RIMA: You’ve had quite the micronational “career” needless to say – how exactly did you come to join micronationalism?
John Darcy (JD): In June 2001 I was reading a newsgroup and it was spammed by a Richard Ryan, founder and then-Prime Minister of the Republic of Mars.1 I followed the link and was hooked. At first I did not think of attempting politics or leadership because I was fascinated by the speculative technical design of a Mars colony. But I came into contact with some of the political leaders – none of whom have ever surfaced on MNN – and in due course ran for office. I became Prime Minister early in 2002 but unfortunately the steam had run out of that project. It was what we might call a fantasy micronation in extremis – the setting was the future and the location was Mars. It’s real problem was that the founder ran away, and that made it hard for the replacement leadership to exercise control (eg, the website was never updated). When Republic of Mars died, a small group of us looked for ways to reinvent the project. One of those was Freddy Warren. We didn’t have the resources or support to make anything of Mars, but our common interest in micronational lawmaking forged a lasting friendship.
RIMA: The micronation that made you famous is with little doubt the Republic of Anthelia. What role did you play in the formation of this micronation, and what were your goals for it at the beginning?
JD: With Republic of Mars, and it’s offspring, all consigned to the dustbin, I searched the internet for an online democratic micronation which was small enough that I could make some impact. I found one called Deseret, but silly me, I did not at first realise that Deseret was a Mormon fundamentalist idea. Although identified as “democratic”, it was in fact an oligarchy controlled by the founders. After a couple of months of getting nowhere, myself and one of the other newer citizens launched Republic of Anthelia on 27 July 2004. The announcement was made on alt.politics.micronations2 because at that time I still had not found MNN. My goals for the new Republic were expressed in that announcement and also in the Declaration of Independence on which the micronation was based. Those goals were to have a diverse community supporting a democratic government. It was intended to have a slow, guided start to the government until the population grew to 20 or more, at which point full democracy would be unleashed … but 20 never came.
RIMA: It’s been more than two years since Anthelia ceded its sovereignty to the Kingdom of Gotzborg. In hindsight, what would you consider its major successes and failures, and do you think it has made a lasting impact on our community?
JD: Anthelia certainly showcased a higher standard of lawmaking, in my humble opinion, including the framework of civil government and laws for economic and commercial regulation. However our major failure was that the diverse community never emerged, and so the attention to detail and the solid regulated foundation was wasted effort.
RIMA: You’ve always had an active interest in the development of a working micronational economy. It’s arguably something that has been difficult to achieve, though for short bursts every few years, there seems to be some semblance of a working economy in our community. Why do you think it has been so difficult to maintain an active economy in micronationalism?
JD: It comes down to three factors: (1) Scale; there are just not enough separate participants in any micronational economy to generate any velocity. (2) Demand; it’s been largely artificial in the economies I have seen and been involved in, due to the absence of genuine economic needs which, when they exist, have to be supplied and thus begins the economic cycle. (3) Expertise; the fundamentals of economics are poorly understood by most of the people trying to do it in micronations, resulting in odious consequences from the laws and systems that are attempted. We had a real economist in Anthelia, and he left because he could not cope with it and could not convey his message. And that happens all over – someone comes in who can design and implement a good system, but there is no succession plan and when that expert’s activity wanes then the whole thing falls over.
RIMA: You were a key architect of the Novasolum Regional Community that existed from 2005 to 2007. There were many successful aspects to this community – NovaPol, economic cooperation, and cooperation in developing the geography of the former Novasolum (now Tapfer) continent on Micras. Looking back, what do you think was the major event that led to the downfall of the Community?
JD: Firstly, give credit to Mr Warren for his diplomatic efforts. NovaPol was his concept, and the foundation of the close relationship between Anthelia and Gotzborg started with his conciliation over a mapping dispute. As for the downfall of the Community, it starts with personalities and the old micronational bugbear of Founderism. Nobody wants to cede even the tiniest bit of control, not Nathan, not Edgard, and probably not Darcy either (although I did give up the Presidency of Anthelia). And then came the GSO-MCS schism. GSO did not have the support of Natopia, and only half support from Alexandria (which maintained membership of both GSO and MCS simultaneously). The perception that the GSO was a Gotzborg-Anthelia thing, even though Babkha and others were involved, led to resentment from other members of the Community and thus it broke down.
