24 February 2009

More Information Than You Ever Wanted to Know on Honoleo

The below is a quick summary I wrote on Honoleo. For more information on my imaginary land, go here, here, or here.

The Modern history of Honoleo begins in 1836, when a prince deposed his father from the Sharkhan Throne and promoted a vision of a democracy across Honoleo. His vision was too soon to be practicable, as the British were busy pursuing control of India and Honoleo at the time, and the country was riven by religious strife and various smaller kingdoms, each vying for control.

Gradually the Free State of Honoleo gained traction, first through the Treaty of Salden and later through the establishment of a constitution that blended aspects of British and American government, ratified in 1840.

At two times in the nation's history (1889-1903 and 1928-1938), the ostensibly democratic governments were overthrown by the elites in the country who were concerned about stability and order, and afraid that the Free State was ill-equipped to deal with a fractious and slow-moving democratic system.

In 1925, Nishar Adimur sent a delegation to the World Congress of the Communist International, an act that enraged many of the traditional elites in Honoleo. The Taesianh followed up by electing one of the members of the delegation, Ason Tanhuri, to succeed Adimur as the nation's Amushara (magistrate) in 1926. While Tanhuri never called himself a Bolshevik, his relationship with communists in Honoleo was too close for the comfort of the military and the nation's political elite. A cabal of (predominantly Christian) businessmen, general officers of the military, leading nationalist academics and politicians deposed Tanhuri. For the remaining ten years, Honoleo was ruled formally by an "emergency committee" called the State Restoration and Development Council, headed by Darius Chaldan. The SRDC reined in inflation, increased employment, and fed a hungry Honolean war machine as the nation withstood an attempted Japanese invasion and later joined the Allies in World War II. The SRDC also attracted all sorts of nationalist, fascist insticts in Honoleo, and embedded state corporatism into Honolean governance for decades. Although the SRDC promulgated a new constitution for a reformulated republic in 1938 (The Federated Commonwealths of Honoleo), the emergency committee remained in force as a shadow government until mounting civil unrest and political pressure led to its dissolution on 10 December 1949. Thus, many liberals celebrate this date as the true birth of Honoleo's democracy.

Honolean politics from 1950 through 1977 was defined by three themes: expansion of the welfare state, strident anticommunism, and Honolean nationalism. What is now known as Northern Honoleo was up until the mid-1930's a series of states, kingdoms, and tribal domains that was united in a Bolshevik-inspired revolution in 1936, giving rise to the Lean People's Republic. The LPR was a radical communist regime that was a persistent threat to the FCH, as both nations shared the nationalist ambition to unite the entire subcontinent under one flag - a dream that had been pursued by Honolean emperors for centuries. Dealing with the LPR was the dominant political issue of this era. It drove the FCH to seek ever closer ties with the United States although it pursued a social-democratic ideology akin to Europe. The FCH became a player in the cold war with the development of a secret nuclear arsenal. A bloody war launched in 1972 and a coup d'etat in the LPR resulted in the LPR's disollution in 1978. Honoleo was formally united on 4 October 1980.

Although communism was defeated in Honoleo in 1978, various chancellors found themselves mired in continuing conflicts throughout the 1980's, especially in Burma, where Honoleo engaged in a dirty war against drugrunners, guerillas, and terrorists in the northwest provinces of their neighbor. To this day, the FCH and Burma struggle to maintain normalcy in their bilateral relations.
The Honoleans were war-weary and threw out a conservative Chancellor, replacing him with the man responsible for bringing the LPR and the FCH together, Dahn Pishen.
Aside from two years in the early 1980's, the leftist Solidarity Union dominated the Honolean Chancery from 1958 to 1992. The more strident democratic socialism of the 1950-1972 era gave way to a more market-oriented, populist politics shared by the left and right in Honoleo. The economy grew significantly in this time, and Honoleo joined the club of the worlds richest nations in 1984. Due to years of political stability and a massive investment in health, education, and infrastructure, the FCH came to enjoy the same economic miracle that played out in Japan and Korea and, later, China.

The Restoration Coalition, the conservative umbrella organization that emerged out of the SRDC ended Solidarity's dominance beginning in the mid 1980's. By 1994, Restoration regained the Chancery. Honoleo's economy soared through the first half of the decade, and was even able to withstand the Asian financial crisis of 1997. Despite that, the 1990's also brought a rise in Islamist terror and a labour crisis that erupted into prolongued episodes of street violence. The late 1990's brought some labour reforms to the FCH, which had some harsh anti-labour laws on the books (a holdover from anticommunist politics that dominated the country for over 60 years). A full suite of labour reforms were not passed until 2003.

Restoration barely won the 2000 Chancery election, and Solidarity was making inroads into the Darsianh (parliament) and Taesianh (Senate) at the time. In 2002, the government committed troops to support the United States in its military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, a move that proved highly unpopular.

