Many of the characters in Irritability hail from the mysterious country of Vedica. While it’s not extremely important, some understanding of their homeland may add depth to the characters and events.
Vedica nucleated as a community around a rich mining area in a remote valley in a mountain range. The town was constantly being invaded by some neighboring country or another, and the citizens forced to mine gold for the occupiers. Vedic history usually begins with the arrival of the first Chappy, a solitary nomadic herder who became involved in the struggle for independence and taught the citizens how to forge steel. Once the invaders had been driven out, he married the village priestess, establishing the royal Chappy lineage.
Metallurgy was, at the time, not highly developed, and Vedic steel represented a tremendous advance in weapons technology. When the next invasion attempt came, the citizens’ militia won a complete victory. Chappy the first unified all the communities in the valley under the Vedic banner, and soon was leading raids into the countries that had previously marauded them.
In the earliest period of Vedica’s development, the systems of mines and tunnels that lined the mountain walls of the valley served the purpose of castles: headquarters for the government and places of refuge for the population during times of crisis. The individual villages that originally made up the country never expanded far from their openings to the underground, which were completely networked within 150 years. Since the flatlands at the bottom of the valley were needed for farming, buildings were constructed on the sides of the mountains, which generally required some shaping of the rock to accommodate construction. Early on it became common for buildings to have extensive basements, and, while less common, underground connections to the main tunnel network were not unheard of among civilians with the financial capacity for it. Much later, as the villages grew together, and space to build became scarce, more and more dwellings and commercial centers were constructed completely underground. This habit of living in an underground fortress, hidden and protected from the outside world, had an easily noticeable effect on the national psychology, and shaped Vedica’s development accordingly.
The period of subjugation in early Vedic history had profound cultural impact. The citizens were very suspicious of surrounding countries, and expected a massed attack to come at any time. Rather than adopting an isolationist siege mentality, the early Vedicae sent out numerous scouts and spies, especially after serious trade had begun. Any country that began to build up militarily would be preemptively attacked. As a side effect of the constant reconnaissance, technological advancements in other countries were rapidly absorbed. As the population increased, more and more food was brought into the valley from outside, often with the army serving as a bargaining lever.
The policy of maintaining military weakness in Vedica’s neighbors turned out to be a double-edged sword, as those feeble neighbors proved easy targets for invaders from beyond the Vedic army’s reach. These invaders went on to launch attacks on Vedica herself when they weren’t first wiped out. The Vedic army was almost continually engaged, either with countries that had built up a significant army, or with occupiers in those countries who had not. After three hundred years of this, the neighboring countries were sufficiently devastated that they could no longer provide sufficient food to the city-state. The short-term solution was to send the army further outward. The citizens at home, however, became nervous and agitated without the army nearby to protect them. Attempts to increase the army’s size with more recruits incited further unrest, and after a period of some tumult within the government, a major policy change was instituted. Neighboring countries were allowed to maintain armies of moderate strength, and the Vedic army would help fight off any invaders.
The Royal Family
The Chappy family has been central to the Vedic government since its inception. The affairs of the royal family and the nation are closely intertwined, but not inseparable. The leader of the family and the leader of the government are almost always two different people, with the leader of the government usually naming a successor after stepping down and assuming leadership of the family. While it may seem that the head of the government would be the more powerful position, the various institutions and mechanisms used to keep power in the government are firmly in control of the family patriarch, and rebellion against the family would be extremely difficult. The designated government leader’s policy decisions are rarely challenged by the family, however.
