This week we return to the Airman's Gazetteer with a look at a nation that's already been extensively covered; the Iron Collective.
This isolationist, technological theocracy is viewed with a great deal of wariness by the other nations of Darmonica. It has refused to maintain any diplomatic relation. Its goals and motives are unknown, the regime refuses to let any of its citizens be exposed to any external influence. All everyone can do is keep a close eye on the Iron Collective.
The Iron Collective
Every aspect of life within the Iron Collective is dominated by the Order of the Great Machine, originally an offshoot of the Cult of the Great Maker. The Order views society as being one, gigantic machine with every man, woman and child forming an intricate part of that machine by having their own particular roles to play. To achieve this end, the Order has completely rebuilt Sodkan society from the ground up. Families no longer exist, instead the State pairs people up and gives them a quota of children to produce. The pairings and quotas are dependent on various factors such as local population, required traits, etc. All this is administrated under the State Bureau of Social Affairs and Development, which also collects genetic samples from every citizen to analyse and to keep on record.
Children typically stay with their parents until they turn five years old, at which point they are taken and placed in a state academy. They complete their 'Primary Phase' education which ensures that they're educated to a reasonable standard in addition to being continuously assessed. These assessments come into play when the child turns 13 and starts their 'Secondary Phase' of education, this is when they receive their Classification and directed towards a certain trade. The trade chosen is based on the Primary Phase assessments and is considered to be what the particular will be best suited for. They will then be sent to specialized academies for the chosen trade to do their Secondary Phase education. The trade, and Classification, is permanent and isn't normally allowed to be changed. Though before starting Secondary Phase education a person can petition for a certain trade, but must complete a more vigorous assessment to prove that trade is suitable for them.
Crime is punished by Declassification, effectively a revoking of a person's rights as a citizen. They cannot collect their state rations, cannot receive healthcare and cannot get what is considered to be a 'legal' job. The Declassified tend to wind up either in state labour camps or forced to seek refuge in the fringes of society. There are also what is known as the Unclassified which are spilt into two broad categories. The first category is those who fail their Primary Phase, basically their assessments were too inconclusive to assign a trade. The other category is 'non-citizens', basically those who aren't in the system. Their status is similar to the Declassified, but they do have a greater freedom of movement within the Collective and can apply for state 'work for benefits' programmes to gain access to basic rations and healthcare. Both groups tend to form the Iron Collective's criminal underworld, they are also the ones that are more likely to deal with outsiders.
The Collective has no currency, people work assigned jobs to receive rations and other state benefits. Though bartering does occur, but that tends to be in areas away from the central authority. Despite it being illegal, some people do trade with other nations but they have to use that nation's currency in order to do so. Non-Classified citizens have an easier time of this than their Classified cousins, the Unclassified in particular who can move around more freely and tend to form the bulk of the traders who operate out of the Collective. The Iron Guard, the state's combined military and police force, does try to clamp down on the cross-border trading but border duties tend to be fulfilled by the Unclassified who sign on as auxiliaries and are more willing to turn a blind eye. The central authority has slowly been expanding its reach and important border settlements now have a detachment of Regulators, the Collective's secret police.
The biggest shock to outsiders entering the Collective is the efforts being remade to rebuild the entire country on a so-called 'grid pattern'. Settlements have been razed and then rebuilt on a grid layout with future expansion planned to keep inline with this. Roads, railways and even rivers have been rerouted to form straight lines. This gets more noticeable as you travel deep into the heart of the Collective, but even the border regions aren't completely immune from this. The stated reason is 'too improve efficiency', but many fear a much more darker reason.