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Ataivsh’s Species’s Understandings of Each Others’ Politics

Posted Over 1 Year ago by chiarizio

MerCentaurs don’t, intuitively, get the internal politics of the hominoid species;
And the hominoids don’t intuitively get the internal politics of the MerCentaurs.

The hominoids would say “MerCentaur politics” the way we would say “Byzantine politics”.
OTOH the MerCentaurs would say “hominoid politics” the way we would say “Byzantine politics”.

For MerCentaurs, two relatives six degrees apart or closer, can usually be expected to be able to “represent” or “speak for” each other.
Not that they’re necessarily willing to do so, but they can.
Among MerCentaurs, relatives that close probably have cordial conversations three or more times a year; once a year at an absolute minimum. (The closer they are the likelier they are to have such conversations more often. First- and second-degree kin probably have such conversations every day!)
So they probably at least know one another’s views and concerns, even if they don’t share them.

From the hominoid point-of-view, the difficult thing to comprehend is, that this is not a transitive relationship!
Suppose a hominoid knows three MerCentaurs, A and B and C.
Suppose they know A and B can “speak for” each other; and they know A and C can “speak for” each other.
That by no means implies that B and C can “speak for” each other!
To a MerCentaur that’s just obvious; to a hominoid that’s mind-blowing!

MerCentaurs’ understanding of the internal politics of typical hominoid 40-member council, or within a given species’s 40-member delegation within a 40-member-per-species council, is that it’s complicated and confusing because of the indirect voting.
Hominoid councils vote by patriclan, by matriclan, by generation, and by sex. MerCentaurs have trouble following.
Hominoids assume everyone in a given “skin” can, and will, “speak for” anyone else in the same “skin”; so that relationship is not only symmetric (as it is even among MerCentaurs), it is also transitive!
If a MerCentaur knows three (for instance) Humans, X and Y and Z, and knows X and Y can “speak for” each other, and also that X and Z can “speak for” each other, the MerCentaur may waste money and/or brains and/or time wondering whether Y and Z can “speak for” each other; whereas a hominoid will know that they can (obviously)!

Note that I’m talking about Ataivsh’s “Humans” here, not Real Life humans!


Humans and Dwarves understand Elves pretty well, and vice-versa. But there is a classic pitfall that, for the most part, is of historical (and legendary and mythical) interest only —— or at least, mostly.

I have a real-life analog, rather than an exact description, to help the reader.

In real-life Earth-Prime, in Our Time-Line, *here*, there have been many cultures in which the roles of father and of mother’s oldest brother have appeared “swapped”, and also the roles of son and oldest sister’s oldest son have appeared “swapped”, from the point-of-view of the dominant imperial Western European nations.
In many of these —— many of which have actually been European, but not Western —— children are “brought up by” their mother’s oldest brother rather than their father; and they have the “joking relationship” with their father rather than with their mother’s brothers. At the same time a man’s heir is his oldest sister’s oldest son rather than his own son.
(This somewhat correlates with men’s livelihoods requiring them to spend up to four(? correct number?) consecutive months per year away from their wives. It also somewhat correlates with theocracies dominated by either celibate secular clergy (priests) or celibate regular clergy (monks).)
If a Western European Imperial power moved into an Asian or African or North or South American or Australian area, and wanted to educate the next generation of local leaders in their ways, they might “offer” to, or require that, each influential man of the local community, let them take their oldest son and educate that son somewhere the Imperial power was in control.
Which would have worked except that that oldest son was not the man’s heir: his heir was one of his nephews, namely his oldest sister’s oldest son!

Similarly, by stretching and contorting the meaning of “similarly”, the significance of some kinships between two Humans or two Dwarves, is not always identical to the significance of the “same” kinship between two Elves. Typically, though, some other kinship *does* have that same significance; but one has to know that and keep it in mind.

Elves have to be equally careful about trying to understand Dwarves and Humans.


Even between Humans and Dwarves there is room for error; much more similar to my real-world analog, though.

