Social Balance


Ranking structure

[extract from article by K.J. Roodschild, “A rank injustice”, published 4 December 91 of the New Era on Orbital Station Quito]

[…] The use of colours to separate out one group of individuals from another has been used since the black unknown of prehistory. It could have signified the status of the individual through exclusivity, such as the Tyrean purple of the Roman Emperors. It could have served to group people together, such as the uniforms of soldiers or the followers of a sporting team. However, as far as the author is aware, the first systematized use of colours throughout society as a whole was during the First Canaanite Republic, although their coding distinguished functions rather than rank. In other words, there is nothing unusual per se in using colours as indicators of status in some form, although it is striking that the ranks thereby defined by the Federation had no further associations.

Every Citizen in the Federation had a ranking that defined their duties and obligations to the State and to one another. For simplicity and to allow rapid visual recognition, these were based for many generations on a simple system of colours, advancing through the spectrum in six stages. Two-thirds of the population are ranked as Greys, which were the non-Citizens with little in the way of voting rights, extra income, entitlement to accommodation space, luxury goods… you name it. Licences to have children were socially very important: overcrowding meant that population control was very strict. Of the one third of all people who qualified as full Citizens when they reached their majority, two thirds were similarly classed as Red and had the next lowest levels of entitlement. Two thirds of the remainder were then Orange, two thirds of the rest were Yellow and on through the spectrum to Green – by which time you’re talking something like the top percentile – and then Blue and finally Purple. I am aware that every reader will know this, even a couple of hundred years later. Nevertheless, for the sake of completeness, I will summarize it here.

These ranking colours are also one standard form of address. Everyone knows precisely what each stratum means, and there was no real need to add further structure in most cases (although military ranks are also used for organizational purposes by FedSec). People know their place. They have standard abbreviations which are used in all documentation and have become widely adopted as the simplest written form, though when spoken the majority of people simply say the colour word.

  • red = Red, the lowest rank of Citizen and representing two-thirds of the total, i.e. two ninths of all people
  • ora = Orange, the second rank. One-third as numerous as Red, three times as numerous as Yellow
  • ylo = Yellow, nine times rarer than a Red and by now definitely feeling quite an elite group
  • grn = Green, roughly the top percentile
  • blu = Blue
  • pur = Purple

The numbers can never be exact in any real-world system of biological entities. The life expectancy of a citizen is significantly higher than that of a Grey, for example. And among the citizenry, a Blue would on average outlive a Red. Rather fewer new citizens therefore have to be created in order to keep the balance, and somewhat fewer of those qualify as a Blue than might have been expected numerically. In the case of the Greys, these differences can be assigned partly to poorer health and increased exposure to occupational hazards and criminal violence in their lives. A greater effect, however, is that of voluntary subsumption into Gaia. That option, known as Thanatasia, is one that Grey believers tend to take earlier.

Silver and Gold cadres

[author’s note by Artie Fishall, addendum dated 24-Jul-101 of the New Era]

The top third of those who attained the topmost category of Purple were subdivided further. These were the real élite of the Federal System, the Silver Cadre who are then similarly ranked from Silver-Red and Silver-Orange – maybe one in ten thousand people – through to Silver-Purple and then on into the Gold Cadre, the ultra-élite who were real paparazzi-fodder. And those in turn start at Gold-Red and the cycle progresses again from there.

So there is a pleasing mathematical precision to the cascade of ranks: once you get past purple, in this endless sequence of dividing by thirds, you get the same repeating pattern with first Silver and then Gold stripes edging the insignia. In principle, the sequence could go on for ever, with shall we say a platinum or diamond Cadre too. Even given the massive population of the Federation, though, in practice the size of Earth’s populace meant that two Cadres were sufficient. By the time you get to Gold-Purple, there is no need for further subdivision as you are talking only double-figure numbers in the entire world.

Black status

[author’s note by Artie Fishall, addendum dated 24-Jul-101 of the New Era]

If you are a relatively low-ranked worker who needs to give orders in an exceptional situation to people ranked above you, how can this be built in to the rigid hierarchy of ranks? The in-flight attendant might be obsequiously serving drinks most of the journey, but trained to help save passengers’ lives in an emergency. Except that they won’t listen to instructions from a supposed inferior.
Or consider a police action in which it was unclear what ranks might be involved or who would be physically restraining the captives. Or what about the unlikely situation in which an individual at the very top of the tree is breaking the law and would have to be arrested – who has the power to do that?
And that is of course quite aside from the ethical considerations that the Priesthood forums debated in such depth. Should a doctor be able to treat a patient of superior rank against their expressed wishes, for example if the FedMed physician is convinced it is for the best?

