, believing the same things as everyone already in it. And non-commensality is simply a fear response – as ‘The Walking Dead’ has taught us, when you don’t have good information about other people, distrust is the logical response.
Pictured: unless the writers’ dart landed into an odd-numbered section of the board, in which case trust is the logical response.
And it’s not like we in the West don’t still believe in the sense of continuity that hereditary occupations provide. The Rock is a third generation wrestling world champ. Donald Trump inherited his father’s real estate company. Even in my own country, Prince Charles is going to inherit his mother’s job despite his beliefs in horrible garbage like homeopathy making him sound intellectually on par with the average sea cucumber.
So you can see why people believe in these three concepts. In a vast and seemingly meaningless universe, they provide emotional stability and comfort: a sense of security, a sense of identity, that you’re part of something bigger than just yourself, a sense that things don’t just come to a complete end.
In short, they help assuage the entirely natural terror that the possibility of death in a meaningless universe provokes in most people, by providing meaning and a kind of way around that death.
The price for this sense of safety is, of course, paid by those who don’t conform to the comforting stories the culture demands.
There’s a great line in the superlative film ‘Gods and Monsters’ where James Whale neatly summarises this problem. Whale was a real person, a gay man born to an impoverished working-class family in the North of England, back in the days where homosexuality was spectacularly illegal. Now, the British class system is a ‘lite’ flavour of caste system, but it bears a shocking number of similarities.
In the film, Whale summarises his situation like this:
We weren’t rich, but we weren’t poor either. You say you lived on the wrong side of the tracks? Well, in Dudley, in the north of England, there were more sides to the tracks than any American could imagine. Every Englishman knows his place, and if you forget, there’s always someone to remind you. Our family had no doubt about who they were, but I was an aberration in that household, a freak of nature. I had imagination, cleverness, joy. Now, where did I get that? Certainly not from them. They took me out of school when I was ten and put me in a factory. They meant no harm. They were like a family of farmers who’ve been given a giraffe… and don’t know what to do with the creature except to harness him to the plough.
Whale was not the only English artist to suffer because of his class. George Orwell, probably one of the greatest writers to have lived, ran into troubles because of it as a boy. While his family were ‘lower upper middle class’ (a polite way to describe a once well-to-do family fallen on hard times) he eventually made it to Eton on a scholarship because of his quickly-identified intellect. He loved cricket, and desperately wanted to play, so his family invested in a cricket bat for him, as well as paying the fees needed for him to be allowed to join the cricket club. He would never be allowed to play, though. Why? Well, the heads of the school simply told him no. The reason was because he was, in their eyes, lower classes, and they simply couldn’t allow the lower classes to compete. It would have been unbecoming for Orwell’s upper-class schoolmates to have to face him on the field. The Eton lot didn’t want to allow even one poor working class boy into their club, no matter how much they might have needed his brilliance to lend their institution a shine.
Every Englishman knows his place, and if you forget, there’s always someone to remind you.
This kind of class privilege is pernicious, but it simply represents the same pattern we see again and again the world over. The Japanese have a proverb: ‘the nail that stands out needs hammering down’, and I think we can all agree that that’s a common enough sentiment to apply to half the world over. If fear of death drives fear of difference, then in the mind of someone who’s not thinking but simply feeling, people who are different become the threat of death. So whatever it is makes you different, makes you stand out? There will be someone there with a metaphorical hammer; if you don’t pay attention to the metaphorical hammer, there’s every chance they’ll come at you with a literal one.
These emotional responses end up becoming entrenched cultural narratives, largely driven by fear that begins and remains because of the problem of caste-based behaviour. As I’ve said, while the West doesn’t have a caste system per se, sticking instead to the milder (but equally vile) class system, there are certainly parallels between some Western cultural narratives and the typical narratives of a caste system. By looking at these, we can get an idea of the kind of social pressures to conform that those who violate caste boundaries are subject to, as well as the very real risks they run.
