Spoilers for Destiny and Destiny 2 ahead.
Let’s drop the allegory for a while. I don’t think it was working to begin with, and I prefer to speak plainly instead of in prose.
I love the game you serve as the protagonist in, at least mechanically. Part of the reason I’ve put nearly a thousand hours in piloting you around and clicking on enemy heads is because I’m chasing that satisfying “pop” when something’s brain explodes after I get them with a linear fusion rifle. I guess it’s better than being addicted to drugs or alcohol or video games with gambling mechan- oh shit god dammit wait, fuck, there’s Eververse here, I forgot.
Anyway, Destiny 2 has my full buy-in when it comes to gameplay, as I think it’s grabbed many folks in its three-year lifespan. I’m not as big a fan of the many modes to choose from in the game, and I think the story – when looked at holistically – is more-or-less a wash. But one aspect I can’t ignore is one I’ve tried to reason out in these Dialogues: Bungie, the game’s developer, wants me to live at least part-time in this world, and there are certain ramifications that come with that.
I first noticed these ramifications during the Faction Rallies in D2Y1, when it asked me to pick a faction and fuck shit up across the solar system. I picked what I thought was the coolest-looking faction, a group of (it turned out) thanatonautic, neoliberal warmongers calling themselves Future War Cult. They basically killed themselves over and over to see the future, and as a result they want Guardians everywhere to become absolute war machines. But as far as I could see, they were a “better” option than the other two factions: Dead Orbit, who just wanted to get the fuck out of the solar system and away from the Traveler, our slumbering charge, and New Monarchy.
New Monarchy is the MAGA hat gang of Destiny 2. They want to keep humanity safe by locking them inside the Last City, forming an eternal Guardian-led kingdom, and ruling with an iron fist. Yeesh.
In my first Faction Rally, I fought hard for FWC. I liked the gear they were giving me, not to mention the guns I could earn from them. They had an aesthetic I liked, and the story of thanatonautics is interesting enough for me to want to know more about how all that worked. But I didn’t like the insistence that we “reclaim” the far-flung reaches of the solar system, as if they belonged to us inherently. I didn’t like the ramping-up, constant drumbeat for war they were throwing out. Even if Lakshmi-2, FWC’s leader, seemed like the eye of a hurricane – calm, yet clearly still dangerous – the hurricane she was the center of was starting to irk me.
I’m sorry to say I didn’t drop FWC in subsequent Rallies, even if I wasn’t as enthusiastic about them as I was initially. If I could pick again, though, I know now I’d pick Dead Orbit. They had it the most right, plus Peter Stormare plays Arach Jalaal, the faction’s leader, which is just cool.
But the winner of pretty much every rally was New Monarchy. I couldn’t see the appeal, even if you stripped the clear trump-ass bullshit away. But a LOT of other Destiny 2 players fought for them, and they were the victors constantly. Bungie took the Faction Rally away in D2Y2, but it basically put me on an inexorable thought track to where we are today.
Simply put, I think the world that Destiny 2 is advocating for is at best a fascist one. At worst, we’re talking about reinstating the divine right of kings. Not only does mortal humanity lose in this bargain, but every other living creature inhabiting our solar system suffers for it as well.
Now, Guardian, I can see that this is an unwelcome statement to hear. I get it. After spending the entire five years of your existence thanklessly putting around the solar system and killing gargantuan, god-level threats to humanity and life itself, watching some nerdy, doughy writer cast aspersions on everything you do probably extends past irritation and into wishing you could shoulder-charge me into Glimmer particles. But I want to be clear: yours isn’t the only video game world – or even the only sci-fi world in general – that does this. As Nic Reuben (the original Destiny 2 fascism warner) put it in his 2017 post on the subject, Bungie writers are “blindly following a set of culturally encoded science-fantasy tropes”:
“‘True leaders are born. It’s genetic. The right to rule is inherited.’ Any time you play as a really, really ridiculously good looking person killing mobs of ugly things for a vaguely defined reason, you’re witnessing this kind of ideology first hand.”
One thing I would like to point out, though, before we continue: Guardian, I know you personally. I’ve fought as you across the stars. I know you don’t inherently want to rule over anything. You are intentionally a blank slate, you never voice your own desires except for that one time when a possessed Awoken prince killed your best ramen bud, and I want to believe that the only thing you want — which is the only thing I want — is to race Sparrows on Mars. But the version of you I play as is not the only version of you that exists. There are over a million of you. And aside from that million iterations of you that exist in this game world, there are others who absolutely want to rule. It’s high time to interrogate this world.
