Look to the West Volume IX: The Electric Circus



Part #307: To Capture the Moment

“THE VICTIM: Our Terraqueous Globe
THE CRIME: Attempted Murder
J’ACCUSE: The Nations of Humanity!

The Fight Against Climate Amelioration Is Yours And Mine
Talk by Steward Party Leader David Potts MCP
6:30 pm November 29th, Robinson Hall[1]

– Poster seen on Effingham Street, Fredericksburg, ENA.
Photographed and transcribed by Dr David Wostyn, November 2020


(Sgt Mumby’s note)

Unsurprisingly, we haven’t been fortunate enough to find a lecture specifically on the development of popular media in the Electric Circus period. Instead, what we’ve mostly found are a few of them giving a longer history of narrower media, like, just on photography – I mean asimcony – or whatever. So if there seem to be some abrupt cuts, it’s because we’ve just taken the parts covering the relevant years. (Mutters) Which also took much longer to edit and process. Now, where’s my five thousand piece jigsaw puzzle…


Extract from recorded lecture “The Light Fantastic” by T. Jefferson ‘Jeff’ Ballard, recorded November 12h, 2020—

…you understand that I have to talk about this stuff. It’s important that we all know where we came from, and that’s true of our jobs and our passions as much of us in a biological or a, you know, genealogical sense. Can I really call myself an asimconist – much less a ‘star asimconist’, as the Imperial Courant described me when reviewing my last exhibition. Whatever the heck that is. (Chuckles) Yah, can I call myself an asimconist if I don’t know where asimcony came from? If I don’t know about the folk who came before me and did the pioneering work?

So I’ve told you about Charles Darwin and Joe Paxman and Ricardo Forteza.[2] I have to. It wouldn’t be right not to. Darwin might have been a rich – individual (Chuckles) tryin’ to get richer, but he had real passion for what he tried to achieve. You’d have to have a real stone heart not to shed a tear when he worked himself into the grave tryin’ to find a fixer. So we’re in, what, let’s call it 1838 or so, and we finally have a good asimconic process and asimcons that won’t fade away after a few hours or days. We can capture images of places, people, scenes, only monochrome, but so what, if monochrome ’simcons didn’t still sell today then I wouldn’t have a job. (Laughter) So we’ve started the history of asimcony, right?

Wrong! Because in my view, no branch of art, no medium, is ever truly born until it’s open to everyone. There were still plenty of problems with asimcony in, what did I say, around 1838 or whatever. Some you may be familiar with, because they’re often shown in period films – sometimes exaggerated, to be honest, which can give a misleadin’ impression. You know the sort I mean. People having to sit stock still for hours due to long exposure times – so no action scenes. That, along with social values of the time, meaning we picture that time of history as being one where everyone’s sat very still with an expression like some dude’s just told ’em their dog just died. (Slightly shocked laughter) When in real life, that was an age when you had railways with steam locomotives blasting past at high speed, and wheels and cranks moving and gouting steam in factories – and, I’m sorry to say, little boys an’ girls getting’ crushed in the gears. (Reaction) But you won’t see that in asimcons taken in 1845 or whatever, and not just because of exposure times and the fact it was too dark for days before bleaklights.[3] You don’t see it because nobody thought to try to capture it – because those people didn’t matter. Asimcony was expensive. It was a hobby for the rich. And the man who wields the camera decides what should and shouldn’t be remembered about his age.

Now, if we’ve got any experts in the audience (Chuckles) some of you may want to object to that description. And sure, there are exceptions. You can point to individual asimconists in the 1840s and 1850s who did look beyond their own class’ predilections and interests. Mary Kensitt, the Englishwoman, used her asimcony of poor washerwomen in Manchester suburbs to shock and highlight the fact that the Populist government, which claimed to be for the people, often looked the other way when it came to wife-beating. (Murmurs) Johann Stübel, the German, travelled to China and captured our oldest images of Chinese people of several classes. Here in Old Virginia you had Jonas Montgomery, who immortalised the ruin of deserted black villages and those who were all but forced into African colonisation by the government after Caesar Bell. (Reaction)

I’m not gonna criticise any of those people. What they did was good work, and the world we live in would be a worse place without it. But with the greatest of respect, all of them were wealthy an’ privileged, and to them it was a great adventure. A passion project, to be sure, but still a project. That point tainted a lot of the early asimconists. They might sympathise with the plight of those less fortunate, but they could never truly understand it – because they hadn’t lived it themselves.

You might say – so what? Isn’t a ’simcon a ’simcon? No! Wrong! That’s the biggest secret. Some folk wonder why we still have painters when we have asimconists, and surely no painting can ever be as… ‘accurate’ (Chuckles) as a ’simcon. That’s missin’ the point. A painter or an asimconist, if he knows what he’s doin’ – or she – well, he’s not tryin’ to create an ‘accurate’ image. We don’t see the world through some unfiltered view, any scientist will tell you that. Our minds take what our eyes see and manipulate it, fillin’ in blank space where it doesn’t matter, deciding which parts stick in our memory and which don’t. Someone who looks at a really ‘accurate’, a really high-resolution asimcon of a scene ain’t seein the same thing as a dude who was actually there and saw the real scene. Not just because it’s a still image, capturing only a moment. No. An asimconist who really knows what he’s doing, he can capture the feel of bein’ there. Same as a painter can, but in a different way. Capture what the mind and the heart feel, not only what the eye sees.

I could talk about this for hours – and stop me, or I will. (Chuckles) But you get the picture – no pun intended. (Laughter) Asimcony has nothing to do with a camera and everything to do with the man or woman behind the camera. The way we approach takin’ a ’simcon will change how our audience sees and interprets it when it’s done. So if the folk takin’ the ’simcon are all rich dudes an’ doxies who see their subject as – well – an object, something to condescend to – that’s goin’ to change how we see that subject.

So did asimcony in this age really capture the world? Or did it just capture the vision of the world of a privileged few? You get my point. Maybe we associate it with that Democratic Experiment age now, but it was never that democratic. The folk takin’ the ’simcons were either rich hobbyists, or experts working for rich hobbyists, or experts sellin’ their services to bourgeois families savin’ up for a family ’simcon ’cause they were tryin’ to look like they were rich. The common man an’ woman had no part to play, and made no decision in what was remembered.

So what changed that? Not the invention of the bleaklight in the 1860s. Not Eugene Janszoon’s xyloid film in the 1880s, replacin’ the cumbersome glass plates.[4] Certainly not colour film, where there were experiments as far back as the 1870s but it took almost a hundred years to become accessible to ordinary folk – and they’re the only ones that matter, for a medium to be mature. No, the big change was Lucio Reyes’ cheap Artibol camera in the 1890s, which suddenly made decent asimcony available to the masses. You ever wonder why we think of the 1880s as being full of stiff people in stiff dresses and with stiff moustaches – not the same people – usually (Laughter) – and then suddenly in the 1890s it’s full of bright-eyed revolutionary heroes and grim hard-bitten soldiers with cigarettes and widows with children cryin’ over their young men? It wasn’t just that the war broke out, it’s that it broke out at the right time to be captured by these new cheap cameras. If we’d fought the Pandoric War a decade earlier, we’d probably think of it now as bein’ another gentleman’s war with generals in starched uniforms and troops in parade formations. The Artibol, and its imitators, suddenly meant a minority of privileged people couldn’t decide which bits of history get captured and remembered anymore.

Of course those early cameras were also not very high quality, and most people using them were untrained and made mistakes. But it didn’t matter. That djinn could never be put back in the bottle. From the 1890s onwards, asimcony became a People’s Medium, a People’s Art. It’d take longer for the same to happen to other media, like film…


Extract from recorded lecture “The Tuney Revolution” by Abraham Chislehurst, recorded November 19th, 2020—

…so from a filmmaker’s point of view, it’s easy to split history into two halves: before and after film. (Laughter) But, of course, it doesn’t work like that. What would I make my Year Zero, 1875 when Qeraxyl was invented?[5] But it took years to apply the technology to moving pictures. When Vasquez and Burattini released the first short films at the turn of the last century? Maybe. But looking at those early films, it would be hard to compare them to what we associate with the medium today. In some ways, they seem closer to a nineteenth-century stroboscope toy.

Even when film had really got established, things have changed a lot over the past century. It can be difficult now for us moderns to appreciate even a very good film made a hundred years ago, classics like The Good Celator, The Merry Widows, Death of a Nation, Annie’s Quest or The Starlet.[6] They are monochrome and silent, requiring us to read from interstitial title cards, for subtitles had yet to be invented. Originally, they would have been accompanied by live music from musicians tailoring their playing to the on-screen action, a lost art today. These films’ acting and editing is designed for a different era’s sensibilities, a different era’s technical limitations. They are still influenced by the theatre, when the rules for acting and directing came from the stage and few had yet thought to ask the question ‘why’ they should be transferred to a new medium. It takes time for new ideas to appear.

And so, as Edgarson observed, the history of film is not one of a sharp transition, of a brand new technology enlightening and entertaining the world overnight, but a process of evolution. Often a rapid process, though, as filmmakers and studios copied one another. In the First Interbellum, California took the lead as the filmmaking centre of the world, in part because our censorship policies were so liberal. Plenty of films were made in places like France, or right here in the Empire, but they often haven’t aged so well. Also they would be less likely to survive to the present, which I’ll get to, while there were preservationists in California from near the start – men and women who had made fortunes in films and had a vested interest in keeping collections.

Of course, I’m talking about simmy-films [live action]. Meanwhile England was pioneering phanty-films [animated] which were starting to propagate across the world, too – especially after colour was developed in the 1910s. Nowadays we don’t often think about the often dire state that the phanty-artists were working in – and unfortunately still are, in some countries. That was especially true after the Panic of 1917. The Register of London did an exposé in 1920 over what it called the ‘modern slavery’ of phanty-artists in Bradford practically chained to their desks, painstakingly drawing each frame of Leo and Jock in one of their famous fights, or Sinbad the Sailor in his voyage around the world.[7] During the Black Twenties, studios in other countries began to try to break the English monopoly, in particular Corea and Pérousie. Even the Combine made an attempt at phanty-films alongside its better-known simmy ones.

