779 - The most insane idea I’ve ever seen
To: Chevenga Aicheresa
Hearthstone Independent, Vae Arahi
From: Third Artira Shae-Arano-e
Semanakraseye and Imperator,
verekina 49, Y. 1554
With respect to your proposal of a federation of nations—after reading the Pages article in which you mentioned it, I was curious about the details, so I thank you for providing them.
It is something that I personally would support in principle, but to my mind I don’t know that it is possible in practice due to the daunting nature of the practicalities, specifically in convincing peoples of certain nations—most nations—to set bounds on their populations, as well as to give up long-standing customs of aggressive war (and yes, I do know these two things go together).
To speak with respect to the two nations I serve: Yeola-e’s agreement in principle would require Assembly approval, of course, but I don’t think it’s too far a stretch since we have childbearing laws already. I think the main hesitation among our own people would be fear that other signatory nations would breach the agreement. If anyone could talk them into it, it’s you.
But Arko… well, let me ask you this, my brother: you were Imperator here for two years and made all manner of sweeping changes with the golden pen, based on the mandate of turning Arko to Yeoli ways—abolishing slavery, providing fairer treatment for women, relaxing the caste laws and so forth. But never did you enact a childbearing law, or even speak of it to see how it would be received. When you were asked by Arkans if you meant to enact such a thing you would only answer cryptically that you were here to set Arko free, which they took as meaning “no,” an idea you never countered; when you were asked same by Assembly you answered that you’d enacted the law giving women the choice of how many children they should have, previously decreed by their husbands, and permitting literacy for women also, which was a start. But you went no further. Why is that, Chevenga?
I don’t need you to tell me, because I have come to know Arko well enough to know the answer. You knew it would not go over well here. That it might in fact be protested even more vociferously than purification was. And now you want me to sign Arko on to something that would require it? Right now, just like that? Because the mandate requires it, and yet you didn’t do it?
Don’t take me wrong, I am not refusing to invite you; by all means, come to Arko and we can discuss this. But be forewarned, my position is as I’ve written and I am firm in it. Arkans have become used to being set free, as you told them you would do, and child-bearing legislation like ours they are not going to see as that. Years down the road perhaps—twenty or thirty in my estimation, when they’ve had long enough experience with governance like ours and so are able to see sense about other things by extrapolation—but not now, when it is so new to them. As ever, you’re in too much of a hurry—odd when I think of how you’ve chided other heads of state to plan half-centuries or centuries in advance.
Still, as I say, you are welcome in the Marble Palace. I look forward to seeing you.
Love from your sister the Imperator,
All-Spirit, I thought, smacking her letter down on my desk, of course she was going to say that, what did I expect? I’d foreseen it well enough in the back of my mind that my second plan was there already: pick the low-hanging fruit.
How does a private citizen do this? I reviewed inwardly. Go to his Servant of Assembly. All-Spirit… will I be lucky enough that some question comes up before I die, so I get to vote? Because Vae Arahi is part of the riding of Terera North, my Servant was Sirika Shae-Shila, Sachara’s cousin by blood and Mana’s by marriage.
“Saint Mother’s whiskers, you just jump right back up after you get knocked down, don’t you, Cheng?” she said. “And we can’t keep you from trying to make the world better. This is the most insane idea I’ve ever seen. If it was anyone but you, I’d laugh them right out of my office. You must have showed it to Artira; what did she say?”
I told her the gist. “But it will become more convincing to her when it has more support elsewhere,” I added. “I was going to fly to Arko first; now it’s going to be Niah-lur-ana and Haiu Menshir before that.” If I was fast I could get it done, maybe even hit Brahvniki as well, before our wedding.
“Who customarily rein in their numbers because they’re on islands, so they’ll be open to it, of course,” she said. “Also the A-niah we already have a very strong alliance with, and the Haians owe us… but can we trust people like Kranaj or Astalaz? Notwithstanding that, I will propose that Assembly discuss it, inviting you to speak to it, if we can catch you on the ground long enough.”
That went on the queue, so I flew. Niku, Vriah and Roshten came along to Niah-lur-ana, of course. To be clear: agreement in principle meant they were bound to nothing until they chose to be. No people would sign and swear to the agreement until enough others had agreed in principle, I knew. When they began saying it was enough, I would convene an assembly, and then the agreement might even be altered, if that’s what it took.
Niku thought my chances were very good with her people; of course she’d talk it up herself. We met with the clan heads and Breicia. They had the same worry as in Yeola-e, but more about Arko. “The Yeoli plan is eventually to split off Arko independent once its people have full grip on their power under the new laws, isn’t it?” said Breicia. “You could never trust an Imperator to honour a treaty, as you know; how do we know the Arkan people are any better?”
“They need to come to understand how it is for their own good,” I said. “Or—well, everyone knows war is bad—more exactly, that an end to war is possible.” I heard Artira’s words again in my mind, twenty or thirty years, and they felt very right. I cannot let them be.
There was silence around the fire. Their eyes shone in the flame-light, unreadable as A-niah can sometimes be, perhaps because they so relaxed a people. Finally Niku said, “We should take this to the Wasteega Foa,” and the others agreed. I should take it to Jinai, I thought. He was still in Arko.
Once it was ratified by all the clan elders, the carvings were prepared and we went to the grotto. I did not think there should be one for me, but no one else agreed, and they had the one they’d used before unhung from my tree on Ibresi. The federation idea itself was depicted as a fish-net. I cannot pretend it is not constraining, I told myself.
When the water went down, we found me half-mired in sand (I’d been hoping I’d land standing on the ledge again), and the fish-net likewise, which I didn’t like the look of. But the Niah figure was touching the fishnet. “We must discuss this among ourselves,” the Wasteega Foa pronounced. Niku let me know that meant a series of talks, among the different clans on the different islands; in other words, it would take a while. I was best to go to Haiu Menshir.
AN 01: Ninja edits 'r us
If these lines of Artira's:
But never did you enact a childbearing law, or even speak of it to see how it would be received. When you were asked by Arkans if you meant to enact such a thing you would only answer cryptically that you were here to set Arko free, which they took as meaning “no,” an idea you never countered; when you were asked same by Assembly you answered that you’d enacted the law giving women the choice of how many children they should have, previously decreed by their husbands, and permitting literacy for women also, which was a start. But you went no further.
...make you wonder whether you missed mention of this earlier on, it's not you. I am embarrassed to say, in all the time Chevenga was Imp, the matter of turning Arko to Yeoli ways in that respect completely slipped my mind. My internal feminist policy wonk cringes in shame.
So what I did was a series of ninja edits to add it in. (I love Internet writing.) If you are interested, they are in the following posts: