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The Crucible Campaign: Travelling in the Commonwealth: Cultural Taxonomy

The Kingsmen

The Kingsmen "Trinity" both represent the "winter stage" of the Tree of Life, and the conservative and centripetal pole of Commonwealth culture and politics. Symbolically the Kingsmen represent inchoate beginnings: the tendrils and roots that emerge from its seed to lay the foundations and anchors of its emergence and towering growth. The root of a tree represents stability and the depth of inspiration and restoration that emerges from the bowels of community. The narrative of this society is "the city on the hill", the search for the final, perfected human community. Their hierarchal structure is pyramidal, representing their absolute loyalty to communal authority and acceptance of their place within its structure. The Terran philosopher Karl Marx once said that two is the minimum human number, for polarity is necessary for the exchange and interaction that are the sources of community. With one you have static solipsism. For the human multitude, survival and prosperity depend upon the coordinated efforts of many. A web of economic and political relationships tie us together in a web that keeps us from slipping into a brutish Hobbesian existence of brutal competition.

Kingsmen society stresses three paramount principles. First is integrity, in contract and first principles. Accountability of individual actions, honesty of laws and ordinances, and transparency of government are vital to the workings of a reliable and trustworthy authority. Second is freedom of conscience, which is defined as being the rejection of authoritarianism, the bane of all conformist societies. Authoritarian societies define the group as a mob hemmed in by a violent "us versus them" mentality, but Kingsmen place sovereignty into a constitutional community that has a purpose. Civility trumps blind conformity, law wins over violence, and equality overcomes hierarchal egotism and hubris. Finally there comes compassion, for the community is essentially a means of redistributing resources from the haves to enrich the have nots for their mutual benefit.

The three constituents of the Kingsmen are devoted to the idea of community and public service. They are stewards of the collective, seek to include every creed and subculture in the greater theater of public life, and stand courageous against the excessive egotism of consumer culture and divisive politics. Each has a "cathedral", in the form of a civic building or communal meeting place, that is the inspiring wellspring of their civic idealism. The three Kingsmen are the heartfelt Khamaaka of Pretoria, the politically fractious Midwaymen of their namesake region, and the brutally unified Strongholders of rimward Deneb/coreward Reft sectors.

The Navigators

The Navigator Trinity is the "spring stage" of the Tree of Life. When the seed has become the taproot, as deep as one's imaginings, only then can the stem, the branches and the leaves finally cast off the unyielding earth to reach the sky above. But after conquering the soil, it now must defy gravity in its quest to arch over the earth with leafy preeminence. This symbolises the outward expansion of the community beyond its first principles to project its organisation of branches and leaves into the space surrounding it and bring the world into its shadow. The narrative of this phase is "the mob at the gates", whereupon the outside world is brought into harmony with the original civic vision. Their hierarchal structure is conical, representing their explicit loyalty to authority, and their implicit tendency to fulfill their own ambitions under its shadow. Unlike the Kingsmen, the sources of their inspiration are less protean than restraining. This is because their tendency to organise into highly discrete and nimble groups, and incredible level of education, gives them potential to be destructively acquisitive and hypocritical: being the apex of communal education and concentration of resources ironically makes them more self-confident, and more tempted to strike out into the unknown for personal glory and power at the expense of the community. These three communities tend to produce the most brilliant and educated of all Commoners, but the temptation for these suns to become destructive infernos means that all three of them have imposed strong institutional limits to keep their young bravos feet attached to the ground. Bringing back the Flame to the universe only requires the lighting of a torch, and not committing arson on an interstellar scale.

Navigator society gives preeminence to three values. First comes prosperity, which is interpreted as being more than merely material success, but the wealth in Commonwealth, the idea that the wealth of the one is petty, but the fortunes of many are a mighty river that moves mountains. Prosperity is the fruition of unifying the many into one, e pluribus unum. Second comes ambition which is the flame that is stoked in the hearts of the young to seek the world beyond their childhood boundaries. The hero of their society are captains that are Canutes: they command the sea of humanity to do their bidding. Finally they cherish altruism, which is the bringing of order to the benighted, the unification of the family of humanity under the light of truth, reason and justice. It is without a doubt that these are the most imperialistic of Commoners, but but the best of them do not want to build empires simply for their own sake, but as a means to an end to sweeten life and purge the periphery of chaos, brutishness, and uncertainty.

The three constituents of the Navigators are devoted to the expansion of the radiance of the Flame to the greater outside universe. They are Don Quixote tilting at the windmills of the unknown, and fearless in their quest to bring the light of civilization back to the benighted worlds of the Wilds. Each has a "cathedral", in the form of a arsenal of weapons, diplomacy and ideas, that is the inspiring wellspring of their civic idealism. The three Navigators are the courageous Highwaymen of Corridor, the elegantly reticient Islanders of their widely separated Federation, and the larger than all life Monocerans.

