by Max Barry

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by The Dancing in the Depths of Maniacal. . 109 reads.

The original Aretist definition, by Hofkauzern

Written by Tsaishchev von Hofkauzern-sar Tiamat, The Darkness Ascendant

Sources cited:
A Beginner's Guide to Aretism
For a New Britannia
An Aretist's Rebuttal of Francoism
Proper Francoist Thought
Francoism in Action
Interview with Unlimited

A relentless, bitter wind blows across the blasted, eroded wastes of our universe, whispering a faceless doom that has been long in coming. On the abyssal plains beneath the Pacific seas, yawning trenches of influence are carved inexorably deeper with the completion of every update cycle. The veins of power, polluted with the inbred blood of the influence elite, slow and begin to clot, the hemorrhage now close at hand. A fresh zeitgeist seizes the world, and terror ripples across the faces of thieves in all their forms, from the most eminent of feeder delegates to the lowliest of scarcely active, failing nations.

Aretism – treatises have been composed explaining its necessity and expounding upon its tenets, yet never has a complete definition been published. While the architects of the Aretist model may disagree with the ideas and definitions promulgated by this manifesto, it aims to create one of the most complete descriptions of Aretism to date, beginning from fundamentals and applying these to the philosophy of region-building, to foreign policy, and to military gameplay.

Arete – the Central Pursuit

At the root of Aretism is arete, from which Aretism derives its name. Above all else, Aretism is the pursuit of arete. As will be explained later, the Aretist pillars of unity, culture, and passion follow from this pursuit, as does the organisation of a meritocratic regional government.

Arete is fundamentally superlative excellence. The achievement of arete is roughly synonymous to attaining one's maximum potential. The Aretist, then, is one who works toward his region's attainment of arete – one who strives to make his region the best region that it can be. The exact means by which this is accomplished vary from region to region; the sections that follow will detail a general outline of such means.

Virtuosi and Ladrones

If Aretism is the pursuit of a region's maximum potential, then the enemies of Aretism are those who obstruct this pursuit or waste that region's potential. These obstructors and wastrels are, in Aretist parlance, called ladrones. The word ladrone roughly means “robber” or “thief”. A region in which ladrones hold power is a region that is unhealthy; it is the intent of every Aretist to excise ladrones from offices of power as one might excise a tumour.

The polar opposite to the ladrones are the virtuosi, individuals who strive to make their region the best that it possibly can be. The virtuosi are the creative intellectual class; they are contributors of ideas, time, and talent. The virtuosi include both the innovators who shape the ideas that improve a region and the workers who effect the innovators' ideas and maintain a region's health.

The NationStates world is replete with examples of ladronic rule and failed states. Hundreds of new nations were recruited to the region Gate of Evil on the pretences of opposing the World Assembly and becoming the leaders of an engaging community. Despite these pretences, the High Council that governed the region did not invite ideas from the fresh voices that recruitment provided. Its members made little attempt to promote culture in the region, to create an engaging environment, or even to communicate with the region's citizens. At the apex of the region's hierarchy of power was the founder Presumptions, an individual who seldom shared ideas and almost never took initiative. While the region experienced a brief spark of life, its remote leadership could not sustain this – even driving away from the region some of the virtuosi responsible for the active period. Ultimately, Presumptions went to the length of abandoning a region of nearly 500 nations without informing its community or establishing any means for continuation or order of succession.

Perhaps even more tragic than Gate of Evil is the case of the Genesis Corporation. Despite attaining hundreds of World Assembly endorsements and a record population exceeding 1400 nations in their region, the leaders of the Genesis Corporation wasted the talent of the hundreds of players that made the Genesis Corporation their home. Attempts at opening the region and creating a governing document inevitably culminated in a reversion to stagnant apathy. Regions such as Gate of Evil and the Genesis Corporation are graveyards of talent, death traps for any virtuosi who might have the misfortune of attempting to reform them.

The paragon of ladronic rule, however, can arguably be found in many of the Pacific feeder regions, where unyielding, remote oligarchies ignore the hundreds of new nations daily created in their regions. Unlimited, a former leader of the Pacific, once described one particular feeder regime in a manner indicative of ladronic rule: “Fat and bloated with power gained from selling out their own people…they based everything [upon] their own narrow self-interests, handing power from crony to crony, completely ignoring the great masses of [the Pacific].” This description applies equally well to nearly every feeder government. Any leaders who would squander the incredible potential of a feeder region are ladrones. The worst case of ladronic rule in recent memory was the Pacific under the delegate Moo-cows with guns. Moo, though highly active in the Cyber Nations world, was almost entirely absent from the Pacific, allowing the world's oldest region to rot and inciting many of the virtuosi in the Pacific Senate to resign their offices in protest or even to revolt against this traitorous leader. The Pacific Senate, once an august body that wielded influence across the world, was repopulated with Moo's cronies from Equilism and from the Cyber Nations alliance that shares its name with the New Pacific Order. Forum activity was virtually nonexistent, as was social mobility.

