Aug 08, 2020 7:55 AM
decima and ellie in exalted
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"It's an interesting life."

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"Are you going anywhere in particular?"

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"Mostly just wandering wherever I feel a call to do so."

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"Helping people, mostly."

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"Those who can't help themselves?"

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"Anyone. Everyone needs help sometimes, after all."

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"Not the dispossessed landowner or the overthrown magistrate."

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"They need help, too. All lives are equal - theirs not above their people's, but I've been trying to steer things towards fairness for everyone. And most of them have thanked me for it."

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"Fairness, hm? What makes one state of affairs more fair than another?"

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She thinks. "Ideally everyone in a fair system will agree it's fair, is the closest to a universal trait - though that ideal is hard to get in reality. Generally, though - I prefer people's options in life not be restricted, and I consider egalitarianism ideal. Governments that rely on power - which comes from the consent of the governed - and not force or violence."

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"Any sort of governance comes from force or violence. Even the consent of the governed is just the implicit threat that the mob will will level its power against any dissenters."

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"No government in Creation can consistently project force - the threat of violence - within its own borders, let alone actual violence, and using violence for domination reduces actual authority. Fear creates revolutionaries. Violence destroys power."

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"Power is conserved, not destroyed. If a government creates revolutionaries, it has passed a portion of its power to them. And if they are able to better concentrate their power, they can take the rest of it. No society in Creation can last without violence. Those that do not engage in it are subsumed by those that do, and those that can take take until they can take no more. The pattern is inevitable throughout history, reaching back even to the beginning. The Primordials concentrated their power to wrest Creation from the Wyld, and the gods concentrated their power to wrest Creation from the Primordials. Thus it is written into the fabric of the world."

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"Preventing neighbors from conquering you is rather different from preventing farmers from all deciding they'd rather let their crops rot in the field than pay taxes, and usually involves diplomacy."

"Let's do a thought experiment. You're in charge of the Realm's military. One of your outlying territories is mostly poor in physical resources, but it has population resources of some value - the people make good soldiers and are often eager recruits, and they have strong academic traditions and have contributed several major advances. But they have enough cultural differences from you that your appointed governors keep annoying the population, and there's rumors of revolutionary spirit."

"Your military is currently stretched thin along your border; you've expanded a lot, recently. Pacifying the territory through violence would require removing soldiers from the front, transporting them, feeding them in an area not well suited to foraging, and actually finding the revolutionaries and removing them."

"The local religious leaders are friendly to you. As best you can tell, the revolutionaries want more local leadership, and empowering those religious leaders would be an obvious compromise. But they object to the use of violence against their people."

"What do you do about your little revolution problem?"

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"Promise the religious leaders license of power in proportion to the fraction of the militarily able populace that signs up. Send the units so recruited to the most dangerous frontiers and strip the other garrisons in the region. At the same time, make clandestine contact with enemies on the far side of the province, warlords, bandits, other states, and offer inducements to increase the frequency and size of raids and incursions. If the priests call for help, tell them their territory is too poor to be worth defending. If they want to save their people, they'll need to move them. Break them up into small enclaves scattered over the rest of the Realm, and tell the local forces to show no mercy to rebellion. Otherwise, let them hang. They'll be too busy dealing with outside attacks to cause problems for me and I can make their territory the next target after the current round of consolidation is over."

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"A clever strategy on paper. The Realm implemented something similar, in the actual case; it didn't actually work all that flawlessly - soured relationships, drained resources, increased crime rates, dispersed what value the territory had originally held, spread the unrest out more widely. Disrupted the appearance of calm, predictable authority. I'd chalk it up as one of the Realm's historical fuck ups - most other territories were transitioned to needing no soldiers stationed there within a few years, and most of them quickly produced more value than it took to claim them. Your exact strategy would probably have resulted in less resource drain, but more instability and a worse problem for your soldiers to mop up later."

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"In that case when you go back to the territory, you burn it to the ground. No survivors."

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"Getting... What, exactly, out of that?"

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"The freedom to thereafter focus your attention elsewhere."

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"So, a large military operation, which will surely cost you quite a few soldiers and possibly a few years of work, which will generate refugees you have to hunt down, destabilizing the surrounding area, which will leave you with fewer resources than you started out with, which will make you look like someone whose only option is violence, who cannot handle things diplomatically - like a cornered rat or a rapid dog..."

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"A large military operation, which granted, will cost time and soldiers, which is why you wait until you can commit those resources. Refugees will be solitary and in small groups, cut off from their resources. Propaganda tells the rest of the empire they are dangerous criminals and makes them targets of hatred and resentment. The surrounding regions are unified by the hunt for the new enemies, and future dissidents will have to consider whether their goals are worth their cities being turned to ash."

"On the other hand, you do nothing, give the priests their control and ask for nothing in return and profits from the territory drop even more sharply. All those eager recruits stay at home and form their own militia, the academic knowledge is kept private, and the priests begin to ignore your laws in strict favor of local custom. Soon they are a satrapy in name only. Your garrisons are ejected or assimilated and you have no control at all. Emboldened by this news, other outlying provinces begin to make similar demands and your empire crumbles as people see you have no power to back your orders."

"Or you act with some foresight earlier, and cease your expansion before you spread your army too thin to effectively police your territories."

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She sits back, humming. "The strategy the Realm used at the time in other regions was usually appointing governors for single short terms, with locals as their advisors when they inevitably lacked the regional knowledge they needed. It kept the populace from getting too annoyed at one figurehead, left the Realm nominally in control, kept governors from building their own retinues and networks, and gave the locals a sense they had a say in their own government. That's not what I would've done, but it was a proven tactic, and tended to leave everyone content enough."

"Actual history bears out that dissidents don't, usually, think about prior examples - most people don't even know their history, nor do they care what's going on on the other side of Creation. If you rule through force alone, inevitably you'll turn your back, and people will take advantage of your distraction, perceived or real - and it is materially impossible to have enough soldiers to actively police everywhere, given in this age it takes ninety farmers and nine assorted artisans or bureaucrats to feed, clothe, arm, and organize a single soldier for a short campaign. It is even more impossible to actually apply violence everywhere - and as soon as you actually start delivering on your promises of force at a large scale, people will notice that, or at least assume you're too busy dealing with someone else to pivot to them. If you try to use solely force to legitimize your rule, you'll spend the rest of your life running around in circles putting out fires that didn't need to start."

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"The point is not that violence is the only option, the point is that violence is the basis of all your other options."

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"Where does that capacity for violence come from?"

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