How to tell if you’re Imperial…

(So, yeah, this is what you get today – not instead of a fic-a-day, because I will catch that up tomorrow – but before the fic-a-day because I’ve been trying to get it finished for three weeks and Never Quite Found The Time.  So, today, I sat down and made it my First Priority, belike.

It’s a style culture test – see, for example, Mark Rosenfelder’s “How to tell if you’re American”, here.  Much like that one, and its cousins for various other cultures and concultures, list those things shared by the vast majority of those cultures, here are some things shared by 90% of the people on the Imperial omnibus-analog, and which would all be contested in various other cultures.

So, without further ado…)

If you live in the Empire…

  • You are the fortunate citizen of the greatest, most glorious, most wealthy, most civilized, most advanced, most beautiful, and generally most superlative star nation anywhere, the jewel of the entire galaxy, if not beyond, too. Your belief in this is unshakable.
  • You believe deep down in the Fundamental Contract and the Imperial Charter – guaranteed by you and the rest of your fellow citizen-shareholders, all of whom disapprove very strongly of people who don’t. You may not recall all the contents offhand, but you certainly know the Rights and Responsibilities of the Citizen-Shareholder.
  • You weren’t born a citizen; you had to explicitly sign the Charter and buy your way in (that latter is why they call you a citizen-shareholder). This, obviously, means that your citizen-shareholdership is worth more than any citizenship you can get “for free”, and more valid than any that isn’t voluntarily assumed.
  • You know all the verses of all three movements (“How Glorious Our Motherland”, “Make Way for Tomorrow”, and “Hail, Freest of the Free”) of the Imperial anthem, even the ones that aren’t sung any more when Johnny Foreigner might be listening. If you’re a radical, you might have an eensy problem with the more outrageously jingoistic bits, but you sing it anyway.
  • You expect to see the national flag on every public building – after all, it’s essentially the Empire’s corporate logo, and it’s not like companies, Houses, and other organizations don’t put their logos on everything, now is it?
  • The image of your country – the more so because of voluntary citizen-shareholdership – is important, and you generally feel that the Empire doesn’t receive the respect you think it deserves. (Since no possible reputation could possibly live up to your monumental self-regard in this respect, this is largely true – and on a good day, you’ll even admit it.)
  • If you haven’t traveled abroad, you may indulge the conceit that the Associated Worlds are essentially a peripheral extension of the Empire. (Foreign travel generally makes this notion go away with some considerable speed.)
  • You believe in freedom of speech. (Except for lies on matters of fact, because that’s fraud; and for self-executing code, because that kind of software isn’t speech, as provided for in the Not Having Transsophont Computer Viruses Eat Our Brains Act, or something like that anyway.) But you also believe in freedom of consequences, and if you say something that makes your rep-net score plummet and/or businesses decline to serve you, well, that’s your own damn fault, isn’t it?

