Story: The Day I Created a New Nation

February 17th, 2008

Well, the first annual IntShoStoWriWe was a success, with 100% of participants completing a short story of at least 2,500 words.

OK, so it was just me this year. But I actually finished a story for a change. It’s a little rough around the edges, but I think it works as a complete piece.

The whole thing is posted in the rest of this post. I hope you enjoy it – if you have any comments, you can find my email address on the contact page.

The Day I Created a New Nation

We seceded about 3pm on Saturday.

In the end, I don’t think I had much of a choice. I’d been practically forced into it. But I really should have given it a little bit more thought first. It was quite a big step, and, as it turned out it was a messy one.

So my son the lawyer drew up the forms and posted them on to the web. We thought about mailing a copy to our old government, but decided that they would get the notice anyway, and besides who knew where to buy a stamp these days. We got a bunch of emails back quickly from various other nations officially recognising us, which made us (my son told me) an official micro nation. I wondered if we needed to have a flag pole to fly our new flag, but my wife put her foot down and said no, so in the end I just came up with a new wallpaper for my computer.

We got some emails and instant messages from our neighbours almost instantly, they must have been following our update feed. Most of them understood why we’d done it, but Mrs Fenchley (the oldest person on our street) actually came over and visited to say that there was no excuse for that kind of thing, and one should stick with the government come what may. I suppose it came as a bit of a shock to her, with us being the first on our street. But she said that she understood our reasons, she just thought that it was going to far to secede, that it was ‘unpatriotic’.

We had to explain ‘patriotic’ to little Jenny after she left. I don’t think she really understood.

We spent the rest of the afternoon registering for new internet addresses and updating our physical address on our customer details forms. Couriers and delivery people can be very picky about making sure that they’re delivering to the right country – all the tax and customs stuff, I suppose – so we had to take care of that before we put in any fresh orders for groceries.

I realised that I was no longer going to have to pay income tax, which made me quite happy. It’s a fairly small amount, I suppose, just a few cents out of every dollar. But it all adds up, and I was going to be saving several thousand dollars a year. I began to wonder why I hadn’t declared independence sooner!

By the early evening we’d already gotten several unsolicited adverts from various distributed nations for us to join with them. Most of them had philosophies or rules that didn’t attract us much, but the list of ‘services provided’ gave us some pause – were we really ready to do all those things ourselves? I began to think that perhaps we’d been a little hasty. But what was done was done.

The first sign of the problems we were going to have came after dinner. Little Jenny came running to us from the computer in tears. She was that kind of hysterical that makes it hard to understand, so while my wife calmed her I walked over to the computer to see what had upset her so. I have to admit that I was shocked – her account had been refused access to her favourite virtual world, Titania. The error message was most unhelpful:

Access not approved: intellectual property not controlled.

I clicked on the ‘explain’ link, and was soon baffled by the dense legalese. I was forced to call Jenny’s father, my son the lawyer, to come down from upstairs to help me understand.

“It’s about the intellectual property, you see”, he explained unehlpefully

“I can see that”, I replied peevishly, “but what does that mean?”

“We’re now a sovereign country. Which means we have to make our own rules. We don’t have any, and most importantly we don’t belong to the International IP Treaty Organisation.”, he explained calmly.

“So how do we join?”

“It’s simple”, he said, and sat down at the computer.

I watched over his shoulder as he went to the IIPTO web page, and clicked ‘create new account’. After a few brief details (address, head of state, form of government) we were presented with a baffling list of check boxes.

“What are these?”, I asked

“We get to pick what kind of intellectual property rules we have. The IIPTO doesn’t enforce any set of rules, it just provides a simple way to define what rules we have, and provides some way to enforce the ones that we choose.”, he said, as his mouse pointer danced from rule to rule, creating an IP regime for our new nation.

A few more clicks and we had a draft treaty, which (after a quick family meeting – maybe I should have chosen dictatorship on that first form) I put an electronic signature on to, and posted that up formally too. We dragged little Jenny away from the ice cream my wife had plied her with, and she was happily able to leap back on to Titania, crisis averted. My son and I slipped off to the den for a drink or two.

“So are there many more of these organisations to join”, I asked, as I poured him a drank and we both sat down.

“Probably a couple. To be honest, I don’t really know” he replied.

“We should probably find out, I suppose. We wouldn’t want another shock like this evenings”.

Talk turned to other, happier, things after that. And so I went to bed for the first night as a head of state.

I woke up early the next morning, something nagging at me – the subconscious reminder of my unfinished secession. It didn’t stay subconscious for long, for as I sat down with my coffee to check my morning news, I was greeted with a flood of distressing email.

Digging through it all the common thread was the secession. Our electricity company wanted a bilateral treaty regarding default and asset seizure, or it would turn off our power supply. The water company wanted a sovereign monopoly. My Internet provider demanded that we join the international IP treaty organisation (just like them – always a little behind the ball). Nothing from our old government, but a mountain of work was piling up.

Over breakfast, I complained to my son and his wife about the amount of work involved. He told me that he’d sent an email to a friend of his, who knew more about this kind of thing, and maybe he’d be able to help us.

His friend called us on 3phone a little after breakfast. He turned out to be another lawyer from my son’s firm, one who specialised in microsovereignty. We told him our problems, and he laughed. He twitted my son a little about being so unprepared.

“The problem is”, he expounded, “that people take this kind of thing far too much for granted. It isn’t nearly as easy as it sounds from the magazines or TV, you know.”

We told him that we’d worked that out. He laughed.

“You know, none of this used to be possible. Just a hundred years ago the idea of a single house being able to pick its own rules and way of living was called ‘anarchy’, and anyone who tried to leave the rules of the government was regarded as an outlaw and hunted down.”

