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 Social Factbook of Alpha Centauri

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Selathorn

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PostSubject: Social Factbook of Alpha Centauri   Thu Aug 22, 2013 11:50 am

Overview

In spite of the deep ideological divides between the Centauri factions, and the multicultural nature of Centauri society, it can be easily observed that there are certain themes that dominate Centauri culture in all factions, and that society is structured much the same in each faction. What are the dominant themes of Centauri culture? First and foremost is the idea that every Centauri citizen should live to fulfill their duty to the faction, in any way possible. This in turn has given the idea of sacrifice an important role in Centauri culture, as citizens are expected to make constant sacrifices in all aspects of their lives to serve their factions. Additionally, the Centauri are highly conformist, and any deviations from the norm are not tolerated. Failure to adhere to social protocol can lead to severe repercussions, and such the Centauri are usually very rigid and formal in dealing with others, especially foreigners. Because of this limited self-expression, more tolerant cultures can find the Centauri at best strange and at worst frightening products of a rigidly controlled, totalitarian society.

***

Society

Alpha Centauri has a highly striated society made up of three social classes, the Drones, the Workers, and the Talents. Drones are considered the lowest of the low, and are generally made up of disaffected individuals who are resistant to factional memetic engineering and as such display strong individual identities. They are sidelined by Centauri society and do not receive its benefits, and are often used as human test subjects for other dubious purposes due to the lack of regard Centauri society gives them. In spite of this, Drones are not necessarily any less intelligent or capable than other Centauri citizens (in fact many Drones are probably more intelligent than the majority of Workers), and are put into their class only because of the resistance they give to societal norms. Sometimes they are given to violence in numbers, but with more sophisticated memetic engineering this has become rarer and rarer.

Workers form the bulk of Centauri society, with almost three fourths of Centauri citizens being workers. They are, in a sense, the middle class of Centauri society, but that does not preclude their importance, as Workers make up the entirety of the Centauri military and are delegated important roles in resource extraction and industrial production. Additionally, compared to the other two groups, Workers are considered to be the safest, as they tend to adhere very closely to social protocol and are generally the most easily manipulated by memetic engineers. Generally, they considered ideal for the skilled technical labor in which the vast majority of Centauri are employed, and compared to their counterparts in foreign societies they tend to be on average better skilled and more productive laborers.

Talents form the crème de la crème of Centauri society, and fulfill the roles of researchers, memegeneers, probe agents, and leaders. Because their positions require relative flexibility, they are allowed more leeway in their thoughts and beliefs, but are also more closely monitored for dissent and disloyalty. They are afforded significant material advantages, with superior accommodations and also are guaranteed longevity treatments as part of their healthcare plan. Compared to the other classes, Talents do tend to be a bit more expressive, but they are also much more carefully in their manner of speaking due to the relative freedom they have in thought and the severe consequences that exist for their disloyalty. Nevertheless, they have great power in society due to making up the political advisers who build policy along with faction leaders, and fact that all memetic engineers come from the Talent class.

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Sex and Gender

A significant number of sexual orientations are represented on Alpha Centauri. Although the majority of Centauri society is heterosexual, there are significant minorities of homosexuals, bisexuals, and asexuals. All of these groups, however, are tolerated by the factional governments and are accommodated for, and discrimination is nonexistent. Gender identity is a bit more traditional, with almost all Centauri identifying as either male or female, with a small number of individuals who identify as agendered. Though many Centauri still participate in sexual intercourse for purely pleasure purposes, it is not considered a valid method of reproduction, with long-term contraceptives used to prevent pregnancies. Instead, all reproduction occurs in vitro, and the fertilized embryo is grown inside artificial wombs, and delivered at the end of the natural pregnancy period. This method of reproduction, along with childcare in the Children's Creches, has freed women from traditional gender roles and has permitted them to participate in the workforce equally with men without discrimination.