Day to day…

  • It’s quite likely that you live in space – only about two (physically embodied) people in five still live on planet surfaces. Whether or not you do, you’ve certainly been to space, and are familiar with microgravity and proper spacing procedures.
  • Yes, physically embodied. There are roughly twice as many active infomorphs in the Empire, at any given time, as there are embodied people.
  • On that note, it’s also probable that you’ve travelled to at least one and probably several other star systems.
  • You are comfortable with computers, cornucopia machines, nanolathes (hand-worn PDA/universal-tool devices), artificial intelligence, neural laces (implanted computer interfaces), muses (personal aide AIs running on said interfaces), ubiquitous networking, commonplace robotics, living in space, psychedesign (mind editing), forking (making complete or partial copies of yourself, with later remerging), body-switching and uploading into infomorph form, mindcasting, and technological immortality. You consider any place without at least most of these to be primitive, and anyone lacking a similar affinity to be backward.
  • And you consider anyone who doesn’t desire such an affinity to be appallingly and willfully backward.
  • The pattern identity theory has been generally accepted for so long that you have a great deal of trouble understanding why anyone would object to, say, uploading, forking, mindcasting, or immortality on those grounds. You are aware that a lot of them do, if only as a datum that doesn’t really make any sense.
  • While your main interface with the ubiquitous networks around you (the dataweave) is your neural lace, you certainly own a number of terminals as well, from ring to desk sized.
  • In the Empire, fields such as memetics and psychedesign are mature, along with bioengineering. Thus, your first assumption is that people’s personalities and reactions are chosen, rather than involuntary, and you probably react accordingly.
  • You have an acute sense of obligation. You would never dream of making even a casual promissory statement that you didn’t intend to follow through on, and certainly never give your word thus.
  • You probably know a large amount of trivia and customs, maybe even the language, of whatever your ancestral culture – or cultures – was before it was absorbed by the Empire, and practice quite a few of them day-to-day. (Cultural imperialism? That’s where we steal all the good bits from everyone else’s culture and claim they’re ours now, right?)
  • If you’re a man, you wear boots, trousers, weapon-belt, shirt, sash (carrying pattern, badges and other markers), waistcoat (with pockets), loose folded over-robe in formal dress, and when going out in the weather, cloak with either hood or hat. If you’re a woman, you wear boots, trousers or skirt (if not working and not in microgravity), weapon-belt, blouse, cravat (marked as for sash), differently-cut waistcoat (with pockets), loose folded over-robe in formal dress, and likewise cloak with either hood or hat. Women also have the option of replacing skirt-and-blouse with single-piece dress. Either sex may and usually does add jewelry and AR shimmer to all of this.
  • Tattooing and piercing (except for earlobe) are generally disfavored; the former, because you will change over your lifetime and anything you can communicate with them you can equally well communicate with ad-hoc makeup or a shimmer, and the latter because of a general sense that body modifications should be functional. If it’s not cybernetic, say the fashion mavens, why bother?

Ethics and Virtues

  • The Fundamental Contract is the most basic set of ethics; it sets out the fundamental natural rights of life, liberty, property, contract, and defense of all of the above. You believe not only in its fundamental rightness – after all, no-one can be an Imperial citizen-shareholder, or even admitted, without agreeing to abide by it – but also that it’s a universal and natural ethic that should be obeyed by everyone, whoever they are and wherever they’re from.
  • You also respect and try to live by the Nine Excellences (virtue ethics that sit atop the Fundamental Contract), the Five Noble Precepts (a negentropy-based morality), the Code of Alphas (a practical eldraeic morality broken down by daressef), the Eupraxia (a pancritical empiric rationalist guide to correct reasoning and action), and Eternal Progress (“technepraxic”; a science- and knowledge-based morality with an Extropian flavor and emphasis on the virtue of progress).
  • Said Nine Excellences, the Imperial virtues, are unity (including authenticity and self-integrity), honor (including justice, truth, and clemency), duty (including liberality and tenacity), reason (including wisdom and craft), courage, harmony (including beauty, courtesy, refinement, and the appreciation of excellence), right action, liberty, and dignity (including pride, propriety and temperance).
  • You’re used to the idea that, while people are equal in rights and before the law, people are not necessarily equal in merit, responsibility or achievement; and you’re comfortable with ranking systems (such as the titles translated as Excellence, Exquisite, Perfect and Paragon) that work on, and advancement on, this basis. Success is admirable; self-improvement is mandatory.
  • Thus, if it wasn’t for “Defaulter”, “slaver”, “parasite”, “dullist” (someone who believes that being less than you can be is acceptable, essentially), “cacophile”, and “entropist” would be the five most insulting words in the Imperial lexicon.
  • You believe that knowledge is the most important thing in the universe – well, possibly second to self-integrity – and development of the mind perhaps the most important thing you can do. (Concentrating on physical development is considered rather déclassé – muscles for their own sake are not considered attractive in Imperial society.)
  • You also believe deep down that enough science can understand anything, and enough technology can achieve anything, and any evidence to the contrary someone might claim to exist merely means that you don’t have enough yet.
  • You probably own at least a few thousand books, and have read all of them. You think of anyone who doesn’t, or worse, hasn’t, as uncultured, sub-literate, and barely sophont.
  • You live up to the spirit of your obligations; one who feels obligated only to the letter is to be reviled.
  • You always seek to civilize and organize your surroundings.
  • Your expletives, such as they are, are entropic (and often excremental) rather than sexual. Hearing sexual expletives from outworlders confuses you momentarily – why are they swearing by something enjoyable?

