The World is a Mess, and I Just Need To Rule It

I ran across this excerpt of a post on one of the Fimfiction blogs I follow this morning, and while I’m using it out of context and off-topic – it’s actually talking about the Lex Luthor of DC’s Earth-3, the morally inverted one, in the context of their own work – it works perfectly to explain the Vinav Amaranyr phenomenon, for those of you who were around in 2012, and for those of you who weren’t, why the Fourth Directorate keeps a weather eye on the philanthropic just in case:

Imagine a philanthropist.

He started as an inventor, one who managed to hang onto his own patents. In time, his intelligence created one of the most successful corporations in the world — one which truly tries to do good, although it’s gotten large enough that he has trouble keeping an eye on the whole thing. He still spends time in the lab. Until recently, he was working on clean energy sources. […]

He tries to do good. He has more money than he will ever need, at least for the needs of one man. He donates to charities. Sometimes he gives directly to the recipients because he’s learned that charities can take more than operating costs. He brings forth his clean energy and runs directly into the thorns of the coal lobby, gets told he’s only trying to deprive people of their livelihood. When he points out that he offered retraining and employment, they say he’s destroying a culture. His attempts to distribute medicine are fought by insurance companies. Famine relief shipments get stolen by terrorists, and the army marches on the hunger of someone else’s stomach.

He knows he can help the world — if only the world would let him. But he’s getting frustrated. No matter how good his actions are, how much he’s truly trying to help, there’s always something in the way. He wishes there was something else he could do. Focusing his efforts on a single city, creating a model for others… even that creates trouble. There’s a new personality in the media, one who seemingly only exists to berate him. A so-called reporter who invents his own facts and preaches them to an unquestioning audience while his glasses steam with rage.

…okay. So you’re an Imperial, and you want to help the galaxy. You’re a philanthropist, and genuinely want to help all the suffering sophs who aren’t lucky enough to live in a functional near-utopia.

And you’re stymied in all these ways. This happens almost every time you do something, to the point that you, ridiculously, have to spend more time fighting pointless obstacles and generalized stupidity than you do on solving the actual, underlying problems.

And all the while there’s that little voice in the back of your head whispering, saying “You’re a gorram postsophont. Eldrae kirsunar. These… people… can only stop you by your consent, your willingness to accept their petty, nonsensical rules. You can make things better and all you have to do is sweep aside these trivial little problems. Dammit, man, you’re a god among insects!”

And then one morning you wake up to realize you’ve become the villain of the piece, if the Fourth Directorate hasn’t delivered the most serious censure to you yet.

There are those who go Renegade because of dark-side ambition or greed, or some obscure philosophical commitment to something like Dark Kantianism or the Balanced-Universe Heresy.

But they’re a bunch of pikers compared to the ones powered by compassion.

 

A Place Where Renegades Come From

See this?

Sorry, Mark Zuckerberg. Your plan to put an end to disease is a sickeningly bad idea

Well, one place where Renegades come from is when, having read too much of this kind of disgusting ephemeralist agitprop, and noting that advocating for prohibitions or even prohibitionary attitudes on life extension and its related family of technologies amounts to conspiring to murder everyone, forever, they conclude that while it’s not the common interpretation, it’s not really stretching the Right of Common Defense all that far if they go forth into the greater galaxy and cleanse it preemptively of would-be mass-murdering fuckheads, belike.

(While passing sardonic comments about the stubbornness of ephemeralist death-worshippers when it comes to running away from the unbeing they deify.)

 

Hatred

Groggily, the prisoner raised his head as the door above him slid open. He tensed his muscles, but the welded wire bonds that attached him to the ore cart were too strong; all his struggles achieved was the cracking open of old scabs, and the oozing of more pinkish-yellow blood from his wrists and ankles. He could not even clear his mouth of the foam that had hardened there. All he could do was glare at the dark silhouette outside that door, and the bulky shapes that flanked it, in impotent fury.

“Boys, watch him and make sure he doesn’t try anything.”

“Uh, estrev -”

“Because I am about to indulge in monologuing. And I hate being interrupted when I am monologuing.”

The bulky shape, a linobir by the sound of its voice, took that as the warning it was and fell silent.

“Since we have never met, my dear Sen Kal, I thought perhaps you deserved a brief introduction. Certainly there will be little time for anything else, given the magnitude of your failure.”

“Beginning, of course, with attempting to contract me and my organization to assist with your meat-market. Did you really expect any different result? I may have abandoned the society and scruples of my prissy cousins for the sake of an ambition suited to my talents, but I am not, shall we say, entirely lost to decency.”