Fantasy Space Fascism: The Game
In his book Against the Fascist Creep, freelance journalist and Portland State Ph.D candidate Alexander Reid Ross defines fascism as “an ideology that draws on old, ancient, and even arcane myths of racial, cultural, ethnic, and national origins to develop a plan for the ‘new man.'” He continues:
Fascism is also mythopoetic insofar as its ideological system does not only seek to create new myths but also to create a kind of mythical reality (ed. emphasis mine), or an everyday life that stems from myth rather than fact. Fascists hope to produce a new kind of rationale envisioning a common destiny that can replace modern civilization. The person with authority is the one who can interpret these myths into real-world strategy through a sacralized process that defines and delimits the seen and the unseen, the thinkable and the unthinkable.
That which is most commonly encouraged through fascism is producerism, which augments working-class militancy against the ‘owner class’ by focusing instead on the difference between ‘parasites’ (typically Jews, speculators, technocrats, and immigrants) and the productive workers and elites of the nation. In this way, fascism can be both functionally cross class and ideologically anticlass, desiring a classless society based on a ‘natural hierarchy’ of deserving elites and disciplined workers. By destroying parasites and deploying some variant of racial, national, or ethnocentric socialism, fascists promise to create an ideal state or suprastate – a spiritual entity more than a modern nation-state, closer to the unitary sovereignty of the empire than political systems of messy compromises and divisions of power.Ross, A. R. (2017). Against the Fascist Creep. AK Press.
The Destiny franchise begins with you, a freshly-reborn Guardian, shooting and punching your way through a hive of vaguely-arachnid aliens your Ghost companion calls “Fallen.” You find a decrepit jumpship deep in the heart of the Old Russia Cosmodrome, which your Ghost fires up and uses to take you to the “last safe city on Earth,” a walled metropolis underneath the Traveler. You first meet with the Vanguard triumvirate, Titan Commander Zavala, Warlock Ikora, and Hunter Cayde-6, and then, after completing some tasks for them, you are granted an audience with the Speaker (voiced by Bill Nighy):
THE SPEAKER: There was a time when we were much more powerful. But that was long ago. Until it wakes and finds its voice, I am the one who speaks for The Traveler.
You must have no end of questions, Guardian. In its dying breath, The Traveler created the Ghosts to seek out those who can wield its Light as a weapon—Guardians—to protect us and do what the Traveler itself no longer can.
GUARDIAN: What happened to it?
THE SPEAKER: I could tell you of the great battle centuries ago, how the Traveler was crippled. I could tell you of the power of The Darkness, its ancient enemy. There are many tales told throughout the City to frighten children. Lately, those tales have stopped. Now… the children are frightened anyway. The Darkness is coming back. We will not survive it this time.
GHOST: Its armies surround us. The Fallen are just the beginning.
GUARDIAN: What can I do?
THE SPEAKER: You must push back the Darkness. Guardians are fighting on Earth and beyond. Join them. Your Ghost will guide you. I only hope he chose wisely.Bungie. Destiny. Activision Entertainment, 2015.
This introduction to the world of Destiny is… shockingly reductive. Even playing the campaign when this happens, my first thoughts were, “wait so we’re not even smart or good enough to hear the children’s scary stories about the history of this world? what the fuck?” But over the course of years, we find out more and more about the so-called Golden Age of Humanity, the tools humans built with implied assistance from the Traveler, the various rich families and corporate megaliths that consolidated power over people across the solar system in the years and decades leading to the arrival of the Darkness and the ensuing Collapse.
Not only that, we start to get a pretty clear image of what life was like immediately following the Collapse. Humanity was almost driven to extinction, and the people left alive after this apocalypse soon wished they were dead. The Traveler “defeated” the Darkness but in the process put itself into something similar to an emergency reboot mode. It deployed the Ghosts, who resurrected people who could, as the Speaker put it, “wield its Light as a weapon,” but the first of these “Risen” were nothing short of horrific. They used their Ghosts’ regeneration and resurrection powers to become regional warlords, subjugating what few mortal people remained, draining the desolate wastes of what few resources they had, and basically sealing the deal on the “Dark Age” brought on by the Collapse. It wasn’t until the advent of the Iron Lords that these warlords were defeated and the “age of Guardians” could begin, but even the Iron Lords did some pretty heinous shit – like use a whole town of mortals as bait to lure in a band of warlords on the run.