The plague was a huge challenge for the film industry, of course – one could no longer jam dozens of low-paying punters in a crude odeon given the anti-spread laws. One of your enterprising countrymen, John Addington of Lerhoult, Michigan (Mixed reactions) hit upon an idea – the outdoor odeon, by night, when the screen could be clearly seen. But how to get around Michigan’s particularly stringent anti-plague isolation laws? Why, ask each viewer to drive up in their mobile! The end of the plague pandemic led to the death knell of the Drivers’ Odeon, but there have been a few attempts to revive the concept out of romanticism.[8]

If the First Interbellum had seen the shaky but promising birth of the medium of film, it would be the Second Interbellum, the age of the Electric Circus, which would raise it to maturity. Colour, just as in asimcony, would make a transformative difference. We look at even an early colour film and it feels much more ‘real’ to us than the same film in monochrome. It was clear to everyone that the first people to find an effective colour film process would make millions. The result: a lot of people who made failed processes. (Chuckles)

I won’t go through all of those, as that isn’t the point of this lecture. Let’s cut to the chase. In 1926, only a couple of years after The Good Celator came out, Amado Umali – a chemical researcher in the Philippine Republic who had trained under Meridian Refugiados from PAWC – produced the beginnings of what we now know as Verachrome. Unlike the complex earlier efforts, which had involved multiple film strips and filters and all sorts of impractical ideas, Verachrome just utilised multiple reactive layers on negative film, a similar process to what was being tried for colour asimcony.[9]

Though Umali had patented his idea in the Philippines, of course the Verachrome Company would be chartered in California in 1929, where the ravenous film industry was looking to be fed. It was an idea whose time had come, however, clearly, for the Danubian chemist Lajos Zachara also developed a very similar process in 1928.[10] Ultimately, Zachara’s process, patented separately, would become AnimaHue, and be used mostly by English phanty-films, which also entered the colour age. Many generations of film students have since been greatly confused by the fact that Verachrome and AnimaHue are treated as though one only works on simmy-films and one on phanty-films, even though the processes are almost identical. (Chuckles)

But it wouldn’t be colour that would make the biggest difference – it would be sound. Now there is a reason why early sound films were called ‘tuneys’ rather than ‘soundies’ or ‘talkies’. At the time, people were already used to the idea that films should be accompanied by music. Even back in the 1910s before the Black Twenties, a handful of films had been made with attempts at recorded sound for particular scenes – and they were always musical numbers, provided with groovediscs or groovetapes and the compressed-air augmentophone. Those films had been novelties rather than commercial successes, limited by the difficulty in synchronising the music with the on-screen action, but they illustrated the fact that audiences linked films with music in their heads. Phanty-films set to music were also often tried, but owed more to the live music accompaniment than what we might imagine to be the big selling point of sound films. Few wanted to tackle the question of spoken dialogue. To which we, today, might reasonably ask – why?

There were a number of reasons. Actors and actresses could be powerful in studios, and they had built their careers on the skills required for silent films; they feared becoming obsolete in a brave new world, or having their jobs stolen by theatre actors. (Chuckles) Yes, quite the contrast to today…but there were other reasons. There were lots of technical problems with synchronisation, which stymied attempts to use groovetapes, groovediscs or similar – very soon, people would be talking – like – this. (Laughter) The key breakthrough was made by another of your countrymen, Theo Snyder of New York (Mixed cheers and boos) who realised that if the sound could be co-recorded on the film itself as an analogue, and then translated by a device as the film passed through the projector, it could never become de-synched.

Of course, the Snyder Process has been greatly refined and improved upon over the years, but the basic concept remains unchanged. Snyder took advantage of recent developments in other fields of technology. The idea of converting a sound to an analogue was as old as the Phonosphrage of the 1870s, and the idea of making it an electrical analogue was the foundation of the phakophone, required for the development of quisters.[11] Snyder’s idea was to use the vibration of a phakophone diaphragm to adjust the position of a lens covering a bright chemical light shining on the edge of the film, away from the part exposed to capture the scene – and therefore not shown to the audience. The vibration of the diaphragm would capture the sound from the phakophone, such as the actors’ dialogue, which would then translate to a shifting lens and a varying focus of light falling on the film. This would produce a pattern of light and dark areas corresponding to different sound levels. The analogue is then translated back into sound by a device called a reproducer in the projector; the projector’s light shines through the whole film, but whereas the centre portion appears on the screen, the light shining through the edges is instead captured by a selenium electric eye, which converts the light back to electricity and operates a reverse phakophone as a speaker.[12]

All fine and good, but there were still serious problems with the sound quality, which left Snyder’s Audiotex as only a novelty for the early 1930s and would not be solved until the advent of the electrical augmentophone around 1932.[13] From that time, Audiotex and its competitors would revolutionise film. For a time, only music was focused on, with early ‘tuneys’ often being extracts from operas or musical shows. One of the most famous tuneys was The Orchestra of the World, directed by M. C. Miller, who was influenced by early Diversitarian thinkers. He wanted to capture the diversity of music throughout the world, with examples from many different nations – and the centrepiece being a Javanese Gamelan orchestral group he had encountered as poor refugees in California. By celebrating their music, he protested the Societists’ attempts to erase that culture from the earth. (Reactions)

This was part of a broader cultural shift in film and music in the 1930s, the so-called Memoriam Movement. Formerly, films had been casually thrown away, their prints often recycled to recover their silver content. This may seem like mindless vandalism to us today (Assenting murmurs) but we have to remember the very different attitudes of the time. People of that generation were used to the theatre and, perhaps, Photel plays – transient, one-off performances that had no continued existence outside the memories of those who had acted in them and watched or listened to them. The script might be preserved, to be acted again by a new troupe of actors with the oversight of a new director with a new vision, but who would go back and watch the same one over and over? (Chuckles)

It was much the same attitude that had plagued recorded music a generation earlier, and continued to persist in debate as it became cheaper and more people could afford grooveplayers. Musicians of many genres argued that to record music was to kill its soul, to reduce it to an endlessly repeated automaton, with no more soul than the twinkling of a music box.[14] Some were sincere, while others, of course, merely worried that if one could make a recording once and then play it forever, they would be out of a job! (Laughter) More seriously, after a generation they would always be in competition not only with their peers, but with the recordings of the past generation of musicians, who might be more talented – or at least seen that way by the public. After all, memory is a sundial; it only measures the sunlit hours.[15]

Now we saw the same argument again with film. In the 1930s and 40s it was not uncommon, just like a play, for a film script to be re-shot a few years later with new actors and a new director and released anew, a so-called ‘re-make’. Critics would frequently claim that these ‘re-makes’ were inferior to the original, whether with justice or because they were being hidebound by their own nostalgia. Actors and directors feared that if prints of past films were available, odeons might simply choose to put on the original version as well and the public might follow the critics’ direction. (Pause) I dread to think what they would have thought to the world today, when everyone can buy or rent a cart to watch any old film they like at home! (Laughter)

So what changed this attitude? Well, partly it was the same thing as had happened, and continued to happen, with recorded music. A hidebound older generation of actors and producers gradually became less relevant and, well, passed away, and a newer and more experimental one came along. Economics also mattered, as always: follow the money. (Chuckles) It was possible for companies to make a profit on selling the prints of old films to odeons, and some foresaw a day when there might be a market for showings in one’s own home – though in those days they imagined small film projectors rather than magnetic carts, of course. Indeed, even back then there was an attitude that small-scale, low-rent odeons might spring up to show old films only, with the public willing to pay less for a smaller screen and low-quality sound if they were making a nostalgia trip rather than watching a film for the first time. And they proceeded to do so, the so-called Dixie Odeons here in the Empire, and with similar institutions across the world.[16]

Music again paved the way for change, too; lawyers had already been getting a lot of work (mixed whoops and boos) in the music industry as companies, producers and musicians hammered out deals whereby the latter might obtain royalties from continued issue of their recordings and their use. That has caused a long of wrangling and bad feeling over the years, probably reaching its peak in the 1970s – when it felt as though the copyright establishment had grown to the point where it was now impossible to whistle a tune of your own composition in your own bedroom without being served with a subpoena because it might be slightly similar to a groovedisc released in 1924. (Laughter and a few sounds of recognition) Fortunately, things have improved for all of us since then with initiatives at the ASN, but it illustrates that media owners and producers had realised that it was possible to make money off recordings. What worked for the music industry would then be applied to film as well.

But those weren’t the only reasons for why we had a shift in attitudes, and suddenly film prints were being preserved rather than discarded. As I said before, the Memoriam Movement was founded by those who were increasingly appalled, not only at the careless destruction of film recordings in the free world, but by the Societist Combine’s quite deliberate destruction of cultural heritage. (Sounds of angry agreement) It must be admitted and accepted that few of us in North America greatly cared in the 1910s and 1920s, when the cultures being annihilated might be the Aymara, Tahuantinsuya or Javanese. (Subdued murmur) But after the War of 1926, refugees periodically flooded northward, telling horror stories of what the Societists were doing to Carolina. Now, you Americans have never cared too much for Carolina’s culture (A few sounds of agreement) but it had been a steadfast foundation of your worldview – the knowledge that those strange folk to the south had their own ways of doing things. Now the Cultural Homogenisation Authority was riding roughshod over them, trying to tear their page out of history and burn it. It was through the Carolinian refugees that more people also became aware of the Societist attempts to destroy or homogenise language and religion, and the Biblioteka Mundial’s efforts to constantly rewrite history itself. There was a great and existential fear that the common inheritance of the nations could be wiped out. As M. C. Miller put it, not only to burn the Library of Alexandria, but to then rebuild it filled with books they had written, then pretended that they were the originals and there had never been a fire.

The Memoriam Movement spread across the world, and from thenceforth, organisations such as the Imperial Library here in the Empire, the Royal Academy in France and the Jade Archive in China have ensured that all media published within their borders includes a copy deposited for the benefit of future generations. Even failed and unprofitable works are remembered, the lessons they teach not forgotten...