“And then,” the silhouette sighed, “there is the matter of our little game of dominance. You showed no promise at all, I am afraid. Outmaneuvered at every turn. Had you shown even marginal ability, you might have proved a useful tool. Had you recognized how outclassed you were and pled my mercy, you might have lived. Humility can be a virtue… for the low. But if there is one thing that I simply cannot abide, it is an incompetent who does not realize his own incompetence!”

“In any case: know, then, that it is Anatev Sarathos who has defeated you. I’d say it was a pleasure, but I fear it was not even that. And so, farewell.”

The sefir jerked in one last hopeless attempt to escape.

The door closed.

The door beneath him opened.

 

Trope-a-Day: What Measure Is A Non Super

What Measure Is A Non Super: (now merged with Muggle Power) Technically, by the letter of the Universal Accord on Sophont Rights, every sophont from the humble baseline to the most transcendent of the Powers and Potentialities has an identical set of rights.  Sure, the latter has much more scope within which to exercise them, but they are equally protected from infringement.

Not all, however, of the postsophont Powers & Potentialities (say, the hegemonizing Leviathan Consciousness) are friendly and agreeable on that point; and even mere transsophonts, if ethically challenged, can develop something of an attitude regarding all these wretched untermenschen.  These are the ones who make up a respectable fraction of Renegades and Renegade-equivalents.

Trope-a-Day: My Species Doth Protest Too Much

My Species Doth Protest Too Much: Seemingly averted because, so far as you can tell, all the Imperials really are that way.  (The explanation they would give, stripped of technical and polite terminology both, boils down to “We’re just obsessively inclined to believe that we are certain things, and even more obsessively inclined to live up to our monumental self-image in those regards,” which while probably true so far as it goes, is not really a full explanation.)

A more, ah, complete explanation is that in really fundamental things, like the Imperial libertist ethical tradition, those who don’t feel like conforming leave-or-are-left with great speed in the name of self-preservation (the Renunciates and future Renegades), and that those people who disagree firmly enough with the relentless drumbeat of internal and external perfection, Science!, beauty and negentropism that makes up the social consensus, while absolutely free to go their own way while remaining there, still generally find the atmosphere intolerable enough as to find their own way out.

In short: the Imperials stay that way by kicking out all the troublemakers.

Honest Dishonesty

“I want you to understand this, and understand this well. This is not making a deal under duress. This is extortion.”

“By which, to make our positions absolutely clear, I mean that some people would use the “you took the agreement to exchange goods for exval, even if there was an assault destroyer in low orbit at the time” to spread a fig-leaf of legality and compliance over their actions. I neither need nor want such a thing. I am robbing you. You aren’t receiving a crate of exval in exchange; you’re receiving one to rebuild so that I can rob you again in the future. That is all. Shake Downwell, clear.”

Trope-a-Day: Utopia Justifies the Means

Utopia Justifies The Means: The motivation behind any number of Renegades – usually inspired by some form of Post Historical Trauma who have plans to “bring order/freedom to the galaxy”.  Reminders that the “order” in the Empire’s “Order, Progress, Liberty” motto is supposed to be emergent order, or just how very paradoxical it is to use the kind of Means which have to be Justified to bring about a shiny utopia of freedom rarely help all that much.  (See also, literarily, A Good Man.)

Also the thinking behind such branches as the Sanguinary Enforcers of the Liberty Ethic, whose plan for bringing about said utopia are only slightly more nuanced – say, the mentioned branch’s “kill absolutely everyone everywhere who entertains authoritarian ideas”.  Fortunately, somewhat less idealistic thinkers generally prevail.

Trope-a-Day: Hunter of His Own Kind

Hunter of His Own Kind: Marginally fulfilled by those members of the ISS Internal Security and Surveillance Directorate, and Fifth Directorate, who deal with the Empire’s little Renegade problem.  The downside, as it is occasionally pointed out, of the whole immortal billionaire genius demigod thing, is that when one of those lads first renounces the Contract and Charter, and then goes bad, they can do so on truly impressive Evil Overlord-esque scales.

And then someone has to clean up the mess.

Trope-a-Day: Man of Wealth and Taste

Man Of Wealth And Taste: Played straight with Imperial renegades, all of whom play the villainous role of a man of wealth and taste to the hilt.

Subverted, however, inasmuch as this is also true of heroes and bystanders of Imperial origin, simply because anyone brought up in the Imperial culture would sooner concede a few of their vital organs than not be thought of as a Man of Wealth and Taste (or, relevantly, a Woman, Herm, or Neuter of Wealth and Taste).  There are standards, don’ch’know?