But when it comes to creating a mythical reality, the Speaker has his formula down pat. Don’t get too bogged down with details, paint the conflict in stark good vs. evil, literal “Light vs. Darkness” broad strokes, and mythologize the actions of Guardians (but most importantly, our Guardian). And oh, what fodder for mythology we are.
By the end of the first campaign, we’re the hero who severed the connection between the Hive, the Vex and the Traveler and tore out the heart of the Black Garden. By the end of The Taken King, we’ve slain a god-king. In the Rise of Iron expansion, we stop the spread of a virulent nanoparticle with murderous intent called SIVA in its tracks, using nothing but our fists. In Destiny 2, we become the Hero of the Red War, the one who put an end to a Vex plot to sterilize all worlds, and who killed a Hive Worm God. We avenge our fallen Hunter Vanguard, we kill a Taken Ahamkara. We are the hub on which the spokes of history are turning.
In terms of video game power fantasies, I really truly can’t imagine a better-feeling one. It’s basically pure uncut dopamine being transmitted directly to the pleasure centers of the brain, one Herculean feat at a time. And if we were the only Guardian, if we were not part of a larger world, if everything around us was in a vacuum, I don’t know if I would be writing this article. But Bungie has been very clear about wanting to make a world where our actions do materially affect our surroundings. As such, we are essentially a walking propaganda tool for the Consensus, a pseudo-democratic government over the Last City, consisting of faction leaders, the Vanguard and the (now-presumed-dead, hasn’t been replaced) Speaker.
The Consensus wants badly to declare the advent of the New Golden Age, a time in which Humanity can finally emerge from under the shadow of the Traveler to pick up where it left off prior to the Collapse. The problem we supposedly face is the never-ending onslaught of Enemies. Four alien species showed up on our doorstep after the Collapse, all seeking to finish us off (according to the Speaker): the Fallen, the Cabal, the Hive/Taken, and the Vex.
Of the four-ish races of enemy, only one can said to be truly, deeply “evil” in the sense the Speaker intends: the Hive and Taken, led by Taken King Oryx and his sisters Sivu Arath and Savathun, the only force in the galaxy more fascist than the Guardians. The Vex are a race of machines whose only focus is on making more of themselves, a threat similar to SIVA. The other two alien forces, the Fallen and the Cabal, are certainly antagonistic toward Guardians but our initial reasons for fighting them are, frankly, butt-ass stupid. Basically, we fight them because they’re there. They have the audacity to land on planets that “belong to us” and scavenge resources from them. Until the Red Legion showed up on Earth, we basically only ever fought Cabal on Mars, and there’s really no reason as to why.
The Fallen, or Eliksni, on the other hand, end up coming off more as the tragic victims of our flippantly rampant genocidaire practices than actual “enemies.” They’re probably the weakest alien species we come up against. Their backstory involves them living in peace under the Traveler before their entire society was caught up in a Collapse-like “Whirlwind” and destroyed. Rather than give them Guardians, like it did with us, the Traveler instead just up and peaced out, leaving the Eliksni for dead against the maelstrom of the Darkness. The surviving “Fallen” got in their skiffs and desperately chased the Traveler across the heavens, stratifying the remnants of their society into “houses” and developing religious devotion to machines like Servitors in the process.
They tried to take the Traveler back at the Battle of the Five Fronts and Twilight Gap, and lost. Their armies were shattered, and we’ve been nonchalantly killing them en masse ever since. They are the “parasites” our Guardian must exterminate, along with the Hive, Cabal, and Vex. When we make friends with, or even simply allies with, a Fallen (like Variks the Loyal, Mithrax the Forsaken, or the Spider), it is made clear almost immediately that this 100 percent doesn’t change the relationship we have with the Fallen as a group. Variks is absolutely subservient to Mara Sov and the Awoken. Mithrax wants to create an Eliksni House that bows down to Guardians and Humanity for being “better stewards” of the Traveler than the Eliksni was. The Spider makes it clear that he only wants to grow his crime syndicate, but that we can help him out if we want. Never once does the Vanguard or the Consensus reach out to these allies and try to broker peace. And in-game, we simply don’t have an option but to fire on and kill Eliksni in droves. Kill or be “killed,” right?
