Overheard in the Ministry of State and Outlands:
“So, what does ‘serious leader’ mean over there?”
“‘Willing to kill people he doesn’t like, ergo respectable. Or at least safer to respect in public.'”
“Ah. The usual, then.”
Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Played straight at both ends.
The greater galaxy, by and large, is a cynical place. It may not be a Crapsack World – hell, it doesn’t even come close to a Crapsack World – but it is a realistic universe – which is to say, entirely indifferent to the sophonts within it, even when they are adequately supplied with unenlightened self-interest, nihilism, or out-and-out bastardry, and guided by blind chance and, of course, the endless deathward drag of entropy.
The Empire, by contrast, is a exceptionally shiny and idealistic Utopia of wealth, freedom, the complete absence of death, disease, poverty, crime, war, or anything else that might disturb the serenity of the average citizen-shareholder; a place where everyone can trust and be trusted, people always care, and happy endings always happen for good people. And they’re working quite hard on knocking off universal entropy. (Of course, that’s so because they work very, very hard to make it so – including things like building into their collective consciousness an entire machine-god to replace blind chance with a superior organizational principle, one more prone to fortunate coincidences, happy meetings and Destined True Love.)
Essentially, back in the day, the dozen or so Founders disapproved really rather strongly of the default state of things, and essentially declared war (metaphorically speaking – the paradoxes involved in warring your way to utopia is something else they’re quite aware of, however hilarious punching grimdark in the face with a spacemagic fist of doom can be on occasion) on cynicism, nihilism, and other forms of entropism in the name of holding ideals hard enough that they become real. Because if the universe believes otherwise, the universe is wrong, and dammit, we can fix that. Their modern tradition-continuing clade-heirs, who make up a supermajority just about everywhere, are very aware that utopia doesn’t come easily, and ensure that things stay the way they’re supposed to work – the way they would work in a properly constructed universe – at least inside the borders – even if that means occasionally acting cynically outside them.
The long term plan, of course, is to ram their paradigm down the throat of the entire universe… but since that’s hard to do and Utopia, they would argue, by definition can’t Justify The Means, it has to be a very long term plan.
(Not that they’re the only enclave of idealism. Of course, ideals are to a certain degree a matter of personal taste – the founders of the Equality Concord were profoundly idealistic, and they did create a kind of utopia… if you ignore the effective elimination of free will.)
Genocide Dilemma: The remarkably cynical view of the Conclave of Galactic Polities on this particular issue is that, yes, genocide is wrong and very, very illegal. On the other hand, some species, polities, religions, or other groups are just so determinedly xenocidal that so long as they exist, they’re going to be starting wars and making someone miserable. On the gripping hand, if someone insists on attacking you, you’re allowed to defend yourself even if they keep attacking you until you’ve self-defensed them all to death, which by and large solves the problem to the satisfaction of what has always, so far, been a working majority of the Accord.