On the Nature of Empires
When I was a boy, my mother, who was a frequent recipient of Incubi, told me of a far off realm where existed a nation known as Caelestia. Any child growing up in destitution and drudgery has heard the tales, as it was the only tale most women knew to tell their children while not being able to afford proper storybooks.
Caelestia was a fictional place, of course, but it caught my fancy as a boy. It was a city of spires and towers, of gleaming silver and painted glass. The people there were content with what they had and traded with their neighboring civilizations in peace and harmony. In fact, the only danger ever to befall Caelestia was when it’s King proclaimed that the dragons there should be free to roam instead of being hunted. Of course, while the people were afraid, it turned out the dragons were all good dragons who ate their vegetables and did their homework.
Something never sat quite right with me when it came to tales of Caelestia. It took until I became a man to understand, however. What bothered me about that enchanted land was just how much of a lie it was. Caelestia, as an empire, is utter rubbish. It truly is. And here is why.
Empires are not like men. Where it is the dictate of man to act upon self-preservation, it is the dictate of empires to expand. It is the only thing empires know how to do. Truth be told, it is the only thing they can do. Caelestia was content, that exact word is used to describe it, but I know now that there is not a nation in this world or any other that is ever content.
Empires are salivating and rapacious beasts of greed. If we were to say that of a person, we may very well believe them to be disgusting and hated. But you cannot hate an empire for its endless desire to consume all it touches. It is the people within it that give it the edict. Expand, or die. For when it comes to empires, those within it seek to multiply and expand themselves.
But this it not all that drives an empire to consume. There is also the idea of “mine.” This is my city, and that city is yours. This is my country, and that’s someone else’s. This is my nation, and no other nation is as good as mine. In fact, those people in that nation over there cannot realistically be happy, because they are not living in mine. In fact, if they claim to be happy, it is only because they have yet to experience my nation. It would be a gift to bring them into my fold. They’ll thank me later.
And just like that, you’re at war for the betterment of your enemies. Do you see how quickly patriotism turns to bloodshed? It is patriotism, my dear readers, that fuels the engine of war. It is the certainty that the “other” is lesser than ourselves that allows us to see them as enemies.
But this is not human nature. Have a Dwarf and an Elf talk to each other, person to person, and they will have a night of it. Have a Dwarven empire attempt to coordinate trade routes with an Elven Empire, and suddenly there is blood in the streets. This is the nature of empires.
Expansion is driven by more than condescension, however. There is also need. Need to see your people clothed, fed, roofed, and healthy. Need to gather resources. Need to claim wonders. Need to allow growth. And when the needs of two nations butt up against each other, the mentality of the “other” kicks in and we have warfare.
It is such an easy thing to manipulate. Amassing positive public opinion on war is one of the first thing you learn in whatever school people like myself go to. I can made two empires kill each other much easier than I can make two people do the same. Mass mentality. It is the most susceptible consciousness in existence, and it is also the most deadly.
The thing I fear most, my friends, is the single mind that is as powerful as an army. An army is driven by the secret hand, but a person is driven by their own principles, and those are more difficult to coerce.
Get a man to pledge allegiance, and you have a puppet on a string.
Get a man to establish a constitution, and you have clay to mold.
Get a man to love those around him, and you have a dancer to your tune.
Find a man who wants only what is best for himself, and you have a problem.