It’s why there’s a cultural narrative about how black men are more dangerous (maybe even more criminal) than white ones. No matter how much the facts show that this belief is nonsense, it still persists. Why?
Because of those caste behaviours, especially ones where you have an overlap – an intersection – between race and class. People who hold these absurd beliefs don’t let their children marry with ‘that kind of person’; they certainly don’t eat with them, and when everyone lives in neighbourhoods only made up of their ethnic group (or class)… Well. There’s no way they’ll actually get to find out what ‘those people’ are like. Not really. They content themselves with crappy information from second-hand sources, and thus a horrible, dehumanising narrative is perpetuated. That narrative is calcified because, as always, when the people with lower status speak out, they’re hammered down by caste members with higher social status who have no interest in hearing what ‘that kind of person’ has to say… which, based on the second-hand, crappy information they’ve got, is the logical response. It’s a perfectly self-sustaining system.
In the meantime, children are killed and no-one is held accountable. Meanwhile, those with power believe the system works just fine… Because they’ve never married, eaten with, or worked with someone for whom the system doesn’t work.
Linked to this, there’s a cultural narrative about how there are only two genders. Why do people believe this when other cultures have long held different opinions? When learned academics argue – very eloquently – that the very concept of gender is an entirely artificial one? One we made up largely to sell stuff, keep people in their place, and also sell stuff?
Pictured: a would-be brick in the edifice that is American masculinity.
Well, again, there’s numerous reasons, but what they really boil down to is that critical lack of first-hand information: the lack of married-with, eating-with, or working-with. The numbers of people who don’t fit into a gender binary are so small compared to those who do (currently a terribly vulnerable 0.3% of the population). With so few transgendered people relative to the cisgendered mainstream, they can’t help but have significantly less cultural cachet or power. In a world like ours, where gender is such an incredibly powerful tool of social control, people who violate that – who step outside the ‘caste’ of their gender immediately put themselves in severe, life-threatening danger by doing so.
(As an aside, yes, there have been recent significant improvements, which may make it seem like things are changing, but complacency is the death of progress. There is still horror happening with depressing regularity.)
These are only the most obviously horrible examples of Western caste behaviours. But caste-style ideas aren’t just confined to the violently unpleasant. There are times they’re just bloody ridiculous. For example, if you’re a woman who’s tall, you don’t fit into the story that girls should be short, and so people will treat you in really weird ways, possibly profoundly affecting the way you view and interact with the world.
Even if you’re in the highest castes, this nonsense can severely impact your life. For example: look at the myth of ‘True Love’ that I mentioned earlier; a bigger pile of bollocks simply does not exist, but people still swear to spend the whole of their who-knows-how-long lives together, knowing that the chance of those life-long vows only work out some of the time. We all know that divorce rates are high and only increasing, but yet we haven’t reworded the marriage vows. They could have been changed to something far more honest and real like: ‘I promise to have and to hold you until such time as you get sick of me’… But people would argue that takes the romance out of it, and heaven forfend we let reality get in the way of making our lives conform to a fairy tale we’ve been raised on since we were children. So, we swear ‘until death do us part’, and happily ever after lasts right up until the moment it doesn’t.
Now, you could accuse me of cynicism. But how many people are miserable right now, trapped in loveless marriages, because they meant what they said when they made their well-intentioned, but utterly unrealistic vow? How many children are being f**ked up by their parents – parents who hate each other with every fibre of their black f**king hearts, but who still stay together, making one another’s hatred and cruelty worse because they’ve bought into the myth that ‘a child needs two parents who live together in the same house’ rather than the truth, which is that a child actually needs two parents who simply care enough to praise them when they’re good and kick their backsides when they’re not?
There are so many of these narratives, every one of them deforming and distorting people’s views of the world… Sure, they work for some people. My grandparents met at the age of eight and have been together ever since; they turned eighty five together this year. But my parents’ marriage only lasted nineteen years. Did they love each other when they got together? Absolutely. Were they happier apart? In the end, absolutely. The narrative of True Love didn’t work for them.
