The Other Dismal Science

“Good morning, ye earnest seekers of wisdom. I am Reader Olíäth Rian, and I am your primary instructor for this class. Welcome to EX0487, Introduction to the Exosophontology of Mass Coercion. For our foreign students who are now looking confused, you may have seen this class listed under ‘political science’, and you may be in the right place. I shall return to that in a moment.

“It is, I believe, customary at this point to emphasize both that I, and my colleagues, will do everything we can to help you become your absolute best and master the material contained within this course, and yet that should you fail to do so, we will nonetheless crush your hopes mercilessly in the best interests of this institution’s reputation and that of its successful graduates. Since this is a second-level course, however, let us take that as read.

“Before we begin, there is often some confusion concerning precisely what this course is among those, shall we say, less familiar with the local organization of knowledge. Here’s what this class is not: if you want to learn how to run governances, administration is the purview of the Thousand Wisdoms Academy, civil engineering is held in the Cog, the law is on its own subcampus, and so on, and so on. If you’re here to talk, everything from negotiation to manipulation and sophont relations is taught in the applied memetics building; back out the front door, turn left, you can’t miss it — they make sure of that in a first-semester class project every year. And the Imperial War College isn’t on this planet. Meanwhile, if you want to serve your fellow soph, we have an entire business school devoted to that.”

“What it is is a detailed sophontological and sociomemetic study of the techniques used to induce in large populations – from the obvious primal fear, envy, self-righteousness, mistrust, and suchlike to the more philosophically advanced – a belief in self-appointed authorities and their ethical exemptionalism. Or, as one of last year’s outworld students put it rather pithily, ‘how to make people sell themselves into serfdom and pay for the privilege’.

“Now, let me address those few of our students who are – there are always a few – looking at turning our lessons here around into their very own dictator-in-a-box kit. Look to your left. Look to your right. Look to the docuspheres which are even now streaming this lecture to our off-campus students and everyone auditing the class over the extranet. Consider how hopelessly outnumbered you are by the people who are about to learn all the same tricks as you. Good luck. You’re going to need it.

“And finally, before we get started, there is an academic certamen component to this course, so would those students, foreign or otherwise, who have some political theory to defend already go ahead and light up… Now that’s not all of you. Don’t be shy now – you knew when you applied that we treat argument as a blood sport hereabouts.”

– Reader Olíäth Rian welcomes the class of 7240

Worldbuilding: Conflict & Mistake

Those of you who read Slate Star Codex will probably have already seen this article; and those of you who don’t probably should read it, because I think it might be helpful in explaining the differences between Imperial “politics” and Earth politics as we know them, including – to pick up some recent threads on the Discord – local attitudes *there* to protest and suchlike.

Text continues now using terms from the article in question.

While it’s not a perfect analogy, one can see how an awful lot of differences come to pass by considering that while politics *here* , especially performative politics, tends to be heavily conflict-theory-driven, the Empire’s governance – and including here such not-governmental organizations as the Shadow Ministries and the Plurality and its COGs – to be almost entirely dominated by one strand or another of mistake theorist.

…who, admittedly, take the view that conflict theorists are mistaken to a degree that qualifies as dangerously, probably diagnosably, insane.

 

Potayto, Potahto

“While the Imperial University of Calmiríë does have an academically excellent and thorough program in political science (or, as its introductory course is listed in the 7930 catalog, EX0487: Introduction to the Exosophontology of Mass Coercion), prospective students should be aware that it is taught very much from the perspective of ‘the history, sophontology, and praxis of rationalizing ethical exemptionalism’. Those students from abroad who do not already have that particular smirk will assuredly either acquire it or grow very tired of it over their course of study, and as such, we cannot recommend it to those preferring a more conventional approach, especially since those considering their qualifications in the future are likely to be aware of the nature of the course.”

– Student’s Helper: Considering Studying Abroad?,
pub. 7932, League of Meridian

 

Feel Free To Skip: An Election-Time Question Response

How would one, given the current situation on Terra, move humanity towards becoming something more Imperial, and in doing so, not cause massive amounts of death and destruction?

