In the grim darkness of the far future, man's last resort may turn out a family event.
In a demented epoch, the crushing, draining misery of everyday human life across vast swathes of the Imperium of Man foments bleak moods and dark desperation in the depths of man's soul. All too many servants of the God-Emperor find themselves unable to bear the heinous burdens placed upon them by circumstance, ancient vassal duties and dictactes from their masters and betters. Of those who crack under neverending pressure, suffering and drudgery, some turn to amasec or narcotics abuse, or let loose their dammed-up wrath and frustration in bouts of domestic violence, street brawls, spontaneous slaying, planned murder or sadistic torture of the defenceless.
Others caught in the grips of pain and despair turn to rabidly fervent worship, praying and reciting mantras over and over again at street corner shrines, incense-wrapped temples and candle-lit icons in an unhinged balancing act between insanity and devotion that leads many exhausted fanatics to receive extatic visions and urges to preach the good faith. Such revelations may see them turn into tolerated holy men, sanctioned saints, martyrs of the faith, or heretics and infidels burned at the stake. Others, yet again, turn to far darker occult mysteries, and seek escape through unholy powers forbidden to man.
Still other men, women and even children who cannot stand the daily toll of abhorrent misery and hardship, turn to a terrible and ancient solution to their woes, electing to end their own beings in the mortal vale of tears they knew as life. This they do in ten thousand different ways of self-destruction ranging from the quick to the slow, from the painless to the excruciating. In the Age of Imperium there is, after all, no shortage of high falls, unsafe electrical wiring of deadly current, crushing autodoors, rapid vehicles, toxic waste from industry, monstrous fauna, trigger-happy folks spoiling for an excuse to draw arms and collect a trophy, or poisonous substances and unsafe manufactoria machines with which to meet an untimely end, to name but a few of the legions of hazards facing humanity in a future deathtrap environment which man has constructed for himself. Thus intentional slaughter of the self remain a common, dull background tone in the cacophonic symphony of churning industry, superstitious chatter, endemic violenceand rampant breeding that constitutes life in the Imperium of Man.
Nasty, brutish and short as this life is.
And so every day across the galactic domains of Holy Terra and Mars, millions commit suicide, in spite of knowing full well the damning hellfire that awaits those who would end their Emperor-given lives for the sake of heretical thoughts of self. While it is better to die for the Emperor than to live for yourself, it is undoubtedly blasphemous to die for yourself out of egotistic weakness and lapse of faith, without any regard given for the higher demands placed upon your shoulders by the glorious and all-encompassing Imperium of Man. How could one shirk from one's duty by flinging oneself into the jaws of death? The lives of Imperial subjects are not at their own disposal to waste, but at the pleasure of their masters and overlords to squander as rightly appointed delegates of the divine Imperator.
Naturally, it follows that people who both fail in their attempts at suicide and are found out, will be arrested by Imperial or planetary and voidholm authorities, and be either tortured and executed publicly in such depraved manners so as to dissuade others, or be horribly turned into lobotomized cyborg thralls known as servitors, thereby shackled to unending slavery in the flesh even as their consciousness is all but snuffed out without anaesthetics by brutal techmen and automated assembly lines, in fabricator cathedrals where men and women are turned mechanistically into servitors by other servitors. Ideally, there is no escape from your ordained thralldom.
Given that the Imperium of Man generally operates on a crude and primitive mode of collective punishment and kinsgroup responsibility, the attempted or succesful self-liquidation of a single clan member may lead to heavy fines, confiscations of property or offspring, arrests, public torture, penance and further executions levied upon their kin of extended family. Such blatant threats against near and dear of those wretched sufferers who would dare to contemplate destroying the production or military human asset unit which they themself represent toward the faceless bureaucrats of the Adeptus Terra, will often serve to cow many of the worst weaklings to stand in line and not subject their own kinsfolk to baleful retribution. After all, it is an outright act of rebellion, apostasy and treason for a subject of the Emperor of Earth to deny his or her legitimate masters, overseers and superiors the labour, obedience, armed service and ritual worship which lowly minions owe to the sacred chain of command stretching all the way up to His Divine Majesty through the lowest leaders of hierarchy embodied by your whip-carrying taskmasters. An Imperial subject is only permitted to sacrifice themself for a higher cause, never for the sake of their own irrelevance.
Still, all the most horrific deterrents of peril toward loved ones dreamed up by crazed fanatics, psychopathic torturers and gleegul executioners cannot prove failsafe against every would-be suicide. Some desperate souls may be past caring. While some few who hate their own kin after years of abominable abuse might even use their own illegal ending as a way to bring down the fist of Imperial justice upon their own clan as revenge from beyond the grave, figuratively speaking. Though more literally, for most inhabitants of the Imperium of Man, that vengeance would be visited from beyond the bio-recycling corpse-grinder. Still others, of course, lack any known family against which to retaliate, in which case punishments may instead be doled out arbitrarily against fellow shift workers, neighbours, known associates or random bystanders. After all, someone must be made an example out of, lest the defeatist rot spreads further and undermines the resolve of human populations destined and meant only to serve their species and lord through unending hardship and trials of faith.
Among some human cultures across hundreds of thousands of worlds and voidholms beyond counting within the sacred astral realms of Him on Terra, there exist a harrowing, dysfunctional phenomenon born out of the depths of soul's despair and mind's demented train of thought. It goes by many names, in innumerable dialects and local languages in a myriad of backwater regions and districts, but its most common form in Low Gothic is that of kin mercy, denoting the killing of one's own family dependents as part of suicide.
