Monday, July 4, 2016

Worldbuilding: Complexity in Politics and the Forces of History

It's a holiday weekend, and July is shaping up to be about ALL THE THINGS happening at once.  So today I'll pull out a couple worldbuilding articles from the archives, which happen to be Fourth-of-July relevant.  And relevant to some of the things I'm working on, especially since on of the ALL THE THINGS is a rewrite of Way of the Shield.  Happy Reunification Day!
As part of Way of the Shield, I've been delving deeper into the politics of Druthal.  In doing so, I'm taking into account the same thing I said about strawmen villains, but taking that to a macro scale.  Sure, it would be easy to break the Parliament into two sides, and say, "This side are the right-thinking heroes, and this side are the villainous morons".  But then you don't have a story, you have a screed.  If a screed is what you want to write, go for it.  Didn't hurt Ayn Rand's sales.  But that doesn't interest me.
Druthal is a Parliamentary Monarchy, in which I've played some mix-and-match with aspects from traditional monarchies, parliamentary systems and healthy dose of US-style democracy.  It's not a perfect system.  It's not supposed to be.  It's a messy, flawed sausage grind, and that's what I like about it.
The Druth Parliament probably has more in common with the US Senate than, say, the British Parliament.*   There are 100 members (Chairs) to the august body, 10 from each of the archduchies.  Each Chair serves a 5-year term, with no term limits.  Elections are staggered, so every year there are two chairs per archduchy up for re-election.  Chairs are ranked by seniority, so the 1st Chair of Acora is the longest-serving member from that archduchy, 2nd Chair of Acora is second-longest, and so on to 10th Chair for the newest member.
Elections are not winner-take-all, since two Chairs are available in any given election.  Once votes are counted and illegitimate ones are tossed**, the top two candidates receive the Chairs.   Since no candidate needs an actual majority to win a Chair, there are more than two political parties holding Chairs in the Parliament.  In fact, there are six.***
Now, in designing these six, it was very important to give each party a valid platform that people can believe in.  No one is "wrong".
  • Traditionalists (or "Dishers", colloquially) believe in the fundamental necessity of archduchies (and below that, duchies and baronies) understanding their own needs.  They want to maintain and strengthen the local authority of minor nobility; a baron knows his own barony better than anyone else, after all.
  • Loyalists ("Crownies") believe that Druthal needs to stand as a united nation, that a strong center, where everyone is given access to the same infrastructure, rights and opportunity raises the whole nation up.
  • Free Commerce ("Minties") believe that Druthal grows by trade and business, and by providing the means for commerce to thrive (including secure, easily traveled roads, well-protected sea-routes and minimal taxes and tariffs), the average Druth has the opportunity to succeed on their own merits.
  • Ecclesials ("Books") believe in the fundamentals of community and moral centers, and that the grounding the church gives serves the needs of the people, on a local level, far more than any well-meaning directive from the capitol.
  • Functionalists ("Frikes") do not hold to specific ideologies of "what is good for Druthal"-- what's good is what works; if it doesn't work, you don't keep grinding at it.  They do tend to believe that simple, small steps work better in the long run than grand, sweeping gestures, and that moderation is the key to functionality.
  • Populists ("Salties") believe that the people themselves are the backbone of Druthal, and that the core industries of day-to-day living (farming, ranching, mining, fishing, etc.) are the true center that everything is built off of.  By helping the people who do those things, all of Druthal is helped.
Now, in order to actually get anything done in the Parliament, of course, coalitions must be formed.  Loyalists and Free Commerce tend to vote together one way, and Traditionalists and Ecclesials tend to vote together the other way, and Functionalists and Populists tend to be swing votes.  In 1215, when Way of the Shield takes place, the Ruling Coalition consists of the Loyalists, Free Commerce and the Functionalists-- with the Frikes being the uneasiest of allies-- holding 53 Chairs.  Traditionalists and Ecclesials form the Opposition Coalition, with 41 Chairs.  The Populists do not belong to either Coalition, but with only 6 Chairs, they have the weakest voice in the Parliament.  However, since the Frikes are the least likely to vote with uniformity, the Populists can be a crucial swing vote on any given issue.
