Bonfire of the “Elites”

In today’s somewhat morose worldbuilding thoughts inspired by real-world events (in this case, the Harvey Weinstein affair, along with an endless parade of abuse-of-power stories courtesy of Sheriff Joe, the Chicago City Council, the Arizona Dept. of Corrections, etc., etc.), one really does have to wonder what the judicial death toll is among the powerful so-called “elites” when the Empire annexes or protectoratizes somewhere less, um, serious about notions like the rule of law, the equal protection of same, and actually meaning what it says about Liberty and Justice for All.

“All debts must be paid.”
– official motto of the Curia

“I approve this message.”
– Tywin Lannister

 

libertyandjustice

This image inserted to lighten an otherwise serious post.

 

After all:

  • The Ministry of Harmonious Serenity doesn’t care whether you want to press charges or not – it might, assuming you are mentally competent, concede that you have a right to waive weregeld and reparation owed to you, but you can’t forgive a crime against the Contract and the Charter, since you don’t have standing to do so;
  • You can’t bullshit an alethiometer, and its measure of truth has nothing whatsoever to do with your “credibility”, relative or otherwise;
  • The cyberjudicial AI may Know Who You Are, but to its intellect vast and cool and unsympathetic and defined by the predicates of the law, Who You Are means exactly nothing;
  • (You can’t bribe it, either – and even if you could figure out a way to, it couldn’t accept it since its entire decision process is entered into the publically-auditable court record.)
  • Nor does it give freebies based on your career prospects, talents, pretty face, or supposed one-offness of your special crime – or, indeed, any other circumstances. You can plead duress or justification if those apply, which will be taken into account, but the algorithm was written with the Equal Protection and Application of the Law in mind, and Thus Hath No Fucks To Give about anything that doesn’t bear directly upon the events in question.
  • And there is no pardon power to be wielded on your behalf, since – for the same reasons as the victim cannot forgive a crime – it can’t exist; holding office by virtue of a Mandate descending from the Contract and the Charter, even the Imperial Couple and the unanimous Senate in all their majesty and dignity lack standing to pardon crimes against them.

Basically, should you call down upon yourself the attention of the mills of justice, they grind exceedingly fine, and they aren’t terribly slow about it, either.

“What’s the difference between God and the Curia?”
“God forgives.”
– overheard in an Encystment Facility

This is, for those counting non-Utopian features, accounted horrific by everyone who is very keen on Justice in the abstract, but are substantially less so when the prospect of their own actions being judged according to an objective standard of such might actually be realized.

(The Empire finds this position about as eye-rollingly contemptible as that of all the people who are very keen on Liberty in the abstract, as long as no-one actually uses it for anything they disapprove of or don’t understand.)


In terms of more serious dark sides, however, there is one, and it’s called misprision of felony.

For those not familiar with the term in its Earth context, it was a common-law offence making it a crime to fail to report knowledge of a felony to the appropriate authorities; exceptions being made for close family members of the felon and where the disclosure would tend to incriminate the reporter of that offense or another. It’s also currently been mostly dropped except for people who have a special duty to report a crime.

The Imperial version is essentially the same, but without the exceptions – because so far as it is concerned, upholding the law is a duty that comes along with being a citizen-shareholder, and mere sentiment does not foreclose that.

Now, by and large, the Empire has – in its own territories – much, much less of a problem with people coming forward about these things, because the justice system has the reputation that it has for delivering on its promises. (And also because the general public doesn’t have its head wedged firmly up its ass, culture-wise.)

But where and when that doesn’t happen –

Yes, it is possible (and it has happened) for the victim of a crime to be charged with misprision of felony for not reporting it. Because as stated above, you don’t have standing to forgive crimes against the Contract and the Charter, and by allowing the perpetrator to escape justice – and thus be free to prey on your fellow citizen-shareholders – you’re violating the Responsibility of Common Defense.

This stringency is, of course, horrible.

It’s just also… just.

The just heart is always cold.
– traditional, source unknown

Trope-a-Day: Color-Coded Patrician

Color-Coded Patrician: Played straight with the uniform colors for each of the Ministries, the Senate, and the Curia, along with all of the runér; of course, there are no sumptuary laws rendering those colors off-limits for anyone else, but you can usually tell on any formal occasion by looking for people wearing the right kind of formal dress, then divide them up by the colors.

Trope-a-Day: Black and White Morality

Black and White Morality: Depends on the angle you look at it, really.  Outside observers would argue that the Imperials, for example, must practice a black and white morality; after all, they have an objective ethics, or so they claim, and a mathematical calculus of ethics by which to measure everything…

But then, that’s an objective ethics, which is just the core of morality.  They do have several different moral systems, albeit that a very definite majority of them hew fairly close to the knowledge-and-beauty-good, entropy-bad clade that defines the moral mainstream.  More importantly, they are entirely capable of understanding the degrees of nuance in the universe that mean that (a) just because someone is mistaken does not mean that they are evil – and that can potentially be anyone with the possible exception of the Ephors of the Curia, who were designed as self-improving incarnations of Incorruptible Pure Pureness – and (b) there is not just good and evil, there is better and worse.  Reality, as you might have gathered from Morality Kitchen Sink, is much more “White and Pale Gray and Mid-Gray and occasionally Dark Gray” versus “Black and Dark Gray and Mid-Gray and occasionally Pale Gray” than it is White vs. Black.