Human men are patrilocal and Human women are virilocal. (On and in Ataivsh; not necessarily real life!)
OTOH Dwarven women are matrilocal and — to a point, at least — Dwarven men are uxorilocal.
Or, that is, I think Dwarven men are probably uxorilocal. I may make both sexes matrilocal and have Dwarven marriages be “walking marriages”, if I understand that term correctly.

I think I’ll also make Elven women be matrilocal.
I’m not sure whether to make Elven men be more or less likely to be matrilocal than Dwarven men, or to make Elven men more or less likely to be uxorilocal than Dwarven men.
If I make Elven men patrilocal, that question might not come up.
But I think probably for both Dwarves and Elves I’ll make women be matrilocal instead of virilocal.


Anyway no two of my species will just automatically and intuitively understand the internal politics of each other.

There are 3 Replies

I think Dwarven men may vacillate between being matrilocal and being uxorilocal.
I think when a Dwarf man marries a Dwarf woman he will start working her mother’s family’s mines; but he may not actually move in with her until they have a child on the way.
Or something.
There may be an arrangement whereby his father’s family leases her mother’s family’s mines from them when they marry; and at the same time her mother’s family “leases him”, or rather contracts his labor, and leases his equipment, from his father’s family.
Given the limited living-space in the caves it may take months or even years to arrange accommodations for the couple and their first offspring in her mother’s family's territory. They may have a dwelling on the hillside or in the valley or a meadow most of the year.

Elven men may move around a lot more freely than Dwarven men. Assuming moving around in the woods is easier than moving around in caves and tunnels and mines. They may actually alternate at will and randomly between their mother’s territory and their wives’ territory. I don’t know how they’d change their coloration to match; they may pick a certain color pattern (their mother’s or their wife’s) at a certain time of year and keep it the rest of the year or something. That might mean they wouldn’t be properly camouflaged for part of the year! Or they might have a way to handle that.

Over 1 Year ago

In our real world there are East European and Middle Eastern cultures (and probably other cultures elsewhere) who have a formulaic way of explaining where they got help from that starts out like this:
“I have a friend who has a brother who has a friend who has a cousin who ....” and the last person in this chain had the wherewithal or the desire to help in the needed way.

In MerCentaur terms “friend” might gloss as “compadre” and “brother” might gloss as “godsib” and “cousin” might gloss as “PaSbCh”.
So they’d be saying
“I have a compadre (my Sp)
“who has a godsib (my SpSb)
“who has a compadre (my SpSbSp)
“who has a PaSbCh (my SpSbSpPaSbCh)
“who ...”

This may be kind of typical, or at least stereotypical, of how MerCentaurs can recruit help from strangers (or, at least, non-relatives) who belong to the same caucus; or of finding members of the same caucus who are able and willing to give certain kinds of aid.
Note that, in this proverb, this person is a 10th-degree relative!

A hominoid hearing this for the first time would probably get lost trying to figure it out.
They’d probably just get used to it, rather than ever trying to understand it.

Even though such chains of acquaintance might actually occur between hominoid conspecifics, their descriptions would be much shorter in their own languages, because their classificatory kinterm systems don’t require (nor make it easy for) them to express information the MerCentaur system would.

Over 1 Year ago

MerCentaurs probably see first- and second- and third- -degree kin every day,
and have “full and frank” conversations with 1st and 2nd degree kin every day.
They probably see 4th-degree kin an average of once (or more) every week(?) or so, and have deep(?) conversations with 3rd- and 4th- degree kin at least that often.
I am thinking there’ll be like maybe four annual feasts, and probably each individual MerCentaur will feel like attending three of them.
They’ll meet and talk (at length) to any 5th and 6th degree kin who show up at the same festival they show up at; so they can expect to see and talk to each other at least twice a year, though three times might be closer to average. There may be years they see each other at only one such festival, or get a chance to talk at only one. Or they may happen to see and talk to each other at all four festivals most years!

Two MerCentaurs who are 6th-degree kin or closer may know about each other’s 6th-degree-or-closer kin without actually knowing each other’s kin. Such knowledge might come in handy.

Over 1 Year ago

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