View Full Version : Several questions here: politics, forming of nations, terrorism

08-03-2008, 07:07 PM
My current WIP has a slightly more complex plot/background than anything else I've written before, and I need help with some of the major points.

A very quick summary: The novel is somewhat speculative fiction, but - hopefully - also somewhat literary in nature (my biggest influence is Margaret Atwood, and her blending/cross-over of several genres in Oryx and Crake and The Handmaid's Tale). My FMC is an Australian from a middle-class, typical family, and the antagonist is her male best friend who she meets in childhood, who is the child of middle-class immigrants (not sure from where just yet). The story focuses heavily on her relationship with her friend, following them both from childhood to adulthood (though always from her POV) and how he basically manipulates her their whole life - he's not a bad person, but he is a born leader with strong political beliefs and a ruthless outlook, while she is as apathetic and easily led as they come, mostly because she is infatuated with him throughout their life. So while it is character-driven, there is also a strong undercurrent of societal and political themes, which is where the plot and speculative fiction aspect come in. Sometime while they are growing up, the drought in Australia becomes critical enough that an unprecedented historical event occurs - Australia splits itself into two, basically selling half the land to another nation (details on this are fuzzy) in return for the technology/money needed to set *something* up that will produce the water (details are VERY fuzzy here). This is the first in a series of very radical policies put into action by a newly elected government, and middle Australia is very approving of everything they are doing. By the time my FMC and her friend are at university (he is high up in student politics by now, very active in protests etc., and she goes along with it but doesn't have any strong beliefs herself either way) the government has instigated more and more policies that are taking the nation towards somewhat of a dictatorship, though it is done with such clever propaganda that most of the country remains pleased with the way things are going. The male character and his left-wing friends are of course very opposed to the government and protest regularly in a variety of ways. Finally, the government makes another big move that has something to do with overhauling immigration laws. They announce the immediate deportment of all non-Australian born residents to a part of the country set aside for this purpose, and also announce that, in order to set the laws up properly, this area will actually become a nation of its own, though still under their sovereignty. They present the arrangement as temporary, make a lot of noise about compensations etc. and that most of the residents will be allowed back in once the laws are set in place and providing they pass the new regulations. I'm imagining that they might also send the Aborigines out into the desert under the guise of magnaminously giving them back their land, though in reality it is only a very small area, it is unuseable to them anyway and because the Aborigines have largely lost their old ways of living with the hostile environment, plus the overcrowding of said environment, it is essentially a death sentence. Of course, as immigrants, the male character's parents are among those deported, as are several of his friends and members of his student faction. Reports start to filter in that the new nation immigrants were sent to is actually nothing more than a big ghetto where all kinds of human rights are being violated. The male character gets news of his father's death in the nation, and this spurs him to publicly renounce his citizenship in protest and demands to be removed to the new nation in protest. The government happily obliges, though our FMC is left bereft.

Fast forward around 10 years, and the FMC has drifted away from politics without her friend around to keep her interested, and has made a fairly normal but boring life of working as an advertising copywriter. She meets a fairly normal and boring man and gets engaged to him, but still thinks about her friend all the time.

She is sent to one of the other nations - not the ghetto or the Aboriginal one, but the first one that came under the agreement of the government - for something to do with work, and there is shocked to run into her old friend, who has snuck into that nation with the eventual plan of getting himself and several of his conspirators back over the border into Australia, to carry out a plan that he doesn't elaborate to her at that time. He asks her to help them by arranging for them to have somewhere to live and hide. She agrees, returns home and secretly rents a large house. A month or so later, her friend turns up and his group move into the house. She spends time with them there, lying to her fiance about where she is, and starts to hear about some of their plans, and even helps them with some of their smaller subversions. Finally she ends up leaving her fiance altogether and moves into the house with them - she is totally under her friend's spell again. He tells her about their one major plot, which involves the coordinated suicide bombing of several trains (similar to what happened in Madrid, and London). He tells her he is to be one of the bombers, and convinces her to be one too (she agrees for several reasons, partly because of a depression/loss of will to live due to some previous events in her life/her complicated relationship with her friend).

Well that actually turned out to be a very long summary, but as I say, it's complicated compared to what I usually write! Here are my questions/concerns.

1. About the splitting of the nation/selling off the land - how plausible is this? As far as I know, most new nations are formed by wars and such, but I don't think it's too hard a stretch to imagine an economical transaction instead. But who would they be selling/exchanging with - which country has either the money or superior technology that is needed to save Australia from its drought? It's not actually important to the story which nation it is, but I want it to be fairly believable.

2. What technology could actually work to resolve a drought? The novel is set in the present, more or less, albeit an alternative present, so it can't be anything too 'futuristic'.

3. What possible reasons could the government give, in the form of propaganda, for deporting all immigrants? What would be beneficial enough for middle class Australians that they largely approve of the policy? Mind you, the current climate of racism in Australia is probably reason enough for most - white, middle class Australians do like blaming a lot of the country's problems on 'immigrants'.

