O, What a Tangled Web

There are those who accuse us of being shamelessly manipulative. Of always subtly and secretly weaving our webs of contract and obligation, favor and xicé, ideas and influence to make the world come out just exactly the way we want it.

To these people I say: you are absolutely correct, of course. How else would anything get done in a mature and civilized society? A few words here, a quiet whisper there, which together with some mutually advantageous deals done yonder move the world towards betterment – this is surely the very height of civilization.

At its best, the Great Game turns what might otherwise breed conflict and resentment into a series of elegant positive-sum intrigues which all can be proud of their association with, and the architects of whom may be admired for the accomplishments of their cunning, not loathed for their violations of the Contract. At its worst, it is still not the use of force.

There are those, too, who claim that we apply our manipulatory arts to every other race in the known galaxy, subjecting them to our intrigues will they, nil they. This claim, in its former part, is accurate. We have yet to meet any part of the galaxy – including our own – that does not brook some improvement.

As for the latter? It is true that we offer access to tools, ideas, and contracts without troubling ourselves overmuch whether the recipient would have sought them out on their own, but nonetheless, we offer. We do not compel. It is true that to decline may not be to the recipients’ ultimate advantage, but opportunity cost is implicit in time’s arrow, not in the opportunities to which it is attached.

To complain that we are harming them by offering them greater possibility is assuredly mere squallery even by the lax standards of the Periphery.

(And it’s even less fun being a pronoid conspiracy theorist.)

Apologia pro Imperium Meum, published anonymously