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{{authors add="(c) 2013 Pieter Hintjens" license="CC-BY-SA" cluster=0}}

Culture & Empire


The whole planet is getting connected, and building vast new
communities. The on-line world thinks faster, and thinks different.
Smart, fast, and creative, these new communities are a real challenge to
old power and old money. And old money, after its War on Drugs, and War
on Terror, is now launching its War on the Internet. What is going on,
and where will this lead us?


[..]


"Once upon a time, there was a great Empire that ruled the
known world. It owned all the lands, the wealth beneath, and
the wealth above. The Empire was run by an old, faceless soci-
ety of criminals. It ran on cheap oil and cheap blood. It
smashed its opponents in the name of Peace. It burned their
lands in the name of Reconstruction. It enslaved them in the
name of Freedom. It built massive castles of edict and punish-
ment to govern its populations, and it fed them a river of pap
to keep them docile. It was powerful, invincible, and paranoid.


Far away, in a different place, a civilization called Culture had
taken seed and was growing. It owned little except a magic
spell called Knowledge. The Culture ran on light, and built
little bubbles of fire and hope. It seduced its critics by giving
them what they wanted, no matter how unusual. And as it
pulled in more people, it grew and built more of its bubbles.


When the Empire first encountered the Culture, it was
puzzled. There were no armies to crush, no statesmen to cor-
rupt and recruit, no castles to loot and burn. So it ignored the
Culture and its pretty bubbles, hoping it would go away.


The Culture grew, and grew faster than you could follow. In
less than a generation, it had started to build cities, impossibly
beautiful spheres of fire and hope, massive, and yet gentler
than the breeze. More people quietly left the castles to move to
the cities of the Culture, where they too learned to build their
own bubbles of flames and joy.


The Culture seemed harmless. However, the Empire depended
on its vassal masses. If the masses left to go to the Culture’s cit -
ies, the Empire would starve and die. Total War was inevitable.
Both the Empire and the Culture knew it, and prepared for it
in very different ways.


The Empire attacked. It tore down the cities closest to it and
told the Culture, stop building or we will come back. And for
each city it burnt, a hundred others sprang up. Culture
shrugged and said, “We enjoy building new cities.” So the Em-
pire sent its infiltrators and spies into the cities to try to cor-
rupt them. And the Culture laughed, clapped its hands, and
exclaimed, “We do much worse to ourselves every day. Look,
we enjoy this game!” And it opened its hands. And there lay
some of the Empire’s darkest and deepest secrets, for all to see.


So the Empire, the cold finger of fear touching its heart, smiled
its most sincere smile and welcomed the Culture into its lands.
And then it began to erect a far wall so wide and so high that it
could cover all the cities of the Culture in darkness. If the Cul-
ture ran on light, thought the Empire, then it would destroy
light."


http://cultureandempire.com [the entire book as PDF or HTML]


© 2013 Pieter Hintjens
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