Land of Lost Content

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Praetonia
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Land of Lost Content

Postby Praetonia » Sun Aug 11, 2019 4:14 am

The Land of Lost Content
Arthur Semton, The Commonwealth Times (translated from Flamaguayan)

From Axum to Hirosaki, Naugarh to Gannet Cross, and, yes, Douneray to the last villages west of Uxmouth, Senland is known as the "Land of Lost Content." It's the name of a novel that sits unread on the coffee tables of millions of Praetannic speakers, but above all it's an emotion that needs no explanation or enlargement. Since the earliest days, Senland has been known for its large and ambitious families, and little has changed since then. Every year, millions more are born in Senland, a fact the people see as proof of the favour of Providence, a sort of nature-god that was originated in and is worshipped in that country. More than any province of the Praetonian Island, and much of the wider Commonwealth, Senland makes children. But the country itself does not expand.

Year upon year, decade upon decade, century upon century, the first-born son of the first-born son of this bakery or that brewery smiles out from beneath the same old awning. True enough, Senland is famous for the skyscraper growing out of a street of little shops and houses, for its labyrinthine underground, the deep basements that make a hidden city spanning the peninsula, for high rise compounds plotted improbably among farms little changed from the 16th century. But all of that is proof of the main truth: in Senland, the land rider rules. A man who owns land in the Commonwealth can pass it to his descendants with conditions, and these build up until all inheritors refuse the inheritance as too burdensome and not profitable enough. In this way, the ancestors exert their just measure of control over the living. In Senland, to own the tiniest plot is profitable, because to the Sen it is everything to live in Senland. And so the conservative nature of the Sen makes change, improvement, and expansion steadily impossible.

Each year, while the ancient farms sprawl green and empty, millions find they cannot afford the ballooning cost of land. The smallest studio apartment requires a good job with a good company, or a successful business venture, or simply more work than any man who desires a life of his own could be willing to offer. And so, every year, Senland spills forth its excess population on the rest of the world. The streets of Haversham remain the quaint backdrop of ceremonies whose size doesn't show their significance as one of the world's great powers at worship and at war. Meanwhile, Senland's second sons shove one another aside to live in the towns and villages on the so-called "Western Frontier": the non-Sennish Praetonia joined to the border, a bicycle journey from the motherland. But the greater part of the population excess pours into the unconstrained megacities of Western Praetonia, into Questers, and into still more distant lands; some indeed, with thought to stay, but most with one goal: to profit enough to move back to Senland.

This, more than anything else, has built Senland its Commonwealth, and some would say its empire. There is no place in the Commonwealth one does not find the Sen. And not just find him, but find him active, shrewd, and often on the make. "New Senland" attempted an escape: instead of returning to Senland, simply recreate it, only better. But the outcome was the same: an exclusive, conservative, irreplicable island in a sea of "barbarians"; an island its creators hoarded and guarded and soon began to spill out their own excess of people longing for home. In truth, there is no escape: even making the whole world Senland would not change the fact that to be Senland it must be special, it must be different, it must be better, and to be Senland it must be not just a shrivelling monument to old glories but a constantly growing and, therefore, unsustainable monument to the future.

Why does the Sen fight so fiercely, and so well? Some have asked, in response to the recent victories of the "Estates-General" so frequently carried by a vast disproportion of Sennish troops. One reason is that a Sen doesn't dare act in a way that would make him unwelcome in Senland: it would be a living death, and worse than death because it would attach to his family as well. Another reason is that those adventurers who go abroad can always be sure of winning a return by fame in war. He may be broke, he may be crude, he may be wholly unsuitable in any other way but that he captured a Syndicalist standard in that battle everyone will pretend to remember: but that old soldier will never be asked to pay his rent or his bar tab, and so he may live in Senland. Richer men will envy him.