That’s because life is not a story. We are not characters. There’s no narrative structure to life. It’s just a bunch of random stuff happening. Some people live with the person they love all their lives in blissful happiness. Others are born feeling their body is wrong and when they try to make things right, they’re murdered for it. It’s not right or fair or just; it just is, and everyone’s coping the very best they can with what they’ve got. At the end of the day, everyone’s just f**king winging it, which is why these narratives are, for many, so integral to their lives: they’re the best – perhaps the only – guide they’ve got.
But they’re not for everyone, and it’s undeniable any time people are forced to make their lives conform to a narrative, some of them will suffer.
The caste system attempts to convince us otherwise by imposing rigid attempt to impose order on a chaotic, meaningless universe that’s, frankly, terrifying. A caste system is the most toxic kind of class system, the most vile kind of racial segregation, because it’s so much more condensed and calcified, formed from numerous overlapping, intersecting narratives defining who is worthy and who is worthless… And the horror of it is that you can never change. You’re either born worthy, or unless you’re an entirely exceptional individual, your life is doomed to be predominantly miserable. In a true caste system, if you don’t want to fit into the role the system has for you, there are realistically only three options: accept your place, run away, or die.
The Unique Horrors of The Tau
40K hasn’t really done a great job of looking at the Tau so far. As they stand at the moment, are only implicitly evil; there are hints that the Ethereal Caste use mind control powarz to keep the other castes in sway. There are murmurs of sterilisation camps for Gue’vesa recruits and the like. ‘The Greater Good’ necessarily suggests the use of ‘lesser evils’… and all the horror that statement implies.
But the bottom line, for me at least, is that you look at how actual caste systems behave in the real world, there’s more than enough horror inflicted without any kind of sci-fi additions already, and so when it comes to the Tau, I think there’s been a missed opportunity here. Everyone’s so focused on the ‘Argh! Space Commies!’ thing, they actually ignore the fact that a rigid caste system is, by nature, an utterly vile society. It’s a horrible place to live, one which forces its citizens to live stunted, amputated lives, all in the name of, ultimately, providing an emotional crutch for people who cannot face the sheer terror at the thought of their own inevitable demise.
Imagine where you could take this as a Tau player. If you like your armies to be noblebright, you could build one around the theme of rejecting the caste system, giving you the excuse to have Earth Warriors. Imagine the conversion potential for an Earth Caste riptide (something already mentioned and provided with rules in the Farsight Enclaves supplement).
Or, if you prefer your armies villainous, you could have an army where the castes are enforced with real-world tightness; indentured Tau Earth Caste burakumin slaves given scraps of armour and forced to fight on the front lines, acting as bullet sponges (or, more likely, chainsword fodder), buying the Fire Caste more time to kill the enemy.
This could be especially interesting if explored in a more mature game using Fantasy Flight’s RPG rules. The Air Caste who just wants a simple life; the Water Caste who hates to travel, and who wants to pursue a career in the fine arts – a career only the Ethereals are normally permitted to explore. The Ethereal who sees the privilege of her peers and is disgusted by it, going on the run and selling her services as a gunslinger to the Rogue Trader. The Earth Caste building magnate who forces indentured Kroot to work long hours on minimum wage, playing the secret oligarch in a society that looks the other way as long as he keeps everyone in their place… The possibilities are limitless.
As I said earlier, not every piece of speculative fiction uses allegory, or engages in ideas with applicability. But the very best do, and the Tau present a huge number of options that haven’t really been explored, largely because they’re a Xenos race (so get less love from GW), and because they still have that lingering perception amongst gamers who got their first impression from all the newspeak about a ‘Greater Good’ and then proceeded to take that doublethink at face value.
The Tau can be as evil as any of the other species, and they don’t need the quasi-Satanism of Chaos or the theocratic fascism of the Imperium to do so. They’ve got their own unique malevolence, their own sterile horror, and it’s one that is absolutely worthy of further exploration by the wargaming community.