When it comes to Humanity itself, while we never get a chance to actually leave the Tower and walk through the streets of the Last City, there are at least hints as to the deep class stratification at work here. You can’t get much more on-the-nose than an ivory tower of immortal beings overlooking an enclosed human race. Guardians atop humanity, the Speaker above the Vanguard over the Consensus over the people, and you, the very fulcrum on which history pivots, functionally over everything else. But in the mythical reality of this game, it’s really the Traveler über Alles, and humanity underneath the Traveler has become a wonderful, diverse melting pot without class, without fear. An ideal state where the walls keep Darkness at bay and humanity can discover the joys of tonkotsu ramen yet again.
A Light Story Vs. Lore Steeped in Darkness
Destiny has a reputation, unfairly earned, for being an okay game with a bad story, or at best a nonexistent one. The story isn’t really all that bad, it’s just poorly implemented up front, and I think my willingness to engage with the game’s world to the extent that I have is a testament to how powerful and evocative some of the beats in Destiny’s writing truly are. If we dissect the game we can separate the writing of the “story” from the writing of the “lore,” and in watching the plot develop over the past few years, we can see a gradual unification of these two areas start to occur.
This is helped greatly by third-party resources like Ishtar Collective, and by mechanical decisions Bungie made in D2Y2. Adding the lore back into the game with Forsaken was a good idea; choosing to fully integrate the lore into the world starting with Season of the Forge was a great one.
A side-effect of this lore-plot unification is a dismantling-in-real-time of some of the game’s most beloved and widely-spread legends, like the legend of Shin Malphur and Dredgen Yor. Even our personal legend is challenged in this way, and it’s a really neat way that Bungie writers new and old are critically engaging with their work. But it also really throws into stark relief some of the issues I’ve laid out in this article so far.
Take, for example, the lore book “Stolen Intelligence.”
Presented to us as intercepted secret Vanguard transmissions, “Stolen Intelligence” shows us exactly what the Vanguard really thinks of our actions, and what their goals really are. It was part of Season of the Drifter, which overall had a “trust no one” vibe to it, but some of the entries here are BLEAK, y’all.
Here’s an excerpt from the first entry, titled “Outliers.”
Fallen armed forces continue to fall back from active fronts across Terra. Factions of House Dusk remain active in the European Dead Zone. Throughout the rest of the globe, refugee attack incidents have dropped by more than 70 percent since the conclusion of the Red War – largely attributable to depressed Fallen and human populations rather than any significant change in interspecies relations.
The recent trending emergence of so-called “crime syndicates” (cf. report #004-FALLEN-SIV) is emblematic of the continuing destructuralization of Fallen society. Likely an artifact of multi-generational colonization of human strongholds, this agent believes that because these syndicates have no relation to indigenous Fallen culture, young Fallen are appropriating and imitating human mythology in absence of a strong cultural heritage of their own.
VIP #3987, another former confederate of the Awoken, is a lesser-known personality known as Mithrax. Scattered field reports suggest that like #1121, #3987 styles himself a Kell of the so-called “House Light,” an otherwise unknown House apparently founded by #3987 himself. We have secondhand accounts that Mithrax has engaged in allied operations with Guardians in the field, though we have not as yet been able to corroborate these accounts with any degree of veracity. This agent is inclined to treat these reports with a healthy degree of skepticism until otherwise confirmed, as they may be propaganda from Fallen sympathizers in the Old Russian and Red War Guardian cohorts. We have requested intelligence records from the Awoken which may further clarify the matter.
In addition, whatever the findings of said intelligence records may be, it should be stressed that one or two sympathetic outliers cannot be relied upon to erase the wrongs of past centuries, nor should their good-faith efforts to correct the sins of their forbears be taken as sufficient symbolic reparation.
We have come too far to pull our punches now.Bungie. Destiny 2: Forsaken – Season of the Drifter. Lore Book: Stolen Intelligence. Outliers. Activision Entertainment, 2019.
Here’s another piece of “Stolen Intelligence,” about our relationship with Cabal Emperor Calus:
Related to the above, #3801’s aggressive propaganda campaign appears to have been successful. Despite #3801’s recent inactivity, sentiment polls captured in the Tower at regular intervals over the last several months indicate that he has successfully swayed a significant percentage of the Red War cohort to believe that he may be a potential ally. Given our history with the Cabal as well as the events of the Red War itself, this is shocking and perhaps attributable to a case of mass traumatic bonding.
