My planned fantasy series, the Shine Cycle, largely centers on one country, the Shine and Wild Empire. In my development of the Empire’s society I have tried to describe a culture and political system that is as close to ideal as possible given human nature—though I do my best to avoid turning it into a utopia. Today, I’d like to talk about three of the principles undergirding the “social order” of the Empire.
The first principle is the Christian faith. A strong Christian culture creates an expectation of honorable conduct from all citizens, and especially from those placed in (formal or informal) positions of leadership and authority. This is not to say that corruption is unknown, but when it is inevitably discovered, it leads to a loss of trust and thus of position for the parties involved, instead of the “oh well, such things happen” that seems to be the reaction so often nowadays in our world.
With the Christian faith cultivating an expectation of honor and strong social pressure against evil and immoral behavior, there is far less need for the government to involve itself, and so there is much less opportunity for the government to expand its reach and impose itself on a free people. The chief kingdom of the Empire suffered under a tyrant once, and the whole country remains far more vigilant than we have been against ever falling under the same evil again.
The second principle is the family. Anyone who is able is expected to help take care of those who are not. This does not extend to nepotism—morality comes first, remember—but in times of need everyone has someone to turn to. And for those rare few who have no family, or no family who can or will help, and no true friends who have come to be considered family, “the great in the land” will nearly always look after them. (Cf. Job 31:16 ff.)
And the family also ensures that the society will continue in time to come. As I noted in my post about education in the Empire, parents take responsibility for educating their children, teaching them to be good and honorable citizens and transmitting the culture to them. This is considered to be as serious a need as the physical, so for children without effective parents other relatives willingly share the responsibility.
The third pillar of the society is fealty. While there is no absolute legal requirement, there is a social expectation that each individual (or at least all men—a woman’s link through her husband is usually considered sufficient) be bound to at least one suzerain by an oath of fealty. In this way allegiance—which is owed first to God and also to the nation—is made concrete, not some nebulous concept. And it binds people from different backgrounds and parts of the Empire together, so that families are not isolated islands in the society.
This, of course, carries some danger of abuse, but vassals are protected by both strong legal restrictions on what kinds of orders are lawful and social pressures that place more responsibility on the suzerain than on the vassal. In particular, the law requires an oath of fealty to be made freely and without coercion of any kind, and custom demands that a suzerain grant release to any vassal who requests it.
On these three pillars the society stands secure.