Week 47, 2019
Education in the Imperial schools was not centered on learning as much as it was conditioning.
Every citizen was taught that all good things flowed from the Empire, whatever the individual had to be thankful for, no matter how small, including their daily food and clean water, they could look to the Empire and to the Emperor himself as its source.
The schools beat this perspective into the mind of every person, as the hammer pounds a nail.
The teaching was reinforced at every level of Imperial education, both in the secular schools, and through the religious observations of the Imperial Cult. It brought unity to each and every world despite their distance from one another.
The schools were the hammer, and the cult set the nail.
The people were taught to give thanks to the Empire even for the good things that came from their own hands, the vegetables growing in their gardens, a blanket they had quilted, they gave thanks to the Empire and to the Continuum which undergirded it.
There was nothing that they possessed, or that they ever would possess that did not flow from the Empire’s munificence.
The Continuum and its Empire were the source of all goodness and justice, they controlled the destiny of every living being.
The first gift they gave to the individual was existence, it was selfhood.
Life in the Galactic Empire was like a woven tapestry, with the Continuum dictating how every thread was stretched across the loom, integrating each strand into the fabric of the whole.
The images were constantly changing, moving, developing, even the tiniest detail of the lives of the citizens fed the hunger of the Collective.
The Imperial government was the loom, the Imperial schools and the cult were the shuttlecock, and the Observers in the field were like the hands that pulled the threads through.
The Empire controlled every aspect of home life for the family, how it was employed, whether or not they would advance, how much they could save, how much food was on their table.
To resist the will of the Empire even in thought, was considered to be a grave sin.
A person could not move from one dwelling to the next without Imperial approval. The Empire kept families bound to a single domicile for generations, only moving them if and when their rank changed, and that occurred only if it served the interests of the Continuum, and the narratives it was developing.
This offered the ordinary citizens a sense of normalcy and reliability, of safety and security, while stifling virtually every bit of hope.
Even marriage was subject to Imperial approval. In most cases the Empire did not exercise that control, but it did when it served the broader purpose of the Continuum. A marriage proposal would be approved or denied at the temple, “according to the will of the gods,” the Continuum and the Collective.
Procreation itself was tightly controlled.
For those with means, unsanctioned pregnancies could be terminated. Those who were afraid to report to the Empire or who could not afford an abortion, were forced to abandon their children among the outcasts and untouchables.
The social structure the Empire adhered to was designed by the Continuum as a means of reflecting on the past, on the traditions of the Ancient People who formed the Collective, who embarked on the great space-faring adventures and whose colonies formed the Empire as it came to be.
Every citizen lived out their lives with the possibility of contemplating only a very narrow band of possibilities for themselves and their families.
Hope itself was discouraged, but in that bleak landscape the most powerful hopes would blossom, brightening the lives of the people like flower blooming in the arctic.
Work and trades were hereditary, they were guarded. Farmers farmed, builders built, and fishers fished. From one generation to the next sons followed their fathers into work, as daughters followed their mothers into the birthing chambers and lives of drudgery.
They married and had children within their class and caste, within their occupation, generation after generation.
Soldiers went to war, while priests officiated the sacred rites. The gears of the social wheel turned predictably and only the rarest of individuals even questioned it.
They people did not question the reality the were taught to believe, that they belonged exactly where they were.
Those rare individuals produced the drama that the Continuum hungered for, they were the source of energy that fed the Collective, kept the membership out of its malaise.
There was very little opportunity for an individual or a family to change their inherited circumstances.
As oppressive as this system was, there was comfort in it. The vast majority of the people merely persisted, got by, and did not question what the gods had ordained for them.
Every person was beset by the intense pressure that came with the understanding that their future was completely dependent on every little decision they made in the here and now.
Citizens holding positions of power or authority required balance and poise, the more responsibility they had the more heavily they were scrutinized.
Every person’s life was a matter of public record, every step they took outside the home, every word they spoke. At any time they could held accountable for anything…for everything they had ever done.
The Collective loved to see people and families built up, only to watch them taken down, sometimes over the course of generations, at other time with bewildering speed.
The Continuum gave them these dramas, filling the Collective with the vicarious experiences they craved.
The greatest narratives the Continuum had ever constructed resulted in the destruction of entire worlds, the suppression of rebellion that resulted in total genocide.
The more power a person had the more careful they had to be. Billions of lives depended on their thoughtful application of it.
Such was the case with El the High Priest.
His rebellion had destroyed everything he had ever loved. Then, after his resurrection and his complete submission to Imperial rule, he held posts in which he signed orders that starved quarrelsome population into submission.
