Worldbuilding: Immigration and Religiosity

A thought or two inspired by part of this comment seen via /r/bestof, said part being:

Where it gets extremely tricky and sensitive is how non-fundamentalist Muslims fit into the picture. The same for non-fundamentalist Christians, or Jews. Because the fundamentalists would argue, and in a way I agree with them, that the beliefs of these people are so far removed from the original message and meaning of the religion that they are not truly Muslims, or Christians or Jews. In order to achieve a form of Islam, or Christianity, or Judaism that is acceptable to ‘Western society’, you have to reshape and twist the doctrine of that religion SO MUCH that it can start to not make sense at all.

(You may also want to read the surrounding paragraphs for context, but I don’t think you really need to.)

…and which, in the finest spirit of “everything gets used for worldbuilding”, I shall now use to illustrate something of the nature of non-native religiosity in the Empire and one particularly characteristic problem people run into at immigration.

‘Cause here’s the thing.

The Empire is an unabashed ideostate, neither an ethnostate nor a volumetric geostate. It is the contractual association of the Freest of the Free, which certainly anyone is permitted to join – the advertised immigration policy is, after all, “just turn up” – but they do have to  be able to sign the associative contract in good faith. Like so:

I, affirmer’s full name and/or identifier, hereby affirm my agreement and attachment to the principles of the Fundamental Contract; that all sophonts are endowed with certain absolute and inalienable rights; that these rights are to life and property, liberty, and the pursuit of eudaimonia; that all sophonts are equal in their exercise and retention of these rights, without privilege or priority; that sophonts cooperate amongst themselves in separate and coadunate action to secure them; and that they do so freely and by their own sovereign will.

Therefore, as a free and self-sovereign sophont of recognized competence, I hereby agree, consent and reaffirm my binding to the rights and obligations of the Fundamental Contract which underlies the civilization of the Empire, on my own behalf as well as that of my guardianship; consenting to be guided first in my actions by the Rights of Domain, of Defense, of Common Defense, and of Fair Contract; and accepting freely the obligations attached thereto to guard the absolute and inalienable rights of my fellow sophonts as my own; and in full understanding that should I Default from this, my own rights shall therefore be abeyed until the default is amended.

Given under my hand this day date,

affirmer’s signature

Witnessed this day by witness’s full name and/or identifier, who, as a citizen-shareholder in good standing of the Empire and an adherent of the Contract, pledges surety in the light of the Flame for the competence of the signatory and the validity of this Affirmation.

witness’s signature

In good faith, for these purposes, implies “under alethiometric analysis”. Which is a problem, if you believe in the fundamental doctrines of many religions, ’cause however in good faith you may feel you’re being because obviously such considerations couldn’t possibly be meant to apply when you’re quarter-valuing women, abominating homosexuals, or stoning those buggers who wear mixed fabrics, your mental reservations will light the alethiometer up like a Christmas tree.

(We pause briefly while the House of Exemplars pats itself on the back for its collective foresight, inasmuch as everyone from Merriéle Herself [1] on down to the present day were careful to note that they were just writing down their best perception of what the eikones wanted and expected ongoing contemplation and future generations to revise accordingly with the benefit of further thought – and thus avoided binding their seven-millennia-later successors to a bunch of Bronze Age mandates labeled the ineffable, eternal, unchangeable TRVTH. Dodged a bullet there, eh?)

But here’s the catch-22. There are also a lot of non-fundamentalist people around who would pass that test, because they don’t literally believe in the aforementioned things, but they’ve never really repudiated them either. They exist in the shadowy doctrine-twisting world in which, sure, this is the ineffable word of God and the scriptural basis for our religion, except that it obviously doesn’t mean what it says and what He really wants is peace, love, charity, fluffy bunnies, and other things more in accord with modern thinking that don’t explicitly punch the Contract in the face.

…yeah, that won’t get you in either. Because regardless of how self-aware you are about it, that is going to light up the alethiometer with the information that you, sir, ma’am, herm, or neut, are someone who espouses Serious Philosophical Commitments to Ideals and then ignores said Ideals for some stuff you and your chums just made up, belike.

That doesn’t play very well with people who take notions like “obligation” and “self-integrity” and so forth seriously. And it plays even less well with the Imperial Guard of Borders and Volumes – being the people asking you to affirm a Serious Philosophical Commitment to an Ideal – who will bounce you and your admittance request right back out the door and onto the next starship to Hypocrisia.

Which leaves as admissible only those whose ancient theogonists happened to luck out and hit enlightened libertism – or at least values that don’t gratuitously offend enlightened libertism – by chance or revelation, or else those religions flexible enough to engage in theologically supported reform as they go. (There are more than a few Christian sects that would qualify under this clause, because what they believe and what they espouse are aligned with each other, and that theological and doctrinal evolution were intended; equally, of course, there are more than a few that wouldn’t.)

The combination of these effects leads to both a tendency to cooperative niceness where non-native religiosity is concerned, and to many-much vigorous denouncing from outworlders. But then, they’re used to that [3].


[1] Whose own writings reflect a certain willingness to argue with the divine, and indeed to look Heaven in the eye and judge right back. The Church of the Flame followed [2] in this initial tradition.

[2] The ripple effect this has had on ecumenicalism and religious diplomacy by producing a religion whose representatives, while more than happy to go along with civilized polyhenotheism, also have no problem whatsoever with saying out loud the equivalent of “Man, your god’s kind of a giant celestial asshat, huh?”, is left as an exercise for the reader.