The world, then, turns according to many forces, but one of them is the desire of so many to recapture their Land of Lost Content: to remake it elsewhere on earth, or to prove by their daring and their success that they deserve to recover it. The Commonwealth, more than any other of the great human civilisations, is driven by human forces: and within it, this is one of the greatest. To many abroad, there can be no explaining it. Senland is a great conspiracy, or a ship of fools. But in reality it is simply a place that appeals to the heart, a place that owns all those who step into it for just a brief time, and which expels many of them into an exile that seems more cruel than death. These men, who dream of their future, make reality for the world as they make it for themselves.
<leis2> Otoh i am also an antiquarian so im legitimately interested in how purple dye was made in sidon
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Re: Land of Lost Content

Postby Praetonia » Fri Aug 16, 2019 1:17 am

Jewel in the West
Arthur Semton, The Commonwealth Times (translated from Flamaguayan)

I read the wire the other day -
Someone wronged us far away.
And now I see, without delay,
The ships sail out from Douneray...


Horek's War between the Estates-General and Prekovy made Douneray, the great port of the West, a household name in other countries for the first time. Taking its place alongside the other great naval bases of world history, it was hardly mentioned again in the foreign press without aircraft carriers and submarines, merchantmen, perhaps pirates. Whatever happens on land, the world scarcely notices. But Douneray is one of the world's greatest metropolises, and the largest city of the Home Island. Not only that, but one of the most modern and forward-thrusting cities in the world. It owes its dynamism to a mindset quite alien to the Sen. Where the Sen is content to work and worship quietly, the Westerner must be brash and bold. Where the Sen clings to tradition and his ancient institutions, the Westerner delights in the new.

The land riders of Senland are no less legal in Douneray, but they are almost entirely alien to the people there. Even the most mild conditions will make the Westerner turn up his nose at a property: if I may not do with it what I wish, in what sense it is mine? The residents' association has no appeal here either: a Westerner may decorate his garden with gaudy Occidental trees or let it overgrow as he wishes. Adjoining plots may be built in wildly different styles with the tiniest gap between them to respect the property line. At the same time, there is a distinct sense of sameness to Douneray because the greatest possible virtue is to be new. The core of the city, where there is the most wealth, is never more than a decade or two old. The buildings rise higher and higher with improved construction techniques as they merge together in style following, with totally independent planning and intent, the same fashions. The city literally rebuilds itself every few decades. No one, after a life spent in business abroad, would save to return to the Douneray of his youth: he knows it is already gone.

What holds this place together, then, and give it its character? Because the West, no less than the East, has its own "national" character, and Douneray, like Haversham, is an unspoken but undoubted capital. A century since The Troubles, this character is no longer secessionist, but fully embraces the Praetonian project and Providentialism. And the Westerner thinks he knows much better than the Sen what Providence is all about. More than any other religion, Providentialism has its eye on the future: it's the direction and the destination, not the origin or the intent, that matters. And the Providentialist West can't help but look on dusty Senland with pity and a hint of contempt.

In Senland, one may ask how long a family has lived in Taverstock rather than Whitehaven, whose relatives fought at Bewford, from whom that sword or that flag was inherited and who carried it in - oh - who can still remember that battle? But where is the tallest building in the world? Who builds, no, not the most intricate watches and fastest trains, but the technologies of the future? Where do young designers and inventors take helicopter taxis from their studios to the beachfront bar - and never step beneath the fortieth floor? Douneray judges itself by these things.

Of course, this dynamism comes with sacrifices. Douneray, where the individual is king, hardly has the cohesion and patience to create the sort of ancient institutions which Haversham has fanned throughout the world and which some claim occultly control large portions of it. The Westerner notoriously can't keep a secret. And, of course, two Westerners in an argument will have three positions and four rebuttals. To imagine such people forming armies and fleets - indeed, forming them with practically no coercion except the carrot of duty and the stick of shame - is absurd. And so, to this day, Douneray feels itself subject to Senland, and perhaps is, enjoying a fool's paradise of money while others control the military and judicial apparatus of the island. Still worse, late at night after a few drinks the Westerner may confess his fear that aliens from the East are coming to slowly encroach on all the land and import their alien customs of land riders, residents' associations, and weekend militia drill.

