To quote the tiresomely over-quoted Mark Twain: “history may not repeat itself, but it often rhymes.”
A little over two months have passed since I was ritually savaged by the Bastion Union’s inner circle in response to an interview I gave for the CS, leading to my unceremonious departure from that community. History being written by the winners, consensus will no doubt record that I fell on my sword for being unable to justify certain allegations made against the Apollonian Confederation in that interview. That would be a misreading of my motivations.
My ultimate reason for leaving was, in fact, quite independent of the dispute’s subject matter and centred on the attitudes and behaviour of certain individuals toward me personally. After some reflection I feel it raises questions about the nature, structure and ultimately the legitimacy of the Bastion Union leadership as well as having implications for micronational communities as a whole. Those reflections I wish to explore in this letter.
The crystallising event in my case came upon the heels of the aforementioned and incredibly heated debate about my interview, during which I fielded attitudes ranging from the mockingly dismissive to the violently contemptuous, with any supportive peers either uninclined or too frightened to stand up for me. It was a lonely day or two which, as happens when one is subjected to sustained vitriol of that calibre, naturally led me to question my presence on Bastion. Nobody is paid to be there, after all.
Around that time Rasmus, seemingly sensing my sentiment, penned a worthy and articulate counterpoint to my article which bordered on the flattering. It was duly published by the CS and did much to reassure me that at least one of my adversaries was intelligent enough to appreciate the merits of civilised conduct in such a situation. Talk beyond that point was of common ground and reassurances, and it would have convinced me to stay had it not been for the next intervention.
Enter Jonas, leader of the Apollonian Confederation and fellow Bastion administrator to Rasmus (their roles being quite unnecessary duplicates). Having doubtlessly familiarised himself with the latest content of the discussion, Jonas decided that very moment – when Rasmus was essentially talking me back from a ledge – it would be quite perfect to launch an unnecessary and highly personal insult in my direction. He would have been aware of the stakes in question, and that driving me off Bastion would be a perfectly acceptable consequence of landing one more punch. This behaviour, coming as it did from a Bastion Union administrator and leader of one of its biggest nations, provided a clear window into Bastion’s future. It was a future I had no wish to be a part of, and after a single profanity of my own I took my leave accordingly.
In the past I have expressed my displeasure – with tiresome frequency – at the handful of administrators, meetup attenders and IRC-goers whose whimsical meanderings dictate the direction of the Bastion Union through strategically-planted citizenships of its many nations large and small. I have nursed a quiet trepidation that this small circle will one day become conscious of the extent of its unaccountability, abandon all pretences of administrative sobriety and conduct the overall leadership of Bastion with the same level of aggression and impulsivity as it does in Bastion’s constituent nations.
The events surrounding my departure have convinced me that this process has well and truly begun. A leader of the community drove out a respected (at least that’s what people tell me) member, apparently deliberately, with no remorse, for the crime of expressing a micronational overview that was unpalatable to him. Moreover he has not faced any apparent censure, nor is any likely to be forthcoming as the only people on Bastion as powerful as himself are those politically aligned to him.
Within a single micronation this is all just so much politics, and is to be expected. The Bastion Union however is a community of micronations – and it seems that, little by little, its leadership have confused the responsibilities of leading a single micronation with those of a multi-micronational community. Gradually the administrative cadre of the Bastion Union has become compromised, with no procedure in place to regulate any excesses it might commit on a community level. As a result it not only tolerates, but affirms and even celebrates behaviour of the kind which caused me to leave, even when it comes from the very top. One might reasonably call it a case study in the failure of self-regulation.
This kind of regime is not without micronational precedent. During my reflections I have been reminded of the withering downfall of the Kingdom of Babkha – a process which, according to the fearsome Ardashir Khan, began as early as 2003 and saw that realm’s slide into exponential savagery as a result of, among other things, “the inevitable consequence of dissenting voices being thrown under the bus”. This shrivelling into Rule By Belligerent Cliquery eventually excluded even the Shahdom itself, leading Vilhelm Benkern to complain that the Kingdom was “never able to accept anyone into the inner circle. I was once Shah, for example, and my SAVAK clearance was probably equivalent to a Treesian spy”. Certainly, by my own recollection, anybody who set foot in the place in those later years risked unprovoked threats and/or summary post deletion for their trouble. Not only did it seem impossible to have a voice in that inner circle, it seemed impossible even to exist alongside it. Of course the legendary “Babkhan welcome” became so intrinsic to the atmosphere of the place that nobody minded much.
Unfortunately however, such a regime proved to be unsustainable in the long term and the Kingdom withered further – until all that remained was Ardy and Hesam parroting profane Aristocrats jokes at each other, whereupon sanity prevailed and the decision was taken to euthanise the place.
Ultimately, how Babkha went about its business was a Babkhan matter and I don’t judge the dynamic which simultaneously glorified and killed the place. I certainly miss it. But the Bastion Union, which appears to be treading a disturbingly similar path toward a disturbingly similar fate, is in my view an inappropriate vehicle for the aggressive machinations of its leadership against its members, and if it continues on its current path that membership will wither away.
Already we have seen the effective annihilation of the Shirerithian Duchy of Goldshire, which until very recently had a near monopoly on Shirerithian Imperial power. In addition to my departure it has said goodbye to Janus Eadric, a.k.a Edgard of Alexandria – a veteran micronationalist who does not flounce lightly – after his lands in Shireroth were subjected to a legal but heavy-handed Imperial annexation by a Steward closely allied to Bastion’s ruling caste. These departures combined have taken their toll on Goldshire’s Duke and rare-retained newcomer to micronationalism, Ryker Everstone; who has communicated to me his own collapse in morale and contemplations on leaving. An empty Goldshire faces the prospect of inactivity annexation by Jack, that same Steward who is now Kaiser of Shireroth. With his love of violent spectacle and personal grievances against the recently departed Goldshirians taken into account one can be forgiven for anticipating that, in the paraphrased words of Winston Churchill, “the whole fury and might of the [Kaiser] must very soon be turned on [Goldshire]”.
As time progresses one might reasonably expect more of Bastion’s subcommunities to be wiped out by a force which seems (with the possible exception of Rasmus) either ignorant or indifferent to the inherent unsustainability of its art and the loss of membership it entails – and will devote great energy to suppressing and dismissing those voices which draw attention to the problem. Whether the more moderate administration of Bastion, or the community at large, has the will to effect the regime change necessary to stop this hideous process remains to be seen, although I consider it doubtful as they may not even agree on its necessity.
Until then it seems the Bastion Union will go the way of Babkha – a micronation which I admired from afar but knew far better than to join. And until Bastion cleans up its act, I will remain at a similar distance.