No Hope in the Hegemony

“I don’t know why I’ve been connected to you, but could you kindly redirect me to Kejor Nreslin?”

“He’s not available. He’s been – reallocated.”

“Then let me talk to whoever has replaced him.”

“Dammit. That’s me. But I can’t talk to you.”


“I can’t talk to you. The Planner doesn’t value what you were working on with Kejor, and the damn fool believed that would change if he finished the deal right up until he lost enough karma to be reallocated. Now I’m bleeding karma from this conversation, and my life-debt’s not secure enough to cover it. So goodbye.”

“Wait! Reallocated where? Can you -”

“Live transplant donation. Goodbye, sir!

“You -”

<line cleared by destination>

– recorded at the Hegemony Karmic Virtue Monitoring Center, Spirath V


While they haven’t yet taken much of a part on stage, this little by-request piece illustrates some of the joy that is the Hope Hegemony.

Their governance is an outgrowth of what you might call some of the perversions of scarcity. Spirath V itself was a harsh world, scarce in even basic resources, to which their society adapted through, shall we say, even harsher measures. Even if you might consider that forgivable under the circumstances (even though they are a terrible way to address the problem), it’s certainly somewhat less forgivable now that they’re no longer limited to the resources of said planet.

These measures come in two chief parts:

First, the life-debt, which is similar to the life-debt you may acquire on a primitive habitat – except in the Hegemony, you get a fairly large one when you’re born, for the liabilities against those scarce resources which you’re imposing on the Hegemony by existing, like the need to raise and educate and feed you, and which only continues to climb due to such inconsiderate things you might do like “become ill” (or even worse, “infect others”), “breathe the Hegemony’s oxygen”, and “exude waste products into the Hegemonic biosphere”. Until that life-debt is not only paid down but paid off and kept paid off, the Hegemony owns your ass in a very real and legally-binding way. You must obey and you don’t get to (legally) emigrate.

What it does with said owned ass is determined by the second part of the measures, the karma system, in which work on projects beneficial to the Hegemony and success in them gains you karma, as do things the Hegemony deems to be of social benefit, and just about everything else loses it. Your current karma determines the work options you must choose from allocation to. Which would only be typically totalitarian, except that at the bottom end, your options start becoming things like “recreational services provider” (of the kind you really don’t want to ask about), “toxic waste cleanup”, “life-fire exercise target drone”, “disassembled for spare parts”, or “the protein vats”.

Even Hegemony patriots – and they exist, ’cause there are plenty of people who have firmly convinced themselves that all this is necessary to their survival and prosperity, such as it is, and if a few [which it isn’t] of the underclasses [which it is by no means limited to] end up recycled as Soylent Green, that’s just the way it has to be – are renowned throughout the Worlds as being both very hard-working and utterly terrified.


6 thoughts on “No Hope in the Hegemony

  1. Yipe. Now that’s the kind of dystopia I can’t even imagine living in…

    I can get my head around what enforced equality at memepoint might look like. I can kinda grok what ultra-regimentation a la 1984 might be like. But that? Ouch.

    I’m guessing they’re nice enough to their neighbors that nobody can quite muster up the political will to go in and… alter things? Or that doing so would be infringing on sovereignty in ways that would open up all kinds of doors that saner people would prefer stayed firmly sealed?

    • Mostly, the problems with dealing with these various places tend to be twofold:

      First, that most polities perceive a definite interest in not allowing the precedent that you can go in and knock over polities that you happen to find objectionable, just in case it gets applied to them down the line. (Just like here, really – I mean, it’s not like there aren’t plenty of gratuitously nasty regimes on Earth that we-for-whatever-values-of-we wouldn’t be perfectly justified in knocking over on humanitarian grounds, and yet no-one does that without finding or manufacturing a really convincing casus belli, for essentially this reason.) And even those polities which really could give a couple of shits for galactic opinion may not want to take that to the extent of hazarding a general war over a peripheral interest.

      And second, that knocking them over is the easy part. Trouble is with regime change, though, is that then you own the resulting mess until it’s turned back into something at least approximately resembling civilization, and probably thereafter. Welcome to Space Afghaniraq. Have fun down in the tarpit!

      (While there are people willing to do this sort of thing, at least at first, the Empire’s in general and the Lords of Admiralty in particular’s reaction to that sort of prospect is along lines best summed up as: )

      • That’s pretty much what I figured – that’s what I was hinting at with “doors saner people would prefer remained firmly sealed”.

        Well, and to say nothing of the quagmire. (Which, as a veteran of the US Military, I’m more familiar with than I’d like to be.)

        But it has happened before – though I suppose that was “let’s not tell the Vonnies that they’re about to kick over a long-standing anthill”, more than it was “interfere for the Greater Good”. Not that there are any parallels in /that/, not at all 🙂

        More directly, that’s what I really like about the world you’ve built here: no funky handwaving of such things, more just “whack ideas into the established framework and see what consequences tumble out”, which has the advantage of tremendous verisimilitude and richness.

  2. The thing that terrifies me most about this is that it sounds so much like the sort of dark road that an “ambiguous utopia” I’ve been working on for my own writing project could have taken, for want of a nail. I’m not sure whether that’s a good sign for me or not…

    • Well, if there is a theme to most of the dystopias and other assorted badnesses I employ (not just the blights!), it’s “We meant it for the best,” and the manner in which good intentions don’t guarantee good results. Seems to me that it’s likely to be one of the most common failure modes of utopias, inasmuch as we’re so good at fooling ourselves on that point, and where (ObTrope) Utopia Justifies The Means is concerned.

      (The Imperials’ insistence on their fundamental consensuality ethic has at least as much to do with this as it does with unenlightened self-interest or actual malice, maybe even more.)

      • This leads me to wonder what some of the Imperial “also-rans” might look like — those societies that started on the same consent-, obligation-, and purpose-driven model as the Empire, but either failed to get the right proportions or (more tragically still) were cut short by a failure cascade from some apparently tiny failure to plan sufficiently far ahead despite getting the ethical side of things right.

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