But for now, for the individualist, for the libertine, and even for the exiled Sen on the make, Douneray is the Jewel in the West, the most exciting, the most inviting, the most plain liberating place in the world. Here, a man can make a fortune, his force of personality and his vision can shift the whole direction of a society not weighed down with half a millennium of holy relics, and, perhaps most of all, he can have an enormous amount of fun doing it. To those who love Douneray, the Estates' naval base sits awkwardly, precariously perhaps, in the long shadow of the forest of gleaming skyscrapers. It is an alien outpost, dedicated with a sober and tedious seriousness to an alien project: a project inspired not by pragmatism but by philosophy; a project not of one man but of all of humanity; a project not of a few years but of centuries. The Western mind can scarcely comprehend.
<leis2> Otoh i am also an antiquarian so im legitimately interested in how purple dye was made in sidon
<leis2> (using mollusks)

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Re: Land of Lost Content

Postby Praetonia » Mon Aug 19, 2019 1:52 am

Mistress of the World
Arthur Semton, The Commonwealth Times (translated from Flamaguayan)

Providence is one of those words that defies translation. Just as one could call a Providentialist gathering a "church", which would paint it one way, or a "temple", which would paint it another, we must understand that it is really neither, but something else, a word that does not exist in Flamaguayan, or anywhere outside its own language and the society of its speakers. What is Providence? In the first place, it is not just another name for another god. It's a common caricature of the Praetannic believer, the man who "trusts Providence" will bring him victory, wealth, a better job, a faster car, and breakfast in bed. Of course, such people exist, just as greedy and stupid people exist in all religions. He may even be common. But here is the true difference, for those who know: when the Providentialist says "trust Providence", he is not making a statement about Providence, but about himself.

In many religions, the world is exactly how it appears, and gods stand outside it. Man, who is an agent in the world, asks for the blessing and help of the gods in his various schemes, which the gods may ignore, ruin, or promote as they choose. In Providentialism, god is the world, and man is not an independent agent at all. When the Providentialist says "trust Providence," he is not saying that Providence will or should come to help him. He is saying that he believes his choices are in line with what Providence has already decided to do; perhaps, that Providence has already chosen him to win. An abstract difference, perhaps, but a central one. The Providentialist does not ask for blessing: he searches for truth.

If this may appear to place the Providentialist in a precarious philosophical position, that's perfectly true. The Estates-General, the Eastern Association, the Vigilance Committee, and the others, say "Providence upholds us" as much to reassure themselves as to assert themselves against their enemies. Things have gone well for them. Things may continue to go well for them. But there is no guarantee. There are no incantations which, once chanted, ensure the support of Providence. Things go well for now, and we presume this is due to our correctness on the nature of Providence, but we may find that we have simply blindly guessed out a straight highway for a thousand miles in ignorance of the forces that determine that thereafter there will be a cliff.

There is not quite such a thing as a Providentialist "church" - a building in which Providence and her business is contained - and the notion would seem absurd to a Providentialist precisely because Providence is everything. You need to breathe - do you need a building in which breathing is done, and nowhere else? So it is with Providence. But surely, some buildings are more Providential than others, and what imbues a building, a place, a person, with the aspect of Providence is the extent to which it is dedicated to the search for Truth. This, indeed, requires intelligence, and the most Providential persons and places are often those associated with intelligence. But honesty and self-criticism are more important: they determine whether one gets there, intelligence only determining the speed. A high but dishonest intelligence can speed off in entirely the wrong direction just as quickly.

Among the most Providential buildings are the scientific Foundations, and beneath them the engineering companies and the accountants of the Oryontic Assurance and the others, then beneath them the trade schools, and beneath them more pedestrian places of learning. Eccentric individuals who make some great or interesting discovery may be revered as Providential, and their advice sought on various matters. But above all the courts are Providential, because they ultimately determine all human conflicts. What is honesty? What, in this instance, is truth? To decide - to act - is a much more serious business than to opine. And so their opening and closing incantation: where we are in doubt, may Providence guide; where we are in error, may Providence forgive; where we are in malice, may Providence avenge. The jurists, so society truly believes, take this oath very seriously, and many first rate young men think long and hard before entering the jurists' academies to pursue a life of status, importance, intellectual stimulation - and terrible catastrophe should they be wrong. The course and fate of the Providential world literally sits on their shoulders.