RIMA: You played a major role in spearheading the creation of the Geographical Standards Organisation, which was entrenched in a firm intent to create a consistent community simulation. Do you think this underlying goal can ever be achieved in micronationalism? What did the Organisation do wrong in its attempt to achieve this result?
JD: Of course it can be achieved, the GSO would have achieved its objectives had Lachlan and I been able to maintain our level of involvement. The GSO was unable to achieve the result because it was left partly unfinished and (no disrespect to them) the new leadership could not finish it. But the consistent community simulation remains possible if and when all the participants agree – really agree – to go with the base scenario. Unfortunately I’m not convinced that Founderism would allow that because micronational founders are reluctant to have someone else write their history for them.
RIMA: The Kingdom of Novasolum was a creation of yours in response to the end of Gotzborg. In fact, you’re still by title the King of Novasolum, even though it no longer operates as an active micronation. Reflecting on your Kingdom, what did it do right, and what would you change in retrospect?
JD: The biggest success of Novasolum was in style. Inspired by the artistry of the King of Gotzborg, I set out to give Novasolum a great look in heraldry, chivalry, medals and so on. People liked it, and that is 90% of the battle. The vision for the well-structured civil service was also a triumph which remained unfulfilled due to lack of manpower. In retrospect, though, I would have made the Kingdom less dependant upon the Anthelia-Gotzborg legacy. It spoke volumes to the first ten citizens who came on board, but was always going to be meaningless to any wider constituency, and that may have been a barrier to entry to those who might have joined but felt themselves unconnected.
RIMA: Thinking back on your participation, do you have any particularly fond memories? Any regrets?
JD: Well, I’ve covered a bit of that in the previous answers! 🙂 My fondest memories are no-brainers – the friends I have made along the way. And the minor victories which came from time to time, such as completing the Anthelian Constitution or putting the final touches on coats of arms. I do regret that neither Anthelia nor Novasolum grew to a self-sufficient size, but that happens to everyone except Danny Wallace.
RIMA: The Simulationist Community’s history – what do you consider to be the defining moment that has shaped our community during your participation?
JD: The MCS-GSO schism is the moment. For all the good reasons behind the formation of the GSO, it did result in bad karma all around. People and micronations who should have been working together now became distrustful and dogmatic, neither side prepared to accept the positives of the other and a number of talents going to waste.
RIMA: Reflecting on our past and looking forward, where do you see the Simulationist community in another ten years? Are there any particular challenges on the horizon in your opinion?
JD: I have felt for a long time that MMORPGs offer so much more to the online user than our talk-based forum micronations. World of Warcraft, Second Life, and even newer games that are attached to social networks like Facebook. I have been playing FarmTown on Facebook, and it accumulated over 7 MILLION users in its first three months – that is what graphics and a good recruitment tool can do. Can the micronational simulationist community compete with that? If not, then there will be no such community in ten years. But I would add one important caveat to all of that: The internet as we know it has only been with us for about 16 years, and changes arrive more rapidly all the time. Which of us can say what will be the dominant paradigm of mass network communications another 10 years’ hence?
RIMA: What is the most overrated micronation of your participation? Most underrated?
JD: I’m sorry, that question asks me to assess the opinions of others and I can’t.
RIMA: Any final thoughts?
JD: I am concerned as always that so much talent and enthusiasm produces so little in this field. If you took the 20 most active micronationalists of the last five years and they all put their minds, their energy and their experience towards a single micronation, then that micronation would succeed. If those 20 people chipped in some money, to pay for development of a GUI environment for the micronation (instead of forums) then that micronation would have the opportunity for mass recruitment that does not currently exist.