The answer to some of this type of questions was a special black rank: a temporary authorization that supersedes all other statuses for legally defined purposes for which the Citizen would be held accountable later. The Courts could grant Black status to FedSec police officials for specific actions, for example, or the Arties that implemented Court decisions could make autonomous decisions in some emergency situations. It should however be noted that to most people these were no more than esoteric trick questions that might turn up in your final Citizenship Examinations. Records show that less than one serving officer in a thousand was ever ‘blacked up’ for even a few minutes during their entire careers.

The other point to note about the Black status is that it was a byword for being able to do anything and everything you chose. However, despite numerous characters in popular fiction and persistent rumours, there is no evidence whatsoever that anyone ever acquired that rank permanently as a ‘ghost in the machine’.


[fragment of an interview with Ambra Yana, recorded by Artie Fishall on 6-May-86 of the New Era]

[…] “Well, although it was always the FedSecs that everyone was scared of, with their weapons and uniforms and those faceless mirrored helmets, I’d say it was FedMed that was probably the most actively disliked.”
“But surely nobody can hate the people who look after their health?”
The old man shook his head. “No, not the actual doctors and nurses and hospitals and so forth – but the genuine medical functions were virtually a separate service and worked closely with the search and rescue emergency departments. The Federal Medical service was the one that kept track of everything you did. It was supposedly because they were initially the department that controlled the transponder tattoos everyone had for identification, and when everything got linked in to the tattoo IDs at a later date, they ended up managing the records on everything you did.”
“Not just health-related?”
“We should have been so lucky,” he chuckled. “Any time your tattoo got scanned was logged, so they could follow anyone’s movements if they wanted. Who spent the night with whom – they could get really uptight about that, as you know. And all the tests and scores that built up your ranking profile were there. Not merely exam results: there were reports by your teachers and your classmates when you were a kid, the people you had cohabitation contracts with as an adult, annual psychological evaluations… Even stuff on whether you were a believer and whether you observed all the religious duties.”
“So they were more like an intelligence service?”
“And a pretty invasive one at that, yes. But you tended to blame the system, not the individuals. I mean, I had friends who were FedMed. They didn’t even necessarily like their job much.” […]


[extract from article by J.S. Roodschild, “Fed and watered”, published January 84 of the New Era on Orbital Station Quito]

[…] the most powerful by far was the Federal Security Service (FedSec), which handled all aspects of law and order, as well as social control and enforcement of the ranking structure. There were some much larger groups, in particular the administrative service (FedMin) and the educational establishment (FedEd), but these were relatively toothless because of the lack of leverage and the limited scope for corruption, whereas the main role of the medical service (FedMed) sometimes seemed to be more about record-keeping than about handling physical and mental health in practice, despite […]


[extract from article by Doohan and Gogol, “The Next Generation”, published in August 103 of the New Era in Vancouver-Seattle]

[…] The education department was responsible for bringing up children within the Federal system. It is fashionable to see it as little more than a propaganda machine nowadays, preparing the next generation for their roles as workers and service providers and consumers in most cases, while weening out those with the skills, brains, muscles and good looks to progress through to the Cadet Citizen schools rather than the general vocational colleges for the populace at large.
Training at all schools covered indoctrination and the testing to determine initial ranks. This meant a substantial emphasis on Gaianism and Federal history, appropriate social Etiquette, plus the social and artistic skills that might be useful in choosing a career. Throughout the system, but in the Cadet schools in particular, there was also a clear focus on sporting and physical activities. Again, because these aspects were heavily weighted in the complex algorithm for determining rankings. So schools’ own performance results depended on producing healthy and athletic youngsters, as well as socially adept ones. Consequently, the scientific and technical side received relatively little weighting compared with most societies, and the Federation indeed prided itself on that fact, seeing it as evidence that the underlying automated manufacturing and processing technologies were mature and robust. To more modern eyes, this seems like a recipe for stagnation […]

The Priesthood

[extract from article by Bentham, Nablus and MacReady, “Addiction and the Opiate of the Masses”, published in May 133 of the New Era on board GS Ansible]