But there is a layer still higher, concerned not with business of the world, but the nature of reality. It is from this group that most dangerous ideas have come, the best known being Syndicalism. And the whole business is accepted as dangerous: to act in accordance with reality, we must act; to act together, we must have some uniformity; to have uniformity, we must decide what it is that we believe about the nature of reality. If we make some decision, and exclude the others, we may be wrong. If we fragment and make no decision, we are definitely wrong. And so from the early days in Senland, it is lost in the records how long since, those who thought too deeply and too hard have been rewarded with what the deeply inquisitive mind desires most: a lifetime in peace to think and contemplate in peace and calm, with all one's earthly wants catered for.

To be honoured in this way is to attain the highest status Providentialism offers. To remove earthly distractions, this quiet hermitage takes place on a small island off the north coast of Senland, cultivated over centuries to provide the most edifying possible surroundings for the mind. Truly, it is a paradise. So beautiful, so calm, so sublime - and so distant it cannot easily disturb the commerce of Haversham, the industry of Douneray, the armies and fleets of the Estates-General, the Sultan of the Malays or the Guardian of Tairendia. In quiet contemplation, the most devoted servants of the Mistress of the World sleep in peace.
<leis2> Otoh i am also an antiquarian so im legitimately interested in how purple dye was made in sidon
<leis2> (using mollusks)

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Re: Land of Lost Content

Postby Praetonia » Tue Aug 20, 2019 1:35 am

In the Shadow of the Mutiny
Arthur Semton, The Commonwealth Times (translated from Flamaguayan)

It should come as no surprise that the Great Mutiny changed Questers. And yet, in most ways Questers is just the same. Dynasties rise and fall, and this does not change the character of the place as much as one might think. It is the way of things there. Meanwhile, in the distant homeland, which suffered almost no direct damage in the war, no event in recorded history has been so shocking, so terrible, so extended in its trauma. You see, the rise and fall of dynasties is the way in Questers, where Providentialism is just another dynasty, but in the homeland Providentialism stands or falls on the evidence of its constant, unerring success. The loss of Questers would not be a loss of economic resources - some may say, resources that scarcely pay for themselves in the trouble attached to them - but a devastating loss of legitimacy. That's from the outside, but from the inside the legitimacy of one's institutions, one's country, one's religion is no such mean and logical thing: it is one's sense of self, one's sense of being.

So it was with great surprise to the outside world, and to the Syndicalists themselves, but no surprise to those who knew it well, that the old country mobilised with a singular and ruthless determination to total victory in response to what no one to this day will call the "Questerian Civil War," a pedestrian event of a distant country, but "the Great Mutiny," a dagger in the heart of us. In the old country, the first great catastrophe of the Mutiny was the fall of the Freeholders' Confederation. This institution, the most Providential of the military institutions of Questers, embodied the spirit of Senland, of its heroes, and of its philosophy. Seen from the outside, the Mutiny may have been a total victory for the old country, but this alone meant any victory can be only partial and qualified. The Sultan of the Malays is a true believer, in his way, but he is a believer of circumstance. It is not in his bones. In Questers, what loss is it that power is transferred from one great magnate to another? It is simply the way of things.

For the Sen, the end of the war was not the collapse of Hood's army or the recapture of Naugarh. It certainly was not the rescue of Kuala Pahang, an event considered of moderate importance at best. In many ways, indeed, the old country would prefer that the Malays had collapsed. No, it was the ceremonial funeral of the Protector George, held at Jesselton on the third anniversary of his death. Shot by a Syndicalist assassin at the outbreak of the war, his embalmed body had been held in state until the final victory. The message was clear: there will be a victory, or there will be no more "us". As it looked, in those days, the probability of defeat square in the face, the Estates-General would contemplate no other outcome but victory. This was not a position of peculiar courage, but peculiar perceived weakness: here we would no more survive a minor defeat than a total one. The Protector, considered an officer killed in action in the war in Questers, was buried in the reoccupied city in the shadow of the old headquarters of the Freeholders' Confederation. At the boom of a great gun, his riderless horse trotted between rows of Estates' troops, and as it passed the standards and swords of the defeated enemy were thrown to the ground behind it. Providence was satisfied.