“But it still isn’t very common, is it?”, I asked.

“No, only about one or two per cent, but it’s growing. We sorted out all the rules and procedures to let small regions do this about seventy or eighty years ago, and smaller and smaller groups having been taking advantage ever since. It’s only been ten years or so that a single household could secede, though. But most don’t – they don’t have any cause, and they have some sense of the heartache it can cause if done wrong”, he replied.

Hy heart sank. I was worried that he was about to tell us all the problems we’d just created for ourselves. He must have seen the crestfallen look from his end, because his projected figure shook his head.

“No, I don’t mean you of course. You have a few more bits of paperwork to do, of course, but I can help you with that. Once that’s done everything should be fine And” (he glanced at my son) “I’ll be happy to do this as a matter of professional courtesy.”

“Thank you so much”, I gushed.

“Not at all. I’m going to email you over a form appointing me a temporary resident of your nation, and temporary Attorney General. That’ll let me put together the forms quickly for you. Then it’ll just be a few more quick treaty approvals and applications and you’re done.”

He quickly sorted them all out, from electricity (treaty signed, power assured) to water (where he got us a ten per cent discount in exchange for he monopoly!). I drew a sigh of relief as the family meeting approved the last treaty (was it too late to go back and choose dictatorship now?), and the last email was sent.

We had it all sorted out by afternoon tea time, but I felt like the whole weekend had been ruined. I’d spent all Saturday worrying about this, and the other thing, and now most of today doing paperwork. But I supposed that we’d done it now, and there wouldn’t be a lot of other things to do. My son’s friend had signed me up for a service called ‘Micro Nation News’, which was supposed to keep us up to date on any new rules or treaties we’d have to sign.

Just as we were going to bed my wife suddenly got worried about little Jenny – “Will she still be able to go to school tomorrow?” she asked. I loaded the school contract up on my bedside tablet and checked to see that she could still go – she could, although now the family would be charged extra for ‘international travel’ if the school has to transport her home in case of accident or some such. A cheeky little clause, but not worth us getting upset over.

Monday morning was when my real trouble began.

I was sitting in my downstairs office, quietly working on my latest project from work, when I was interrupted by a harsh knocking at the door. I was annoyed – normally people could see the doorbell (which would even send me an email or IM if I was out of the house), but clearly some idiot had missed it. Opening the door my mouth dropped to see a uniformed officer of the international court of justice standing outside.

“Mr Paul H. Getty?” he demanded.

“Yes, that’s me. What can I do for you officer?” I replied.

“And you are the chief justice of this nation?”

I thought desperately. That had been on the forms we’d filled in. There had been so many titles! We’d started to alternate the names of the four adults among them randomly by the end.

“Yes, I think so.”

“I have here a demand from the International Court of Justice” (he had that tricky of speaking where you could hear the capital letters) “that you resign from that post. I also have a request for the extradition of the head of state of this nation, which I understand is also yourself.”

He thrust out a thick bundle of paperwork. On actual paper! I was taken aback.

“Extradition? I’m sorry, what on earth?”

“You are head of state of this nation, correct?”

“Yes, I am”

“And are you aware that, under the International Court of Justice Treaty” (again the capitals) “, which your country signed yesterday, that if a head of state is accused of a crime by another nation they will be tried by the International Court?”

“Accused of a crime?”

“Yes, it says here”, he said, tapping the pile of papers now in my hands, “that you’re accused of creating a vehicular obstruction in the third degree?”

He left me there gaping, saying only that he’d be back in 48 hours to see if the ICJ needed to recommend any sanctions against my nation.

Vehicular obstruction! It wasn’t until I was well into the pile of paper work that I realised what that meant. That darn parking ticket, the thing that had started all of this off. They were still trying to enforce that darn parking ticket!

There was a 3phone address on the paperwork for questions, so I decided to call. I kept my son out of it for now – he’d probably have to be chief justice now, and so he needed to remain impartial.

The woman who answered was kind, but stern.

“Well, sir, firstly you violated the terms of your nations treaty with us when you appointed yourself both head of state and chief justice. That’s against the terms of the treaty.”

I apologised profusely, and assured her that I’d fix that as soon as possible.

“But the real problem is this parking ticket!” I cried “It was the whole reason I seceded in the first place. Imagine, demanding that someone actually go somewhere physical and waste a whole day sitting around in some dusty government office building over such a trivial thing. I did mean to pay it in the first place, but they had no way of paying it over the Internet, they wanted me to go down to a post office. And there isn’t one of those in 20 kilometres of here, hasn’t been for years.”

“Well, I’m sorry sir, but we are obliged to consider all these treaties. And as you didn’t have any kind of diplomatic immunity when you committed the alleged offence, I’m afraid it’s likely that you’ll have to be extradited.”

“Isn’t there anything else I can do?”

“Hmmm. Well, if you were willing to subcontract all of the judicial system of your country to us, then we would be able to carry out the trial quickly, and you wouldn’t have to leave home at all.” she suggested.

‘Ha!’ I thought ‘so that’s the scam. Oh well, I suppose it’s worth it to get out from this nightmare’

“OK”, I said, “let’s do that. How quickly can we set it up?”

My suspicions were confirmed when she was able to send through the paperwork quickly. But it was a pretty reasonable monthly fee, and I could see that running your own judicial system would be quite a chore. And so, very quickly, I was found guilty of vehicular obstruction (third degree), and sentenced to pay a fine. But this time I could pay online.

That was the last of the big headaches, although there were niggling bits of paperwork to do for weeks after it. I ended up paying nearly as much in service fees to various organisations like the ICJ as I used to be paying in tax. But in the end it was worth it.

It’s nice to really be the king of one’s own castle.

(At least, once I get around to changing the government over to monarchy it will be).