Trope-a-Day: Equal-Opportunity Evil

Equal-Opportunity Evil: Most Renegades, at least the ones that aren’t actually crazy.  While they tend to have substantial disagreements with Imperial ethics (see: Blue and Orange Morality, Black and White Morality) – which the Imperials would probably argue is a sign of being, to some degree, sanity-impaired – they also tend to be sane and rational enough to recognize that Irrationalist Bigotry Is Irrational, belike.

A Long Chase (2)

One week earlier, somewhere in the Gal-kiderax System, Theomachy of Galia.

“I’d kill a soph in a fair fight.” The black-cloaked figure paced in circles, long stride carrying him from wall to wall.  “Hells, even before I left my dear stuffy cousins behind, I’d kill a soph in an unfair fight, or better yet in no fight, ’cause Taliní Sarathos didn’t raise her favorite grandson to be stupid.  I’ll haggle at blast-point, make free with what’s not mine, and even work with appallingly tasteless people like you.”

The person he addressed, sprawled on the floor in the room’s center, made no reply.

“But I won’t kill one for no reason, I won’t torture, and I won’t deal with slavers.  I may be a renegade, but I do have standards.”  He shook his head, slowly.  “What did you imagine would happen when you picked those degenerates to team me with?  Or are they just growing them stupid on Gal-kiderax these days?”

The sprawled figure appeared to sigh, slumped, and deliquesced into a spreading puddle of goo.

“At last.  Well, farewell, dear Misent.  I trust your accounts will recompense me adequately for the inconvenience of the hunters this little fracas has called down upon me.”  He flourished his hat, and faded into the darkness.

“But first, I have a naval dance to attend.”

Trope-a-Day: Beauty Equals Goodness

Beauty Equals Goodness: Very much averted in one sense, even by local standards (see: Blue and Orange Morality) of goodness.  It is perfectly true that the eldrae and the other Imperials are an extraordinarily Beautiful People.  But by the same processes, so are the Renunciates.  And so are the Renegades – even the Renegades who are very, very bad people indeed, by anyone’s standards.

Quite appropriate, really.  After all, even fallen angels are still angels.

In another: yes, one of the qualities they esteem is beauty, as a form of excellence.  But this does not imply, simple-mindedly, that the beautiful are the good.  Rather, the dogma holds that it implies that the good deserve to be the beautiful, and therefore that beauty ought to be promoted by the sophont in those places where blind nature and random chance got it wrong again.

A Good Man

“Vinav Amanyr-ith-Amaranyr is a good man.”

“You are surprised to hear me say that?  You shouldn’t be.  Many of our Renegades are – the ones who become Renegades because they’ve seen the Galaxy’s problems and can’t stand not doing anything about them.”

“So what do you do about poverty and oppression?  You can try and persuade people that things have to change, and you can ask Valeä Andreth’s people how slowly that works, and at what cost.  Or you can join the belligerati and try advocating Imperial takeovers, but everyone knows how well they work, or rather don’t.  But in any case, you’re pushing a mountain uphill because the root of all these bad things is nothing but bad ideas, and ideas that run in parallel with one’s species-nature are hard to kill, however insane or counterproductive they might be.”

Or you can take the short road, and reason that the solution to bad ideas is better people, and that you can save a lot of life and time if you can create better people here and now.”

“And so, you can reengineer a grab-bag of autoevolutionary improvements from the alpha baseline into a contagious self-replicating neurovirus – say, the cognitive bias eliminations, the empathy enhancement, the motivation restraint, the self-deception resistance, and the neophobia and xenophobia removal.  Then you spray it generously into the planetary atmosphere, and let the bad ideas kill themselves off.”

“It’s a good plan, simple and elegant.  Worse, it’s a plan that could take only a matter of days to execute.  It probably would work, if we let it, and – and I’m fairly certain this is the rationale he’s using – former citizen-shareholder Amanyr-ith-Amaranyr will get the retroactive consent he’s hoping for, because it almost certainly would improve the lives of everyone on his target world.”

“So, yes, Vinav Amanyr-ith-Amaranyr is a good man, and because he’s a good man who cares deeply for the well-being of his fellow sophonts, he’s about to violate the first ethical principle by performing non-consensual modifications on the minds of millions.”

“And that’s why we have to kill him.”

– induction briefing, Operation <blank>, ISS Internal Security & Surveillance Directorate