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Jul 02, 2022 4:11 AM
Vanda Nosseo deals with Sesat
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Oh, good. He can work with this.

"It's not precisely the same sort of thing, it's obviously more concrete and provable, but people here are generally concerned that slaves are - how do I put this - criminally inclined, honorless, lacking the traits that separate people from animals - and in addition to that there'll be individual people who will have been personally harmed, to whom it can be very important that all of society has taken the very strong stance that what happened to them was utterly beyond the bounds of civilized behavior - and in addition to that, there are additional practical problems you'll have to deal with, but, if you have the power to remake bodies and travel to the stars, perhaps what seems insoluble to me will be easy for you."

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"If there's some serious chance that slaves lack personhood here that seems like it makes it all the more important to stop enslaving new people," says Tarwë. "Would it help to have someone with psychic powers by to check?"

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"...You know, it might. I sort of expect the slaves to say 'oh but I would be uncomfortable with that' and the person with psychic powers to respect that," or pretend to respect it but at any rate not pass any information on, "or that if they do look it'll be inconclusive because sometimes people aren't being brave or honorable or thinking about what is more important to them than food and drink, so it'd be easy to say 'well, maybe they have those things sometimes and we just looked at the wrong time'..."

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"We don't really consider bravery or honor or having any particular kind of priority in life to be a criterion of personhood," Tarwë says.

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"Then you're going to have much broader problems with Sesat than this."

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"Where else is it likely to come up?"

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"If our criteria for personhood are narrower than yours? I have no idea how many of those you call - something your magic translates as 'people' - aren't. And if you don't seek justice, if you don't seek to recognize and acknowledge any of those things that make some people better than others, in Sesat's eyes, then you likely sometimes promote the lesser over the greater, as Sesatis will see it, and you likely think we do too, and you likely think half the sacrifices we've made have been pointless - you likely think our Star-of-Stars makes bad choices and is cruel - you likely hope we'll come to see things your way, which is to say, that we'll abandon our own values - I don't see this going well unless I've badly misunderstood. I, of course, don't have psychic powers, so I may well have misunderstood you in some way. Do you think I have?"

...If the psychic powers are real and not just made up to tell Sesat a convenient story then there's no way Vanda Nossëo has the concept of everyone lying to each other and knowing they're being lied to and cooperating because it's convenient. Nelen in particular might, though, it sounded like that happened on Amenta...

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"It's not how I'd put it, but - no, there's not an obvious fundamental misunderstanding there. I'm sorry to disappoint you about how the broader multiverse tends to do ethical reasoning. My people had to make some adjustments too, for all that they tell you that Elves pop out of our worlds ready to join Vanda Nossëo on no notice."

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"Hm. I think it might be more productive if I spoke to Ambassador Utopia privately, but I am also interested in hearing about the adjustments you made."

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"Elves are naturally immortal and naturally resurrectable by our god of the dead, and accordingly put little weight on life per se - everyone will be all right again in the long run - and a lot on childhood, of childhoods being unburdened and abundantly happy and supported by adults with nothing else to do but raise children. It would have been considered not unreasonable for, say, a family losing a grandfather to the one and only war in our history while the grandchild was any younger than fifty, to all jointly commit suicide so they could meet again some hundreds or thousands of years later none the worse for wear, when that weighed against the grandfather missing a childhood and the child growing up without the grandfather. So it was difficult for us to understand the casualness with which humans and many other species handle adoption, and divorce - we also don't divorce - and deciding, or not deciding, to have children - we also don't conceive by accident -

There's also a historical enmity between my species and Zanro's, and also we were a little thrown by so many people - including some Elves! - preferring romance with members of their same gender or non-monogamously or both, but for me the children thing was the big one."

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"...I admit, that sounds bizarre. And - how did you deal with that, then?"

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"Well, it took me some time. I'm new at this job because my youngest wasn't a hundred yet," says Tarwë. "Her birthday was about a year ago. But mostly I met people. People who had had accidental children, or divorced, or who were accidental children, or who'd been raised by single or adoptive parents. Most of the time everyone agrees that it's better if children come into existence with parents who want to raise them, and Vanda Nossëo does make distributing contraception a top priority, but it didn't seem to be a life-defining tragedy, for most people like that I've met."

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"Did you think what you did before because you thought it would be, rather than because you care about it no matter what anyone involved thinks or feels about it?"