At Home

  • Your house is fully climate-controlled, and probably has considerable automation – or even total automation – and robot servants/assistants to handle cleaning, laundry, and other domestic tasks. If you’re well-off, you probably also have some sophont aides in supervisory positions.
  • You have a private car, or rather flitter (i.e., flying vector-control vehicle) garaged there. It’s self-driving. You yourself probably can’t drive it on manual; you’ve never needed to, and it’s never occurred to you to try.
  • If it doesn’t have a wet bar and a trinet terminal, it’s a small flitter. (Big flitters are the ones that have bathrooms.)
  • Public transit (which mostly means maglev local trains and flowstone slidewalks) in most cities and habs is very good; once you use your flitter to get to a region, getting around within it is very easy indeed. It’s also remarkably luxurious.
  • If you’re a pedestrian, you would never cross in front of stopped cars/flitters – they never stop, for one thing. You cross under the road. Requiring traffic and pedestrians to intersect is poor urban planning.
  • You drink strong esklav (neither coffee nor chocolate, but not entirely dissimilar to either), teas, fruit juice, synthdrinks (“soft drinks” in our parlance, minus things-of-nature like fruit juice, etc., but they don’t think of alcoholic drinks as particularly “hard”), wine, beer, or spirits. “Animals drink water. Civilized people don’t.”
  • You eat at a table, sitting in chairs or reclining on couches. You don’t kill your food; in fact, it’s much more likely that your meat/fish came out of a carniculture vat than from an actual animal, except on special occasions or gourmet restaurants.
  • The biggest meal of the day is in the evening; technically, the sixth of a possible eight in the traditional cycle, although very few people eat all of them.
  • You never season your food before eating it. That’s insulting the chef.
  • There are a number of restaurant chains (Astroburger, Blue Brew, etc.) that you might think of as cheap food, except that nothing you touch, never mind eat, could possibly be described as ‘cheap’. It’s ‘express food’ (sit down to eat it), or ‘transit food’ (drive-ins and drive-throughs), or ‘working food’ (take it back to the office), or some other suitable circumlogism.
  • Just about anything that can’t crawl off the plate and complain about it is considered food by someone, and you’re probably cosmopolitan enough to try most of those things. Octopodes, cetaceans, canids, and other similarly prosophont animals (or, indeed, plants) are the exception here.
  • Pretty much every kind of foreign cuisine there is can be found somewhere in the Empire, and the better-known ones you can be pretty sure of finding everywhere.
  • A bathroom generally means a sunken bath, or a series of sunken baths, normally big enough for a few people; sometimes it means part of the public baths. A toilet, however, will normally be in a separate room.
  • A hotel room has a separate bedroom (or at least a partitioned alcove) and a private bathroom. If the bedroom is fully separated, it may also have a private dining room.
  • You’re used to an extremely wide variety of choices for anything you buy, and moreover, to be able to customize everything you buy to your individual requirements.

At Work

  • You are almost certainly self-employed, enmeshed in a network of contracts, bounty work, etc., which serve instead of Earth-style employer-employee relations. (Even in a restaurant, for example, the waitstaff are independent contractors – the restaurant pays them a retainer to be there, the customer then pays them individually to serve his table.) Even the “Big 26” interstellar starcorporations are relatively small corporate cores with a huge contractual network surrounding them.
  • Indeed, employment as such doesn’t generally exist in the Empire. Business and individuals generally contract for the performance of specific jobs, but the time-selling relations of “employment” gives away too much control – while it would not be illegal or even immoral to contract it, to most Imperials, it is “unbecoming to the dignity of a free man”.
  • You pretty much can take all the vacation each year you want; you’re used to only needing to work about a third of a week for most contracts, although you probably work more hours by choice. You expect to be able to take long (multi-year) sabbaticals on occasion, and most people do – at least to raise their children.
  • You’re intensely distrustful of “welfare” ideas, believing firmly that people should earn a living and not take handouts – mélith has some fairly harsh things to say on the topic of unbalanced exchanges and accepting (or giving) something for nothing. Besides, where would they get the money? It’s not like you can just magic it into existence from thin air.
  • That said, there is the Citizen’s Dividend, but that’s not money for nothing – that’s the dividend you collect on your citizen-share, which is to say, the profit the government makes on administering public goods, natural resources, and externalities being properly returned to its citizen-shareholders. Besides, everyone gets that, from the fresh-minted underemployed to the long-standing quintillionaire.
  • Any business, or individual for that matter, will accept a direct credit transfer. And in most shops, this happens automatically – just take what you want and walk out.

