Do you suspect you're seeing and feeling the warning signs of a federation breakup? Are you worried that your closest trading partner is about to end your political union? Or perhaps you're thinking about leaving? Don't worry, you're not alone.
Hi there. I'm An'ul, award winning author of The State of My Union, and more recently the bestselling Federations: The Art of Intimacy.
I'm writing a series of articles for the Opinion feature on the complexities of federations, and what you can do to make yours work.
Today we're going to be covering the 7 warning signs that your political union may be in trouble:
1. You’re thinking about independence
There are many reasons you may be tempted to seek independence - the freedom of declaring war when you please without a vote, the thrill of not having to wait 300 years to be federation president, the power of being able to purge former federation species. If these sentiments resonate with you, trouble may be afoot in your political marriage.
2. You fight about the same thing over and over and over
Let’s face it - federations and internal conflict go hand in hand. It’s impossible for more than two species to live under the same galactic roof without arguing from time to time. Why are you declaring war on them again? Why won't you help me defend against the Unbidden invading my homeworld? Did you seriously invite those plantoids that just discovered FTL into our federation? These sort of discussions are not in themselves a problem, but if you find yourselves having the same argument over and over and over with no appreciation of your political partner’s point of view, you may be headed for trouble.
3. Escalating fights
In addition to having the same fights, when these arguments grow in intensity and frequency over time, you should be wary. Sometimes, escalating fights can result in either verbal insults or passive-aggressive acts like your trading partner building a frontier outpost in a mineral rich system that was clearly in your sphere of influence, or a federation fleet consisting of one damaged corvette coming to your aid in a defensive war. This sort of hostility is a serious red flag that union breakdown is imminent.
Countless federation members have wanted to know the number one cause for federation breakdown in this day and age, and this is something I cover extensively in Federations: The Art of Intimacy. The answer to this is obvious - federation members aren't spending enough physical time together. The strongest federations are comprised of neighbours, whose borders affront each other. There is contact. They touch, often. When something is happening in their local cluster, there is a need to cooperate and work together. When federations are formed from members with shared ethos but flung across the galaxy, that physicality and closeness is removed and members start leading separate lives. I have worked with many federations who have let things slip because each member does their own thing. Unless they're willing to reprioritise what's truly important - time together (and lots of touching) - their political marriage will remain in the danger zone.
5. Focusing more on your vassals more than each other
Let's face it - we're all inward looking to some degree. Most of us tend to focus on our own vassals and primitive species within our borders, making them our number one priority. There are many reasons we do this - perhaps we felt neglected when we were a vassal, or our populations are really hungry and those vassals need to be eaten ASAP. On the surface, this internal obsession makes sense - but if we live our entire political life this way, our federation begins to suffer. We become strangers to our fellow federation members. In this hollow relationship, once vassals are integrated/eaten and primitives uplifted/eaten, we can be left with what I like to call 'Empty Nest Syndrome' - it's a huge void and hard to fix. I always tell federations the best thing they can do for their vassals is to make the federation relationship the most important. Share responsibilities of managing/eating vassals equally. Vassals and primitives benefit enormously from stable economic unions, and even more importantly it models to them what good federations look like.
6. Having little or no migration
It’s not uncommon for one federation member to have a lower migration drive than the other. This, in and of itself, is not a sign that your political marriage is in trouble. When this does become a problem, however, is when a member with a low population refuses to accept a migration request from a member with a higher population or overpopulation. This can result in the higher population member feeling hurt, rejected, deflated, emotionally disconnected, angry and desperate. Once someone experiences these feelings, a multitude of things can happen. The members can stop being friends, spending time together in joint war exercises, and generally enjoying each others culture. If your relationship is migration-starved, you or your federation should re-examine the reasons it’s happening and do whatever it takes to bring back the passion for restriction-free travel. Even if it’s slow going in the beginning, you have to start somewhere. Allowing your species' differences to divide you often puts a political marriage at risk of infidelity (joining another federation) or collapse.
7. Talking strictly about superficial topics
For some, diplomacy is the best way to feel emotionally connected. And if you’re someone who feels connected through words, not just any words will do. You need meaningful debates, alliances, joint declarations. When federations don’t make time to talk - to find out about each other’s economies, internal policies, hopes, fears- the federation can seem perfunctory or superficial. From the beginning you need to hit the hard questions - are we an economic union? A political union? A military union? Or are we all of the above, and potentially more? Superficial discussion means superficial members, and a high turnover rate of membership.
Do you recognize yourself, a federation member or the whole federation when you read through the seven warning signs? Don’t despair - the answers and so much more are in my new book, Federations: The Art of Intimacy.
There is a great deal that you can do to bolster your political relationships. But don’t be complacent. Heed these warnings. And when you do, your federation will be a healthier and happier place to be.
That's all for now - stayed tuned for our next installment - Taking The Lead: Turning Your Federation Into An Autocratic Paradise.