In 2004, Honoleans gave the Chancery back to the Solidarity coalition. A bruising primary exposed a deep ideological rift within the Solidarity movement, pitting a strident liberal against a centrist supported by the nation's political elite. The liberal won the primary, and eventually won the national election in an unprecedented first-round ballot. Solidarity's campaign for quality education, inter-religious dialogue, security from terrorism, environmental reforms, and a sovereign foreign policy spoke to the deep-seated concerns of much of the Honolean electorate.

In the next decade, Honoleans will confront the challenges of remaining competitive in a dramatically weakened world economy through education, economic development, and innovation; paying for a growing pensioner population; regional instability and terrorism; integrating a fast-growing and predominantly Muslim immigrant community; and environmental protection.

A note on culture and religion: Culture, religion, and politics go hand in hand in Honoleo. One racial group, the Chaganese, have historically dominated Honoleo's politics, economy, and intelligentsia. The Chaganese descend from the Mughals and Talmids (and ultimately the Persians). The Chaganese are monotheists, generally, and a large minority are Christian. Thus, they benefited the most from British, French, and Portuguese occupations. The Chaganese dominated the other two principle cultures in Honoleo: the eponymous Hon and Lean peoples. The Hon have share an ancestry with Malays and Thais; the Lean are an Indo-Iranian offshoot, as are the Chaganese. There are also major Hindi, Punjabi, and Chinese populations native to Honoleo.

Myriad religions are present in Honoleo. The Chaganese have a native sect, Jahanism, a syncretic, monotheistic faith that is centuries old. Jahanis and Christians dominate much of Honoleo's cultural elite. Hololeo has significant Buddhist and Hindu populations. Honoleo also has the world's largest population of Baha'is.

There are significant numbers of Muslims in Honoleo, and Muslims have emerged as the critical constituency in national elections. Indeed, Muslims have formed the core of Honoleo's small business economy for centuries -- they are the merchant class. Muslims tend to have a disproportionate burden of the nation's low-paying jobs. In the early 20th century, Muslims in the merchant-class tended to segregate themselves from the poorer Muslim congregations. Eventually, an organization called the Society of Reformed Scholars came to dominate the Islam practiced by Honoleo's middle class. The SRS was the first major Islamic group to name women as imams, and came to be a staunch defender of democracy and multiculturalism. This put them at odds with the rest of Honolean Islam, which was inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood movements throughout central Asia. Iranian and Saudi clerics went so far as to declare the SRS a heresy. Radical Islam has found a voice in Honoleo, especially in poor and distressed areas, as it has elsewhere in Asia.

10 February 2009

Imagination, Part III

Last September, I posted a small piece on this blog about a lifelong hobby of mine: the detailed study of a country called Honoleo (see the map by following the link).

So this last weekend, I finally did something I've wanted to do for a long time...but I have lacked the skills and time to do so: I drew a regional map in Adobe Illustrator, based on sketches and notes I've taken over the years.

Here it is (click for larger version):

This map is of the Honbaar/Iamhamuhr region. Honbaar (population 18 million) is Honoleo's most populous city, and Iamhamuhr is the nation's capital. This roughly 6,000 square mile region is home to over 30 million people, making it one of the world's most populous urban regions. Originally an Amnaean fishing village, Honbaar was seized by the British East India Company in 1737, and the town was redeveloped into a port city -- Lancaster. Renamed Honbaar in 1912 upon its return to the Honolean Republic, it grew and industrialized rapidly. In the last 50 years, Honbaar has become a center of trade, industry and finance in South Asia. It is a prosperous, diverse, and extraordinarily vibrant city. Like many Asian cities, the divide between rich and poor is extreme.

Iamhamuhr (population 5 million) is the second largest city in the region. Unlike Honbaar, which sits on marshy flatlands and an estuary, Iamahmuhr is in the foothills of the Pashan Tazhid Mountains. Traditionally used as a summer retreat by the Honolean emperors, Iamhamuhr was designated Honoleo's political capital (the Imperial capital remains at Saebaan) in 1912, the same year that Honbaar was returned to Honoleo. Iamhamuhr, at least initially, was a master-planned capital city. But it too grew rapidly, spilling over into the surrounding valleys.

Shahansarkhindi and Toru Inkateran are the population centers of the Inkaterani Raj region, in the Commonwealth of Northern Honoleo. Connected to Honbaar by regional trains, they function as suburbs of Honbaar. Due to Northern Honoleo's favorable tax climate, these cities have become centers of Honoleo's manufacturing industry in the last fifteen years, and are home to the largest concentration of automobile manufacturing jobs in the nation. Together, these cities are home to 5 million people.

This is still, of course, a work in progress. I'm still working on the map. I've been surprised at how long it's taken me to do. Rather than creating a fantasy or science fiction world, which has its own constraints but is unbound by our reality, I've found myself trying to create something as plausible as I possibly can. It's been an interesting process. The map is an effort to produce something as realistic as possible. The above image is my first real crack at it after years of thinking about it. I'm happy to share it with you.