Entertainment and Media

  • Popular entertainment includes music (all forms can be considered popular, except the most gratuitously complicated forms of opera and metatonal), an extensive literary culture (in which SF is the Genre That Ate The Mainstream, better known as “realist fiction”), epic poetry, graphic novels, watchvids (i.e., non-interactive movies and television), InVids, slinkies, virtual-reality games, virtual-reality cosmoi, regular computer games, RPGs, board, card, and other games, mechanical toys, recreational dueling and non-combat challenges, haut cuisine, and participatory sports.
  • Elite entertainment is much the same. (If asked, an Imperial would point out sniffily that our distinction between high culture and low culture is a product of a class structure rooted in primate status bigotry – which is not a universal trait.)
  • You’re familiar with Filia Calanté, Laurië Arches, Tirial Sereda, Élalie Celestial, Llanie Celestial, Kalcé Eloünithais, Victoria Diarch, An Ending Not In Fire, “Clockwork Fires, Clockwork Passions”, Facets, “Ah, Yes, The People”, Senior Service, Princes of the Spire, On the Drift, Legends of the Before and Sword Words.
  • You can drink alcohol, smoke assorted plant products, and ingest assorted recreational pharmaceuticals to your heart’s content, provided that the effects of doing so don’t cause you to break any actual laws. There’s no actual age limit set on this, although what one’s parents and/or tort insurer might say is another matter.
  • The people who appear on the most popular talk shows are usually authors, artists, scientists and philosophers, with a smattering of entertainers; politicians appear only rarely, and strange and obnoxious individuals are politely invited to do so somewhere else (outside the nearest airlock, for example).
  • You’re aware that the Imperial Broadcasting Corporation and its news service are only objective in the sense of being “objectively pro-Imperial”, and don’t really attempt to claim otherwise. But you still get most of your news from them anyway.
  • Foreign media are neither dubbed nor subtitled; they generally come with downloadable language and cultural-knowledge sets which you can insert into your brain for proper enjoyment of the film, etc.
  • Journalists are expected to keep their collective noses out of people’s private lives. If they actually find something illegal or dishonorable, that’s one thing, but privacy laws and media rep-nets are strict.
  • You probably know the rules of whatever sport you happen to be interested in yourself, but it’s not likely that you share it with everyone, or even most people, you know. In any case, sports are something you play, not something you watch. Also, any serious sport is played with the mind, not just the body – martial arts and complex physical games are the favored examples, here.
  • You may well spend several afternoons a week at the local esklav-shop, and/or several evenings a week at the local wine-shop, often playing games with friends while you’re there. The Empire may not have the best café culture in the galaxy, but it’s gone a long way to making it a lifestyle.

Everyone Knows That

  • A million is 12^6 and a billion is 12^12. Some die-hards still hang onto 16^8 and 16^16 from the Online Emperors’ Great Hexadecimal Reform, but there aren’t many of those.
  • Likewise, the decimal point is a duodecimal point.
  • If you’re not a scientist, things are measured in the traditional Imperial system (sic), based on a number of factors intended for maximal convenience. If you are a scientist, you use the same base units, but prefix them with powers of twelve.
  • Dates are written year-month-day, where month is the month-name, in Imperial Standard Time, and as a single count of pulses, kilopulses, megapulses, etc. in weavetime – with some additional fields for interstellar clock drift and relativistic frame correction. You use the former for commercial and the latter for scientific/engineering purposes. And every world has its own calendar to allow for its own orbital cycles – these vary widely, especially on worlds that are tide-locked, or moons. There are no specific dates carved in the collective memory except for the national (Great Festival of the Empire, Armament Day, etc.), local, and seasonal holidays – which are often pinned to different calendars, anyway.

