The Hana

In order to gain an enlightened understanding of the structure and operations of our modern ruling class, it behooves us to examine its origins and the vicissitudes of its development. While there have been numerous previous attempts at such a comprehensive historical analysis, I shall acknowledge publicly that fact which already rests on the edge of everyone's minds but which none among my countrymen has yet dared to vocalize. To be explicit, those officially sanctioned treatises are fabrications, rife with inaccuracies and comparable in their faithfulness to reality to the yarns of a washed-up sailor.

(The sole exception, a leaked intelligence whitepaper that circulated during the brief period of heightened tensions between our Europa Centralis and the Byzantine Confederation, is now impossible to find due to the systematic purges by the government of the provincial archives. The Byzantines, however, have been magnanimous enough to permit me access to the totality of their unpurged archives in addition to granting me asylum in exchange for authoring this updated analysis.)

My intention behind writing this is not to incite violence or to seed revolutionary sentiments within Centralis. My goal is instead to shed light on the nature of the culture and national history of one of the world's foremost geopolitical and military superpowers. This is an endeavor as much for my own understanding as for that of anyone else, as I am perplexed without surcease by its turbulent social climates.

A few decades prior to the Great Unification, a small band of students enrolled at the Thaumaturgical University of Belgium-Luxembourg joined together and formed a private social club which they named The Hana. The central purpose of this group was to provide a forum wherein its founding members, the daughters of a number of wealthy and highly influential aristocratical families, could socialize and establish friendships with other students from similar walks of life. A group with such a premise, though appearing stiflingly elitist upon first inspection, was in actuality perhaps more benign than its de facto description suggests.

To elaborate, rather than seeking to conspire against the less prosperous students, as many believe is the wont of the rich, the founding members declared in the charter for their organization an overwhelming frustration with their current state of social affairs. They purported that their attempts to bond with their fellow students had to date proven a Sisyphean challenge, as the bulk of their peers were more interested in familiarizing themselves with the founding members as a means of obtaining material gains or securing career opportunities versus nuturing a meaningful sense of camaraderie. To that end, the group was formed to allow its members to interact in a context entirely removed from academic, financial, and professional concerns.

It was not long after the initial formation of the group before large crowds of their classmates, including friends and acquaintances alike, approached the founders requesting membership. To accommodate the influx of applicants, the most psychologically perceptive founders were designated as screeners. These screeners would arrange interviews and social outings with individuals whose candidacy was particularly promising as a means of discerning whether said candidates would be agreeable toward the other members, as well as if said candidates were genuine in their claims of seeking only to construct substantial friendships or if they merely desired powerful connections and social status.

Indeed, as knowledge of The Hana spread among the student body, membership became a potent status symbol, implying as it did deep ties with the heiresses of influential families and businesses. This prompted a separate body of students, comprising both those unwilling to attempt The Hana's membership application process and those whose applications had been rejected, to collude with one another and falsely assert membership in the group, with their co-conspirators supporting these assertions when questioned. News of these falsifications soon reached the founders, though they hesitated at first to take action against these individuals whom they perceived as harmless pranksters. When clusters of them grew bold enough to arrive uninvited and cause trouble at member-exclusive events, however, the founders responded by issuing out concrete and irreplicable identifiers to the true members.

The family of one of the founders, specifically, owned a monopoly on all gold mining operations on the continent, and another founder's family had likewise consolidated the silver mining industry. At the behest of their daughters, the precious metal magnates collaborated to open a minor joint business venture solely for the production of a series of metallic badges used to identify members of The Hana. These badges were fabricated through an elaborate automated procedure as to eliminate the possibility of theft by workers, and were composed of an undisclosed alloy of electrum with a distinctive iridescent sheen. (A badge from the original batch released by the organization has been preserved in excellent condition in the Byzantines’ archives; to be certain, I’ve never seen any other metal with such a color as that badge.)

As a further measure against duplication, each badge was marked by the head scribe, who was chosen from among the group’s founders based on her thaumaturgical prowess and who crafted a unique sigil for each new member’s badge. Attendance to any gathering of The Hana thereafter required the attendees to have their badge visible on their person throughout the duration of the event, as well as to present their badge to the head scribe or one of her deputies upon arrival for inspection and verification. This rigorous bookkeeping and meticulous examination by the scribes thwarted all of the subsequent attempts by outsiders to replicate the badges.

This methodology functioned without error for a time, but eventually an incident occurred that deeply perturbed the founders and other long-standing members, and that instigated a major overhaul in the organization’s application process. The incident in question entailed a member who, saturated with feelings of animosity toward a few of her fellows but unwilling to discuss her grievances with them, failed to exit the group by the agreed-upon procedure but instead simply ceased participating in any of the club activities. Most alarming to her peers, however, was her decision to auction off her badge to an outsider rather than relinquishing it to the founders.

The incident came to light when the apparent winner of the auction tried to gain entry to a social gathering with the purchased badge. Though the scribes succeeded in deterring the imposter and confiscating the badge, the group erupted into turmoil over their departed member’s betrayal. In an effort to ease the justifiable anxieties of their friends, as well as to ensure the future stability and integrity of The Hana, the founders implemented three sweeping, fundamental revisions to the rules for the club’s structure and operation.

First, the process for joining the group changed from freely allowing applications from any parties interested in membership to requiring potential recruits to have a personal invitation extended to them by a member of at least two years who was in good standing with the group at large. In order to determine the standing of any given member among her peers, the founders put into place an anonymous monthly survey in which each member ranked on a numerical scale their general opinion of every other member. Statistics generated from these surveys were then utilized as a weighting factor when contemplating a proposed invitation.

(According to memos circulated among the founders, a less restrictive variant of this particular change in policy had been under consideration prior to the incident, as the workload from the torrential inpouring of applicants had all but drowned the screeners, even after boosts to their staffing.)

Second, in conjunction with the standard battery of interviews and meetings with screeners, all invited applicants were required both to take an extensive personality test and to undergo a psychological evaluation by a licensed psychoanalyst, regardless of however personable or otherwise promising they seemed during their other interactions with the screeners. To cover the expenses of retaining a psychoanalyst and to compensate the screeners for their time spent handling both the candidates and the new paperwork, the founders also began charging monthly membership dues in addition to instating an application fee.

Third, any female members whose statistical social standing fell below a certain threshold of likeability were permanently expelled from The Hana, along with all male members. Moreover, all males were henceforth barred from membership without exception. While the underlying motivation behind the first aspect of this final change is straightforward to comprehend, since the traitorous auctioneer was in remarkably poor standing with her peers prior to the incident, the second aspect appears at first glance to be redolent with misandry. Drastic as it was, however, the founders’ decision to ban any and all males from joining was wholly justified when the specific details of the incident are taken into consideration.