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Marriage and Family

The idea of a traditional family has largely subsided on Alpha Centauri, due to the new systems of reproduction and the high variation in sexual orientation. The basis of the Centauri family has become the Companionship, a voluntary agreement between two adults that states that they will have children under their name and pass on their collective cultural heritages to them. This is not necessarily the same as a marriage, and does not at any point entail sexual activity between the two (asexuals will enter Companionships as purely Platonic relationships), nor that any children that they will have will actually be from their sex cells. Instead, the idea of a family has shifted away from blood relationships to the idea of cultural heritage. Although childrearing will be done in Children's Creches, Partners will nevertheless pass on their cultural identity to their children. This is seen as a method to preserve the massive cultural diversity of Old Earth and in some ways increase it. Usually, each Partnership has two children, each of which will identify with one of the parents. One should note, however, that in spite of this relationship, the idea of hereditary privilege has been abolished on Alpha Centauri. Children are never given preferential treatment on basis of their parents, not even those of powerful leaders. All social mobility takes place within the context of an individual's lifetime.


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Education

The Centauri education system is seen as a pillar of the Centauri civilization, for two important reasons. The first is that the education system is the first place where the Centauri will be exposed to memetic engineering, and the second is that the education system provides the Centauri the skills necessary to find a role in the technologically advanced society of the 23rd century. From a young age, children are tested for skills and aptitudes, and these form the basis of the Centauri tracking system. What this system does is separate children who will receive a technical education, children who will receive a scientific education, and children who will receive a political education. This is also the basis of Centauri social class, as Drones and Workers are those who receive technical educations and Talents those who receive scientific and political educations.

In a technical education, children will learn the skills and knowledge necessary to perform a specific role within the Centauri economy, based on what aptitudes they have demonstrated, starting from the very most basic principles. This education can be highly in-depth, as advanced technology can necessitate a deep understanding of the underlying systems in order to operate it. At the age of 16, children are removed from the Creche and are assigned to an older mentor, whom they will work under for four years. At that point their mentor will evaluate their performance. Should it be satisfactory, the child is considered to be graduated from the education system and begins the transition to the working adult life. A scientific education is similar, but it has a much broader focus and encourages the development of the skills necessary for research as opposed to a very specific job. The mentoring process is the same, however at the end they must complete an individual research project in order to demonstrate the completion of their education.

The political education, however, is radically different from both. A political education will entail study of a wide variety of subjects in the humanities as well as practical studies on governance and memetics. The political education will involve student up to the age of 20, at which point the students are discharged. In many ways it is similar to the education system of Old Earth, in that nothing is guaranteed for the students after graduation. Openings in leadership positions are rare, thus most young Talents with political educations will become memegineers, in which they can put the broadness of their education to use. Some lucky Talents can climb to powerful positions at young ages - Talent Zhang is one - but generally they have no such opportunity.

***

Entertainment

Entertainment is considered to be a powerful vehicle to keep in control of the population, both to sedate them and as a vector of memetic engineering. Almost every base has some sort of Recreation Commons where citizens can interact after work. These vary from Believer churches to Morganite casinos to Peacekeeper libraries to Spartan gymnasiums. It is often said that the nature of the Commons in each base reflects on the nature of it, as can be quite easily seen. Many Centauri also often unwind by virching at their local Network Node, where they can enter and experience a variety of virtual worlds (virches). These fulfill a need for escapism and are also a powerful tool for memetic engineering where the users' subconscious can be subjected to a variety of different memes. Finally, recreational drugs are also a fairly common means of entertainment in some factions, with the most popular being soma, a mild hallucinogen that allows a feeling of extreme bliss.

***

Religion

Although most factions are hostile to religion due to the presence of the Lord's Believers, and faction ideology has largely supplanted the role of religion, religious activity has not entirely died out. Most factions recognize the cultural importance of religion, and as such it is permissible to practice religion in most factions, but those who do so are monitored closely. Casual practice is usually tolerated (with the exception of the Hive and the University), but when religion challenges the role of the official ideology it is considered a form of subversion. Those who would do so are then taken into custody and are then punished for subversion, and then are reeducated according to the "proper" ideology, using a mix of psionics and memetic engineering.
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