In Crisis

  • You’re almost certainly healthy and unused to being sick; and have had regular training-downloads in first aid and other emergency skillsets. You will assume that everyone around you will also react appropriately in case of accidents.
  • You can count on excellent medical treatment (you have health insurance, which is an insignificantly small expense even for the underemployed). You know you’re not going to die from disease or any but the most severe injury – and only that if you neglect to keep your mind-state backups up to date and your incarnation insurance paid for.
  • You expect your doctor to treat you like any other hired professional; which is to say, you propose, and they dispose. Doctors are expected to respect your choices, and while they may advise, they may not presume to dictate your lifestyle.
  • You probably have a situational subpersonality to manage any really severe disasters that occur – but you never expect to use it.
  • You have the right to bear arms, and you exercise it – usually a pistol-class (it’s actually a flechette-firing mass driver, in the modern era) gun and a short blade. (You learned the arts of sword, gun, and fist as part of your basic education.) You’re suspicious of people who don’t – don’t they have any sense of civic duty?
  • You are appalled by the thought of violence. How barbaric! Nonetheless, you’re rather good at it, just in case some turns up unexpectedly. You can see no contradiction whatsoever in this.

Love, Sex, Marriage

  • Marriage isn’t a state matter (and that it is elsewhere confuses you); it’s privately contracted between the spouses. You expect marriages to be for love, not arranged (how horrible – only one step from chattel slavery!), although matchmaking is acceptable. Marriages are actually performed by the couple themselves, but there’s often an appropriate religious attendance, and while the ceremony itself is usually quite short, the attending celebrations often last most of a day.
  • Marriage is usually for couples, but can be contracted between any arbitrary number of people (technically, legal persons, but this is not an option that is often exercised) of any sex, race, species, clade, etc. Society doesn’t raise many eyebrows at this unless it gets incredibly outré, and even then, the eyebrow-raising stays confined to “That’s odd”, not “That’s evil and should be banned!”
  • You would never think of rank, wealth, or other forms of status as a barrier to love or marriage. If someone suggested to you that it might be, you might point out that if the Emperor (Leyn I, 1932-2292) can marry a rankless member of the underemployed class, then it’s no problem for anyone else, either. And she made a good Empress, too.
  • If someone (Senator, businessman… anyone really) has been cheating on his/her spouse, and assuming they survived the breach-of-contract penalties, they’re a Defaulter. And almost certainly unable to continue in any sort of professional capacity, paying cash for everything, and with a long road to walk to rehabilitate themselves, since if a soph’ll break his word to his wife, of all people, why in Tárvalén’s name would anyone else take his oath-contract?
  • Promiscuity is also frowned upon – while the unmarried may engage in relationships of varying degrees of formality (including the equivalent of friends-with-benefits) with society’s blessing, indulging in one-night stands will attract social opprobrium to either sex.
  • If a man/woman/herm has sex with another man/woman/herm, it’s nothing particularly notable.
  • If you’re a woman, whether you can go to the beach (or walk down the street, etc.) topless (your species and secondary sexual characteristics may vary) pretty much depends on where you are in the Empire and what the local culture’s like – not as a matter of law, but in terms of the effect it’ll have on your courtesy rep-net score. In Telesté, forget it. In Eädrin, certainly. Down on the Cyrsan Islands, it’s unusual not to. (The public baths are generally ambisexual everywhere, though.)
  • You don’t have a taboo against nudity in the media – or sex education, for that matter – but you do insist that it be presented in good taste. (Outworld purveyors of, say, pornography can more or less understand being denounced by the Empire’s Moral Guardians on the grounds that their product is appallingly crass, but still can’t quite wrap their minds around being denounced by said Moral Guardians on the grounds that the participants don’t look like they’re having enough fun. And yes, how to have a good time is also covered in their sex education materials – indeed, with their low birth rate and low risk of accidental pregnancy and STDs thanks to bioengineering, in the modern day, it’s most of them.)
  • You were probably not born, as such; something within epsilon of 100% of your fellow born-embodied Imperials were gestated in vitro, these days. You probably find the notion of an in vivo pregnancy archaic and rather disturbing. Both your parents were probably present at your decanting, however.
  • Thus, you think that abortions are a relic of the barbarous past before contraception and in vitro reproduction, and the whole concept really makes you quite queasy.


