Ikengchai Way

The Ikengchai Way (/ɨkʰəŋʈʂʰai̯/listen) is the term the Tanzit Suzerainty uses for the political, social, and economic philosophy they employ to govern and structure their society. Based off the thought of several Fatiema scholars, the system came into being between 122 and 128 PC following poverty-incited civil unrest and subsequent collapse of the Ikengchai Confederation. It is centered between two complimentary pillars: individual liberty and communal solidarity. To achieve these goals, the system promotes the collective ownership of land and resources, shared responsibility for labor, freedom of movement, and fully democratic decision making.  


The basic ideology of the Ikengchai Way traces itself to the pre-Feiyun dynasty lifestyle of the Fatiema tribes, who lived in communal villages where work was shared equally by every member of the settlement. Remnants of this lifestyle managed to survive through the following millennia, mostly fragmentary and in isolated pockets across Souzhipaong. By the fall of the Empire around 190 AC, the Fatiema lifestyle had mostly faded to a few folk traditions in remote villages.   In 100 PC, a school of philosophers known as the Huawofou formed, concerned with the deteriorating condition of the lower classes in the Ikengchai Confederation and rapid accumulation of wealth in the hands of relatively few. Poverty, hunger, and homelessness were rampant, while politics was rife with corruption. The Huawofou claimed that this societal discontent and imbalance arose from a repression of the natural goblin social structure of equality and communal living. They pointed to studies done on the ancient Fatiema tribes, astonished at the relatively safe and stable lifestyle they seemed to live. They wondered how the quality of life of the Ikengchai people had not improved significantly, despite having access to advanced magic and technology.   The Huawofou developed a social, economic, and governmental system based around the old Fatiema society, blended with modern knowledge and advancements. It emphasized individual liberty and autonomy, stating that it is the fundamental right of every goblin to live a life as free from hardship as possible. They advocated for the adoption of this system, replacing current societal structures, through violent revolution if necessary. While originally dismissed as a fringe group by those in power, the philosophy began to gain popular support as the conditions in the Confederation continued to worsen. The philosophy was especially popular among the poor masses, who were suffering under massive wealth inequality and unemployment.   When mass revolt broke out in 122 PC, the collapse of the Ikengchai government left the entire region in chaos. Infrastructure collapsed and the majority of landowners, business magnates, and other wealthy individuals were either executed by revolutionaries or fled the country. Traditional legal authority vanished in most settlements, leaving huge gaps in public services. While there were limited attempts to reintroduce representative democracy with a traditional economic system, many areas attempted to implement the Huawofou system. They redistributed the resources formerly hoarded by the wealthy, abolished private property, began creating communal aid programs, and implemented direct democratic votes on most major decisions.   The success of these reforms quickly spread through the former Ikengchai territories, with the former centralized federal state transforming into a collection of loosely affiliated communities, bound together only by a shared culture. Within a decade, the region had fully adopted the Huawofou philosophies, laying the foundation for the later Ikengchai Way.   The area soon came under threat from outside forces, influenced by the wealthy exiles who wished to regain their power and property. A series of covert operations failed and were exposed, prompting several large cities to form an alliance called the Accord of Union in 128 PC. This agreement codified the central tenets of what would later become known as the Ikengchai Way. The Union was tested only a year later, as they were invaded by the Federal Republic of Vespugga, a neighboring superpower. However, the decentralized nature of the Union proved a strength rather than the weakness predicted by the invaders, allowing them to bog down the invasion with guerilla tactics and other asymmetric warfare. This forced Vespugga to continually pour resources and lives into the invasion until they were finally forced to withdraw after a decade of fighting. The constant war had its cost, sparking significant unrest at home for the invaders.   This unrest blossomed into full scale revolt, causing a revolution similar to what had occurred decades earlier in Souzhipaong. The new revolutionaries began to spread the "Ikengchai Way", as they knew it, throughout Vespugga and beyond, until the entirety of Miorao had adopted the philosophy. When the natives of Miorao eventually discovered soraflight, they carried their beliefs into the Sora. While meeting hostility from foreign powers who, like the Vespuggans before believed them to be disorganized and weak, the resolve and cooperative nature of the Miorangians has allowed them to thrive and grow, accepting new realms into the Ikengchai Way as members of the Tanzit Suzerainty.  

