Trope-a-Day: Hegemonic Empire

Hegemonic Empire: The Empire, absolutely. Since the old days of the Consolidation Wars back on the homeworld, the consensus culture of the Empire (individual exceptions like the Imperium Bellipotent and a few grumpy occasional reanimators of the Doctrine of the Ecumenical Throne notwithstanding) is pretty sure that military imperialism has some awkward conflicts with their core values, and in any case is pretty much a pessimal way to grow.

The new plan is to seduce the universe – or “corrupt” the universe, if you are prefer to phrase it the way the Voniensa Republic, the Socionovist Association, and the Interstellar League of Tribal Chiefdoms do – and make everyone want to be part of it via Rule of Cool, manifested in such newfangled soft-power traditions as building and operating major infrastructure, being economically ubiquitous (thank you, All Good Things, ICC), potent cultural perfusion selling the Imperial Dream and other such notions (thank you, media studios of Delphys!), peddling immortality and personal enhancement to anyone who’ll buy them, etc., etc. And the good thing about this, say the people running the place, is that the only actual policies they need to have are (a) open immigration, and (b) mostly-open admission to any polity that asks for it – which by that time have almost certainly been quite “Imperialized” anyway. The rest is more or less self-driving, and would indeed be hard to stop even if they suddenly became of a mind to.

The success of this strategy is such that, discounting colonization of entirely unoccupied worlds and regions, virtually the entire growth of the Empire in its interstellar period has been via voluntary admissions – and it maintains quite the sprawling sphere of influence outside that.

Trope-a-Day: Imperial Dream

Imperial Dream: Ah, yes, the Imperial Dream.  Eudaimonia, or the “exercise of vital powers, along lines of excellence, in a life according them scope” as Aristotle put it.  Which scope, it is generally said, is afforded by the Empire being a place where – to steal a perfectly good quotation from Bioshock – “a man is entitled to the sweat of his brow, the artist does not fear the censor, the scientist is not bound by petty morality, the great are not constrained by the small”, etc., etc., there are limitless possibilities and opportunities for anyone with the wit to seize them or make them, and everyone is unbound to pursue their personal growth, prosperity, and general awesomeness without having the rest of the crabs in the bucket drag them down.  Success may not be guaranteed, but everyone will get out of your way and let you try.

(This is for values of “petty morality” equal to “small-minded parochialism and choice-stealing dogooderism” and small equal to “the envious, the power-hungry, petty jobsworths, the fearful and cowardly, Luddites, regressives, and other fluffers of regress and relative status hierarchies”, of course.)

Depending on the exact point of view of the person having it, may also have elements in common with the American Dream, the Former Galactic Empire Dream (‘richness, wildness, no taxes”), and the Ankh-Morporkian Dream (“making boatloads of cash in a place where your death was not likely to be a matter of public policy”).

Cynics, of course, point out the dark side.  The Empire is a wonderful place if you happen to be the right sort of ambitious, self-motivated, self-defining, run-through-life-without-a-guidebook, make-it-up-as-you-go-along soph, because that’s who it was built by and for.  On the other hand, if you don’t fit that category, and/or need a bunch of expectations and norms and rules and conformity to define yourself by, going there is treating yourself to an anomic hell which will run you right over and into the ground, and almost certainly not even notice that it’s doing it.