[…] The role of the Gaian religion in keeping control of the Earth’s massive population for such a long period has long been debated. There can be no doubt whatsoever that the Gaian Priesthood, with its role as the religious authority, was one of the main power blocks in the Federal structure, along with FedSec, the executive arm of the judiciary. It was an exclusively male domain and was seen very much as having the role of laying down the rules for social life and conduct at all levels of Federal society, as well as simply being accepted as having the right to do so. Or perhaps it would be better to say, had acquired the role and right over the course of time: it is in the nature of people to react to changes and query the reasons, but once a system is established, the response tends to be simply that “this is just the way it is”. By the end, the Priesthood had of course been a presence for so many generations that […]

Everyday life

My priestess is called…

[extract from article by Wellbeck and Houellebecq, “Domotic worship?”, published in January 99 of the New Era on board GS Halcyon]

[…] The Gaian Priesthood was the authoritarian male voice of the religion, generally seen in formal roles: lengthy exhortations to believer congregations and shorter addresses to the general public at many other times, and a powerful background presence at many meeting halls and educational establishments keeping a close watch on what was said to ensure it did not overstep the mark. Although the Priests themselves claimed not to intervene directly in the individual’s personal life in theory, the indirect influences were all-pervasive.
All public buildings and every office block or every home – even accommodation for mere Greys – also had its own low-level artificial intelligence element. These domestic robotics (or domotics) computers were more than mere functional devices for controlling the lighting or heating or door access or communications or issuing reminders, although they handled that as well of course.
The question that we will be investigating in this paper is why and when they first acquired the name “priestesses”. Was it a light-hearted and jocular reference back to phrases such as ‘domestic goddess’, or was it poking gentle fun at the Priesthood? Or does it perhaps hearken back to an earlier point when one of the key roles was to remind the faithful to pray and complete their blogs? And at what point did the habit of giving your house priestess a female name and synthetic personality develop? Is this a psychological reflection of the need for maternal[…]

Forms of address

These ranking colours provide the standard form of address. If it is someone of a similar rank who you know reasonably well, the colour is used as a prefix to the first name. If not, the colour can be appended to the word ‘citizen’. Failure to do so would be regarded as rude and uncivilized – a distinct breach of Etiquette. This also establishes that you are aware of the other person’s rank. Thereafter, a polite “miz” in front of a woman’s name or a “san” in front of a man’s is acceptable in any public or formal situation. Citizens’ first names are only used unadorned between family members and intimate friends.

When speaking to a priest in his official capacity, the title ‘Prester’ is the norm, generally with just the name and no colour rank. The latter part was seen as rather stating the obvious, as the priests wear large capes of the corresponding colour, rather than just epaulettes and so forth as trim of the appropriate colour on the uniform. They therefore stand out clearly in any crowd. One-on-one or when speaking to the man rather than the office, a priest may be addressed like any other citizen.

Within any hierarchy of functional ranks within the same organisation, such as a junior office to a senior, sir and ma’am; are widely used. It was rare but by no means impossible for someone to be below a colleague in seniority yet above them in colour. Larger departments would always find a way out of the impasse, though.

There is naturally no formal term of address for the disenfranchised Greys, who are of course not Citizens at all. They are spoken to bluntly by name, if addressed at all, in the same way as you might talk to an animal or a computer such as your priestess.


[extract from article by Wellbeck and Houellebecq, “Domotic worship?”, published in February 103 of the New Era on board GS Halcyon]

[…] that early on in the Federal era, the tendency of all people to demand the respect due to their rank soon led to a proliferation of formal behaviours. These then combined naturally with the prudishness and primness resulting from the repressive attitudes towards sexuality that were in fact carefully fostered by the higher echelons of the Priesthood in order to help keep the lid on population growth. This organically developing body of rules was formally codified during the aftermath of the Quatercentenary Rebellion, the point at which Federal society genuinely became all-encompassing throughout the world, eliminating the last coordinated groups of dissenting voices.

Failure to observe Etiquette may be reported not only by any citizen but also by any priestess or other intelligent device. This can result in fines or even the negative remarks known as ‘smirches’ on an individual’s formal FedMed records, all of which can be weighted into the provisional re-ranking every four years. You had the option of disabling much of such reporting, for example for mere use of inappropriate language, otherwise you might have ended up wasting time defending every swearword. There can however be no doubt that the priestesses did substantially reduce domestic and sexual violence.

An interesting counterpoint is that there are those who say that the higher rankers sometimes had such pressure on them to prove they lived up to the ideals that they could not disable the rules and were thus in fact the ones whose lives were worst affected by Etiquette, with no […]