Nor is ladrone status is limited to particular individuals or regimes – government systems, too, can be ladronic. The political systems of many regions encourage their constituents to expend resources toward becoming noticed by their peers (to become more electable) or to expend resources against other members of those regions (to make those members less electable). This management of resources is an example of wasted potential – time and talent that could otherwise be spent directly improving a region is instead discarded for self-interest; a region uses its resources against itself.

The same individuals who are in one region virtuosi might in another act ladronically. An individual who occupies government offices in multiple regions might, for instance, focus all time and energy on one of those regions, effectively crafting it into a world power – and concurrently might be remiss in meeting the obligations of the other region's government office. A responsible Aretist who is unable to perform the duties associated with a particular government office and to perform them to the best of his or her abilities should – provided that there is another individual in the region more capable of occupying the office in question – vacate that office to allow one of the virtuosi of the region to occupy it instead.

An important distinction must be made between those individuals who waste potential and those individuals who are not afforded potential. The inert masses that populate a region are not to be blamed for the region's failure if those masses have no means of effecting change or elevating themselves to a position from which they might be able to effect change. The blame should lie instead with the true ladrones of the region – those who hold power and fail to use it for the good of the region, instead idly clinging to it and wielding it only to prevent others from taking it.

The Intra-regional Paradigm – Unity, Culture, and Passion
Effective region-building involves effective acquisition, cultivation, and allocation of resources. The purpose of this document is not to discuss how to optimise recruitment efforts for a region; thus, focus will hereafter reside with cultivation and allocation of a region's resources.

Effective cultivation of resources translates into converting the raw power, talent, and ambitions of a region's constituents into products that efficiently increase the region's overall power. Alternatively, it can be summarised as the process of reforming the idle masses and ladrones that reside in a region into virtuosi. In order to ensure the creation of a region with the greatest possible number of virtuosi, the Aretist must never overlook newcomers or succumb to gerontocratic ideas or to cronyism. Rather than merely rewarding experience, the Aretist should use experience as a teaching device – to empower the inexperienced with the knowledge that they need to implement their ideas, to advance the region, and to become the leaders of tomorrow.

With regard to advancement in a region, ideas and initiative must remain the most valuable forms of currency – more valuable than age, connections, and friendships. In order to effectively motivate members to become contributing virtuosi, the Aretist must never deny the ambitious a route to power – but should be careful to ensure that such a route can only be traversed by those who demonstrate both talent and a commitment to the region.

The Aretist recognises the value of competition between regional members but ensures that competition does not result in the formation of divisions within the region. Competition should encourage members to expend their resources not against one another but in a way that benefits the region – in a way that makes the competitors virtuosi.

Cultivation of resources, then, can be maximised by offering new members a means of becoming experienced, offering ambitious members a route to power which requires contribution to traverse, and organising a regional government that places power in the hands of the virtuosi – that is, a meritocracy.

Effective allocation of resources translates into assigning talented individuals to roles in which they will be able to employ their talents for the benefit of the region to the maximum possible extent. Alternatively, it can be summarised as ensuring that all expenditure of a region's resources improves the region.

While Aretism does not strictly oppose democratic or republican systems of governance, the Aretist must be careful to ensure that the means of government – the processes by which legislation is enacted – do not obstruct or become more important than the ends of government – the legislative acts themselves. In many regions, debates over technicalities in proposed acts of government might drag on until the original purpose of such acts becomes forgotten or is rendered moot.

As a corollary, one must recognise the dangers of “faux activity”. The notion that activity is always beneficial to a region should be rejected, as certain forms of activity yield no product whatsoever. Endless, circular, back-and-forth debating between two obstinate, closed-minded parties provides activity but will ultimately not improve the region in any way. At worst, it will be a divisive influence upon the region; a government that encourages such is one that poorly allocates its region's resources.

To most effectively allocate resources, a region's governing style should be technocratic; individuals with greatest skill in a particular area should exercise control over that area. Meritocracy alone is not sufficient – allowing the greatest overall contributor to a region full control over the region's military, while meritocratic, is a poor example of allocation of resources if that individual has no military knowledge. Technocracy and meritocracy go hand in hand to maximise cultivation and allocation of regional resources, and an Aretist government is most often some form of meritocratic technocracy.