(Sgt Mumby’s note)

I have edited out a segment here as it covers much of the same ground we already passed on in the digitisations we made in Waccamaw Strand – the Morne and Bletnoir aristic movements, the Societist Moralizdiko period and so on.[17] However, I’ll add a little more from Mr Chislehurst’s lecture, near the end.


Extract from recorded lecture “The Tuney Revolution” by Abraham Chislehurst, recorded November 19th, 2020—

...may have started with music, but all the factors we’ve discussed ensured that those trying to prevent spoken dialogue from becoming the norm in film were fighting a losing battle. Unlike the impression one might get from how we depict eras in modern period dramas, there was no great period of time in which every film at the odeon was a colour soundless film. In reality colour films were still a novelty in the early 1930s, and often films counted as ‘colour’ in academic lists only had short colour sequences depicting particularly epic scenes or views.[18]

Once the technology was proven for music and song sequences, tuneys were embraced by studios such as Bonny Vista, whose owner George Ivanov had sunk thousands into a failed attempt to show live subtitles on-screen rather than cutting away to title cards. Of course, we take that for granted now, but at the time it was quite a technological challenge. Ivanov grabbed the Audiotex opportunity with both hands. His rival, Esteban Wainwright of SierraFilm, dismissed the tuney concept, arguing that it would make it impossible to show the same film in different language markets. (Reaction) You see, at the time, it was possible to take a soundless film, insert different title cards with different language text on them, and use the same footage for audiences who spoke different languages. (Further reaction) At the time, you understand, this was seen as a harmless business practice...but in the Second Black Scare, worries over Societism might already have started to make Wainwright’s position untenable.

An even bigger problem, though, was just that much of the poorer audience were not that literate regardless, and flocked to tuneys as possessing a deeper sense of story than the surface novelty that had often been all they could pick up from the soundless films with their title cards. SierraFilm tried to carry on by making films in which multiple takes in different languages were made, with monoglot film actors doing their best to read phonetic cue cards. (Laughter) Yes, that approach didn’t last long, and soon it became clear that different languages, different nations, would require their own separate film infrastructures.[19] SierraFilm would go down in flames, as would some other studios that had tried to bridge the gap, while the monoglot tuney would rule the day.

Colour and sound together, along with longer films becoming normalised, would create a heady climate for the expensive epic film that we often associate with the late 1930s and 1940s. There were Biblical epics, like Exodus and The Lion’s Den, mediaeval history like La Guerre de Cent Ans and its legendary counterpart, with Le Cid and Robin Hood. From the 1940s the nascent Chinese film industry would join in with the multi-part Romance of the Three Kingdoms series, introducing a new generation of outsiders to their own tumultuous history.

But importantly, there would also be changes in attitude compared to previous years. Biopics no longer had to be drearily worthy in tone, allowing the flawed presentation of characters like Henry IV in The Wars of the Roses or Alexander the Great in his titular film. Another important change was that depictions of war no longer had to be chronologically distant and sanitised. In a great irony, it was probably the Societists’ seminal The Good Celator which changed this; even when attempting to make war look horrifying, in practice it looked a lot more exciting and visceral than it had in films made in the nations. (Reaction) Film could now depict the Pandoric War and even the recent wars of the Black Twenties. As well as being able to depict battle scenes, the growth of nuance helped tell stories like Operation Kappa, the desperate attempt to resupply the American troops holding out in French Guiana[20], and give more life to historical figures like Jean de Lisieux than the cackling villains they had been reduced to by the previous generation of filmmakers. The Societists themselves would make triumphal films about the War of 1926 (Reactions) but their success would be short-lived, as I said before, with the coming of the Silent Revolution. In fact, the seeming glorification of war in those films would be one argument made by the Black Guards that the Combine was off track. And so would come the Moralizdiko period, and the Societists would throw away an early lead they made in the art of film...


(Sgt Mumby’s note)

We will end with another short extract from Jeff Ballard the photographer, I mean, asimconist’s, lecture.


Extract from recorded lecture “The Light Fantastic” by T. Jefferson ‘Jeff’ Ballard, recorded November 12h, 2020—

…and that’s why the lamppost in the background is upside-down. (Uproarious laughter)

The increasing changes to copyright law in the 1930s and onwards would be another challenge for asimcony. If I take a ’simcon of the Statue of Septentria in New York Harbour,[21] and someone else takes one from the same spot a second later, can I sue him for stealing my work? (Chuckles) What if it’s a minute later, five minutes, six months when Lady Septentria’s now dusted in snow? May seem like a stupid question, but it’s one lawyers were askin’ at the time. But, again, asimcony was now a people’s medium. Even if professionals like me got caught up in red tape, ordinary folk could take as many ’simcons of her, snake and all, and admire them on their mantelpiece at home. Asimcony was freedom.

It’s no surprise the Combine tried to ban or regulate it, o’course. Can’t claim a statue you’ve demolished was never there if someone has a ’simcon of it. They gave up in the end, but not before imprisonin’ so many people over unlicensed cameras that they probably ended up with more in prison than outside. Not that they could tell the difference. (Laughter) O’course the Combine also led the world in trick asimcony and editing; all those people disappearing from the ’simcon of Alfarus till he was the only one left.[22] At first they pretended there was no such thing as doctorin’ ’simcons, then, when they were forced to admit it, they then claimed to their people that of course you could doctor ’simcons, that’s what the cryptic reservists [fifth columnists] had done to the ones showin’ statues of Alfarus that clearly were never erected. (More laughter)

Not that our own governments an’ corporations have ever been entirely truthful about these things, either. (Assenting murmur) Not to the same extent, but…we benefit from asimcony, too. A true record of events, even if it’s always influenced by the asimconist and the viewer – or else it wouldn’t be an art, like I said.

But if asimcony was getting more democratic, available to all of society, so was music, and so, in time, was Photel. Of course, what would really start to cause headaches, and be a tool to both enslave and liberate society, was our own friend – Motoscopy. (Mixed cheers and boos) But as the first tentative experiments were made in the 1940s, few could’ve dreamed we’d all end up with a moth-candle in our drawin’-rooms…[23]


(Sgt Mumby’s note)

I suppose that’s it for now, as Dr Wostyn has managed to get the tape off the lock of the bathroom – I mean, he’s now ready to transmit some more history and politics stuff. Very interesting, I’m sure…

[1] ‘Amelioration’ (improvement) was a term initially used by some in OTL to describe global warming/climate change in the 19th century, as it was then seen as a positive thing which would make cold European climates more welcoming to valuable crops which would formerly only grow in warmer climes. The term has caught on in a bigger way in TTL, and has stuck around even though the phenomenon it describes is no longer seen as a positive (in part because the word is rarely used in any other context).

[2] See Interlude #15 in Volume IV.

[3] This is an over-translated Diversitarian calque of German Blitzlicht, which, like OTL, means photographic flash; both ‘Blitz’ and ‘Bleak’ are derived from the same root but obviously are not synonymous. Most English-speakers would be unaware of this and assume that the ‘bleak’ refers to the harsh look of an over-exposed picture if the flash is misjudged. The term ‘flash’ is still casually used in TTL as well, but rarely to refer to the device as a noun (more its effect).

[4] See Part #267 in Volume VII.

[5] Qeraxyl is the trade name in TTL for celluloid; in this context it is also more generically called ‘xyloid film’.

[6] See Part #287 in Volume VIII.

[7] Leo and Jock are a pair of classic phanty-film [cartoon] characters modelled after the lion and the unicorn on the English and Scottish royal coats of arms, and so represent English and Scottish stereotypes. The usual short episode’s plot is for them to interrupt their endless fight (as in the nursery rhyme ‘The Lion and the Unicorn were Fighting for the Crown’) to briefly team up against some interloper representing another nation, such as the tuneless Irish Harpy’s singing keeping them up at night or the posturing of Chanticleer the French Cockerel – only to then resume their fight at the end when the problem is resolved.

[8] Although drive-ins were most popular in the OTL United States in the 1950s, they were tried as early as the 1910s and 1920s.

[9] In OTL, Technicolour was the first commercially successful colour film process and indeed used multiple film strips. The idea has failed in TTL for a number of ideas; the fact that the chemistry needed for more advanced dyes is running ahead of the less mature electrical technology needed to work the complex cameras; the intervention of the Panic of 1917 and the Black Twenties; and simply because, in OTL, Technicolour stayed afloat due to being the only colour process despite rarely turning a profit. The Verachrome system from TTL is more comparable to a cruder version of Eastmancolour in OTL, which outcompeted and replaced Technicolour (at least in the West) in the 1950s.

[10] Note the combination of Hungarian given name and Polish surname, which is typical of the type adopted by some Grey Societists in Danubia, as opposed to using Novalatina or Martial Latin names.

[11] See Part #261 in Volume VII.

[12] Electric eye was a term also used in OTL for a while to mean photoelectric cell (which this is). They were developed in the 1890s in TTL rather than the 1880s of OTL.

[13] About twenty years late compared to OTL, again reflecting the more immature state of electrical engineering in TTL.

[14] See Part #256 in Volume VII.

[15] Credit to R. Austin Freeman for this metaphor.

[16] Recall that a dixie is a ten-cent coin in the ENA; the etymology here is therefore similar to the OTL name ‘nickelodeon’.

[17] See Parts #278 and #287 in Volume VIII.

[18] Although little known except to film historians, colour silent films did exist in OTL (but many of them only had a few colour sequences, as indicated here, and in early two-colour Technicolour rather than full colour). In addition, many of them are lost films, or survive only in black and white form. Usually the succession of OTL film history (e.g. what characters in a period drama might be watching to indicate a particular year) is presented as black and white silent to black and white talkie to colour talkie. By contrast, in TTL this simplified progression is usually shown as black and white silent to colour silent to colour talkie, because there were more colour silent films produced in TTL and they have been better preserved (in part due to the inventions coming in a different order). As Chislehurst says, though, this is a misleading simplification and TTL did have plenty of black and white talkie (or ‘tuney’ films).