He led the Imperial armada on missions that turned entire planets into glowing cinders, sending their raw materials to the central system as an offering to the Collective.
As High Priest El blessed these missions and absolved the commanders of any and all crimes they and their troops committed in the furtherance of it.
Control requires ever greater control; to force it is to lose it. In the Empire the exercise of power had to be done submissively, always in deference to a greater authority..
It was dichotomous.
The Empire cultivated a sense of helplessness, routinely crushing any sense of self esteem, while at the same bonding various groups of citizens together, forging a sense of belonging among the trillions of citizens living on a million worlds.
The ordinary citizen had no say in the destiny of their home-world, they saw it as theirs, and themselves as belonging to it. For the pleb, every link in the chain-of-being was a vital part of their culture and they had a duty to defend it, both in thought and deed.
Their advancement depended on their fidelity.
In the abstract the concept had a quality of beauty, a social symmetry and wholeness that the witnesses to it could not help but appreciate. In reality, every link in the chain was an instrument of bondage, forged together by lies and leading only to ruin.
The ordinary hopes and dreams of the people meant nothing to the Continuum and the Collective, they were merely data-points in a grand drama which they consumed vicariously, and hungered for with an insatiable appetite.
Any sense of control that an individual might feel was an illusion, fostered for the sake of creating a narrative that leant meaning to the lives of the Collective.
A person only had existential worth if they were noticed by the Collective, but that was by no means a guarantee of happiness.
The ambitions of an entire planet could be burnt up and scattered like cinders and ash, if it suited the will of the Collective.
No individual person or planet had inherent value.
The Continuum used the people while caring nothing at all for them, the people in their turn placed their hopes in the Continuum, desiring nothing more than to be elevated to the Collective and thereby to enter into eternal life.
The sacred rites functioned like a dragnet, drawing everyone in, capturing them body and soul.
Every citizen was compelled to conform; the Empire would not accept anything less than complete obedience. Attendance at the temple was mandatory. Few people even attempted to resist, those that did were discovered and subjected to advanced conditioning.
If the priesthood was unable to change the will of the deviant, they were expelled, cast out, they became untouchable.
Conformation to the Imperial way was the focus of the Imperial schools as well. Conditioning of the head reinforced the conditioning of the heart.
The schools provided an intellectual apparatus and frame of context for the religious rites to fill.
The rites of the Imperial cult were grand ceremonies, both simple and complex, they engaged the adherent at every level of their senses, they were imbued with hypnotic power.
The Empire’s goal was to supplant every natural communal bond, the bonds that every person formed instinctively with parents and siblings, with neighbors and classmates, in their villages, in their cities, on their planet of origin.
To condition to believe that there was freedom in bondage, and belonging in alienation, that obedience was the path to transcendence, and self-actualization could only be had in self-abnegation.
The deepest allegiance had to be to the Empire, and to the Continuum beyond it, that allegiance was based on the promise of a reward that was rarely given.
The priesthood used every device at its disposal, controlling the people with music and movement, with mantras and mandalas, through their diet and with drugs. They had honed their techniques over millions of years.
They never fully succeeded in this, and they never quit trying.
The most important thing the ordinary citizen required, both for their prospects of advancement, and to simply keep their place, was access to the right schools, the right priest in the right temple, or simply to have a relationship with their immediate supervisor.
In order to advance a person needed an advocate.
People coveted access more than anything, as such every access point was closely guarded. There were bureaucratic entanglements to negotiate and social hurdles to climb.
The norms of the hierarchies had to be observed.
In the struggle to craft a meaningful life, to provide some comfort for themselves or their families, everyone needed a hand up. They required representation by those who were ahead of them in rank or above them in class and caste.
The entire Empire was governed by systems of patronage and clientage.
To go anywhere a person needed access to authority, they needed access to those able to grant a boon or advance their cause, this was the grand nexus for the systemic corruption of the entire social order.
Nothing was free.
The limits to upward mobility were clear and near at hand. They could only be understood in economic terms.
The economics of advancement were disturbing, unethical, but by and large they were not illegal. It was not illegal to commit one’s child to a life of servitude in your patron’s house, it was not considered unethical to do so if it meant that another child could attend a better school.
Neither was it illegal to use your servants for whatever purpose you intended, even risking their lives for your own purposes, no matter how mundane or banal those purposes might be.
It was in that nexus that the people found their complicity in the crushing of one another’s dreams.
Part Seven, War
Chapter Forty-five, Possession
A Novel – In One Chapter Per Week
#Emergence #ShortFiction #365SciFi #OneChapterPerWeek
Like it, Follow it, Share it!