While the appointed leader handles affairs of the state, the attention of the family is focused on breeding, bloodlines, and what we would call genetics. This preoccupation began with Chappy the first. After three generations of leaders who handled both the roles of governor and patriarch, the policy of separate leaders for the state and family was instituted, and the breeding programs and associated research became top priority for the family. The fruits of this breeding program became apparent as younger royals displayed dramatically improved strength, health, and lifespan. About six hundred years into the dynasty, one of these selected nobles, King Eneuven Chappy retired early and, with unnatural focus, pushed the science of the Vedic eugenics program forward by leaps and bounds. His program was to culminate in the ultimate Chappy, a king who would lead Vedica through millennia of victories, possessing an instinctive grasp of the battlefield, and being nearly invincible besides. The plan ended as a failure due to its complete success; the would-be-king’s superhuman strength, even as a child, prevented the development of any critical thinking abilities. The most practical solution to any problem the child faced was direct application of violence, and so the ability to deal with delicate situations never developed. Eneuven hastily rewrote the breeding tree toward a less ambitious goal, and eventually five less physically gifted children were born who were expected to become brilliant leaders. Velel, being one of these five, distinguished herself from the others, and at the age of thirty succeeded the throne. She continues to control the executive branch of Vedic government.
The Hidden Country
Glossing over a large portion of history, the Vedic empire, which had never expanded geographically to even a fraction of its potential, eventually withdrew back into the original city-state. This was a result of a long war which had ended with severe losses to the Vedic army and outer provinces, and the total destruction of the other nation. The war was seen as the failure of the “empire model” of national defense, and made way for the birth of the new “hidden country” model. In the empire model, a nation protects itself by having a powerful military, surrounding its borders with “allies” (more accurately, puppet-states), and weakening those enemies too remote to subjugate. This model was unable to prevent the final war’s terrible devastation, and so began to be regarded as incomplete and outdated by Vedic scholars and politicians. Their answer was to protect the country with a wall of secrets, rather than steel and stone. Under the hidden country model, a country seeks to become invisible rather than inivincible. The Vedic network of spies diligently destroyed any evidence of their homeland’s existence in the records of infiltrated nations, and in two hundred years, Vedica was nothing more than a child’s tale, as far as the outside world was concerned. (note: this is my bullshit explanation for how there’s some powerful nation noone’s ever heard about)
Modern Vedica: Main Issues
Vedica’s economy has always centered around mining and manufacturing. To meet the dietary needs of the populace, food had to be imported. This became much more difficult after the switch to a hidden country. A smuggling network was created, and remains in existence, under tight supervision of the government. Hand in hand with the concerns of food, population control is regarded as a serious issue, although it has not been particularly problematic. The primary source of political division is a kind of class struggle: between large clans and independent families.
Being a geographically small city-state, Vedica did not experience the breakdown of extended family structure that usually accompanies industrialization. The larger extended family clans were, and are, the dominant investing entities in the Vedic economy. Nearly all of the large corporations are controlled by a clan, with at least partially hereditary leadership. These clans have their own hierarchies, with a central house and branch houses. The family’s resources and internal affairs are maintained by the central house, which lives in relative luxury. Naturally, branch houses occasionally become dissatisfied and strike out on their own. Many of these independent families have done quite well, and formed their own clans. With few exceptions, none of these new families have even approached the concentrations of wealth and power held by the clans that have their roots in Vedica’s more feudal past. The main ideological division in Vedic politics is the degree to which people feel the clans should be able to hold onto the special rights and privileges held over from their history. Since the central houses of the clans are invariably extremely wealthy, and the independent families are much less so, it is in no small part a conflict between haves and have-nots. (have-lesses, to be accurate, since the poverty line in Vedica is fairly high compared to the outside)
Like most outside republics, Vedic government is divided into branches with separate functions, most importantly, a legislative branch which is elected, and an executive branch that is basically appointed by the royal family. Bureaucratic positions are traditionally filled by women; as the Vedic army and, later, the smuggling/spying/special forces network were so active, a large fraction of any generation’s males were either abroad or dead, the ‘extra’ women would leave their clan to begin a cloistered life as a government official. State servants are still expected to sever all family ties, and have limited property rights. Forbidden from owning their own property, their physical needs are provided by the government, in a system designed to event corruption that, while fairly effective, has its drawbacks.