Core Concepts

The Ikengchai Way holds two ideals as the centerpiece of a desirable society: the freedom for individuals to do as they please and mutual cooperation between these individuals for the betterment of all. Each of these ideals consist of a number of component behaviors, beliefs, values, and mores which help shape and inform the lives of those who follow the Way. Many different schools of thought exist on the exact balance between these components, serving as the primary divisions between the many disparate communities of the Tanzit Suzerainty.   The Ikengchai Way is touted as providing the highest amount of individual freedom and liberty of any societal structure in use throughout the Sora. The Way rejects any hierarchy which is not voluntarily entered into and which cannot be voluntarily left at any time without harm to the individual. The only legitimate hierarchy is thus one in which all those involved in it have equal say on its structure and, should they wish to leave for any reason, can do so without fear of retribution, loss of social standing, or risk to personal health and well being.   Most societies are thus built on "illegitimate" hierarchies (such as governments, guilds, and businesses) either through restricting an individual's say in the hierarchy's structure or through making it difficult or impossible to leave a hierarchy. In many cases, the factors which delegitimize the hierarchy are obvious; for example, someone enslaved cannot choose to leave slavery and the subjects of a monarchy cannot replace their monarch without revolution. However, some hierarchies may not be inherently illegitimate, but external factors may cause them to become so. Such factors are typically those which exist because of the social or economic structure of society. For instance, a person may theoretically be able to choose where they work and can leave a job they dislike at any time. However, quitting a job usually entails the loss of a wage (as well as potential other consequences, such as expulsion from a guild) which the person requires to buy food and pay for housing. Thus the person may voluntarily leave the hierarchy, but doing so comes at great personal cost and risk.   To prevent these illegitimate hierarchies from forming, the Ikengchai Way dictates that an individual's needs must be provided for them regardless of their association with a hierarchy or lack thereof. The Way defines these basic needs as food, water, clothing, shelter, and health. These needs should be provided by society at large through communally owned apparatuses for producing them. Society should build houses, grow food, make clothing, and provide healing to all people free of any sort of charge or obligation. All members of the society should ensure that these needs are being met, either through directly working to fulfill them, conducting some activity which improves that work, or at least by being prepared to engage in such work when necessary.   Thus if a person needs somewhere to live, they can find any unoccupied home and begin living in it, taking personal responsibility to maintain the building as far as they are able. When the community begins to run short on unoccupied homes, members of the community should come together to build new homes. Everyone can eat and drink their fill from community stores, which are kept stocked through community farming, animal husbandry, hunting, and fishing. When a person gets sick or injures themselves, they can either receive medicine from an apothecary or healing magic from a mage without restriction. This communal responsibility for providing for individual needs allows each individual to engage in whatever activities they feel personally fulfilling without worry, in contrast to other societies where a person may have to engage in unsatisfying labor to provide for their basic necessities.   The Ikengchai Way additionally abolishes private property, rationalizing that private property encourages hoarding resources and prevents the community from accessing the resources necessary to provide for all. This is not to say that people are prevented from owning things; rather, the Way distinguishes between private property and personal property. Personal property is defined as anything that a person can fully individually use for any reason and is impermanent in nature. Thus a cup, lantern, gelider, clothing, weapon, or small kinactroch would be considered personal property, while an orchard, factory, and most soraships (typically not usable by a single person) or a river, deposit of metals, or minor realm (all arguably permanent) cannot be personal property and thus cannot be owned. Instead, these resources are available for the community to utilize in a communal fashion.   To ensure that these resources are utilized for the common good, the Ikengchai Way advocates for direct democracy on all matters that would affect the community as a whole. All members of a community are allowed a vote which is given equal value, no matter what personal property they own, what religious beliefs they hold, or what job they do. In this way, all decisions are made for the theoretical the greatest benefit.  