So-called kin mercy is usually sprung out of either a desire of a self-waster to save beloved family members from horrendous Imperial collective punishment of their kinsfolk; or the demands of strict cultural honour codes; or the bread-winning master or mistress of the household concluding that surviving spouse (or spouses, in case of polygamy), children and other dependents won't manage to survive well on their own once the despairing wage-earner and head of household is gone. In the latter case, many hard-working husbands, and wives (often with sickly parents, grandparents and siblings or children), may conclude that the horrors of the workhouse or the poverty, perils, reprehensible sin and selling of oneself on the city street and voidholm corridor for sustenance, will constitute a fate worse than death, and a life of utter misery and damnation which they will not condemn their kinsfolk to.
Whatever the demented reasoning, the end result is the same: The attempted extermination of the criminal's own family, and then the slaying of themself. In any case, the murder spree was only an extension of one person's suicide, and the tragedy is thus considerably amplified. Yet in the wider community of the parochial Imperial culture in question, this monstrous bloodshed known as kin mercy tend to be more of a sad routine event than an extraordinary atrocity, somewhat akin to the widespread exposure of unwanted infants in so many parts of uncounted Imperial worlds and voidholms.
And so degenerate descendants of a once brilliant mankind take their last farewells in a heinous and heretical act of self, and exits the stage with their own families as a bloody retinue, their wasted souls about to face the harsh judgement of the God-Emperor seated upon the Golden Throne of Holy Terra. There, as scripture and preachers firmly attest, their failure to face suffering in this life will be punished with eternal suffering in the hellfires of the inescapable afterlife, and thus divine justice is carried out, as per His wishes as the master and saviour of man.
All this transpires, in an era of doom.
In a time beyond hope.
Thus is the depravity of our species on full display, in the darkest of futures.
It is the fortyfirst millennium, and there is only torment.
The first is that each world has their own laws and rules besides the lex imperialis and the worship of the Emperor, either through the standard orthodoxy or through a sanctioned variant, and as such in those situations where the religious side of thing is not directly involved and where the imperial law has not been broken, its up to planetary authorities to deal as they see fit
The second is that there may simply not be enough resources or time to dish out punishment for those who would attempt to take their lives, so numerous are they
And the last is that priests, bishops and archbishops of the ministorum are not all on the same page, and believe it or not but despite the stereotype of the zealous and unforgiving enforcers of the imperial creed, plenty of peoples revere the church because they often cater to the needs of the peoples, providing food and shelter to those in need and as a result it is not that uncommon for cardinals to adopt a more humanitarian viewpoint (as can be seen in Cadian Honour where there is an exemple of genuinely kind bishop)
The explanation that taking your life is like wasting Imperial property is going to be true on many worlds but false on others worlds which aren’t completely under the yoke of the ministorum
Capital! Very much so on all counts. Even in the darkest of futures, retribution practices wouldn't be pursued everywhere, far from it in the localized and feudal Imperium, and there are indeed great schismatic variation and benevolent good works carried out.
40k as a setting might make fun out of fanatics, but it has always allowed priesthoods to pursue charity and provide meaning in life beside the more eye-catching froth and crusade zeal. Uriah in the last church (albeit not Cult Imperialis) is one example of this more nuanced and balanced streak. The chap in Cadian Honour another. A positively surprising streak, more well-handed than one might expect.
More balanced nuance like that won't be given too much spotlight in my writings though, because the adopted style is darkly ironical to sound as damning as possible: It is not necessarily what I myself actually think, but it is one way to revive the satirical roots of Rogue Trader and drive grimdark to the hilt. The focus is dysfunctionality, but that doesn't mean everything is actually dysfunctional and horrible everywhere.
Compare the Imperium of Man to the Soviet Union: A horrible, dysfunctional, mass murdering police state that nevertheless saved its oppressed people from an even worse fate by winning the greatest war in human history. The Soviet union and the tyrannical late antique Roman Empire and its eastern mediaeval survivor (those Romans known today, but not at the time, as Byzantines) provide endless inspiration for the Imperium in 40k.
Now I'm curious about your plans for the mechanicus.
Also, I sort of believe that if someone in the imperium was caught attempting suicide, they would be turned into servitors as an extreme form of... well, putting them on suicide watch.
Indeed, good point!
Thanks! I have some vague and rather crazy plans, but they still have to crystallize. Inspiration will strike in due time, and I might search out more industrial history actively to help it along. There are some very concrete ideas long since thought-out already, aside from the mass of still rather vague embryos of concepts, but I'll continue chipping away at the Imperium proper for a while more before turning to the Mechanicus. It's the same approach I used to explore Chaos Dwarfs in Warhammer Fantasy (everything marked Admiral in the linked compilation list is written by me). Chip away at the edges and drill down on one concept at a time, and move closer to the meatier core parts in due time: http://www.chaos-dwarfs.com/forum/showthread.php?tid=14539
Thanks! It has to, because that's how background writing looks like in Warhammer army books/codices' army list sections. That way, non-background/non-story writing (such as rules or designer's notes) in non-italics stand out better. And by now that has long since become a tradition for me, never to be broken in the future.
It's always possible to quickly copy all text into a document for non-italics, though. :)
Both polygyny (many wives) and polyandry (many husbands) would exist in a lot of cultures across the incredibly vast domains of the Imperium. Both forms of polygamy are in fact worthy future subjects for doodles and writings on their own, with each given their own dysfunctional bend (based on historical examples) due to grimdark.
Thanks a lot for asking! You made me realize there are two more good topics on the to-do list.
Besides, Matthew Farrer's second instalment of the Shira Calpurnia trilogy, the excellently grimdark Legacy, feature a Rogue Trader harem (complete with killing the spouses of the Rogue Trader upon their death) in the Phrax flotilla. This tradition was instituted by a female Phrax Rogue Trader, who had a grand appetite for men akin to Catherine the great of Russia.
I heartily recommend basically all of Farrer's writings for the Black Library.