An important aspect of Vedic government is that there are different levels of citizenship. Average citizens receive a certain level of benefits, can participate in public debates, referendums, and local elections. The legislative elections are reserved for the higher level of citizenship, the Keihocect. Keihocect have somewhat greater privileges, but also much more responsibilities. They are required to be accessible to the average citizens of their area, and consult with them before any higher election. Finally, glossing over levels of citizenship reserved for convicted criminals, the lowest level of citizenship receives housing and food from the government in exchange for negligible political rights. Movement between this level and the average level is purely voluntary. A Nenpeuk is free from the need to work, and in theory has 24 hours of leisure time every day. In practice, however, the food handouts are insufficient for most people, and some income supplement must be found. Most Vedic artists and entertainers rely on this system to pursue their ambitions at some time in their careers.
Vedica has a highly automated industry, with all basic tasks being performed by machines and robots. While “system operator” positions are common enough to be fairly interchangeable, there is no place for unskilled labor in the Vedic economy. Per-capita GDP is extremely high, but cost of living is also high, with food and housing being in relatively short supply. The distinction between government and business is extremely blurry; any company that receives 50% or more of its income is, for all intents and purposes, a government agency by Vedic law. There are also several state-run corporations, particularly in the importing/exporting business. An important difference between this and state-controlled services in other countries is that, in any given market, there will be several state-corporations in competition with one another, and new ones can be formed. The import business is highly profitable (in part because importers simply pirate music, movies, etc. without paying royalties), and provides sufficient revenue to the government to maintain a very low income tax rate.
Velel has maintained her position
as head of the Vedic government for over a millennium. The longevity of her rule is due primarily to
her skill at manipulating public opinion.
Within the government especially, many people are almost fanatically
devoted to her. Velel
is able to distance herself from unpopular decisions and movements by acting
through loyal proxies. Also, she is
often able to redirect the energies of opposition groups toward goals of her
own. For example, during the 1950s,
popular unrest and dissatisfaction with the government/industry/rich
people/etc. was particularly high, with protests and riots and so on. The opposition was organized into many
different specific causes, unified by a common antagonist. Velel was able to
weaken most of the groups, and move their people and energy into an
environmental protest movement. This was
done dealing with different groups in an inconsistent manner, creating
resentment and preventing solidarity.
The environmental front was the one area where the government refused to
deal with the opposition, and dealt with the most harshly. As a result, it quickly became the most
fashionable one, and soon was the focus of the opposition movement’s
energies. Eventually, the government
“capitulated” to the demands of the opposition, greatly increasing restrictions
on atmospheric emissions and ground level structures. (surface buildings
were moved underground in favor of increasing the forest cover) Far from being a bitter defeat, these reforms
were all projects Velel had wanted to pursue, but
could not without alienating the conservative faction. (as the cold war got
started, emissions and surface structures would be visible to
Another way that popular opinion is controlled is through media. As mentioned earlier, foreign music, movies, and so on are brought in by the government, and distributed at very low cost. This, in addition to very weak copyright laws, makes entertainment a much less profitable industry than is usually the case outside. There are two main effects of this. First, actors and musicians have much less social status than is the case elsewhere – Vedic people must look elsewhere for their celebrities. Second, movies and television shows are not profitable ventures on their own – for the most part, they are only made by commission. One of the leading patrons of film projects is the Royal family itself. Not surprisingly, these projects tend to extol virtues favorable to Velel’s administration. For example, the stereotypical villain, rather than a ruthlessly profit-hungry corporation, is generally a fanatically ambitious leader of some youth opposition movement.
Gecceuth is a Vedic word for people who have developed such great skill at the physical arts (including, but not limited to martial arts, physical arts here basically means total control over one’s own body) that they are effectively immortal. Extending one’s lifespan in this way is fairly common, but the technique is difficult both to do and to teach, so the number of people who can add more than 50 years is less than one in 50000. Of these, less than one in one hundred manage to continue drawing their lifespan out indefinitely and become Gecceuth. However, as the current population of Vedica is somewhere around 70 million, this still means there are more than a few. Since the skills required to refresh one’s youthful health also allow the alteration of visible features, nearly all Gecceuth are striking in appearance. They are also almost invariably very wealthy, making them likely candidates for Vedic celebrity, with numerous magazines and websites devoted to following the daily affairs of the most popular Gecceuth.
Gecceuth tend to be active in politics. While term limits (not applied to the executive branch) ensure that their influence is indirect, it is still considerable.