Luminaire, Gallente Prime, child of warmth and light, whispered what it knew to the Gallente.

A soft land, a kind land, a garden world where the worst people had to fear was each other (and that only a little, for abundance gives little reason to fight), it taught them the small truths, the important lies, that would smooth over their conflicts with their fellows.

No need for rigid hierarchy. No need for painful choices, or tight control, or clannishness, or all-consuming faith. Enough that each should live a life apart, individual, untroubled by the beliefs of others, unless that life should seek to dominate and control, for in a world of plenty the greatest threat is the lingering instinct for hierarchy, the longing for power.

The answer: not anarchy, which invites collapse into rigid order, but a structure of systematically limited control, power bestowed on the many, but power limited to inhibit the tyranny of numbers.

These limits, named as “rights”, mark the lines that power may not cross. They are—they have to be—universal, or else meaningless. A right must be nuanced to avoid becoming, itself, a tyranny, but a right to be breached at will is unsound material to build a house from.

So the small truth is told that rights are inherent to living humans as breath. This is the great merit of the Gallente. The idea of “rights” tempers their passions, limits the majority’s might, and dignifies the individual person. It is when “rights” are embraced even in the face of adversity that the Gallente are at their best. It is when passion overrides structure, and power overrides regard for “inherent” rights, that they are at their worst.

So the important lie is told that rights are inherent to living humans as breath. This, not their passion, is the great tragedy of the Gallente. Seeing that others do not hold with rights that are, to them, inherent—seeing individuals suppressed, devalued, limited, even owned as possessions—they object, as they must. Rights are said to be inherent and absolute, independent of culture or ruler, and so they must be protected and fought for, no matter who rules and no matter where.

They tell themselves that what limits their power over one another, the rafters of their house of individuality and freedom, should limit all. This will to spread their belief, though necessary to their own stability, makes them conquerors.

Were they alone in this place, there would be no tragedy arising from this: their way stands well on its own merits. Faced with other ways, however, the small truths that limit the power of human to prey on human become predatory, themselves.

Perhaps if the Gallente told themselves that rights are not forged of starlight, but of thought, if they recognized the human fragility of those agreements about What Power Shall Not Do, there would be no more need to fight. But perhaps the admission that rights are forged by humans, and not by the universe (and so are flawed and subject to rethinking), is the very last that they can afford to make.

Source: Intergalactic Summit
Reprinted with author’s permission.