The Liberators

The Tree of Life has grown towards the apex of summer, and is now in riotous bloom. The air is heavy with the perfume and pollen that announce the passing of the years and the coming of the future. Sex and death are intertwined, psychologists and biologists never tire of pointing out, and mortality drives passion to fiery heights. The Liberator Trinity of Commonwealth society is mindful of the grey shadow of death lurking even within the dreamy reverie of the hot and high sun: death's encroachment must mean seizing the day. The bloom will eventually come off of the tree, and youth will fade into senescence and death. The wine must be drunk now, the great novel to be penned here, the unrequited passions to be slaked before it is too late. The Liberators (High Zhodani, Speculator and Abyssal) are the romantics of Commonwealth society, and the opposing pole to the Kingsmen Trinity. The wellspring of their culture is their reclamation of the lost world of innocence from the purgatory of utilitarian purpose, to reject the brutal all-or-nothing economic focus of the Kingsmen in favor of the gratifications of personal psychology. They are the most anti-authoritarian of Commoners, eschewing traditional authority in favor of being the captains of their own destinies. Their narrative is "land of the free, and home of the brave." Their hierarchal structure is circular, representing their rebellion against traditional authority in favor of their own bohemian philosophies of families and property. Personal - even messianic - religious visions dominate their thinking, and pulls them down side roads of personal discovery. They follow, in Thoreau's words, the beat of their own drummer.

Liberators put stock in three values. First is dignity, which is the chimerical desire for an authentic life. That generally means finding a life that breaks the mold of conformity and find the inner diversity and uniqueness of the human soul, and to create communities that follow their own particular spiritual goals instead of seeking to further economics. They seek, in oftentimes explicit fashion, what the divine intended for them, to find their calling as it were. Second is self-control, which means both guarding against the infringement ("selling out") of the world of the marketplace into their souls, balanced with vigilance against excessive pathologies like narcissism, megalomania and psychosis. In spite of their seeming liberalism, they must still follow some kind of consistent morality, or become completely lost in a desert in which the bloom of liberty withers. Finally there is the desire for the freedom of creativity, which is the recognition that harmony comes from a chorus of voices. The tonality and pitch may differ immensely, but true unity comes from each voice being able to contribute to the final coda, an ode to joy that transcends this world to carry the hopes of humanity into eternity.

The three constituents of the Liberators are devoted to personal freedom and dignity. They are stewards of the individual, seeking to liberate humanity from excessive philistinism and authoritarianism. Each has a "cathedral", in the form of a natural or bucolic place, that is the inspiring wellspring of their personal crusades. The three Liberators are the peripatetic High Zhodani, the headstrong Speculators of the Enterprise Federation, and the bucolic and peaceful Abyssals.

The Gamblers

The great Tree of Life has finished its current cycle, for the darkening gloom of autumn has descended, and the harvesting blade of death is turned down to reap the fruit of the Tree and cut the leaves from their moorings. The autumnal trinity of the Commonwealth are the Gamblers, symbolising the collapse of all good intentions and pretensions back into their murky beginnings. Gamblers live by the narrative of "the rot at the top." Their hierarchal structure is a spiral, a search for a moral center in a universe of decadence and rot. They are an equinoctial people like the Navigators, but move in the exact opposite direction. The Gamblers represent the exhaustion of the community and its idols. The social contract laid down has reached its end, and all that remains is corruption, as the powers that be turn away from public service or cultural leadership and inwards towards fin de siecle hedonistic debauchery. Gamblers are self appointed martyrs of the societal collapse: morituri salutamis (we who are about to die, salute you). The cathedrals of the three Gambler groups are generally arenas that pit the individual in jeopardy against fickle fortune. But they willingly walk on the firing line for one attempt not so much to glean personal success but to snatch hope from the jaws of despair.

Gamblers value three principles. First is the search for security, "to shield the new-shorn lamb against the cold wind." The best means of accomplishing it is actually to tempt fate in a calculated way. Second is humility, for all knowledge is a process of submission to a body greater than oneself or ones created reality. "What does it profit a man should he gain the entire world, but loses his own soul?" What is the power of the works of man but a rickety monument to his own hubris too easily knocked down by the unceasing wind. Whatever goes up must eventually come down, and the ledger must balance out. Self knowledge than is less about the passing frivolities of this world than the preperation for the kingdom beyond the door of death. Thirdly there is faith. Resistance of temptation is the key that opens the Door of Life. But temptation is the devil's daily vocation, and abject Puritanism is no shield against his constant attacks, only the voice of reasons alloyed with experience. Man is born to be disillusioned, but the defeat of his will sets him free; the ego is a tyrant solely dedicated to divorcing the world for the gratification of a few nerve endings, and cares little for the whole outside of itself.

The three constituents of the Gamblers are devoted to the survival of their families and communal values in the face of great hardship. They are stewards of the will to live, of standing against the infinite night of death, and preserving hope that these tribulations will yet end. Each has a "cathedral", in the form of a battle arena pitted against fortune, that is the inspiring wellspring of their civic idealism. The three Gamblers are the agile and duplicitous Outlanders of the darker corners of the Commonwealth, the jaded and calculating Ardenians, and the ornery but noble Populists.