  • Belief in the eikones is somewhat redundant these days, since they now physically exist. It would be like believing in your neighbor, or gravity. It is very likely that you believe in their principles, however, and whether or not you do, they believe in you.
  • There is an established church, but unlike most state religions it’s run by the state, not the other way around (informally known as “Their Divine Majesties’ Embassy to Heaven“). It doesn’t have sovereign privilege, though, or any but an advisory role in government.
  • You have no problem with other religions existing around the place, as long as they’re orderly and respect the civilities. Except for some of those exclusive monotheisms, whose insistence on monopoly and on insulting everyone else is just plain annoying.
  • If you died tonight… well, first, you’d be surprised and annoyed, because you weren’t expecting to do that for a long time, if ever. Then they’d come yank your backup out of your head and have you walking around in a new body by morning.
  • If you died intentionally tonight, though, they’d come yank your backup out of your head and then upload you to the afterlife, wherein – after hanging around for a while as an ancestral subroutine – you are swirled and mixed and become part of the great Transcendent overmind.


  • You’re likely to have good social skills of the “civilized” variety.
  • To you, courtesy is mandatory – even to your most despised enemies – and hospitality is expected as a matter of course.
  • Once you’re introduced to someone, you continue to call them by their formal name or title until they invite you to switch to the informal form – whatever your relative circumstances.
  • You find dirt, messiness, litter and so forth distasteful, but pitch in automatically to clean them up, and feel baffled resentment towards those who don’t do their part. Everything around you is kept well-maintained, gleaming, polished, and shiny-bright.
  • You don’t understand self-deprecation and don’t like humility – to you, it smells like fraud, or at least strikes a very false note. You expect people to be proud of their accomplishments and not afraid to talk them up as much as they deserve.
  • You appreciate privacy in your own home and office, but are used to being on the record in public, to strangers knowing your name and something about you, and you see constant surveillance/sousveillance as a valuable social tool.
  • You think most problems could be solved if only people would sit down and agree to do things rationally, and refrain from infringing upon each other’s perquisites.
  • Race isn’t about skin color, although as a technical term it is about subsets of species in a phenotypic sense. And cladization through biotechnology is much more significant anyway. But socially…
  • …what’s much more important is whether you’re an Imperial citizen-shareholder, ‘culturally Imperial’ (a best-fit translation for their term which glosses “observer of the Civilities”), an outworlder, or a barbarian. (The difference between the last two is essentially the difference between “strange and unfamiliar culture” and “strange and unfamiliar culture that’s objectionable enough to need a good kicking”.)
  • You have no knowledge of the streets or underworld – the Empire has no “bad neighborhoods” and very little crime. Its meanest streets barely qualify as curmudgeonly. (Unless you’re one of those free traders bringing the wonders of free trade to assorted prohibitionist civilizations, of course.)
  • Thus, there’s nowhere in the city you’d want to avoid at night (or at any other time, for that matter).
  • You expect, as a matter of course, that communications, utilities, and other infrastructure will “just work”. If they don’t work – if a power cut lasts longer than a flicker, for example – it means either a natural disaster, or something that will result in a storm of lawsuits. Replacing equipment is routine.
  • The road-grid, railways, skyways, etc., are well-managed, largely automated, and run like clockwork. Delays and traffic jams are unusual, and consequently, you tend to treat them as serious problems, or indicators of serious problems.
  • You aren’t a farmer; in fact, only a few people supplying the luxury food market are. Most food comes from vertical farms or skyfarms, often hydroponic, or carniculture vats.
  • You aren’t concerned about what family someone comes from these days, unless their entire lineage (not just their House) is prominent among the Names and Numbers.
  • School doesn’t exist as an institution; you get your primary education at home, from your parents, other family members and friends, tutors and remote courses, and autodidactically.
  • University education doesn’t have a fixed length – it depends entirely on what you choose to study, as does the nature of your eventual qualification, and you will return to it many times over the course of your life. It’s not free, but first time around, commercial loans or securities against future income are easy to float and not too costly.
  • You probably speak two languages yourself, your local language and the Eldraeic interlingua. You’d respect someone who speaks more languages (without electronic translation, which is ubiquitous), but you very likely don’t speak them well enough to communicate with a monolingual offworlder.
  • You went over the generalities of Imperial and local-region history, and a smattering of galactic history, in your primary education; not much else, unless something caught your interest.
  • Changing your name isn’t particularly difficult, but your old one stays on file as an alias – and most family names and some personal names are trademarks that can’t be used without permission of their owners.
  • The normal thing, when a couple dies permanently, is for their estate to be divided roughly equally among their children, usually by specific prearrangement, except for any entailed properties – although people permadie so rarely that it never seems all that “normal”.
  • If a woman is plumper than the average – well, that’s between your personal taste and her ability to carry it off, now isn’t it? (The Empire esteems beauty, but does so according to hundreds of thousands of idiosyncratic personal visions.) If you were to generalize, you’d concede that it helps to be tall, pale, distinctive, and terrifyingly competent, but it’s not like there aren’t a lot of awfully beautiful and/or attractive people out there who have gone the other way on at least the first two of those.