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"For me it would absolutely be a life-defining tragedy if my wife divorced me or if I had a grandchild who I didn't get to watch grow up," says Tarwë. "But once some Elves found themselves counseling a newly created band of humans - adults, brought into existence that way - and might have accidentally driven them extinct if they hadn't had someone else present with more cosmopolitan perspectives to draw on, advising them to do as Elves would do - not marry till they were at least fifty, and then spend a decorous year not seeing each other during their engagement to make sure, and lying together only upon then being married - and obviously for humans this would have had the women all menopausal before they could have a baby, but better that than a child in an unready family..."

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"I admit I'm a bit surprised you don't wish my ancestors had followed your rules and died out so you could take the land."

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"We don't need your land. Some people who work for Vanda Nossëo can make an entire new planet in a few weeks. It takes them even less time if they start with one that already has the rock and just needs plants and air on top."

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"...So you're all immortal, so your population does nothing but grow, and you have no need of foreign land - if you're not actually able to arrange the neat solution you prefer, will you leave?"

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"Well," says Tarwë, "we're still talking to all the other countries on the planet. And there was some interest in non-membership contact with Vanda Nossëo. And we'd take emigrants. But if everyone wanted us to leave, yes. We'd figure that, for whatever reason, we weren't the right people to help you. Maybe try again in fifty years."

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"I think you should make that known. It's extremely important that everyone be clear that you're not here to conquer. I expect given everything you've told me about your species that you won't guess why, so I'll tell you: most of Sesat would sooner die than submit to conquerors."

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"That's not an unreasonable thing to do, it makes conquest less appealing to anyone who has it on their minds," says Tarwë. "What do you think we can do to make it clear, besides just repeating it whenever it comes up? Do you think it would help if some people got to watch a planet being made?"

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"I think people will be concerned about, ah, the thing where you have strong preferences about our internal policies and would like to leverage your fabulous wealth and power to change them. It would be good if it were... clearer that you're trying to offer us something we want. Which I'm not yet convinced you aren't, I'd like myself and all my neighbors to be free and rich and safe and happy. It's only that the last people to say they wanted our people to be freer and richer and safer and happier want to cut off my hand and make me their slave on the theory that I'm less deserving of freedom than those who are slaves now, and the rhetoric they justify it with is about equality. And I'm not even saying that if it really came down to it, if someone really were genuinely offering something better than what we have to everyone else, that I'd necessarily fight that. Maybe I'd find it in myself to say, well, fine then, it's better for my people. But you haven't actually tried, so far as I'm aware, to convince me of that - and perhaps while I was on the road you were trying to convince someone else, but all I know of is that you offered material wealth, which will appeal to people in direct proportion to how much they are the sort of people to primarily care about their immediate comfort and ignore anything greater or more important than that. It looks aggressive; it looks like an attempt to win over the slaves and leave everyone else scrambling to take over their jobs. And I am holding out some hope, here, that you in fact have a better offer to make us than 'if you agree that there is no difference between people we'll make you rich' - maybe what you're trying not to say is that you're all so far beyond us that were you not the kind of people to look with compassion on slaves you wouldn't care about the rest of us, either, and if that's true I can help you figure out how to put it tactfully, or maybe it's something else, but - if you aren't thinking of any obvious things I haven't heard of I ought to speak with Ambassador Utopia because I have a feeling Amentan politics will have prepared him better for Sesati politics."

The longwindedness is maybe, slightly, a bit of a panic response.

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"Oh, interesting. We definitely don't cut people's hands off or enslave them and I can see how it would really hurt our case that our nearest rhetorical neighbors do. From our perspective even the Star of Stars is - poor. Not in everything, presumably he can command a lot of labor, but poor in information and comfort and art and music and opportunity and novelty. The people who'd starve next time you had a few bad harvests in a row are poorer, certainly, but I don't know anyone who'd trade him, based strictly on lifestyle features.

At any rate, you can believe whatever you want. We aren't in the business of mind control or censorship, as far as Vanda Nossëo is concerned you can talk all day long about how inferior slaves and the sort of people you'd normally enslave are. We just want to protect the rights we think they, like everyone else, should have, and do that as gently as possible for everyone involved.

You're more than welcome to talk to Ambassador Utopia, of course."

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"Yes, I think I ought to, I don't think you and I are successfully communicating."

Feris is, at this point, drawing on every mental trick he has ever used to keep from running away screaming from an actual battle. This conversation is going horribly. Also the psychics are probably real. The only bright side is that they almost certainly aren't psychically monitoring this conversation, which bespeaks a commitment to honesty that would be really reassuring if not for everything else about this situation.

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"He's in the meeting room still, as far as I know," says Tarwë.

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"I can wait for him, uh, I don't know where we can talk more privately than this library, I don't live around here..."

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