[3] A standard cadet exercise at the Stratarchy of Warrior Philosophy is constructing memes to get the people denouncing them on the extranet for being tolerant and the people denouncing them on the extranet for being intolerant (of the intolerant) flaming each other instead. This is both good introductory-level practice and kind of funny, so.

Migratory Definitions

Overheard in the Crescent Bar, Conclave Drift
6 months post the end of the Core War

“It’s a great speech, but it’s not going to work. You know that, right?”

“What’s the problem with it?”

“Well, mostly, that you’re trying to talk ‘political geostate’ to someone who speaks ‘sovereign service provider’.”

“What does that mean?”

“For one thing, it means that when you say ‘those people being unfairly excluded because of their beliefs’, what they hear is ‘that bunch of jerks who want service without signing up to our service agreement’.”

 

Fictional Refugee Fictional Policy

Man, y’all do love to ask me questions touching on real-world issues. Seriously, I’m not writing allegory, here. But, anyway, someone anonymous picked up on a past reference to the Conclave’s rejection of the Accord on Refuge-Seeking Sophonts, and wants to know just what the Imperial policy is on refugees, anyway.

Let me express this for you in the form of a conversation that has happened somewhere in the back halls of the Conclave of Galactic Polities approximately a shitload of times to date:

“We don’t have a refugee policy. A polity whose entire immigration stance can be summarized as ‘Yeah, just turn up and don’t be a dick.’ doesn’t need a refugee policy.”

“But… then why don’t you admit more refugees?”

“Because being on the losing side of your special conflict is no guarantee that you aren’t, in point of fact, a dick.”

(The discussion is then tabled briefly while the argument shifts to the much older and equally fruitless discussion of why the Empire persists in having such unreasonably high standards for its citizen-shareholders, and whether or not it could take this particular stick out of its ass for a good cause [spoiler: legally speaking, no].)

Passing the Handbasket

To my successor in office:

I’m leaving you this unofficial note to welcome you to the unique position of being an ambassador to the Empire, to pass on a few hopefully useful pieces of advice, and frankly, to wish you more joy of the position than I had, even before the FO recalled me.

I’ve left contact details in the database for my more useful contacts in State & Outlands.  They can help you out on any of the routine administration that comes up under one of the twelve Accords – but only the routine stuff, unfortunately.  I’d also call Meris Solanel-ith-Serquel to your particular attention if you find yourself charged with any special negotiations; she’s a good back-channel contact and willing to tell you directly if you’ve any chance of getting anywhere.  Which most of the time, you won’t.

As for other matters that will come up:

One might be forgiven for thinking that a country with no visa requirements wouldn’t cause you many problems with visitors, but that’s to ignore their willingness to refuse entry to anyone insane (by their – rather broad – standards), and anyone one of their truth machines deems insufficiently honest when signing up to the statement of rights and obligations they require of anyone entering.  Given how much they preen publicly about their devotion to rationality and principle, this catches less people than you might expect, but your staff will still be arranging repatriations on a regular basis.

You might also expect that their equally proclaimed refusal to impose any tariffs or trade regulations would make that a relatively trouble-free area, too.  Here, your problems will come from the home office, as while the Imperial government declines to use such things in response to those we set up, any number of corporations, trade cartels, and out-and-out smugglers will shamelessly connive to circumvent ours – and even our prohibitions on certain products – with the tacit aid of local banking privacy laws and the non-cooperation of the Market Liberty Oversight Directorate.  I have collected and passed on a myriad of eloquent, polite ways to say, “We regret that we won’t enforce your unethical laws for you,” in my time here, and you will undoubtedly collect still more.

Cultural and military affairs are also problematic.  In the name of freedom of speech and information, they insist that people be allowed to publish practically anything and to read anything that’s published, and are not even willing to discuss this issue with us, whatever the reasoning and whatever their notorious data havens may contain.  On the military side, you may be able to get some action taken against a particularly controversial intervention, even if it’s only likely to be getting the admiral in question beached for a few centuries until everyone’s forgotten the issue in question; but so far as they’re concerned, mercenary work is legal, privateering is legal, attempting to overthrow or to subvert someone’s government using any technique that isn’t violent is legal, and while they’ve never actually come out and said that filibustering is also legal…

Go ahead and file some protests on any of these if you like; it’s worth it just to listen to one of their State & Outlands people pour honey in your ear for an hour or three.  But you’ll realize the next day they talked for all that time without saying anything, and I’ll promise you right now, that’s all you’re ever going to get.

And lastly, extradition.  You will face three problems, here.  First, they will not extradite anyone for something that is not a crime under their law.  Second, if their law would impose a more severe penalty than ours for a given crime, and it’s one they consider particularly serious, they will try their hardest to insist that we prosecute him in their courts, so that they need not accept a criminal back.  And third, the inability to reconcile which – in the viKeruaz case – proved my downfall, they may insist on the second at the same time as public sympathies at home demand that he not be prosecuted in their courts.

I wish you the best of luck, and a quiet term of posting.

Sev Din Alar,
Ambassador of the League of Meridian (former)

Easy Admissions

SO-0004: Imperial Admission Procedures

SO-0004 Rev. 4611.2.5 — UNCLASSIFIED

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