It is my strong recommendation that the Vanguard pursue a reeducation curriculum before #3801 invites any Guardians of the City to defect to his service, a possibility which we have documented in multiple previous reports.Bungie. Destiny 2: Forsaken – Season of the Drifter. Lore Book: Stolen Intelligence. Passivity. Activision Entertainment, 2019.
Other entries detail the efforts of the Vanguard from keeping ostensible “conspiracy theories” from being published in the Cryptarchy’s journals; show the apparent oddity of mortal-Guardian “integrated neighborhoods;” and discuss the ongoing surveillance of the Drifter, a rogue Lightbearer who has survived since the early Dark Ages and who uses Darkness-aligned technology to run a PVEVP game called “Gambit”.
There are many other stories like these, scattered throughout the lore. Stories of Cryptarchy students being banished for making fun of New Monarchy’s leaders, of Guardians messing with Hive technology being burned alive and killed fully by the Praxic Order for their crimes of experimentation. Stories like these wouldn’t happen – couldn’t happen! – to our Guardian, because they’re too important, but are seemingly everyday occurrences to less consequential members of this society. In the real world, we’d call that an increasingly oppressive police state. In Destiny 2, it’s just flavor text.
There was a degree of narrative complexity added to Season of the Drifter that hadn’t been in the game prior. The entire season was essentially boiled down to “which side are you on, the Drifter’s or the Vanguard’s,” and in our path to make a choice, we heard from various bit players in our world. The Drifter told us his story in greater detail than perhaps we needed (and how much of it is true is debatable), but his story is also the story of a less morally-pure Guardian class. Everyone from the warlords to the Iron Lords did heinous shit to humanity while the Drifter watched, and it hardened him. The Praxic Warlock Aunor goes all in on her adherence to the City’s propaganda and ideology, trying to show us how untrustworthy the Drifter is. She ends up revealing more of her order’s goals than perhaps was wise.
This narrative complexity is nice, but it still betrays the game in a fundamental way. We now have the documents. We know what Guardians are actually about, and how they’re not exactly shining beacons of unwavering good like the Speaker would have had us believe. Regardless of declining Fallen activity, of a shift in Fallen culture, of actual living Fallen who want to ally with Guardians, the Vanguard is still adamantly pursuing “extirpation,” which is a fancy way of saying genocide (I’m not kidding, it literally means “root out and destroy completely”). We know the Vanguard and the Praxic Order have a hard-on for exile, reeducation and information suppression.
On top of everything, the narrative complexity was not met with any kind of mechanical complexity. Even with proof that the Vanguard wants to kill every Eliksni in the system, conscientious objectors don’t get to opt out. The narrative path that forks between the Drifter and Aunor converges again by the end of the quest. The “conspiracy theorist” that has been trying to publish paper after paper detailing exactly how the Nine worked with Dominus Ghaul to sneak his fleet into City airspace undetected was proven right by lore WE FIND IN THE GAME, but that doesn’t change our combat relationship with the Cabal remnants anywhere in the system, and homeboy still gets his papers rejected.
Ikora and Zavala, our remaining Vanguard members, insist repeatedly that Guardians are not a warfighting force, that the Vanguard and the Consensus is not an authoritarian organization. But everything we do says otherwise.
“A peace born from violence is no peace at all.”
Guardians do not get to choose their paths in the world of Destiny 2. The paths laid out before them lead to a life of warfare, of pain, of endless murder. Ostensibly, they are agents of good, trying to beat back the forces of evil, but if you look too close you see that really they’re just a bunch of indiscriminate killers with a mandate from the Orb God. Desperate to get out from under the heels of warlords, the Guardians created a fascist society, and adding insult to injury they pretend it’s a democratic, free one. Killing the Fallen is genocide, but you can literally never stop killing them because the game won’t let you. The only right way to play at that point is to turn off your console and go outside.
Destiny 2 isn’t the only video game to fall into this trap. As Nic Reuben said in the follow-up piece to his first story on how Destiny 2 is fascist, “I’m not saying Destiny is propaganda, just reliant on some of the same narrative tricks that make propaganda so powerful. At the same time, I don’t think that it’s too much of a stretch to say that games like Call of Duty make certain assumptions about what is justifiable, righteous slaughter and what is terrorism. Replace modern military hardware with future tech, replace terrorists with alien races that have traits synonymous with cartoon portrayals of traditionally marginalized social groups, and you’re effectively playing through the worst aspects of Call of Duty with a new coat of a paint.”