But the Mutiny had unleashed other forces, that will not be so easily buried. The Smythist Clique argued that the Mutiny was a warning, and perhaps one that had already come too late: the Commonwealth must expand, or it will die. If it sits peacefully within its present borders it will suffer more and more challenges, from inside and outside, and sooner or later, inevitably, fate will give one of these a victory. If the Commonwealth is the instrument of Providence, it must win more and more victories. To merely avoid defeat is not, in itself, a victory. Smyth was frustrated, and driven into exile, but he was not defeated, and he has returned, perhaps more powerful than ever before, to steer the Commonwealth into desperate war. Smyth, the people of Senland will say, even those who worked to remove him, is an object of Providence, and if he wins enough victories he will have won the right to command their loyalty and obedience. The Smythist future still shimmers on an uncertain horizon.

Smythism, though, is not the only force the mutiny unleashed. The armies of the Estates-General, typically filled with Senland regulars, became close to representative of the population of the Home Island for the first time. And Senland, for all its bluster, is only about about a third of the population and economic output of the island. For the first time in history, the Eastern Association and its satellites in the Ports' League and the Parks Association found themselves being dictated to by the much larger working mens' associations of the West. It was they, at last, who refused Smythism and its policy of eternal war. For all they sweetened the pill by replacing him with a Ports' League marshal under the apparent instigation of a recalcitrant old Eastern Association Prekophobe, everyone knows that Senland would have followed Smyth to the end of the world and back, had the transactional, comfort-loving West not refused to pay and threatened to break apart the Estates-General and shatter the unity of the island.

Today, the home island sits uneasily under divided leadership. The Western associations have demobilised and fallen back into calm, quiet, inattention, and irrelevance. As they fail to exercise leadership, the memory of their power nonetheless discredits the hotheads of Senland. The Eastern Association looks, swivel-eyed, to the Wallasean continent, consumed every few months by another Prekovite war scare that amounts to nothing. The Prekovy-facing faction survives in power because it is neither openly timid nor in any real sense active. Many of the truly active and intelligent young officers have departed to the Occident, where they help Smyth rule Tairendia and throw its might - willingly, one must admit - into final conflict with the mainland fanatics. And all watch this war with bated breath, seeing in it the seeds of a future they dare not or cannot plant. Among them, not least is the young Protector, whose legitimacy grew immensely in the Great Mutiny, and which she has carefully preserved since with silence and inaction. The victor of the Great Mutiny shivers and jumps at shadows, its armies abroad, its courage wasted in confusion. And silently the Estates' Navy steams on, the true guardian of the country, overlooked and forgotten by all.
<leis2> Otoh i am also an antiquarian so im legitimately interested in how purple dye was made in sidon
<leis2> (using mollusks)

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Re: Land of Lost Content

Postby Praetonia » Wed Sep 11, 2019 3:10 am

The Marshal of the Nampata
Arthur Semton, The Commonwealth Times (translated from Flamaguayan)

I've never claimed to be a genius, but I know my country, and I have had the curiosity to seek out and discover others. This combination makes me unusual enough that I have been able to make a life explaining my country to foreigners. I have always been gratified by their interest, honoured by their patient indulgence, and baffled by their prejudices. Please do not misunderstand me: my country is full of prejudices too, as are all lands and all people, and most especially those which are self-assured and insular. My country prides itself on self-assuredness and insularity, and may therefore be the most prejudiced in the world. But the prejudices of foreigners perplex me precisely because they are foreign, and so concern what I know well, while my own prejudices concern what I know less well, and what is further from my heart. Just as a curse in Flamaguayan will never strike my heart as it can yours, a prejudice of yours is worth ten and worse of mine - at least, to me.

So what, then, is the most grating prejudice about Praetonia? It's not what you think. You say that Providentialists are smug and arrogant: perfectly true, and I count myself guilty. We are not a modest people, and with good reason. We really do have all the answers. Or so we think. Our very modesty is an offence, if not an affectation. You say that our poor and our wretched are poorer and more wretched than yours: no argument here; we don't mind it, but then we wouldn't, would we? For the most part, we are neither poor nor wretched. You say that we are not a democracy. Well, we do not have that word in our language, so we must plead no contest: you win again. No. The worst prejudice about Praetonia is the one you think isn't a prejudice at all: that our Estates-General is the centre of our national life. To be sure, it is one of the most important institutions directly concerned with foreigners outside the Commonwealth. But we are not foreigners, and we are very much within the Commonwealth. This institution does not concern itself with us much at all.