All of this, of course, is mostly the under-the-surface part of Way of the Shield; I've gotten more infodumpish here than I do in the actual text.  The important part, for me, is the shades of grey.  There is no these-people-are-right-these-people-are-wrong dichotomies.  I have heroes on both sides of the aisle, as it were, and villains as well.
And for me, that makes for a more interesting story.
*- This is mostly because I am American, and I'm far more familiar with our government than anyone else's.
**- Most common form of this tends to be people voting for someone ineligible; namely, someone who is already serving and isn't actually up for re-election in that cycle.
***- At least, six that have members in the Parliament.
We present the following not as a matter of law, to be debated by a council of lords or ignored by a monarch, but as a matter of truth: the rights enumerated here are not granted by government or ratification.  They are intrinsic to every man, ever person, be they born on Druth soil, traveled from the far edges of the world, or dragged to our shores in chains.  They are immutable, given to any infant from the moment breath is drawn.  They cannot be denied or removed or decreed away, either by the whim of nobility, or by the tyranny of popular ignorance.
Preamble to "Rights of Man"
Geophry Haltom, Maradaine, 1011
In my first pass of the history of Druthal, I establish 1009 as a key year, equivalent to 1776 or 1066 in terms of critical importance-- but at that point, I didn't give it significant details.  The set-up was that, for three centuries, Druthal had shattered into many separate kingdoms, and the whole area was plagued with war, inquisition and tyrrany.  By the beginning of the eleventh century, things were at their darkest.  A conqueror known only as The Black Mage* swept across the petty kingdoms, eventually marching on Maradaine in 1009.  He immediately executes the elderly king (Maradaine IX), placing Maradaine X on the throne as his puppet.  For two months of brutal oppression, the Black Mage held the city, until he was finally ousted by a combined effort of rebellion.  With Maradaine X also dead by the end of this period, his young son was named Maradaine XI, and with the help of his various advisers, he reunified Druthal as a Parliamentary Monarchy.
That was the rough draft; "various advisers" was something I needed to flesh out.  You can give an elementary school understanding of the American Revolution with just the Declaration of Independence, 1776 and George Washington, and that was pretty much the level of detail I had worked out.  But that wasn't going to be enough for what I needed.
I needed to rebuild Druthal, and of course that wasn't something that could just happen with the snap of someone's fingers in 1009.  Changing from a handful of weak monarchies to an elected body in conjunction with a monarchy would require great minds, and not a small amount of painful midwifing.  Messy and real.
This is where Geophry Haltom comes in: a city alderman who raised up a rebellion within the city to throw off the Black Mage’s occupation, and then encouraged the newly enthroned King Maradaine XI to form the Parliament, to ensure that the rights of the people would stay in the hands of the people.  In addition, he wrote "The Rights of Man", as noted in the preamble above.
Now, I know that I don't write with the eloquence of, say, a Jefferson, Hamilton or Madison: but in any worldbuilding one does, it's important to realize that beyond just the kings and wars, history is made by the thinkers, philosophers and scientists.
Since Way of the Shield is a political thriller, knowing those details about not only Druthal's politics, but its political origins is crucial.  Druthal didn't have Washington, Hamilton, Jefferson or Madison.  It did have Mikarum, Haltom, Jethiah and Inton, though.  It doesn't have the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution, but it does have the Rights of Man and the Articles of Reunification.  Understanding what those are, and more importantly, what those mean to the Druth people, gives me insight into the Druth political character.
*- A name I'm kind of torn on now.  On one hand, I like the simplicity of it; on the other, it's kind of on-the-nose Evil Overlord.  I'm open to changing it.

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