Culture is the most perfect form of Tyranny

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Welcome to week 2 of Dan's Online Science Fiction Theater.
This is another idea I had.  Some tie-ins here to stuff we talked about last week (bensen-daniel.deviantart.com/j…)

It is the future, and cultural diversity is no longer a good thing.  In the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, improved communication and transportation connected previously isolated cultures in a glorious sharing of ideas on a scale never seen before.  As colonial empires gave way to multinational corporations and the global communication network, ideas from one part of Earth could be shared almost instantly with everyone else.  Moreover, cultural traditions that had proved their worth over thousands of years spread to foreign lands as immigrant communities moved and recombined.  The printing press, electricity, internal combustion, solid-state circuitry, democracy, civil rights, environmental protection, the germ theory: all spread quickly because they were such obviously good ideas.  

Some foreign ideas could make a savvy cosmopolitan quite rich, and so it became advantageous to be interested in foreign countries and a new idea spread: cultural fetishism.  Cultural fetishism found foreign ideas interesting in their own right, and prompted a xenophilic mixing of traditions and philosophies.  Japanese animation became first popular, then the standard, Indian mysticism became an accepted part of the global psychological tool-box, American rap music became the basis for subcultures in almost every developed country, while France set fashions.  The global meta-culture formed as an eclectic combination of the best and most interesting parts of the human race's total diversity.

Then the sharing stopped.  Of course new ideas were invented, but their inventors were scientists, scholars, businesspeople, politicians, and the media, all part of the global meta-culture.  Traditional cultures had already been mined of their useful ideas, and any ideas that remained (ideas not incorporated into the Meta-culture) were the ones that were obviously bad.  Thus the Arab world exported mathematics, food, music, art, archaeology, and philosophy, but not suppression of women.  China exported food, music, movies, martial arts, philosophy, and production practices, but not suppressive, totalitarian government.  As much as America pushed, baseball never caught on globally.  As time went on, it became clearer that traditional cultural practices clearly caused their adherents to lead worse lives than those who participated in the meta-culture.  There was, perhaps, a war.

In any case, by the 2200s at the latest, very little cultural diversity remains on Earth.  Any traditional idea is so obviously inferior to what everyone else is doing that it is impossible for most people to live as their ancestors did.  But a problem emerges.  In a homogenous society, bad ideas may become popular.  Without outsides to compare themselves to, citizens have a fuzzier idea of the consequences of their practices.  In the 1400, China demolished its navy and didn't realize what a stupid idea that had been until the Europeans invaded.  True innovation is also more difficult in a civilization where everyone shares the same basic ideas.  Humanity had reached an adaptive peak, where any change would result in a short-term decrease in quality of life.  

New cultures were needed, but who would agree to leave the global meta-culture to take part in the experiment?  Fewer people than you'd think, and anyway, to get results, you would have to include children in the experiment, as well as unborn generations who can give no consent.  Even if the experimental cultures were stocked with volunteers, there would be rebellions in the future, and we can't have that.

The story I am thinking of takes place in the Zoo, a huge collection of habitats spanning from earth orbit out to the asteroid belt.  Habitats contain one or more isolated micro-nations, each with rules and traditions, with overseers present to document developments that might be useful or interesting to our viewers back on earth.  Of course, the experiment goes awry.
Almost immediately, the overseers and administrators become a tyrannical ruling class, with the experimental subjects converted into slaves.  Many traditions and religions are modified to turn their adherents into farmers, miners, engineers, etc., while the overseers enjoy the fruit of their slaves' labor and sell footage  of their miserable present lives for generous royalties.  Subjects of usual brilliance or free-thinking are occasionally exalted to the status of Royalty, while Royals who show undo sympathy for their Subjects are banished to live among them, trapped forever in a single culture.  There is no tyranny more perfect.

Your thoughts and reactions are most welcome.
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Heytomemeimhome's avatar
Wow this is one of your best ideas yet!