The History of Plebeia

Plebeia is a land like any other. It has mountains and plains, and rivers and lakes. For the most part, the seasons turn and time passes much as they always have there. Located on the peripheries of the Greater World, Plebeia is a quiet country somewhat forgotten by the others, providing a comfortable life for those residing in it but also creating a complex of its own.

Populated by humans, Plebeia suffers the same deficiencies and complications that any other country does where people live together. In an attempt to shake things up for example, the inhabitants once changed the name of the country from a local word that meant village into Plebeia. It was believed, and perhaps not unjustly, that the name was superimposing a small-town mentality on the national psyche. So the residents chose a name that better reflected their model of government, that being one of the people. Unfortunately, the name alone was not the problem: Plebeia is a country of only 30 million people or so and the degree of separation between any number of citizens is exceptionally small as a result. And, as is well known, in any place where everyone is known to one another the odds of people becoming insular and self-obsessed are high. Plebeia, not being prone to exceptionality, is a nation of navel-gazers.

This preoccupation with itself has caused Plebeia to develop an odd relationship with the Greater World. The relative peace and affluence that Plebeians enjoy has led many to believe that the country is somehow well positioned internationally and able to influence the others. In reality, however, Plebeia is viewed by most of the Greater World as a nice place, but rather inconsequential. This situation, of course, has resulted in much talk at home of Plebeia’s supposed role abroad, with little action or efficacy. Nevertheless, as so many Plebeians engage in this discourse, it is widely believed that the country is indeed very powerful within the Greater World and should do more to make that world a better place.

While Plebeia is a democracy of sorts, the notion that the government is entirely of the people is a bit misleading. The head of government is, in effect, the one upon whose cranium rests the Crown, and who at present happens to be an old lady of questionable breeding. Very few Plebeians are aware, however, that The Crown worn on some inbred woman’s head far across the water still controls the country. Much of the reason for this ignorance stems from the supposed independence Plebeia gained from The Crown in a distant past.

Independence, well sort of.

The Crown, being a centuries old ruler lording over many other countries beyond Plebeia, has consistently relied upon cunning to further the status quo. Take, for example, the creation of the Civil Service in Plebeia. Some 150 years ago, the Plebeians approached The Crown with a daring request. They had devised a new form of government that in being agreeable to the entire population maintained power in the hands of the people. It would be beautiful, they said, truly utopian. We, who have only ever governed our own immediate lives and sometimes not even that overly well, will govern ourselves en mass. It will be great, you’ll see. We’ll pick our own Prime Plebeians.

Oh that is wonderful, remarked The Crown.

And the Plebeians were very happy. The Crown seems to be agreeing with us, they thought, and sort of curtsied at the beneficent consideration of The Crown.

Certainly, continued The Crown, you have come to some sort of decision as to how you would prevent dictatorships. While you may choose your own leader, that doesn’t prevent him from being a murderous tyrant. Power does funny things to people, just look at some of those who have put me on their head, said The Crown. How will you rid yourselves of dictators should they arise?

Hmm, the Plebeians wondered, the dictators, right. Well, we’ll force all politicians to submit to term limits. Yes, term limits. They quickly agreed, yes term limits, that way we’ll keep the dictators at bay.

Oh yes, The Crown exclaimed as a person would if they had truly been surprised by the idea. How very novel, she said, how long will these terms be?

Well, the Plebeians pondered, genuinely impressed by the thought that perhaps they had come up with such a bright idea that The Crown herself was impressed by it. Maybe this old broad wasn’t so bad after all, they mused, such gratification leading them to feel as though asking The Crown, with all her breadth of experience, what she thought on the matter, wouldn’t be such a bad design.

Again The Crown behaved surprised, oh mercy I wouldn’t know! Such things haven’t really been for me to consider, but now that you ask, The Crown seemed to think a little, from the effects of power I have witnessed in the past, it takes roughly a year for the person to fully understand the importance of a powerful position, during which time they usually aren’t capable of executing much, still learning the ropes so to speak, and if a decent person, they will remain respectable throughout. During the second year they will grow increasingly comfortable with the power the role affords, but most will remain somewhat grounded for the duration. By the third year, however, the role will have completely supplanted their identity and soon, and from this point forward, the power will become more important than anything else, to be wielded however the person holding it deems fit.

The Plebeians stood aghast. Wow, that is something to consider. A person really only has four years, at best, and he or she will be absolutely corrupted by power. It seemed alarming, but just look at how angry the Prime Plebeian gets when we don’t follow his party rules, the rabble discussed amongst their ranks. Let’s set the term limits to four years and have elections at the end of every term. The Plebeians nodded, concurrently, to themselves, relieved at having averted almost certain disaster.

Yes, The Crown said as if agreeing, that is very wise of you to decide. I can see how that approach could be very helpful. Then The Crown appeared to be pained by something as if some thought or other had caused her grief. Given that some people spoil more quickly than others, The Crown thoughtfully considered, are you not concerned that a Prime Plebeian might turn bad before the term expiration date?

She makes a good point, the Plebeians thought. Of course, they started, that’s why consensus is so important. The Prime Plebeian must have our continued support in order to maintain power, if he loses it, the House of Plebeians can be dissolved.

That makes sense, The Crown promoted, that way no one is certain to ever abuse power and the Plebeians can remain independent.

Again they nodded vigorously, so pleased to appear intelligent in the opinion of The Crown.

Are you not worried, The Crown delicately ventured, with all of this change in the House of Plebeians that your independence might be a bit shaky? With politicians coming and going, there isn’t much consistency, is there?

They hadn’t thought of that, why yes, there might be little continuity if new politicians were always coming into the House of Plebeians, and the older ones departing. Clearly, they would need some sort of permanent support staff, but how could the people afford it?

Oh my, confirmed The Crown, that is a problem!

Silence ensued as both the rabble and The Crown sat contemplating the matter, the former more perplexed than the latter.

I have an idea, forwarded The Crown. I have lots of money, why don’t I fund a support staff, a Civil Service. Just until you get going.

The Plebeians hesitated, not really wanting to take handouts. The Crown had been so good about the proposal of independence, they mused, maybe she just genuinely wanted to help out. What harm could there be?

And thus The Crown established the Civil Service and promptly offered all those who enlisted into it a guaranteed job for life, mainly, she explained, as a way of counterbalancing the instability of term limits and to prevent corruption. And so, because The Crown was funding the Civil Service and the Plebeians electing the politicians, it seemed only fair that both the House of Plebeians and the Civil Service would jointly choose a representative to head the overall government, a Governor General, who would report back to both the Plebeians and The Crown. So in this way, the Plebeians gained independence and The Crown maintained control.

The influence of a former colonial master isn’t the only thing hampering Plebeia’s pursuit of democracy. Although some enlightened Plebeians consider this next issue a direct result of The Crown’s meddling. Instead of opting for direct democracy, whereby each elected politician is accountable to his or her electorate, the Plebeian system is representative.

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