While maximising his or her region's cultivation and allocation of resources, the Aretist must also safeguard his or her region against the agents that weaken or destroy regions so that his or her region might attain arete. As Leonardo Romefeller and Justin discussed at length in For a New Britannia, foremost among these agents are internal divisions, foreign interference, and apathy. These agents are themselves ladronic, as they either waste a region's potential or obstruct the virtuosi in their pursuit of arete. It is often stated that the fundamental tenets of Aretism are unity, culture, and passion – each one diametrically opposed to one of the three aforementioned ladronic agents. Unity, culture, and passion in fact follow from the pursuit of arete – they are the polar opposites of powerful ladronic agents that obstruct this pursuit.

Internal divisions, several sources of which have already been identified, ensure that a region cannot attain arete by forcing it to expend its resources against its own constituents. A distinction must be drawn between diversity and division; diversity of opinions is an incredible asset to a region, while division is the expenditure of a region's resources against itself. An exception must be made here; not all internal divisions are detrimental to a region. The end product of divisions must always be considered before classifying them as ladronic agents. For example, internal strife may be a necessary component of an Aretist Revolution – that is, a transfer of power from ladrones to Aretists and virtuosi. Detrimental internal divisions can be remedied by unifying the region behind a single purpose. That purpose can be the advancement of Aretism itself, or it can be anything else that combats internal divisions. Effective allocation of resources, as has already been mentioned, also produces a unified region.

Foreign interference can be a ladronic agent – but not all interaction with foreign powers is detrimental to a region. A region cannot be the best possible region while it is under the control of foreign powers, but a region may benefit from certain involvements with other regions. The Aretist must consider whose interests any foreign agent is acting in before classifying that agent as ladronic. A ladrone will often act exclusively in his or her own interests, in the interests of a foreign power, or in the interests of a particular special interests group within his region. If foreign agents act in the interests of the Aretist's region, then the Aretist should not hastily label them as ladronic or detrimental. The region must assert its sovereignty at all times, perhaps by creating a regional culture to protect against foreign ladrones.

Apathy is arguably the worst of the three; no factor has claimed the lives of more of the world's regions than has apathy. Unlike internal strife and foreign ambitions, apathy is a silent killer – quietest and deadliest of the agents of destruction, and also the most challenging to effectively remedy. Unlike internal divisions and foreign interference – which can at times improve a region – apathy is always detrimental. Though its final coup de grace was delivered by its founder, Gatesville – once indisputably the most powerful region in the world – had weakened from a thousand-nation global hegemonic power to a shadow of its former self prior to its ultimate demise. Gatesville was not at war during this time, nor did it experience any significant manner of internal strife; its decline followed from its members' apathy. Apathy emerges from a failure to motivate members of a region; to remedy it, the Aretist must identify the passions of his region's members and empower them with a means of pursuing these passions. Those who seek a social community should be able to find one; those who are ambitious should be provided a means of gaining power; those who are looking for an active roleplay sector should not be neglected, and so on.

Narrowmindedness will inevitably breed apathy and must be avoided at all costs; a healthy region is willing to experiment in accordance with its members' passions. Experimentation is the engine of evolution, and a stagnant region cannot improve itself or attain arete.

The Inter-regional Paradigm – Variants of Aretism

The Aretist takes one of several positions (or some combination thereof) regarding foreign regions and military.

The regionalist Aretist pursues arete for his home region and for his home region alone. The regional Aretist, consequently, will interact with other regions only when interaction benefits his home region. Militarily, the regional Aretist will participate in whatever form of military action – invasion, defence, or otherwise – protects or advances the interests of his home region. The regionalist Aretist is not beyond acting ladronically in other regions.

The isolationist Aretist, like the regionalist Aretist, pursues arete for his home region – but only when his home region's pursuit of arete does not obstruct other regions from attaining arete. Militarily, the isolationist Aretist is active only when military action improves his home region while having no detrimental effects upon other regions, a rare scenario.

The flexible Aretist pursues arete for his home region, but holds that the attainment of arete is facilitated by giving the members of his home region as many opportunities for participation as possible – including an active military and foreign affairs department. A flexible Aretist might believe that the best possible region is one that offers its constituents the most possible opportunities for involvement. A region that adheres to flexible Aretism might have both an invader and a defender military and might even allow members the liberty of creating their own military forces. Flexible Aretism is the mode of Aretism in practise in the Cosmarchist People's Republic of the Ascendancy, where members are allowed to found their own “megacorporations”, each with its own military assets and foreign relations.

The internationalist Aretist, conversely, pursues arete for all of the regions of the world. For the international Aretist, Aretism is not only a philosophy of region-building – it is also a foreign policy and a military stance. To the international Aretist, ladrones across the world must be excised, destroyed, or reformed – and power transferred to the virtuosi. The internationalist Aretist holds that ownership of a region is legitimate only as long as the region's owners are actively engaged in the pursuit of arete for that region. Most of the world adheres to a moral spectrum that is based upon the idea that preserving the sovereignty of other regions is "good" and violating other regions' sovereignty is "evil". Internationalist Aretism, on the other hand, holds that active pursuit of arete is the only "good" and ladronic obstruction to such a pursuit the only "evil".