4. What sort of things can the government start doing that shows that they are getting more and more repressive/dictatorial - but still be able to spin it to the general public as being for the good of the nation?

5. The part I am having most trouble with - why are they blowing up trains? What are they hoping to achieve? They are not terrorists in the way that their main aim is to kill people, but they are willing to accept the fact that people will die for the greater good of hurting the government and hopefully overthrowing it. I'm wondering if the role of the bombings might be to act as a distraction from a much larger plan that will strike at the government directly - not sure.

I think I do have a bit of a safety net in the fact that I am trying to make this literary, which allows for somewhat less detail in the plot than if it was a thriller or something. Hopefully the reader will be so engrossed in the themes, symbolism and characters that they won't think to question the plausibility of some aspects of the plot - hmm, that probably sounds weak and lazy, but there are several novels out there that kind of illustrate what I mean (back to Margaret Atwood once again, I know I've never questioned what happens in The Handmaid's Tale and how likely it is for that kind of society to actually form the way it did). Also, because it is told from my FMCs POV, there are things that she won't actually know or understand herself (though she does get preached to alot, by her friend!)

If you've read this far, my infinite gratitude!

08-04-2008, 12:20 AM
1. See #2

2. Well there is "desalinization." It's used a lot in the Middle East, where water is scarce, and they have lots of oil revenue to throw around. Basically you take the salt out of sea water. While it is expensive, especially if you had to pipe it all the way to the interior of Australia, I don't think they'd have to sell off land to pay for it. They might just raise taxes significantly.

3. You could always blame the immigrants for spreading some kind of disease. Just release a nasty strain of the flu virus, say the immigrants brought it over, and deport them for the sake of "public health."

4. Curfews, martial law, etc., also in the name of "public health."

5. Shutting down public transit would go a long way toward just about any demands you wanted to make.

Phil DeBlanque
08-04-2008, 03:22 AM
"1. About the splitting of the nation/selling off the land - how plausible is this? As far as I know, most new nations are formed by wars and such, but I don't think it's too hard a stretch to imagine an economical transaction instead. But who would they be selling/exchanging with - which country has either the money or superior technology that is needed to save Australia from its drought? It's not actually important to the story which nation it is, but I want it to be fairly believable."

Liberia. It's a small african nation created by buying large land extensions. Sorry, not quite so.
And I agree with Rainy. the United Emirates - Dubai & co. would have enough to invest in this new country.
But may I sugest something? In your history, water has became quite valuable in Australia, right? Well, there's 3 countries that will dominate the water market in near future: Brazil, Russia and Canada. How about using one of those?

4. a) the "we vs them" mentality always works. create an enemy, make it responsible for everything, from drought and inflation to kittens traped in trees. The population will censor thenselves, this way. To say anything against the powers-that-be is to be labeled anti-patriotic.

b) pane et circensis. Make some great diversion to the public - national sports tournment, a challenge to build the largest something in the world, put a revolutionary satelite on orbit, etc. While doing that, force the unpopular laws without noticing.

c) fear. We must do this, or the terrorists will atack, the inflation will return, your firstborn will die, "Jones will be back".

hope this helps some

08-04-2008, 09:12 AM
Hi, Kenzie.

I'm thinking China would have enough money and interest to buy parts of Australia, for resources such as iron ore, natural gas, oil (though I believe we have the wrong kind needed to make petrol) and (eeek!) uranium.

There are already some areas of Australia that are governed by Aboriginal law, to some extent. To give them back an entire chunk of land and say, "sorry about all that before, here's your land back", to me, sounds quite plausible.

A desalination plant is currently being built in Sydney amidst much controversy.

Religion is a hot topic in this country, and in particular, the Muslim religion. Incidents which have been sparked in the name of religion have quickly escalated into riots, shootings and stabbings. I think it would be easy enough to blame a sharp rise in the crime rate to a certain cultural group in this way. I don't know how you would go about getting rid of all the immigrants, though.

I think having the government show how much money they have in their coffers, how well the crops are growing because of all the water, how prosperous the country has become, would be a smokescreen to cover their real motive.

08-04-2008, 05:34 PM
I suggest you look at Australia's constitution. I'm willing to bet that there'd be some reason that it simply couldnt' sell land. (although Australia used to control what is now Papua New Guinea, but thats probably a different case, as it is clearly a different land mass) I was thinking about this as far as the United States goes; A US state could never be sold to a foreign country; because if the Federal government tried it, it would violate State's Rights, but if a State tried to do it, it would violate Federal law. Its kind of a catch-22 that would forbid any state being sold (territories are a different matter, we could probably sell American Samoa). Perhaps there'd be a similar situation in Australia.

Then there's the difference between 'buying land' and transfering sovereignty. Anyone can go to a country and buy land (now, I believe that Australia has laws against non-citizens owning land, but work with me here) For example, the Chinese government could buy your house from you. But they could only use it as a house; they couldn't put an army base there, they might use it as a consulate, but they'd have to get special permission, and so forth. The use of the land is theirs, within the law of the land, which isn't China, unless sovereignty is also transferred, generally by treaty.