See also: Blue and Orange Morality, Morality Kitchen Sink.

What’s Mine Is Me

“The Curia has heard the plaintiffs’ argument that they merely engaged in ‘creative nonviolence’, and that therefore the use of force against them was unjustified.”

“The Curia unequivocally rejects this argument.  The term itself betrays a profound misunderstanding of the Right of Defense as it exists in the Fundamental Contract.  As the philosopher Arlannath stated seventy years before the founding of the Empire in his exegesis of the Right of Defense, ‘A sword is not an argument’.  To grant further context to this, we may cite sources as ancient as Saravoné’s Code in defense of the legal principle that el daráv valté eloé có-sa dal [‘a sophont is equivalent to all that he possesses’].”

“Thus we restate that the Right of Defense is not a protection against mere violence or physical compulsion, but against coercion of the will through whatever means applied, including indirect actions applied through other aspects of the self, for the preservation of the liberties of the individual.”

“As such, we affirm that situations where citizen-shareholders of the Empire, including coadunate citizens, or other parties adherent to the Fundamental Contract or equivalent civilities, are deprived of the use, occupation, or inherently-arising value of their own property, including personal freedom of action within private property or publicly administered commons, or subjected to trespass, properly constitute a violation of the liberties of the individual as stated in Imperial law.  Such deprivation is, in practical effect, illegitimate coercion of the will as much as overtly violent acts directed against the individual citizen-shareholder.”

“We further affirm that such activities clearly fall within the ambit of the Right of Defense, and that therefore citizen-shareholders of the Empire possess an unalienable right to respond to them with force, up to and including deadly force.”

“The Curia finds for the DEFENDANTS, who are VINDICATED upon all counts.  The plaintiffs’ charges are DISMISSED and their requests for compensatory and punitive damages are DENIED.”

– Children of Necessity v. Ultimate Argument Risk Control, ICC and Corona Ergetics, ICC, Curia

By Their Own Words

“Order, Progress, Liberty”

– official, Charter-enshrined motto of the Empire

“Secure against Eternity.”

– corporate motto, Crystal Flame, ICC

“All debts must be paid.”

– official motto of the Curia

“Because enough… is never enough.”

– corporate motto, Decadence, ICC

“Through reason alone, we ascend.”

– motto of the Eupraxic Collegium

“Every coin Our given word.”

– carved above the main doors of the Exchequer

“Knowledge is its own justification.”

– official motto of the Fellowship of Natural Philosophy

“We do what we can, because we must.”

– very unofficial motto of the Fellowship of Natural Philosophy

“Between the Flame and the Fire.”

– official motto of the Imperial Military Service

“Civilization has enemies; we kill the bastards.”

– barrack-room paraphrase of the motto of the Imperial Military Service

“Until no man dares command another.”

– motto of the Sanguinary Enforcers of the Liberty Ethic

“The truth that sears away the Darkness.”

– corporate motto, Telememe, ICC news division

“When all else fails, we stand ready.”

– corporate motto, Ultimate Argument Risk Control, ICC

“[redacted for reasons of state security]”

– motto of Imperial State Security, Fifth Directorate

Trope-a-Day: Incorruptible Pure Pureness

Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Not overwhelmingly more than any other reality (although the emphasis Imperial-style moral teachings put on self-integrity, importance of probably helps make people substantially more resistant to temptation).  And, of course, remember Blue and Orange Morality, which does, ahem, offer a somewhat different slant on the qualifications for what exactly the right thing, and indeed, the greater good are.

(This remains true even into the Transcendent era; the protections implicit in the collective consciousness ensure mutual loyalty and benevolence between its members; not necessarily towards the rest of the universe.)

Played straight with certain special types of minds: the Ephors of the Curia, for example, are essentially artificial intelligences constructed out of the law to judge the law, and are utterly, 100% loyal to the Fundamental Contract, the Imperial Charter, statute law, and precedent, in that order.  They can’t be corrupted, bribed, influenced, or swayed by emotional appeals.  The concept of higher motivations than The Law simply doesn’t exist in their mental universe.

The other example that leaps to mind is the use, in some professions, of specially-designed gnostic overlays – mental add-ons which supplement personality rather than replace it, and in these cases, specifically, plug-in values.  The constabular overlay is used by on-duty members of the Watch Constabulary, and those deputized and self-deputized, and includes those values deemed necessary for those members of society paid to and permitted to use necessary force, including strict adherence to the law, respect for the rights of their fellow citizens, incorruptibility, and so forth.

Another interesting one is the objectivity overlay, widely used among some journalists who are writing not for the editorial pages.  Plug this one into your head, and it suppresses personal opinions, interests, and assorted other emotional and subjective considerations, while leaving you still competent to do your job.  It guarantees your ability to write unbiased, fact-based stories, however appalled by yourself you might be when you take the overlay off.