Space and Time

  • If you have an appointment, you’ll be sure to turn up a couple of minutes late. While you’ll apologize if you’re more than five minutes late, being early (or on time for that matter) is worse.
  • If you have two appointments – or two events you want to go to – scheduled simultaneously, you don’t hesitate to fork yourself and attend both.
  • It’s acceptable to simply show up at someone’s place – but your interaction there may be limited to handing over your visiting card, because it’s also acceptable for them not to see you if they’re busy. Most visits – and anything involving a meal – are arranged by invitation.
  • When you do have a guest, you will offer them a drink and a light snack immediately.
  • If you invite people over for a meal, it’s understood that you’re providing the food; if they do bring something, it’s understood that you will open it and eat or drink it as part of that occasion, not save it for later.
  • If you invite people out for a meal, the one doing the inviting always pays the bill.
  • If you have a business appointment or interview with someone, you expect to have that person to yourself, but the business may take as long as needed in the context. A prolonged business meeting is often a social occasion, too.
  • When you negotiate, you are polite, of course, but it’s only good business to negotiate sharply. Some foreigners pay excessive attention to status (“Even the Imperial Couple enjoy a sharp deal!“), or don’t say what they mean, and that’s exasperating.
  • You haggle in markets and “market-style” shops. You don’t haggle in other shops. This applies whatever the products are that are being sold.
  • You think it’s rude to touch people you’re not intimate with, except to the small degree allowed in meeting rituals. Even then, it’s a fingertip-brush, not a hand-clasp; to shake hands (as a test of strength) would be simply rude. You avoid crowds as a matter of unconscious habit.
  • If you’re talking to someone, you get uncomfortable if they approach closer than about three feet; much the same applies to when you sit down next to someone.