[19] This transitional phenomenon also existed in OTL. Some OTL film theorists indeed argued that the silent film was a universal language that could be enjoyed by all people, and thus could be a unifying force across borders (an idea which, of course, is viewed with far more suspicion in the climate of Societism in TTL). For a few years in the early 1930s, many studios made the ‘Multiple Language Version film’ (MLV) which was similar to what is discussed here – probably the best-known versions are Laurel and Hardy’s trilingual films and Bela Lugosi’s Dracula, which was also recorded in Spanish. However, this did not last, and film markets indeed became separated by language. At the time, these films were often popular in non-English-speaking markets precisely because their actors pronounced the other languages so poorly, thus unintentionally turning drama into comedy.

[20] See Part #298 in Volume VIII.

[21] See Part #206 in Volume V.

[22] See Part #290 in Volume VIII.

[23] ‘Moth-candle’ here is a dysphemism for television, comparable to OTL’s ‘idiot’s lantern’.


In addition to the update posted above, possibly LTTW-related good news incoming - watch this space for confirmation!
Once the technology was proven for music and song sequences, tuneys were embraced by studios such as Bonny Vista, whose owner George Ivanov had sunk thousands into a failed attempt to show live subtitles on-screen rather than cutting away to title cards. Of course, we take that for granted now, but at the time it was quite a technological challenge. Ivanov grabbed the Audiotex opportunity with both hands. His rival, Esteban Wainwright of SierraFilm, dismissed the tuney concept, arguing that it would make it impossible to show the same film in different language markets. (Reaction) You see, at the time, it was possible to take a soundless film, insert different title cards with different language text on them, and use the same footage for audiences who spoke different languages. (Further reaction) At the time, you understand, this was seen as a harmless business practice...but in the Second Black Scare, worries over Societism might already have started to make Wainwright’s position untenable.

Another "Good grief, the Diversitatians are almost as weird as the Societists" moment. I mean, I can understand them being triggered by the phrase "universal language", but just the idea that someone in the ENA and someone in France might appreciate the same film?


Gone Fishin'
Wonder if Diversitarianism is going to get a more religious tinge with the rise of evangelical-esque stuff in America or elsewhere. We had our alt Mormons, very soon we could be seeing alt Pentecostals, Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses.

All nations are to be protected but in the end the college-lecture and history-book types acknowledge them as social constructs. But, an audience that has less truck with "social this, social that" (and maybe don't care that much about other cultures, even though they have to ritualistically affirm their value implicitly or explicitly in several social settings) might understand it as a kind of Biblical tree of ancestry, with every nation having its place in the genealogies of Genesis. They can take pride in their own place on that tree and make assumptions about others-- the way "nations" are described is already some Tribes of Israel kinda stuff, and so is the Curse of Ham. Or maybe its more like Romantic Volkerwanderung type, or maybe we smash them together into a unified mythic-history narrative. And because the Societists are trying to make all that harder to see, they're trying to cover up the fact that the Bible is a literal retelling of history and also "God's word". Those Nimrods and their new Babel are trying to dump water on God's sidewalk chalk, erase evidence of His works from the world. Maybe it's the Societists who put those "dinosaur fossils" all over the world to get people to think the world is more than 6000 years old.

I can see evangelical missionaries being first on the scene in any place with a Societist insurgency, or a post-Societist government-- because they might have a spin on Diversitarianism that seems compelling, that explains the misfortunes Societism has caused the locals and suggests an "easy" way out-- understanding the "truth", the real facts and lessons, of God's creation and Jesus's deeds as expressed in the only true accurate account. There's an immediate thesis and call to individual action, whereas High Diversitarianism seems a little removed from that-- it's kind of abstract and requires a good deal of imported ASN social machinery to function as intended, and in trying to become the way all people see the world it drifts further and further from suggesting any kind of political program outside a vague "democracy good". Do I eventually want to see Flat Earth Diversitarianism? Yes. Could the ASN do anything about a government, possibly an elected one, that thinks satellites are moving around on rails built over the Firmament-- or that satellites don't exist actually, it's all radio waves bouncing off the Firmament from the ground back to the ground, and makes that a Heritage Point of Controversy? What organ of a nation's government gets to set HPoCs? Is that treated the same as a constitutional amendment? As any other law, that could pass the test of judicial review and stay on the books? The Iverson Protocol probably means HPoCs can't really impede the travel of information, Belgians can still buy books on how the ethnic cleansing of Liege was bad actually-- but then what, if a majority of people (or a majority of sitting judged) are convinced could they (would they be allowed to, if so by whom) then modify or overturn the HPoC?

But now we gotta ask-- how is a multinational religious organization like an evangelical mission organization or the Catholic Church, supposed to preserve the integrity of a universal message across the boundaries between nations (since each nation is supposed to have an independent trajectory of cultural development)? Could the Societists and Diversitarians split the Catholic Church over this, some kind of much more acrimonious Vatican II?

I wonder if you'd see a genre of parody with movies from other countries intentionally dubbed over with a mistranslation that totally reinterprets the story, but keeping the same footage-- and then audiences just think that's the real version. Could it be a way to create original works out of copyrighted material?
Last edited:
To be honest, I could see an unintended consequence of Societism not rejecting religion, but embracing it and grafting itself onto Christianity and Islam, as actually hurting those two faiths (and other religions with concepts like salvation for all of its believers) in Diversitarian countries. Interest in polytheistic faiths in Europe, for example, might very well come ITTL from a desire from some people to purge what they view as crypto-Societist influences from such concepts. The other major alternative being that national churches and the like explicitly define themselves as being for only the citizens/subjects of the majority and discouraging or outright declaring it heretical for those outside of the in group to become part of the elect; basically, a not insusbtantial strain of people trying to turn them into ethnoreligious institutions. It may not become widespread, necessarily, but it's the inevitable consequence of decrying the so-called 'evils' of universalism as a general concept.
Last edited:


Part #308: Tiger Tiger Burning Bright


The market-toppin’ sensation from smalltown Wentworth, New Conn., is BACK for the first leg of his continental tour!

The “EAR” calls Yeahman ‘the most innovative LiveProg since LadyBelle’ – and they would know!



Supported by Doc Headache and The Roustabout Brothers


– Somewhat decayed poster seen on Callaway Road, Fredericksburg, ENA.
Photographed and transcribed by Sgt Dom Ellis, November 2020


(Dr Wostyn’s note)

After that regrettable and unnecessary interlude by Sgt Mumby, we can now return to the important matter of decolonisation in the French Empire, turning from Australia to India...


Extract from recorded lecture “Revolt and Ramification” by Dr Adrian Radley, recorded November 24th, 2020—

...can’t go any further without ignoring the elephant in the room – no pun intended – India. (A few chuckles)

At the outbreak of the Pandoric War in 1896, the nations of the subcontinent of India were practically all controlled by colonial interests. Some were Occidental, others Asiatic; some were national, rather more were corporate, or a hybrid of the two. This was the culmination of a process that had been going on, in fits and starts, for four centuries. And yet, only half a century after that, the Indian nations would emerge, blinking, into the sunlight to stand on their own two feet, their colonial masters either thrown out altogether or reduced to only passive levels of influence. How did this happen? It’s this enigma that we must unlock.

To understand how colonialism in India fell apart, we must first understand how it began. India is – ‘naturally’ is perhaps the wrong word, as it implies a lack of agency on the part of the Indian nations in their agriculture and industry – but historically, India was a source of trade goods rather than a sink. For the most part, before a pedant at the back shouts out those goods which the Indian nations did import. (Distant cheers) This tendency long predates European colonialism – it predates the modern form of European nations, as post-Roman successor states, at all. (Murmurs) The Roman Empire established overland and sea trade routes to the Indian states, especially the Tamil kingdoms of modern Bisnaga, with the help of the Kushan Empire – a very interesting state drawn from multiple influences, including the Greeks of Alexander’s Empire, which we sadly don’t have time to discuss here. Greek and Roman traders operated in many ports in the Indian region, such as the city they called Barbarikon, but which today is called Karachi. (More murmurs)

These links declined with Rome’s own increasing problems and fragmentation, an invasion of the Panchali-led Gupta Empire by Hunnic conquerors, and ultimately the Islamic conquest of the Middle East, cutting off Europe from India.[1] European nations settled into the post-Roman and Christian paradigm, and were given impetus to develop navigational innovations and pursue new trade routes around Africa, away from the regions of Islamic domination. The Portuguese discovered such a route at the end of the fifteenth century; so prized was trade with India, as well as China, Indochina and the Nusantara, that the Spanish were convinced by Columbus to try going in the opposite direction and rounding the world. Of course, he instead discovered the continents we now stand upon the soil of – for better or for worse. (Chuckles)

In time, and I am summarising many years of history here, the Portuguese were joined by other European traders – the Dutch, the Danes, the French and the English. At first, all they wanted was the same trade arrangements that the Romans had had. But both greed and historical imperative meant there would be other consequences. We must remember that at the turn of the sixteenth century, the Reconquista in Spain was still relatively recent history, and the Portuguese were driven by Christian-Muslim religious rivalry as much as by economics. They sought to suppress the spread of Islam, to promote the spread of western Catholic Christianity, and to control the spice trade – a threefold scheme.

Afonso de Albuquerque, the first major Portuguese commander, had been given orders only to conquer Malacca and Muslim settlements in the Arabian peninsula, not to take over Indian ports. But events would, well, eventuate. (Laughter) The Portuguese found that the Trimumpara Rajah of the Kingdom of Cochin, an unwilling vassal of the Zamorin Rajah of Calicut, was eager to become their ally in return for protection from the Zamorin.[2] So was the Kingdom of Tanur, another vassal. The Malabarese Hindu pirate Timoji also approached the Portuguese for an alliance as early as their first voyages of exploration. There were some religious elements to these divisions, with Hindus resentful of Muslim rule, but the Zamorin was also a Hindu ruler. Mostly, it was just politics. As in the case of Timoji, often the ambitious locals were more keen to get the Portuguese involved in battles than the Portuguese themselves were – after all, they were a long way from home. But the Portuguese and Cochinese defeated the Zamorin Rajah and his other vassals at the Battle of Cochin in 1504. The Portuguese then damaged an Egyptian Mameluke fleet at Diu, but Timoji warned them it was refitting and urged an attack on Goa – which, conveniently, would be supported by his fellow resentful Hindus in the city. Soon afterwards, the Portuguese would expel the Ottomans and Egyptian Mamelukes from naval influence over the region altogether.