And we, at least until recently, have not concerned ourselves much with it. We are aware of its existence, in a vague sense. But even those few of us who obsess on military matters are concerned with their local associations: with the Guilds and the Volunteers in the West, or the Eastern Association in the East. But they in turn are few. Only a minority of people are involved with the military at all, and most of them go along for social reasons. It's simply good politics to be a reservist, and even better to be a reserve officer. The regulars and the regular officer corps, the general staff the press makes famous, are a tiny and, for the most part, marginal breed. It's like the church. You may know your priest. You may know of the bishop. How many scholarly authors on theology do you know? Do you pour over their books late into the night? No? But surely those matters are important to you? So a foreigner may reason.

Growing up in Senland, itself the most militarised of the home provinces, I was scarcely aware of the Estates-General. It was an abstract constitutional possibility, its regal Protector uninvolved with commerce, with law, and with culture. It could be called into being, a leviathan rising from the marshes. But it had not been, not for a long time. Then, all of a sudden, it was, and it did its job well. The men rallied to the standards of the associations, which placed themselves under the Estates-General very indirectly, through their own generals and staffs. The common private did not know much about this. The housewife back at home, meanwhile, was presented with an enormous bill for the services of the Estates-General, which she paid, at least the first few times, with a sense of stoic pride. It grated after a time, but then it did not last all that long a time. Its job done, the Estates-General descended back into the marshes, and there many have wished it to be quietly and politely forgotten.

And it is this false perspective on the Estates-General that baffles the foreigner on the matter of Smyth: the Marshal of the Nampata. Because Smyth was at once bigger than the Estates-General. Even before he made a name as a marshal, he made a small name as a subaltern, and a bigger name as an author. For years, he was a journalist and author known well to the politically knowledgeable in Senland. A minority, for sure, but a much bigger one than the military obsessive. As Marshal, he outshone them all. The job of a Marshal, you see, is essentially political: he corrals and herds the general staffs of the associations into something like a cohesive army, with great and terrible powers he hopes never to have to use. Not because he is modest, but because he is not really sure anyone will enforce them. Smyth was something different. For the first time in a century, Smyth was a national leader. He eclipsed the staffs and the Estates-General. He even eclipsed the Eastern Association in Senland and the Western Volunteers' in Douneray. He rallied the army behind him and for a few critical months he commanded it in opposition to them all and almost overcame them.

The ghost of Smyth has not dissipated in exile. Any ordinary man would have been entirely destroyed by the measures brought against him. But Smyth was not destroyed, and almost at once he claimed a position which can bid defiance to the Estates-General and all those who opposed him. This is not just a successful general or a competent man: it is the aspect of Providence. It is the Direction of the Universe at work in the world. Scoff all you like, but Praetannics believe such things, and I, I humbly beg the reader's pardon, believe such things. Many in the Estates-General and elsewhere look slantwise at one another that they dared to oppose Smyth, and quiet whispers in hidden places say that he should be allowed to return. Quiet, but not quiet enough that everyone isn't at least aware of them. Wilder voices say that the aspect of Fox has returned and the age of quiet that prevailed for two centuries will give way to an era of revolution and conquest. The two centuries, of course, being the centuries of the Estates-General and its quiet and polite policy.

Praetonia is a country of institutions, but a nation of men. The institutions are composed of men, and it is always the will of men that imposes itself on any event, at least where there is any choice to the outcome. The Estates-General is a mechanism, an effective one, perhaps, but a mechanism of peace and quiet. Smyth, much more than the Estates-General, occupies the minds of men. And he offers a distinctly different future: a future not of quiet conservation of established order, but a future of activity and upheaval. And it is this vision that tugs at the Providentialist heart.
<leis2> Otoh i am also an antiquarian so im legitimately interested in how purple dye was made in sidon
<leis2> (using mollusks)


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