The State

  • You firmly believe that the Empire doesn’t have politics, and would be very annoyed if it ever started having politics. The job of the government is to keep the absolutely necessary machinery running so that the rest of you can get on with your own lives and otherwise stay out of everyone’s way, and you don’t want to participate in it, thank you so much. That’s their job, and you send off your check every Tax Day so that you don’t have to do it yourself.
  • Socialism? What’s that? Oh, well, that’s no different from any other political philosophy – it’s an elaborate justification for why theft, forced labor, and oppression are justified this time. (And anyone who defends it or any other political philosophy is at best deluded, at worst insane, or possibly an evil tyrant wannabe.)
  • Democracy? Codswallop. The only distinction between democracy and autocracy, oligarchy, or whatever, is whether someone’s been clever, bold, and self-aware enough to grab a monopoly on the slaving-bastard trade or if they’re all trying to do it to each other. Look, old chap, if somewhere has politics at all, it’s already undergone a moral collapse and the details are only of interest to academicians and whatever poor bloody kerc-rakhel are stuck living with them.
  • You think any (income) tax level much above 10% is scandalously high. The constitutional maximum (20%) would be totally outrageous, and 3%-4% is much more reasonable these days. Deliberate progressive taxation, asset taxes, sales taxes, gift taxes, estate taxes, excises and any other such things are no more than legalized robbery.
  • You take a strong court system for granted, even though you’ll almost certainly never use it. You know that if you went into business and had a problem with a customer, supplier, or partner, you could take them to court; although you’d expect to settle the problem through the mediary system first.
  • You know, however, that frivolous lawsuits will not only not be rewarded, but will be actively punished by the courts – which includes the assumption of the courts that anything the manual warned you about which you subsequently did is entirely your fault for not paying attention.
  • You know, there really aren’t that many lawyers. (The legal system has to suffer under the precedent-enshrined notion that so long as you maintain that ignorance of the law is no excuse, you have to actually have laws that a regular citizen-shareholder can learn, discover and comprehend.)
  • You seriously expect to be able to transact business or deal with the government without paying bribes, and for anyone caught requesting a bribe to be severely punished. (If you do business abroad, you are at least aware of the semiformal legal hypocrisy by which the law takes no interest in any bribing of foreigners you might do; their dishonesty is none of our business, now is it?)
  • It not only seems natural to you that businesses should be privately run, it seems frankly immoral and possibly perverted that they shouldn’t be. (The only tiny exceptions to that are the natural monopolies, and even then only to the least extent possible – sure, the government can run the power grid because you can’t run multiple companies wires’ to every building, but only the grid, not the generators, for example.)
  • The police aren’t armed any more heavily than anyone else (which is to say, they’re armed with pistol-class guns); and they’re actually safer to be around for criminals than the average citizen, because they’re obliged to try to arrest them.
  • However, on the – very rare – occasions that something like a riot or a hostage situation does turn up, the police will happily wave the nearest military force in to clean up the mess and arrest anyone unlucky enough to survive – afterwards, the “unfortunate incident” will be quietly ignored by all.
  • You find it baffling that anyone would have a problem with executing convicted violent criminals; and will point to the extremely transparent and thorough judicial system as evidence that you don’t run any significant risk of executing an innocent by mistake. The notion that it might be per se wrong is not one you’ve considered anyone might seriously believe.
  • You expect the Empire’s foreign policy to be run largely for its own benefit – although, as you will point out, this ought also to be for other people’s benefit, too! (Surely even foreign idiots understand about free trade and cooperation being mutually beneficial.) But anyway – they can form their own governments to look after them, can’t they?
  • You expect the military to fight wars, not get involved in politics (which you don’t have, anyway). You probably know the name of the First Lord of the Admiralty (who is not a civilian), but may not know those of any of the other senior officers.
  • …at least, you don’t expect the military to get involved in Imperial politics. But you know what happens in the Expansion Regions sometimes, and, well, even if you disapprove, you know what the Expansion Regions can be like.
  • There is no military conscription in the Empire – why, that’s slavery! Anyway, you’d volunteer, if you were needed, and any country that can’t count on its citizens to do that doesn’t deserve to survive.
  • Your country has never been conquered by a foreign nation.

Contributions to galactic civilization

  • You’re joking, right? Everyone knows that the Empire invented civilization.
  • Despite the Empire being one of the founding members of the Conclave of Galactic Polities, you’re at least partially aware of the cynical compromise that it did so largely to forestall it turning into anything resembling a galactic government – and you don’t really consider it relevant or useful. (The latter mostly because the useful things it does do are all external infrastructure, which you neither see nor, for the most part, use directly, even though you’d miss it if it went away.)
  • You don’t really need to learn foreign languages except for fun, the Empire having contributed its interlingua (Eldraeic) to the Associated Worlds for general use – or rather, having contributed a worn-down, simplified pidgin version (Trade) that many translators work to/from. This actually annoys you immensely – if people aren’t prepared to learn – or encode – the language properly, they should find something else to speak, not invent some half-assed barbarous jargon with all the subtleties broken off.

One thought on “How to tell if you’re Imperial…

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