There is such a thing as taking proper precautions… and such a thing as a great fear of ghosts and goblins.
I like Bojidar Marinov’s article The Cult of Safety particularly as it outlines how a heroic society — a “Traveller-friendly” society — would operate. Whether this is true in your flavour of Traveller is up to you, and of course, it may just be true for a world or a subculture, not for most of your Imperium.
[With Cain’s self-serving bleating and his building of a walled city] we see the first instance in the Bible of the cult of safety. It is such a clear example of the cult that we can derive the definition of that cult from it: the cult of safety is a commitment to being free of any real or imaginary danger, over and against a commitment to righteousness and justice. Let me repeat that last part, so that you don’t miss it: over and against a commitment to righteousness and justice. This is important to remember when we discuss the cult of safety of modern America. The cult of safety is not simply seeking safety through doing the right thing. It is a very specific and deliberate religious commitment to rejecting righteousness and justice in favor of man-made safety and security.
Not confidence in lawful and just behaviour as your shield, but in walls and guards. Or enormous wealth, secret police, powerful hidden forces (psionics, or out-and-out something-for-nothing magic), ancient traditions, dangerous allies, or wall-to-wall propaganda and information control.
You could run several Traveller campaigns on sizing up powerful Nobles, casing out the walls that protect and shield them from justice, and then bringing those walls down.
Covenant-breakers build walled cities. Covenant-keepers call upon the name of the Lord.
This antithesis is quite important in the Bible, given that we see it being developed further and further. The cult of safety did not stop with Cain. It evolved to much worse and more monstrous applications.
You’d better believe it!
None of this, of course, created any real safety for Cain, Lamech, or their posterity.
You’d better believe that, too.
The king was charged with justice, not with safety and security; he was supposed to judge the nation, and that’s why when Solomon prayed to God, God was pleased, because Solomon “did not ask for the lives of his enemies” but prayed for discernment to judge. Apparently, in God’s eyes, the civil government’s role is not to provide safety but to provide justice. Safety is God’s prerogative.
And so, we have a standard to see if your Imperial Nobles match up with the standard God established. Not safety, but JUSTICE, provides a sufficient covering for Noble authority, Without it, Nobles have no legitimacy… just guns. (And nukes.)
…the Cross dealt a severe blow to the cult of safety. The Roman Empire was able to conquer the known world using the cult of safety and manipulating the conquered peoples: on one hand, it offered a political and religious salvation from the perceived dangers of the world, and on the other hand, it threatened death for disobedience. (“It’s for your safety,” the mantra of modern American cops.) But the new religion that came out of Palestine produced a new breed of people: men and women, and even children, who didn’t care about their own safety. They wouldn’t be moved even if they were threatened with torture and death. The doctrine of resurrection from the dead was known to produce such results, and that’s why it was especially distasteful to the Greeks, because it created people who wouldn’t obey the rulers. Rome was able to hound gigantic mobs on the Christians by appealing to the “safety of the state and the people” (a constant refrain in all edicts against Christianity), but it was never able to scare Christians into submission by appealing to their own safety. A culture where every move of every individual and of every institution was to secure them against real or imaginary dangers, suddenly met a culture where both individuals and groups despised safety for a greater purpose.
I have always found massive bureaucratic cultures remarkably obsessed about safety. This would definitely include the imaginary Vilani & Bwap cultures. The Solomani cultures… not so much.
The subsequent history of the church proved that truth abundantly. Whenever the chuch entrusted its safety to Christ, it was prospering and growing. The greatest mission revivals followed periods when the church cast aside all worries about its own survival, and produced men who had no fear of the unknown, and no desire to stay safe.
The Crusades were a period when even talking about personal or collective safety was considered dishonorable; women filed for divorce if their husbands showed even the slightest sign of cowardice. Such was the practice later among the Puritans as well; a wife had the legal right to divorce her husband for two reasons: if he couldn’t produce offspring, and if he showed cowardice. The disasters of the 14th century, of which we talked in previous episodes, so desensitized Christendom that for the next three or four centuries, death was not considered a big deal. That freed European hearts and minds to leave the geographical confines of Christendom and traverse the world as missionaries, explorers, merchants. Samuel Johnson, one of the greatest man of letters England has ever produced, quipped in the 1760s, “Every man thinks meanly of himself for not having been a soldier, or not having been at sea.”
“Welcome to the Traveller community!”
(This is opposed to reliance on the authorities, who may not be merely corrupted, but flat-out cowardly and incompetent, as illustrated by the Parkland school shooting.)
The French Revolution was the political culmination of that rationalist thinking. Once it was over, the European elite turned to other anti-Christian philosophies. Some turned to crass materialism, like Feuerbach, or rationalist idealism, like Hegel. But the majority of the aristocracy turned to pagan occultism and mysiticism. A lot of it came from India, China, and Japan, with the government officials who served the colonial powers in those areas. In Germany and Scandinavia, and partly in England as well, much of it came from the Romanticist movement which exalted the “ancient ways and traditions.” It laid the foundation for the later racist and nationalist movements in Europe, and was the direct ideological reason for the two world wars. But the real motivation – individual motivation – for it was the loss of pesonal sense of safety. Christianity was not accepted as a valid worldview anymore; so the sense of personal insecurity in a world that was unknown and unknowable was growing, and people resorted to the old remedies: trying to control the unknown world through occult means. “Magical protection” or “spiritual protection” became popular words in Europe, and the buzzword for a number of successful marketing campaign. Europe abandoned Christianity, resorted to paganism, and with it, resorted back to the cult to safety.
More than that, some new forms of the cult to safety appeared, this time in the church: the demonization of foods and beverages.
When the Church becomes pathetic, it gets really pathetic.
From this cult of safety, we have all the modern statist practices supported by church-goers and conservatives. From the cult of safety follows the worship of politics, and the expectation that politics – especially at the highest levels, in Washington DC – will solve the problems of America. From the cult of safety follows the worship of police and other institutions of government oppression and tyranny. From the cult of safety follow all the laws regulating the use of foods and substances; and from it follow all the laws regulating economic activity; after all, after all, we can’t let people be too free in their undertakings, for that might make other people unsafe. From the cult of safety, again, follow our modern immigration laws, and, more importantly, the support for those laws by church-goers and conservatives.
I am sure that in the bureaucratic, Vilani-run First Imperium, everyone looked up to the Emperor to save them with a billion rules and soldiers. This does not ring true for even the Canonical Third Imperium… and it certainly isn’t true in my version of that government!
“The Emperor has no obligation to help your world… or you, personally. Make your own arrangements.”