There is one glimmer of hope in the game. One sliver of lore that gives us pause and helps make the game bearable in its current state. It comes in the form of Lady Efrideet, former Iron Banner handler, youngest member of the Iron Lords, and a Guardian in self-exile from the City, the Vanguard, and its fascist dogma.
Lady Efrideet is one of the most fearsome Hunters in the Destiny universe. She is known as one of the best marksmen, if not the best one. She is impossibly strong, having once thrown Lord Saladin bodily off a mountain into a Fallen Spider Walker, destroying it. And she is also one of the only named pacifist Guardians who isn’t a member of the Cryptarchy. Her story is the story of the fall of the Iron Lords, as well as the beginning of the SIVA crisis, many years before our Guardian’s rise is documented.
But it isn’t SIVA or the Iron Lords that we’re interested in. Instead, we know that after SIVA was sealed away, Efrideet snuck away from Earth. She saw the deaths of everyone she knew and her will to fight was shattered. If this was the result of fighting for the Traveler, she didn’t want any part in it. So she took to the stars. In doing so, she ended up in the far reaches of the solar system, beyond even where we currently roam. It turns out, a small enclave of other Lightbearers, hesitant or unwilling to use their powers to kill, had also fled to this part of the system and had established a colony. It’s there that Efrideet resides, and it’s there I’d like to go.
Unfortunately, our Guardian is too “important” to the vast tidal forces at work in the Destiny universe for us to be able to leave for the outer reaches whenever we want. Because we are the hub on which the wheel of history turns, and there is no escaping that now, if ever we could. We are death, the flattening of a complex and intricate universe into one of simple shapes, the sword logic in a human/Awoken/Exo body. We are needed for the plans of the Nine/Mara Sov/Hive Queen Savathun to come to fruition. When or if the Darkness ever does come back, we will be the force that faces it and, win or lose, shape our future afterward.
Sometimes it’s nice having a video game place your character on a linear track. Games like Half-Life or Titanfall present to us simple choices in otherwise-complex story environments: progress, or die. Our characters are not immortal, but they have help from the technologies around us, are tenacious, are resourceful, are quick to adapt to changing situations. In Destiny, we simply exist. We can’t truly die. Even when it comes to the rules of the game, our immense “paracausality” causes us to shrug Darkness Zones off as mere inconveniences where other Guardians have died their final deaths. Because we are necessary. The Vanguard and Consensus need us to justify their horrific fascist policies. The great forces at work in the background need us to work as a pawn. Even Bungie itself needs us, powerful, trapped beings with a sense of right and wrong but no agency to actually act on those ethics, to continue its game.
I haven’t preordered Shadowkeep yet. For once I’m glad we’re not focusing on the Fallen or the Cabal. Going to the Moon means we’ll pretty much just be dealing with Hive, to say nothing of the unreal Nightmares we’re supposed to face. But I’m still undecided as to whether I even want to order Shadowkeep in the first place. If Lady Efrideet can go to the edge of known space and live peacefully with other pacifist Guardians, maybe I can put my controller down and step away, once and for all. It would be nice to have the extra space on my Xbox One’s hard drive. Other games exist to be played, and having the time and energy to do so would help me here, with No Escape.
But even then. I’m not expressing agency as a Guardian, but rather as the person who controls you, Guardian. While I go off to play other games, you sit and wait in stasis. Even if I don’t play, there are a million iterations of you willing to commit genocide daily for cheap rewards (shoutouts to the sixtieth Edge Transit drop in my inventory this month alone). Sure, it’s just a game. But this is what having a dynamic world means in practice. There are consequences to your actions. There always have been.
There is no reason why Humanity couldn’t share the Traveler’s gifts with, at the very least, the Eliksni. There is no reason why we couldn’t just ignore the Cabal in a state of mutually assured destruction, given how small a faction the Red Legion was relative to the Cabal army’s full size. Of the two remaining enemies, the Vex are less evil than they are simply a thing that wants the universe to be like it, and that’s threatening to diverse life throughout the universe, not just Humanity. The Hive/Taken are the true enemies in the game, but even they are directed, pawn-like, by their Worm Gods.
There is, likewise, no reason why the Risen had to organize in the fascist context they did. They could have created a society in which everyone could come and go freely, where ideas and actions could be given and received absent interference, where a true “golden age” could have sprung up naturally simply by living together harmoniously and using the Light the Traveler gave them to create, rather than destroy.
But that’s not how this story shakes out.