If the members of a region are arbitrarily exclusive or extremely inactive, then those members are obstructing that region's pursuit of arete and are ladrones. Through their ladronism, those individuals have forfeit their ownership of their region. The internationalist Aretist, then, is obligated either to remove those members from the region or to reform them into active, productive virtuosi. The internationalist Aretist recognises the merits of destruction, citing examples such as the region of Unknown. Unknown was once an insignificant backwater populated by an inert mass of high-influence nations that did little more than obstruct anybody ambitious from reforming the region. However, the region's invasion, destruction, and re-founding at the hands of the Brotherhood of Blood transformed it into a flourishing nexus of culture and a military superpower. The re-founding of Unknown is perhaps the archetypal example of the creative destruction that internationalist Aretists advocate – destruction that transforms a region from an inert, ladronic state into a productive power actively engaged in the pursuit of arete.

The internationalist Aretist holds that the rightful owner of a region is the individual who will most actively pursue arete for that region; militarily, the internationalist Aretist will mediate the transfer of power from ladrones to virtuosi across the world – but will also protect communities of virtuosi from intrusions that obstruct their pursuit of arete.

Finally, the globalist Aretist or Negentropist pursues arete for the NationStates world as a whole, perhaps at the expense of its constituent regions. Globalists recognise the same concept of ownership as internationalists, but are militarily catalysts. Because the best possible world is an engaging, evolving, and dynamic world – one with many inter-regional incidents – globalists will catalyse change and global events. To the globalist Aretist, activity is the only “good” and apathy the only “evil”. The globalist Aretist might deliberately engineer a conflict that is destructive to a few regions if that conflict increases the overall vitality of the cosmos.

Aretism and Francoism – A Final Note

In An Aretist's Rebuttal of Francoism, Gerzam and Leonardo Romefeller accused Francoists of subscribing to “the belief that they are entitled to the resources unfairly distributed to them by the game creators”. The arguments against Francoism presented in the aforementioned document constituted a rebuttal not of true Francoism but of the ideology practised in the Pacific today by the ladronic regimes of Moo-cows with guns and his successor, Krulltopia. Perhaps aptly, An Aretist's Rebuttal of Francoism suggests that more accurate names for the Mooist-Krullist interpretation of Francoism might be Feederism or Kleptocracy, the former a reflection of the fact that – superficial names (e.g. “Senator”, “New Pacific Order”) aside – the culture effected by the adherents of the Mooist-Krullist interpretation bears only the most remote resemblance to the culture of Francos Spain's Pacific. The latter, kleptocracy, accurately describes many feeder governments, but ironically is precisely the opposite of the government that Francoism advocates. Ultimately, the accusations made in the aforementioned treatise are based upon popular misconceptions of the definitions of Userite, Feederite, and Francoist.

According to Unlimited in Proper Francoist Thought, “Feederites…seek to harness and work with…the Pacific region” while “Userites…seek to exploit…both the nations of the Pacific and the political structure set up within it to further their own political, military, and social power.” The term “kleptocracy”, defined as “a form of political and government corruption where the government exists to increase the personal wealth and political power of its officials and the ruling class at the expense of the wider population”, is an excellent description of the government that Userites might establish in a Pacific region.

The Francoist model does not classify individuals as Userite, Feederite, or Francoist based on region of residence, as the propaganda of the Krulltopia administration and its predecessors would have us believe. It is not solely a model that suggests a healthy feeder is one that is not involved with user-created regions. Sir Paul, in Francoism in Action, states “While there is a list of conduct that makes a person a Francoist, the first and foremost definition is one who places [his] Pacific above [himself] and others.”

If one applies Aretism to a feeder region, an Aretist would be an individual who seeks arete for his home Pacific – an individual who strives to make his home feeder into the best region it can possibly be. A Francoist, according to the Francoist model, could be described as an individual who strives to make his home feeder into the best region it can possibly be. A ladrone in a feeder region would obstruct his home region from attaining arete; a Userite is an individual who exploits the resources of his home region for his own gain – certainly, any Userite under the Francoist model would also be a ladrone under the Aretist model. Finally, a Feederite seeks to harness and work with his home region – just as a virtuosi is a contributor to his home region.

An Aretist's rebuttal of Francoism, then, is not necessary: true Francoism as described by Unlimited and Sir Paul is the logical outcome of applying the Aretist model to a feeder region. Conversely, it might be said that Aretism is an extension of Francoism applicable to all regions as opposed to feeders alone.