…if I had an answer to that one, I’d be Chairman of the Vanguard Party, not an ‘umble SF author.

(Honestly, if I was feeling all upbeat and hopeful at the moment, I’d say “education, enlightenment – and the Enlightenment – and maybe some voluntary cognitive surgery”.

If I was feeling less serious, I’d go with a Dr. Horrible quote and say “Anarchy – that I run!”

But it’s election season here in These United States, and as I’m unable to escape the spectacle of almost everyone trying to decide whether to kneel before the monochrome authoritarian or the colorful fascist and receive their leavings of the screwing about to be rightfully delivered to the Other-Tribal-Americans, those unspeakable, interchangeable bastards, my opinion of humanity in general is busy experimenting to see if it can find some new depths to sink to, and so I’m going to quote a somewhat different part of the Horrible canon:

Any dolt with half a brain
Can see that humankind has gone insane
To the point where I don’t know
If I’ll upset the status quo
If I throw poison in the water main

Listen close to everybody’s heart
And hear that breaking sound
Hopes and dreams are shattering apart
And crashing to the ground

I cannot believe my eyes
How the world’s filled with filth and lies
But it’s plain to see
Evil inside of me is on the rise

…without the counterpoint.

I might be more than just a little bitter, cynical, and depressively-triggered right now, despite the best efforts of the medications. Ask again later.)

 

Non-Canon Parody: Travel Advisory

So, I was chasing links this morning and ended up at a State Department travel advisory, and then this just wrote itself, really…

“The Ministry of State and Outlands alerts Imperial citizen-shareholders that the quadrennial elections are scheduled to take place in Blatantly Obvious Expy near the end of this year. The opening engagements have already begun, and related activities are expected to only intensify in the coming months.

“As such, the Ministry of State and Outlands recommends that citizen-shareholders avoid travel to Blatantly Obvious Expy until the second quarter of the coming year, due to the high risk of nausea, rage excursions, and self-inflicted head injuries.

“The Ministry regrets that there’s really nothing it can do to help you if you insist on visiting during this period of crisis and localized brou-ha-ha.

“For further information, see publication SO-2961 – Seriously, What The Fucking Fuck?: Coping With Barbarism Through Alcohol Consumption.”

 

Trope-a-Day: Strawman Political

Strawman Political: Well, of course – but in-world, inasmuch as most of the protagonists come from a culture which believes that politics are what happens to you after your brains fall out, and would largely agree with that.  And who tend to think the worst of the assortment of Evil Stereotypes who practice it actively.

See also What Do You Mean Its Not Political?

Trope-a-Day: Insistent Terminology

Insistent Terminology: Happens fairly often, because nomenclature (among other things) is Serious Business, and one therefore – when dealing with people – should know that people earned those attributions, dammit, and that therefore not using them (or misusing them) amounts to a deliberate insult.  They would not, after all, presume to insult you by believing that you’re that socially incompetent.

And even when dealing with people’s property/inventions/jobs/works, while they do prefer to avoid euphemisms – because “refuse collector” is a perfectly honorable job that needs no excuses made for it, and the guy doing the SecDef’s job is the straight-out “Warlord of the Empire” even if his primary title is “First Lord of the Admiralty”, and “differently abled” is best avoided unless you want to experience the “what special powers did you think I got from losing a leg, you moron?” rant – a good politeness tip is to avoid all diminutives period.  Don’t use them on other people, because they’ll be interpreted as insults (and there’s no such thing as a friendly insult); don’t use them on yourself, because if it’s anything, it’s a weird species of self-hating fraud.

The ur-example of this, of course, is that while the runér will tolerate the name of their darëssef being misglossed as “noble” (after all, it’s a quality of character, as well as a feudal class), neither they nor the Senators or local Assemblymen or anyone else involved in government at any level will tolerate being referred to as a “politician”.  While that’s not a strict cognate to korásan either, it’s close enough – and with plenty of other undesirable and rather slimy overtones – to qualify as a fighting-words level insult and almost certainly a verbal Berserk Button.

The Empire doesn’t have politicians.  It has harmonizers, coordinators, synarchists, and maybe even managers, but no politicians.  Do not forget this.