And so we see that Goa, that great city and capital of the Portuguese Empire in India, the first big European possession in India, was conquered not on the urging of greedy traders, royal imperialists or Christian crusaders. It was conquered because a local Hindu pirate had urged them to, for his own reasons and because it might help them against the Ottoman and Egyptian fleets elsewhere. Timoji was even made the governor of Goa after its conquest for a time, a far cry from the Goanese Inquisition of later years.

That is the great paradox of European colonialism in India, and it was a story that would be repeated over and over again over the next few centuries. Again and again, Europeans became involved in local power struggles and found themselves bobbing to the top of structures where they were outweighed dozens to one by numbers, not to mention operating at the end of a long supply chain far from their home nations. Often European success is attributed to technological superiority, but for the most part this is simply not the case with India. The Indian nations enjoyed comparable access to firearms and artillery, even innovating in the area of rockets, and like Europe, their constant internecine wars ensured that their armies were experienced and their military tactics were usually well-refined.

No, the crucial point is simply that there was an economic incentive for Europeans to travel to India, but there was no such incentive for Indians to travel to Europe. Paradoxically, it’s Europe’s very lack of much in the way of trade goods – the same problem that had led the Romans to bemoan their coffers being emptied of coin to pay for Indian and Chinese goods and their trade deficit building – which has encouraged the global domination of European culture. (Murmurs) When a power struggle was being held between two Indian potentates with a Portuguese fleet parked in the bay helping one of them, there was no way it could end with Portugal being conquered by one of the Indian princes. But it could end with one of the Indian states being conquered by Portugal. It didn’t always, of course. But there were lots of fights and lots of opportunities, dice cast over and over and over again, so those conquests mounted up. And never a single die cast to decide whether Indian traders in Europe would try to take over a place – because there weren’t any.

Otherwise, in today’s Diversitarian world we can now acknowledge that there was nothing special about Europe. (Laughter) If, for some reason, a Chinese or a Bisnagi fleet had arrived in Hamburg during the Thirty Years’ War, of course John George I of Saxony would have considered making an alliance with them against the Hapsburgs. They might be pagans, but better pagans than Papists! (More laughter) And perhaps, after help conquering Mecklenburg, they might have handed over the island of Rügen to the traders to ensure they stuck around to help in the next war. Or King James II, hiding out in Ireland with his Jacobites, might have teamed up with a Bengali fleet to retake his throne in England – and find himself giving them the Isle of Wight and allowing ‘advisors’ at his court. Indeed, in 1658 English royalists and republicans had fought on opposite sides of the Battle of the Dunes between the French and Dutch, divided against themselves by internal disagreements. European potentates were just as selfish and short-sighted as Indian ones; but Indians never had those same economically-driven opportunities to take advantage of this.

So repeat that, over and over, for many years. Every time an Indian power won a battle against Europeans, it was a temporary setback; but the Europeans only had to be lucky once to establish a foothold and ensure the next battle would be fought deeper into India, never anywhere near their own homelands. Soon there would be more Europeans than just the Portuguese, and then there were battles between them for supremacy – first the Portuguese versus the Dutch, and then the English versus the French. Again, a paradox. Surely division between outside forces should make it less likely they would conquer Indian nations, but no. Nations, and factions within nations, sided with one European force over the other, and with each roll of the dice more and more of them lost ground.

Do you think the Cochinese regretted being the first Indian state to, more or less, invite the Portuguese in and start it all? (Inaudible calls from the audience) Ask a proud Bisnagi patriot today and they might say yes. But ask the Cochinese at the time…in the 1700s, Cochin would be conquered and subjugated. Not by the Portuguese, or by any Europeans, but by the Kingdom of Mysore. (Audience reaction) Today both Cochin and Mysore are part of Bisnaga, but back then they did not see themselves as one nation, but as enemies. Or take Bengal, where English takeover was made easy because the state had become exhausted by constant raids by the Marathas – approximately the Concanese, we would say today. There was not even any sense of solidarity within the modern Indian nations, much less between them. And, I emphasise, exactly the same would have been true of European countries if they had been subject to similar outside pressures. But there were not.

European supremacy really kicked off in earnest with the decline of the Mughal Empire and its nominal vassals feuding on the front lines of Anglo-French wars. The Hindu Marathas tried to take its place, but were shattered in defeat by the Durranis in the Third Battle of Panipat in 1761.[3] This was the era of Clive, of Pitt and Rochambeau. Today, nationalists in the Indian states like to single out individual rulers of the time to praise as anti-colonial heroes. As is their Diversitarian right, of course. (A few chuckles) But Haidar Ali and Tippoo Sultan, or Siraj-ud-Daulah, were as happy to brutalise their own people as they did Europeans, and were also just as happy to make alliances with Europeans when they saw it in their own interests. If history had gone a little differently, they would be castigated as collaborationist traitors by those modern nationalists, with really nothing much changed. Again, it is easy for us to judge, but what of the awkward way we think of early Carolinian figures, from the days when many of them would still have seen themselves as American? (Audience reaction) Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

The truly unforgiveable figure to make an anti-colonial hero is, of course, the Mahdi. In the 1840s, many Indian nations were subject to European control or influence, especially coastal ones, with the Europeans having agreed to suppress their internecine feuding in the Pitt-Rochambeau Accords and the formation of the India Board.[4] Bengal was the hotbed of English control – leavened with Americans of course (Laughter) – and the Nizam of Haidarabad was a reliable English ally. This meant that English influence was felt over modern Chola, Berar and parts of Panchala as well. The French dominated what’s now Bisnaga, the core of their empire, and the Portuguese in Goa had begun to rebuild their influence over several of the surrounding Maratha states, in what’s Concan today. And the Dutch, later the Belgians, controlled Kandy. But what I’ve described only takes in about half of the Indian subcontinent. (Audience reaction) The rest was ruled by – the term native states is misleading, as many of them had foreign dynasties, but then, do we consider our royal family to be German? …Don’t answer that. (More laughter and a few oohs)

But I digress. Much of modern Rajputana, Delhi and eastern Kalat was ruled by the Neo-Mughal Empire, as history calls it, a partial revival of the corpse of the old empire by one of the Durrani factions. Gujarat and much of Panchala were ruled by Maratha princes not subject to much foreign influence. The Sikhs and Kashmiris ruled parts of Pendzhab. The Europeans had not had much success, and frankly all that much interest (except perhaps in Gujarat) at undermining local independent control in these parts of the subcontinent. And then, of course, the Mahdi came along and ruined it all.

Yes, the Great Jihad beat the Europeans out of some parts of India, mostly by burning it down until there was nothing worth left trading. (Audience reaction) The Rape of Lucknow is only the most famous of the horrific depredations of the mujahideen.[5] The Jihad left a scar on the Indian subcontinent far deeper, and far slower to heal, than all the European colonisers put together could have inflicted. And what happened as the shattered interior slowly rebuilt? Why, new outside colonisers moved in, of course! The Chinese, the Russians, the Kalatis and Persians, and a whole host of other Europeans and Novamundines operating through private companies.[6] An anti-colonial hero? The Mahdi ensured colonialism in India probably lasted for decades longer than it would otherwise, and killed millions of people to achieve that. Ugh, when I think…


(Dr Wostyn’s note)

Though entertainingly impressive and doubtless justified, I have cut Dr Radley’s diatribe here for relevance. We resume the lecture a few minutes here.


…it began in Bengal. We all know the name of Nurul Huq, and there were many more less-sung heroes like him. Only in Bengal could the people of a nation buy its freedom in the most literal sense. “We have learned well what the Ferengi have taught us,” Huq wrote, using a term meaning Europeans or Christians. But, without wishing to minimise the successes of the campaigns of Huq and others, they were fundamentally helped by a shift in attitude on the part of the colonial powers.

I say powers plural because Bengal, perhaps more than any other part of the old Hanoverian Dominions, was contested for influence between Englishmen – or Britons, back then – and Americans. Not between Britain and America in a governmental sense, you understand, but between individual Britons and Americans. The East India Company, which once had managed trade between Britain and Eastern nations in general, had become increasingly synonymous with the governance of Bengal specifically. The British government had neglected the Company thanks to Britain’s own internal turmoil of the Inglorious Revolution and the People’s Kingdom. The Americans might have filled the gap, the power vacuum and some of us did as individuals, but not our government. For a time it looked possible, but then the Great American War broke out here just as the Great Jihad did in India. Commodore Cavendish, whose British fleet helped the Bengalis resist the mujahideen, had actually been trying to reach California to take part in the war here. Our attention was fixated on the Meridians for decades to come, and Bengal never became a focus for the direct influence of the Imperial government.

In the absence of this outside pressure, the plans of men like Huq, along with many businessmen among the high-caste Hindus who dominated the Bengal Army’s sepoy soldiers, allowed more and more control to slip from the hands of distracted Britons and Americans. Bengal did not need a violent revolution to transfer control; her people, via indirect means such as Huq’s fraternal building societies, slowly bought out the Court of Directors stock by stock. This worked for a number of reasons, because the distraction of Fredericksburg and London proved to be a vicious circle. Bengal had barely managed to fight off the Great Jihad, and the Company had lost its influence over areas such as the old kingdom of Oudh, in what is now Panchala. But as the Jihad burned itself out and left rival powers reeling even more than Bengal, it seemed inevitable that the Company would seek to take advantage of this by expanding its territory and influence once more.