Numerous criticisms of the Ikengchai Way exist, mostly focused on claims that the Way contradicts itself, does not advance its core ideals, and is actively harmful to those living in it. These criticisms are largely disputed within places that practice the Way, typically dismissed as propaganda or misunderstandings.   One of the most common criticisms is that providing the basic needs for all people encourages laziness and stagnation, as individuals have no incentive to work. Even if a person does work, there is no guarantee that essential jobs are done, thus leading to shortages and a lower quality of life. Proponents of the Way counter that most individuals want to work and contribute to society, while those who don't want to work will do so anyway due to societal pressure. In addition, the desire to live comfortably in a stable society will ensure that people will work and do jobs that are necessary but undesirable. These less desirable jobs will either be done by people who enjoy them or regularly switched out between people so that no one is stuck doing it for too long.   A related critique is that even assuming everyone does the bare minimum to ensure society meets their own minimum acceptable comfort level, this comfort level will vary person to person. Thus some people will work harder than others, but will receive no benefit from doing so compared to those who work less. Since the accumulation of wealth and property are prohibited in the Way, the system is thus inherently unfair. This further disincentivizes anyone from working harder than necessary to achieve their minimum comfort level, consequently leading to a stagnant society that never attempts to improve in the aggregate, instead staying at the "average" level of acceptable comfort for the society. This is further unfair, because it means some individuals will be at much more than their minimum comfort level, while others will be below it and unhappy.   Proponents respond that this is an arbitrary argument, as even in societies which have money and allow the accumulation of wealth, people still work to reach some comfort level and rarely go beyond. Secondly, they often argue that the "average" comfort level of societies which do not follow the Way are lower than those which do and that even this average is heavily skewed by a few leading lavish lifestyles while most are below their minimum comfort level. Thus while life in the Way may not be perfectly fair, it is still more fair that other systems.   Another criticism is that the Way's lack of hierarchies mean decision making becomes bogged down by the need to inform everyone of the issues, get them to vote, and then tally the votes. Large problems which require fast answers or immediate responses are thus left not dealt with. It also leaves groups disorganized without any central chain of command, further slowing responses and making things less efficient. Supports of the Way respond that this criticism vastly overestimates the time necessary to vote. It also ignores that a single person making a decision is more likely to be wrong than a group, leading to worse outcomes than a delay would have. In addition, the Way does not prohibit all hierarchies, just illegitimate ones. Those which meet the requirements can still exist and have leaders who make snap decisions or organize things.   Detractors also say that, for many decisions, voters will be ill informed or even misinformed on critical issues. Thus they are likely to make the wrong choice, leading to longer term problems. Smaller numbers of decision makers means less people need to understand an issue to make a decision, reducing the chance they will make the wrong one due to poor knowledge. Advocates of the Way reply that it is better to take the time and effort necessary to informing voters than it is to risk that a small number of decision makers will either abuse their powers or make an incorrect decision that they are unwilling to reverse in order to save face. A large group of voters is less likely to stick to their own poor decisions out of pride, since there is no individual blame. Opponents object that while this last point makes rational sense, actual groups are known to continue supporting poor decisions out of a form of group pride regardless.   Finally, many critics say that the only reason the Ikengchai Way is successful in the Tanzit Suzerainty is because they have no objections to using undead laborers to take care of hard and mundane labor. Other cultures or religions who either object to or cannot use undead are thus unable to make use of it. Alternate forms of automated labor, such as through the creation of golems, is much more costly and difficult, thus making it infeasible for most societies. Supporters of the Way respond that the use of undead labor in the Suzerainty, while widespread, is not universal and in the past was not even common. The undead labor simply makes things easier and increases the quality of life rather than being necessary.

Cover image: by Denis Khusainov


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