In the modern era, countries are very reluctant to transfer sovereignty. They prefer to give long term leases to other countries, (for example, Guantanamo base in Cuba is the United State's by an 'indefinate lease'; which means it lasts forever, but its still, technically a lease, so the land still, technically, belongs to Cuba. (whats the difference? Presumably, and I'm not sure about this, the lease is non-transferrable, so that the USA can't sell Guantanamo bay to Sweden, for example, and if we abandon it, the land legally reverts to Cuba) In such leases sovereignty is understood to be temporarily transferred, to revert to the owning country after the lease expires (as it recently did for Hong Kong).

And as for deportation of immigrants, the only example of this in modern times I can think of was Uganda, under the inimitable Idi Amin, who expelled all Asians (who formed the bulk of the middle class, btw) because he suspected them of conspiring against him. This was widely regarded as a Really Bad Move, and led to severe repercussions, both in foreign affairs and domestically. I find it hard to believe that a modern, democratic state could make such a thing happen, racist or not. Even if the immigrants are universally poor (which they wouldn't be) getting rid of them would cause an economic collapse, almost certainly. The economy rests on the poor and the middle class. The rich are expendable; get rid of them, and the richest middle classers will be the new upper class. a country can't do without either the unskilled labor class or the professional class.

As far as #4 goes, just look at what the United States government has been doing over the past 50 years.

08-04-2008, 10:13 PM
Thanks for the replies everyone - they are very helpful.

Sarpedon, as far as I know we don't have a constitution at all - someone please correct me if I'm wrong on this, but I've heard it mentioned before in debates about free speech etc. - technically we don't actually have the automatic 'right to free speech' as the US does. But your question did make me wonder what Ms Liz would make of all this - I think I might just have to make the Republic bill pass early on in the piece to give the government more power.

Very good point about the economy collapsing if they kicked out immigrants, I will have to ponder on this.

08-05-2008, 01:26 AM
Oh. I guess having a general outline of how the government is supposed to work is something we yanks take for granted.

I always thought that while some countries might not have one per se, they nevertheless have a body of law and tradition that amounts to the same thing. It wouldn't surprise me if there weren't some legislation on the books that would relate to that.

08-05-2008, 02:00 AM
We've a constitution, just no Bill of Rights. The constitution has a clause on New States and how they're to be formed, but that refers to new states within the federation. I'll have a closer look at your Qs this afternoon.

08-05-2008, 02:03 AM
Here's a sampler.

Commonwealth Of Australia Constitution Act
Chapter VI. New States.

121. The Parliament may admit to the Commonwealth or establish new States, and may upon such admission or establishment make or impose such terms and conditions, including the extent of representation in either House of the Parliament, as it thinks fit.

122. The Parliament may make laws for the government of any territory surrendered by any State to and accepted by the Commonwealth, or of any territory placed by the Queen under the authority of and accepted by the Commonwealth, or otherwise acquired by the Commonwealth, and may allow the representation of such territory in either House of the Parliament to the extent and on the terms which it thinks fit.

123. The Parliament of the Commonwealth may, with the consent of the Parliament of a State, and the approval of the majority of the electors of the State voting upon the question, increase, diminish, or otherwise alter the limits of the State, upon such terms and conditions as may be agreed on, and may, with the like consent, make provision respecting the effect and operation of any increase or diminution or alteration of territory in relation to any State affected.

124. A new State may be formed by separation of territory from a State, but only with the consent of the Parliament thereof, and a new State may be formed by the union of two or more States or parts of States, but only with the consent of the Parliaments of the States affected.

The rest is here (http://www.aph.gov.au/SEnate/general/constitution/index.htm).

08-05-2008, 03:44 PM
Some other thoughts:

25% of people in Australia were born overseas. In places like Sydney and Perth, places where all the political power is, that percentage is much higher. If you add up 1st and 2nd generation offspring of migrants (people whose parents and grandparents would be sent away under your scenario), the percentage will be even higher. Another 15% have parents born overseas, for example. Now you're up to 40% of the population who'll be alienated by this scheme. (Hell, I'd have to wave goodbye to my grandparents. ;) ) I'm having difficulty imagining how this plan could have near-universal support.

Perhaps you'd be better limiting it to certain classes of immigrants.

08-05-2008, 08:55 PM
Thanks Albedo - I stand corrected!

Maybe there would have to be another 'clause' to their choosing who to kick out and who not to - such as if they've been here less than a certain number of years. Also, I think the fact that they are dressing it up as temporary, and would probably almost make it seem like a paid holiday for those being deported, there would be less of a negative reaction from the public, at first.

Clearly I'll need to do some serious research - you've all been great at helping me figure out exactly what I need to look into!

08-05-2008, 11:22 PM
I'd recommend moving this thread into the Sandbox forum. It is a great discussion but I think you'd get more response there. Maybe too much! Too many info-geeks lurking in this shady spot.