Yet this did not happen. Such a project would have required investment from the Company’s shareholders in America and Britain, funds to build back Bengali military power in the hope of future trade more than paying back the down payment. In the aftermath of the Jihad, few were willing to risk it. Instead, they saw India as a volatile market, a money sink rather than a source, perhaps a place where they should cut their losses and run. Their governments agreed. And so, the successive sell-offs of the Privatisation of Bengal saw more and more shares in the hands of local Bengalis. The controlling government stake had been lost long before, almost anticlimactically, as ambiguity reigned over which parts of it fell under the jurisdiction of London and which under Fredericksburg’s. Such division would only help Huq and the Hindus – but, paradoxically, in time would also help preserve disproportionate influence for the wealthy white minority in Calcutta and Dacca. As the driving questions in Bengali society became internal ones of creed, caste and class instead of a unifying resentment against foreign ‘Ferengi’ rule, the ‘Anglo-Bangla’ whites who had, if you’ll pardon the phrase, ‘gone native’ found a new role as neutral arbiters between the Hindu and Muslim, or high- and low-caste, or rich and poor, factions. The Bengal Army also remained an important arm of the corporate state.

Now remember, all or most of this had happened by the time of that year I gave you before, 1896. So my picture of India dominated by outside colonial powers was already starting to ring a little hollow if you scratch the surface. But, of course, the Pandoric War was the final nail in the coffin of any Anglo-American influence in Bengal. Britain – and then England – had the Third Glorious Revolution and broke with America (Audience murmurs) and America got a new President, Lewis Faulkner, who chose to withdraw from many of the global commitments he had inherited and allow Bengal and Guinea to go their own ways. (Rather more fervent audience murmurs) Whatever you think about President Faulkner, in many ways he was just recognising the inevitable. Perhaps the Empire could have enforced its will in Bengal in 1901 still, but it would have required a full military intervention of the sort that the exhausted American people were simply unwilling to fund.

So English influence in India, which had begun in 1608, came to an end three centuries later, and the derived American influence with it. Just as economics had brought Europeans to India and drawn them into politics there, economics led them to abandon such entanglements in due time. But if Bengal had bought its own freedom and trailblazed an example for other Indian nations, this wouldn’t be the pattern they would follow. In the Second Interbellum, which some people call the Electric Circus – but which certainly wasn’t an accurate description in most of the Indian nations – there were two main wellsprings of anti-colonial thought, at opposite ends of the subcontinent in the north and south. I won’t make the crass error of treating them as naturally linked simply because they fall on the same landmass! (Chuckles) Panchala was, and is, very culturally different to Bisnaga; it would be like attributing two revolutions in Scandinavia and Italy to the same source.

Back then, there was no Panchala as we know it, although its borders were already beginning to be defined. There was Jushinajieluo, or Jushina for short, a Chinese-created colonial entity that covered the entire middle part of the vast Gangetic Plain. Though its cities and old kingdoms had been devastated by the Jihad, the fertile soil of this plain meant that Panchala, or Jushina, was well placed to bounce back if its reduced people were given some years of peace and a chance to rebuild.

This is where we have to be careful, because this subject is highly politically charged in China, as well as in Panchala itself. As far as the Chinese narrative goes, they sent armies to Jushina to protect its people from the mad mujahideen remnants, helped replant its fields and rebuild its cities, built roads and railways to link them, and after fifty years of rule Jushina was as advanced and wealthy as it had been at the height of the Gupta Empire, a jewel in the crown. And the Panchalis should be damn’ well grateful for it and stop whining, say the Chinese. (Laughter and reactions) Meanwhile, the Panchalis say that the Chinese were only there to loot the place, and built only what would help them do so. They taxed their farmers, they pushed their religions on the people by giving tax breaks to Buddhist practitioners, and they disarmed the people so the Chinese army forces had absolute power to enforce the will of the viceroy. Some claim that the Jihad had already died down, and there were no significant mujahideen bands left, with Chinese claims of defending the region being merely a cover for holding down a proud people.

I am personally more inclined to sympathise with the Panchali point of view, despite the…eccentricities of some of their post-colonial leaders (Nervous laughter) but in all fairness, our truth should probably lie somewhere in between. Post-colonial Panchala did benefit from the infrastructure the Chinese had built, but it is also true to say that the Chinese hardly built it for the Panchalis’ benefit. Fundamentally, Jushina was indeed run in part as a tax farm, and also as a pleasure-garden for Chinese Buddhist pilgrims who wished to see where the Buddha had walked and where Xuanzang had voyaged to find the Greater Vehicle scriptures.[7] It was an insult to a proud people to be treated as the mere background denizens of a history that had little meaning to them.[8]

Now Panchala was influenced by the apotheosis of Bengal to the status of a fully independent, albeit corporate, state – just as Bisnaga was. But both were inspired by what Bengal did in the Black Twenties rather than what Bengal was. In Panchala’s case, or Jushina’s, it was the fact that Bengal had helped the Sikhs and other Pendzhabis overthrow their Russian colonial rulers and eject them from India altogether. Russia’s abortive attempt to reclaim the territory in 1935 also ended in disaster, showing that the Pendzhabi triumph had been no flash in the pan. There was no way for the Panchalis to buy their way to freedom from the Chinese as the Bengalis had from the Americans and English, but if an uprising like the Pendzhabis’ could succeed, given sufficient distraction by other matters…

The process began as early as 1928, when Hindu adventurer Sakharam Bhari travelled into the Himalayas in order to seek out the Gorkha hillmen. The Gorkhas were fellow Hindus who had once conquered and exacted tribute upon Buddhist Tibet, only to eventually have the tables turned on them by the Chinese.[9] Sakharam, part of the banned group known to the Chinese as Tuichu jushina yundong or ‘Leave Panchala Movement’, admired the half-legendary tales of the Gorkhas’ successes and sought to forge an alliance. The Gorkhas were initially suspicious, and the tests of loyalty they made Sakharam undertake have formed the basis of a half-dozen impressive Panchali propaganda films. But in the end, his perserverance paid off, and a deal was struck.

Of course, the Gorkha alliance was only one small part of the work that the LPM and other anti-colonial resistance movements quietly continued throughout the final years of Chinese rule. Though Narayan Kumar would later become the most famous leader of these networks, back then he was just one anonymous organiser among many, an ally of the rising star Paresh Anand. LPM and allied members ranged from trade unionists in cities fighting for workers’ rights under Chinese rule, to Sanskrit religious scholars, to romantics nostalgic for past glories. Many of them, including Anand’s group in Sangam, also had ties to groups of bandits who operated in the countryside, though few would risk confrontation with Chinese regulars these days.[10]

In those early days, there was even an attempt by the LPM and others to build solidarity across Jushina’s different faiths. But perhaps this was doomed to failure. The small number of Buddhists – Chinese settlers, local converts and a few ancestral holdouts – naturally would side with Chinese rule which gave them a privileged position. More significantly, Muslims made up almost one-fifth of the population, many of them Durrani settlers from more than a century before. They feared mass revenge attacks motivated by memories of the Jihad (not helped by the Chinese whipping these up to remind the people of the importance of the Chinese army to protect them). Most Muslims in Jushina would also side with the Chinese authorities, and so the anti-colonial movement became increasingly Hindu-supremacist in character. Even sympathetic descendants of the old, overthrown Nawab of Oudh were viewed with suspicion due both to being Muslims and being painted as just another set of alien rulers (in their case, from Persia). Already some Muslims were moving to the other Chinese-influenced state, the last Mughal remnant, Delhi. The seeds were being sown for tragedy later.

In 1930, Prince Zhuzhong withdraw much of the Chinese army from Jushina in order to cross the Himalayas and intervene in the growing power struggle in plague-wracked Feng China. The majority of the ordinary people of Jushina watched with trepidation, for many believed the Chinese propaganda that only that army stood between them and chaos, invasion or a new Jihad. It was only after several months of peace that public anger began to grow, and that played right into the LPM’s hands…


(Dr Wostyn’s note)

This next section mentions events in China we have not yet covered elsewhere, so I will temporarily pass over it and instead go to Dr Radley’s final relevant segment, on Bisnaga.


…Bisnaga’s history made it very different to either Bengal or Jushina-Panchala. Both of those countries had had forces directed against them which served to trample much of their former internal divisions and forge, or rather rediscover, a national identity. (Murmurs) Bengal had been a coherent subah, or province, of the old Mughal Empire for many years, but had always had its internal divisions. British and then Anglo-American rule provided something to react against, especially when catastrophes such as famines induced by forcing farmers to grow opium provoked resentment among the Bengali populace. But it was the invasion by the Mahdi’s Mujahideen in the Great Jihad that forced all Bengalis, Hindus, Muslims, their Christian rulers, all castes and classes, to unite in defence of their land. In this they were largely successful, and the unity they had forged would pave the way for Bengal’s independence through privatisation. By contrast, Panchala was flattened and devastated by the Jihad, then ruled through a centralised viceroyalty by the Chinese afterwards, again creating a unity beyond the lands which Oudh alone had controlled a century earlier. Once again, war and foreign rule had created a single set of institutions for anti-colonial forces to seize.

The same can’t be said for Bisnaga. Bisnaga had never been, to use the word brutally, ‘rationalised’ by the French. The French East India Company had sought to build trade and to deny it to their English and British rivals. Later, when the two had allied against the Tippoo Sultan during the Jacobin Wars, they had agreed a mutually-beneficial peaceful division of India’s lands into spheres of influence. Unlike the ruthless annexation of Bengal by the BEIC after Siraj-ud-Daulah’s betrayal, the French did not try to administer the powerful Kingdom of Mysore directly after Tippoo’s defeat. In part this was because the FEIC was operating as part of only the western remnant of Royal France in Brittany and the Vendée at the time, and would not have had the resources to administer Mysore anyway. Instead, the French restored the Hindu Wodeyar dynasty to the throne, reversing the usurpation by the Muslims Haidar Ali and his son Tippoo Sultan, which also created a debt of gratitude (or, more cynically, a dependence) by the Wodeyars on the French to maintain their shaky throne.

Elsewhere, parts of Bisnaga did pass into something more akin to direct French control. The Nawabate of Arcot, also called the Carnatic Sultanate, ruled most of the eastern coast of Bisnaga and was theoretically tributary to the Nizam of Haidarabad. But this was an old Mughal imperial decree, which increasingly meant as little as the Holy Roman Emperor had authority to decide affairs in northern Germany, back in Europe.[11] The authority of the Nawab was also fraught even without European influence, with the Carnatic having suffered in wars with Mysore and others. The French empire in India was run from the cities of Madras and Pondichéry which, farcically, were still theoretically under the Nawab’s authority. The French were soon running the Nawab’s tax affairs in his name, and the extinction of Wallajah’s dynasty led to the appointment of a ceremonial puppet ruling in name only.[12] The final nail in the coffin was the conquest of Haidarabad by the Mahdi’s Mujahideen in 1852 and the end of the Nizamate; from then on, the French were able to ignore the legalities of the Nawabate of Arcot and control the Carnatic directly.

The French also exercised strong influence over the Kingdom of Travancore, which did, however, still maintain its Venad royal family and independent institutions. The same was true of the Kingdom of Cochin to its north, that same state which had started it all back in the early 1500s. Despite conquest and devastation by Mysore at some point, technically it survived, albeit under heavy French influence. As though to illustrate how money talked, even further north up the coast of Queralie were Calicut, a Dutch colony the Belgians had inherited, and North Malabar and Coorg, old British or English colonies; but none of them were actually controlled by their theoretical colonial powers anymore, instead having sunk into the French economic hegemony of Bisnaga. Old colonial regimes were no less susceptible to being drawn into the French orbit as independent Indian monarchies.

So much for Bisnaga; that blandly homogenous triangle of territory at the bottom of the Indian subcontinent, so familiar from maps, actually concealed a great deal of complexity – and in many ways, it still does. The Wodeyars, with their powerful Kingdom of Mysore, retained the most independent power – but had their own reasons for wishing to support French dominance as the lesser of two evils to protect their own throne. The Venads of Travancore and the Varmas of Cochin had the French bootheel to their neck, and knew any rebellion would be met with an iron fist.[13] The defunct colonial regimes in Calicut, Malabar and Coorg were content with the status quo, while the Scandinavians in Tranquebar had been bought out altogether. There was plenty of anti-colonial resentment against the French, but no obvious central rallying point. And this described the situation for decades at the end of the nineteenth century, and the start of the twentieth.

What changed? Many things. Like the Chinese in Panchala, the French pursued developments for their own ends which had unforeseen consequences; railways linked up these groups of discontents, industrial factories and the growth of cities like Bangalore, Coïmbatour and Madurai led to a new mobile, resentful, organised working class. The University of Trivandrum, intended to turn out placid Bisnagi civil servants and scientists to help run the empire, instead ended up being a hotbed of anti-colonial ideology. And then came world events. Neutrality during the Pandoric War was popular, (Murmurs) but the French risking the lives of Bisnagi sepoys to seize influence over Concan, what was then called Senhor Oliveira’s Company, was not.[14]

The Panic of 1917 led to widespread resentment among the suffering working classes, especially in directly French-ruled territory in the Carnatic and in the industrial city of Bangalore in the Kingdom of Mysore. Not only were jobs lost and wages cut, but the ‘Mitigation of Mercier’ policy favoured support for the people of France – who could vote – over those of Bisnaga, or even Pérousie. The Mercier government also sold off French government assets in Bisnaga to raise money and scaled back military commitments. As well as leading to a further loss spiral of jobs as bases and shipyards closed, this alarmed those powerful Bisnagi figures whose positions were invested in the assumption that stable French rule would continue. Mercier’s move was interpreted as a fear that France was drawing down its focus in Bisnaga and planning to withdraw, which ultimately became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Most significantly, these powerful figures included none other than Chamaraja Wodeyar XII, the Maharajah of Mysore.[15]

But the most significant shift would come with the Black Twenties. No sooner had the French reduced their military commitments than they were fighting the Russians and Belgians in Bisnagi waters. Admiral Van de Velde sought to provoke a response from the French by launching terror raids on Nagapatnam, Pondichéry and Tranquebar, among others, with the local French forces unable to stop them.[16] Not only were the people resentful at being dragged into the war, but the French had inadvertently damaged their own reputations. Arguments were made that if the French lacked the capability to defend Bisnaga, they also lacked the capability to suppress an uprising there. Furthermore, this led to a boost of anti-colonial sentiment on the ravaged Carnatic coast in the east, whereas previously anti-colonial sentiment had been focused more on the western Queralie coast and in parts of Mysore.

All this erupted into the so-called Bisnagi Mutiny, which was really more a series of labour strikes. The ‘mutiny’ name stems from the fact that local sepoy troops refused orders to put down said strikers, though in reality this was not always the case, and only the refusals are remembered as part of heroic history. In addition to the resentment factors I mentioned, the Bisnagis were also influenced by the fact that the Pérousiens had obtained Autogovernance, and some moderates wanted it for themselves. This was before the Pérousiens and Bisnagis were seen as natural allies against the French government, you understand, which largely came with them fighting side-by-side in Bloody Gijlo later on. Chamaraja Wodeyar XII initially opposed the Mutiny as a potential revolution and backed the French, as did the other monarchs, but when the French failed to effectively suppress it, he decided that his position was doomed if he relied upon the French. Henceforth, he (and later the others) would tacitly support the mutineers and the Autogovernance movement.[17] Chamaraja would shock society when, against the explicit instructions of Governor-General de Fontenoy to treat the labour organiser Thomas Mathieu as persona non grata, he met with him to discuss the dispute.[18] Of course, the effects of the plague sweeping across Bisnaga, and an ineffectual and uncaring French response, also played a part.

Another important factor was a parallel with how the Panchalis were inspired by the Bengali-backed Sikh resistance to the Russians in Pendzhab. In this case, it was how the Bengalis, again, intervened in Kandy – then called Ceylon.[19] Kandy is physically close to Bisnaga, separated only by the Gulf of Mannar, with a chain of islands described in both Hindu legend and modern geography as being a former land bridge. Furthermore, Tamil people are found on both sides of the water and have long shared trading connections. Technically, the Bengalis did not conquer Kandy; rather, the Russo-Belgian authorities surrendered the island to them rather than face the vengeful French after the terror raids they had inflicted. Some Bengalis initially had ambitions to turn Kandy into Bengal’s own colony, but in the end the Pitt-Bannerjee Doctrine of building up independent allied states prevailed.[20] Though post-colonial Kandy certainly had its problems, the example of a neighbouring nation going from colony to independent country was a powerful example to the anti-colonial forces, both proletarian strikers and pragmatic monarchs, of Bisnaga.

Still, though it’s controversial to say nowadays, it might still have been possible for the French to retain some influence in Bisnaga if they had contemplated the idea of Autogovernance before it was too late. But it was not to be. Madame Mercier did attempt a placatory policy during her years in power, but was regarded with suspicion for her involvement in the economic policy following the Panic of 1917, not to mention the war policy of the Black Twenties.

Mercier attempted to introduce the same kind of conseils paroissials as had been adopted in Pérousie some decades before, giving Bisnagis at least local representation. But this was stymied by an uncooperative FEIC administrative structure and complicated legalities of jurisdiction. Not only were the conseils subject to property, literacy or registration requirements which limited the electorate, but they only covered areas subject to direct French administration. This took in most of the old Nawbate of Arcot (or of the Carnatic) but it was riddled with holes like a piece of Swiss cheese, for areas which remained under the theoretical control of local aristocrats. It also did not include Travancore or Cochin, even though most meaningful decisions there were made by the French instead of local monarchs. And, of course, it did not cover the coastal cities theoretically under the corporate control of foreign trading companies, much less the Kingdom of Mysore, where French authority really was somewhat limited. Ever since, bitter French historians, putting forth a francocentric version of history as is their Diversitarian right, (a few chuckles) have argued that at leas they tried to institute local representation; the Maharajah of Mysore, that darling of anti-colonial histories, did not attempt to institute parliamentary representation under his own rule until years later.

It was clear that discontent was building in Bisnaga, and that reflected a climate of change stirring across the whole of the Indian subcontinent – though, as I’ve said, these were very different regions, they could still indirectly impact and influence one another. We should not forget the Concan Confederacy and the Guntoor Authority. These bodies did not have a single strong colonial power governing them, but rather were ruled by miscellaneous, overlapping corporate bodies and local rulers. This disorganised system had only functioned because it was anchored at three points by the Chinese in Jushina, the French in Bisnaga and Bengal, formerly Anglo-American, and these three powers would enforce a collective agreement on the two pseudo-independent corporate entities, similar to the pre-Jihad India Board.

This system was now crumbling. The Russians had first upset it by their influence in Pendzhab being revealed, then upset it again by being thrown out of it. The Bengalis had turned towards supporting local independence in both Pendzhab and Kandy. Chinese rule in Jushina-Panchala was looking shaky. Kalat (also called Balochistan), freed from its Persian overlords and now a rising power, was interfering in Gujarat. And now, with consequences for Guntoor and the Concan Confederacy, even the comfortable old anchor of French Bisnaga was beginning to lose its grip on the metaphorical seabed.

Trouble in Bisnaga would not truly ignite until 1936, however, when Mercier had left power for the first time, to be replaced with men lacking both vision and ambition…

[1] The Gupta Empire is here described as ‘Panchali-led’ because its capital, the now-ruined city of Pataliputra, is in territory which in TTL is part of Panchala in the present day. Historiography in TTL tends to describe the empires which unified all or most of India as temporary constructs, treating them as dominions established by one modern Indian nation over others before reverting to the ‘natural’ state of India being divided. Also, ‘the Islamic conquest of the Middle East’ is summing up eight centuries of history here, with the overland trade routes not being completely closed until the Ottoman conquest of the last Byzantine remnants.

[2] Today in OTL Cochin and Calicut are usually referred to as Kochi and Kozhikode.

[3] See Part #32 in Volume I.

[4] See Part #82 in Volume II.

[5] See Part #200 in Volume IV and Part #222 in Volume V.

[6] See Part #218 in Volume V and Part #262 in Volume VII.

[7] ‘Pleasure-garden’ is the term used in TTL for theme park (coming from the phrase ‘garden of earthly pleasures’). It does not literally mean a garden, any more than theme park literally means a park to us.

[8] This is a bit of an oversimplification driven by an historical climate that presumes that Hindu-Buddhist enmity is the norm – one would assume that, as most interpretations of Hinduism do claim the Buddha as one of the avatars of Vishnu, most Hindus would care about his life and background to some extent.

[9] This process has been much more drawn out than the OTL version. Qing China in TTL lacked the Qianlong Emperor and had a longer reign from the Yongzheng Emperor, one consequence of which was less emphasis on westward expansion (with the Dzungars being shut out by a wall of forts rather than conquered). More significantly, the Three Emperors’ War and the ensuing division left a power vacuum for the Gorkhas (Gurkhas) to exercise a much deeper and longer-lasting period of control over Tibet, before eventually being thrown out and vassalised by the Feng Chinese in the mid-to-late nineteenth century.

[10] ‘Sangam’ refers to the city of Allahabad, which in OTL was recently renamed Prayagraj. The area is home to a confluence of three rivers, referred to as Triveni Sangam(a) in Sanskrit and derived languages, held as holy in Hinduism. There are other such triple confluences elsewhere in India but this is the most prominent (although technically there are only two physical rivers, the Ganges and Yamuna, with the third being the Saraswati river in a spiritual sense – as this river, named in Vedic texts, has never been satisfactorily identified with a present-day one). In TTL the term Sangam has been applied to the entire city by the later regime.

[11] The author’s being a bit vague with the chronology here, talking about nineteenth-century events before briefly mentioning eighteenth-century ones, hence the mention of the HRE as contemporaneous.

[12] In OTL Muhammad Ali Khan Wallajah (whose birth predates the POD) allied with the British against the French; his French alliance here reflects the different tides of history after France kept Madras after the War of the Austrian Succession / Second War of Supremacy.

[13] Referring to the royal family of Cochin as the ‘Varmas’ is slightly misleading from the naming terminology.

[14] See Part #229 in Volume VI.

[15] See Part #270 in Volume VII.

[16] See Part #279 in Volume VIII.

[17] See Part #280 in Volume VIII.

[18] Although not explicitly mentioned here, Thomas Mathieu is from the large community of Thomasine Syriac Christians in Kerala/Queralie. The Maharajah’s move was particularly shocking to the French because they saw the Christians as natural allies fearful of Hindu and Muslim rule in the absence of French power. On the office of Governor-General, note that while the French East India Company was never fully nationalised and retains some corporate independence over trading affairs, in practice its other institutions (such as its sepoy military forces) were brought under de facto French government control following reforms by the Bouchez ministry in the 1870s, in the aftermath of the costly Great Jihad.

[19] See Part #290 in Volume VIII.

[20] See Part #292 in Volume VIII.
An announcement


I hope everyone is enjoying Volume IX of LTTW, and I am somehow finding time to write it on a fortnightly basis despite other commitments.

As usual, I will be taking the Christmas period and January off from posting updates, so updates will resume on January 29th.

In the meantime, I have the exciting news (which I teased above) that, at long last and after many people persistently asked for them, SLP finally has a new paperback pipeline so paperback editions of Look to the West Volume III - and soon Volume IV - are well on their way! There is already a paperback out of my non-LTTW work (though it has some LTTW in-jokes in it!) "The Twilight's Last Gleaming" if you're interested (click link for details). Volume VI is currently still being proofed for (Kindle) publication but that is also on the way.

If I don't post here again before Christmas (I may do so if the first paperback is ready before then), I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2023, a restful break and a winter enlightened by the light that is coming into the world. See you again at the end of January!
It's been a while since we've seen hide or hair of such a cameo as this!

And I may be reading a little too much into this, but a "blandly homogeneous triangle" seems like an odd way to describe a particular country on a world map. Why wouldn't bland and homogeneous be the default state of affairs? It's especially odd as Bisnaga's struggle for autonomy now has on board an influential selection of monarchs trying to safeguard their "position", which you'd think would promote decentralization of a sort that could be shown on a map if you wanted to.

The weirdest thing (which may not be intentional) about this update for me, though, is the poster giving the names of concert venues and providing the streets they're on but not their addresses along the streets.


Gone Fishin'
In those early days, there was even an attempt by the LPM and others to build solidarity across Jushina’s different faiths. But perhaps this was doomed to failure. The small number of Buddhists – Chinese settlers, local converts and a few ancestral holdouts – naturally would side with Chinese rule which gave them a privileged position. More significantly, Muslims made up almost one-fifth of the population, many of them Durrani settlers from more than a century before. They feared mass revenge attacks motivated by memories of the Jihad (not helped by the Chinese whipping these up to remind the people of the importance of the Chinese army to protect them). Most Muslims in Jushina would also side with the Chinese authorities, and so the anti-colonial movement became increasingly Hindu-supremacist in character. Even sympathetic descendants of the old, overthrown Nawab of Oudh were viewed with suspicion due both to being Muslims and being painted as just another set of alien rulers (in their case, from Persia). Already some Muslims were moving to the other Chinese-influenced state, the last Mughal remnant, Delhi. The seeds were being sown for tragedy later.
Oh no it's reverse Sri Lanka

That coordination with the Gorkhas should put the Feng sepoys on notice. If they don't act fast, they might be replaced as a body by a new military apparatus of Gorkhas, bandits, and others who might insist on being promoted and rewarded for their contributions to the revolution. All that time spent working your way up the Feng ladder, one of the few means of social mobility, might all be for naught or might even invite persecution. Better, from an ambitious junior sepoy officer's perspective, to lead the charge-- and let the others get accustomed to falling in line behind.
Oh no it's reverse Sri Lanka

That coordination with the Gorkhas should put the Feng sepoys on notice. If they don't act fast, they might be replaced as a body by a new military apparatus of Gorkhas, bandits, and others who might insist on being promoted and rewarded for their contributions to the revolution. All that time spent working your way up the Feng ladder, one of the few means of social mobility, might all be for naught or might even invite persecution. Better, from an ambitious junior sepoy officer's perspective, to lead the charge-- and let the others get accustomed to falling in line behind.
Also, implied hereditary dictatorship
I'm enjoying this volume. A lot of it is a fun examination of how complex the world is, and how hard it is to execute neatly designed imperial or utopian projects.
Is there a breakdown of the tenets of Societism someplace?
It's kind of split up in a bunch of places but I'll try to be concise:

Thesis: "War is the greatest possible evil and divisions between humanity are the cause of war, ergo divisions between humanity must be eliminated through the creation of a human culture based on universal commonalities." Pablo Sanchez was incredibly vague, and seemed to believe that everyone around the world would basically realize this at the same time and just topple the old order in a global velvet revolution, but the Meridian Societist movement created much of the nuance of the ideology after his death.

Symbolism: Sanchez wanted no symbol at all (and at most an empty flagpole), though the Combine uses black as a color (representing the combination of all colors) and a stylized Eye of Providence (a cross-culturally common symbol and also a representation of the ideology's class-collaborationism). In art a "Universal Human" is represented with green skin.

Theory of History: The Four Societies
  • The First Society- the tribe
  • The Second Society- the city-state
  • The Third Society- the nation-state
  • The Final Society- the Societist world-state
Organizational Structure: A world divided into randomly-designed Zones created to deliberately ignore historic national boundaries while having roughly equal population. Theoretically overseen by the meritocraticly appointed Zonal Rejes (who would rotate to avoid nationalist attachment), in practice power in the Combine was first centered on Alfarus and the position of Kapud, then the Biblioteka Mundial, though by the time of its destruction it was apparently working as originally designed. One consequence is that cities and natural features have no real names, only their zone number, a modifier explaining what they are, and a seemingly randomly assigned number at the end.

Economic Doctrine- Class collaborationist, with the lower classes supported by a universal job and housing guarantee and the private businesses of the upper class shorn of logos but otherwise allowed to operate under tight government supervision. Under the theory of Internal Completion parts are standardized between companies and a spoils system is used to funnel patronage to most of the companies competing for government contracts, while workers are required to use modified versions of their work-product in their daily lives to motivate high standards and attention to detail.

Military Doctrine: Since war is the greatest evil the Combine only maintains a "self-defense force" in the form of the Celatores, though they're basically an army. Since they do kill people in the line of duty they are all under a death sentence, to be carried out at age 80 at the end of a long term in a luxury prison following their term of service. Tactically, Societism follows the Doctrine of the Last Throw, a policy of opportunistic expansion where intervention only follows in the wake of conflict between the nationalistically blinded and the Combine doesn't actually start any of the wars it finishes.

Social Doctrine: Combine Societism is inherently anti-democratic, instead relying on a complex system of standardized tests to assign an individual a place within the system.
  • Language Policy- Originally Sanchez wanted a reconstructed Proto-Indo European, but the science isn't there yet and the Combine instead uses Novalatina and exterminates all other languages in its territory.
  • Cultural Policy- Only those cultural aspects with near universal historical global presence are inherently valid and part of the new Human Culture, from social structure to art to food. As a consequence the official religion of the Combine is the Universal Church, a pseudo-Christian denomination.
  • Family Policy- The original social divide between the Familistas (who argued the nuclear family was near universal and therefore the standard) and the Garderistas (who argued human division was centered on the circumstances of birth and therefore all children should be raised in creches) was eventually resolved in favor of the Familistas, though Garderista policies are used to deal with the children of dissidents. One consequence is that the feminism of the early movement was replaced by strict gender conservatism.
Deviationists: Societists that don't tow the party line are usually called "Gray Societists", and the expression of that tendency can vary. For example Danubia pursues Societism democratically and uses a more traditional Latin derivative, while the Eternal State seems to be creating a universalist Islamic sect. We have no idea what the Yapontsi will do but apparently all the other Societists think they're super weird.
Last edited: