[Beyond the Borders] Q&A with Toonela, World Assembly Delegate of the Social Liberal Union





Q&A with Toonela, World Assembly Delegate of the Social Liberal Union




PhDre: Where did you get your start in NS and how did you get to where you are today?

Toonela:
I created my first nation, ‘Great Ohio Valley’, on the very last day of May in 2020, just as my last year of at university for my undergraduate degrees were ending, and I pretty much immediately joined the Social Liberal Union and never looked back. I discovered shortly after entering the community that the regional roleplay scene did not take place on Earth and that references to real life polities were discouraged, so after lingering on for a bit in that form, I created ‘Toonela’ and allowed my former nation to expire in November of that same year. As far as regional politics go, I got my start as a secretary in North American Republic’s (NAR’s) Ministry of Domestic Affairs, and as an Ambassador to South Pacific in Goncar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Roleplay was something I was much more focused on at the time, and I repaid NAR for allowing me to help him as a volunteer by running against him in the follow-up election, where I managed to scrap into second place by a single vote and become his Deputy Minister.

I took a leave of absence from the regional government for a time following the end of my term as Deputy Minister, but stayed on as a Special Advisor to the Delegate Brys Questions. I returned to government as an Ambassador to Wintercrest, then was appointed Speaker Pro Tempore by Speaker Anaaxes before the opportunity to run for the Delegacy re-emerged once Brys Questions retired at the end of her second term. I ended up running uncontested in that election without a single vote being cast against the confirmation, which shocked me at the time, and then when re-election came knocking two four months later (this past week), I was similarly surprised to have won with more votes despite having an alternative candidate on the ballot.

At the end of the day, I’ve had all of these opportunities to serve due to the other members of the region trusting my ability to do something useful for them, and for them I am very grateful.

PhDre: Can you tell us an overview of SLU? How is your domestic politics structured?

Toonela:
Sure! The Social Liberal Union’s foundational piece of law is the Third Constitution, which has been in force since May of 2017. It establishes the qualifications for member state status, the rights of residents, outlines our basic values, underlines our principled neutrality in military matters, creates voting procedure, creates a Court of Justice, enshrines the Open Parliament as the supreme authority of the land, and establishes the executive branch.

Nations residing in SLU fall into two broad categories: Resident and Member States. Resident states are required by law to meet minimum political freedoms and civil rights classification requirements or be ejected, and have no legal rights, while member states, which are those residents who are in the WA, have been granted a WA wavier, or are a diplomatic officer assigned to the region, are protected by law, entitled to certain rights, and are (in most cases) fully-fledged members of the Open Parliament.

Like I mentioned earlier, the Open Parliament is the supreme authority of the region. It is made up of every member state (with some minor caveats) and passes various bills, such as acts, resolutions, treaty ratifications, and authorizes states of emergency. The Open Parliament is forbidden from delegating significant duties reserved to it by the Constitution to any other body, so as to preserve the regional democracy and guard against the development of an insular executive. The Speaker of the Open Parliament, its custodian, is directly elected by the region’s member states and primarily deals with procedural and record-keeping duties.
The executive branch is composed of the World Assembly Delegate, Office of World Assembly Affairs, and the Ministries and their departments. The Delegate, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Domestic Affairs, and Minister of Immigration form the Cabinet, which creates overarching regional policy collectively, but at the instigation of the Delegate at the beginning of their term, who as chief executive and chief diplomat is ultimately tasked with voting in the World Assembly on behalf of the region, providing updates to the region-at-large on government affairs, defending the rights of member states, leading any regional military ventures, and carrying out low-level oversight of the Ministries.

The three ministries create and execute policy in their respective jurisdictions, again that would be Foreign Affairs, Domestic Affairs, and Immigration (hopefully their jurisdictions are somewhat self-explanatory), and their Ministers are directly elected, with their Deputy Ministers being the runner-ups in the elections which saw them take office. This gives every Minister a similar democratic basis as the World Assembly Delegate, justifying their own broad powers over their own portfolios without Delegate interference.

The Chancellor is the chief officer of the Court of Justice, conducting trials, resolving disputes, issuing advisory opinions to the government on legal issues, ensuring the Constitutionality of policies or actions, sentencing defendant states, issuing subpoenas, and issuing new rulings or vacating past rulings. Fortunately, the Court of Justice and the Chancellor very rarely have any business before them in, and it is rare for the region to escalate with any grievance caused by a member state to the point of trial.

As for the region’s Founder account, it is held in joint control by Trustees elected by the Open Parliament, and has been since our withdrawal from the original region following Ainland’s coup there in 2020.

PhDre: What would you say is the most important / most unique part of SLU compared to other NationStates communities?

Toonela:
Oh, that’s an easy question. SLU’s strong and persistent sense of equality is, in my experience, simply unmatched. I don’t just mean this in the sense of formal equality before regional law, either. The community as a whole embraces the notion that if you are in the region and working to get along, we’re all on the same side, and so are always willing to help the next person write their first bill, run for office, draft an Issue, dish out advice on issues being faced out of character, and generally cheer each other on. Even if two people in SLU disagree on contentious political or regional issues or were once on the opposite sides of bitter arguments, they are no less likely to wish one another ‘good luck’ on their next personal endeavors.

PhDre: So when did you first get involved in SLU? How did that experience go?

Toonela:
I first got involved with the community via the Discord. There was a fun little incident early on where I was temporarily kicked from the server due to a misunderstanding over my part in a conversation with another server member who, at the time, was developing some problematically combative habits, but it was eventually resolved. Officially, my first experience as a volunteer for the region was as a Domestic Affairs Secretary, where my ideas for a newsletter converged with a new website that the Minister had been working on. I ended up playing a minor role in that, mostly just making suggestions and giving some feedback on functionality. I did, however, manage to put some life back into the long-form side of our roleplay for a time, and helped collaborate responses to one of our Roleplay Scenarios, so I was quite happy with how things went, even if I initially felt as if I had dropped the ball.

PhDre: You are currently World Assembly Delegate of SLU, and recently won election to a second term. What is your favorite part of being Delegate?

Toonela:
It’s definitely diplomacy with other regions! I’ve always been a terrible extrovert no matter what kind of space I am in, so the opportunities as chief diplomat to go out into other regions and onto different forums where NS’ers gather, see what their communities are like, speak to others, get to know where friendships can be pursued more vigorously, and learning more about the oddities of the gameplay scene along the way, well, that’s all been very fun, despite the frustrations that can come up at times.

PhDre: You created the Office of World Assembly Affairs - what are your goals for the Office? What would a successful Office of World Assembly Affairs look like?

Toonela:
My immediate goal is to create interest in the World Assembly via increased regional discussion, but I think a successful Office of World Assembly Affairs will ultimately be a branch of the executive that doesn’t just take the lead on discussions which help determine the regional majority which dictates the Delegate’s vote, but has a core of knowledge that member states can use to point to the history of the World Assembly, examine standing resolutions and precedent, and see where the pan-leftist agenda can be advanced on the inter-regional stage, whether that be tearing down old resolutions on intellectual properties or advancing a broader understanding of just how many nations do not wish to fall into the normative presumptions of something like a narrow interpretation of potential economic systems in the forum.

PhDre: SLU doesn’t have an active military - so how do you engage with NationStates gameplay? Do SLU have any goals that you are working towards with regarding to gameplay?

Toonela:
Many members of the region have an ambivalent attitude towards gameplay and our policies have long reflected that ambivalence. My own personal position has recently been that if I cannot find some value in NS gameplay, there’s little reason for me to continue logging into my nation’s account, as Issues are not particularly compelling to me. During my tenure as Delegate, I’ve tried to reconcile my personal wish to proactively seek new areas of engagement with gameplay with that pre-existing ambivalence by drawing attention to parts of the gameplay community where members of the region can exercise power without the need for a military. That’s often actualized as reaching out for inter-regional cultural events, being more tuned into what other regions are doing in their own communities, exploring the implications of the World Assembly’s existing and proposed resolutions, checking in on the health of Antifa operations in an environment of increased R/D tensions, and supporting one another in endeavors like drafting new Issues. I think, in the short term, we are going to see these efforts gather steam, with new initiatives taken by SLU members in organizations like The Red Fleet, our Office of World Assembly Affairs, and NSLeft.

PhDre: SLU is a member of NSLeft, an interregional alliance of left-wing regions. How does your community see itself within NSLeft?

Toonela:
We see ourselves as a key part of the alliance, both administratively and militarily. Courelli, a one-man bulwark of Antifascism on the site and our current Minister of Immigration, currently leads The Red Fleet (TRF), NSLeft’s official inter-regional military organization, as well as administers NSLeft’s Discord server. As additional blockages to activity in the organization, such as the old Red & Black forum site and the earlier incarnation of the Central Committee fall away in the wake of reforms and new alternatives, I believe very strongly we will continue to be among the loudest voices pushing for inter-regional cooperation in new fields of activity. It’s something we’re already seeing with Courelli’s recent reorganization of the ranks of TRF and North American Republics’ hosting of an NSLeft game night.

PhDre: SLU is in the process of signing (or perhaps by the time this is published, signed!) a treaty with Europeia. Can you speak a little about this relationship, and what makes you excited about SLU-Europeian relations?

Toonela:
Certainly! I’m not intimately familiar with our regions’ relations prior to my first term as Delegate, so there’s little I can speak to there, but I do recall first being interested in Europeia early on in my term when our Foreign Affairs team was putting together their ambassadorial assignments. I became more curious during the Spring Beach Bash as an observer of The South Pacific’s participation in that event as an Ambassador to their region, so I joined Europeia’s Discord, saw what the community was like for myself, and began talking to Foreign Affairs about opportunities to give our communities more exposure to one another. That whole process eventually led to SLU and Europeia having our first cultural event together in the form of a game night, which was a friendly affair, and I think our shared values have really underpinned how well our community members get along with one another.

For me, those shared values are interesting enough already for further engagement, but when I contemplate the future of Europeian-SLU relations what really excites me are the expanded opportunities to support each other’s members. Whether that be by transmitting expertise and skills between our members in areas of gameplay like Issue writing and inter-regional diplomacy, or participating in friendly competitions where our communities ultimately advise one another on how best to proceed with, say, composing a song or writing a short story, I believe there’s a lot of potential out there we’ve yet to really hit upon yet, but will in the future.

PhDre: Do you personally have any particular NS hopes or ambitions for the future?

Toonela:
If you had asked me this question a few weeks ago, I’d have had a solid answer, but in light of how site administrators have recently conducted themselves, I’d say that old standby ambition of mine is now too up in the air to give as an answer. I’m hopeful that my future engagement with the site can be, somehow, more fruitful. I’d like very much to be able to say that my time engaging with all of the many kind people I’ve met and care about the well-being of here can have a more productive outcome, for both myself and those involved on this site with me, than simply being a site of comfortable socialization. I spend a lot of time wondering what the limits of this broader community are and at what point my desire to both learn from and teach others worthwhile skills (and more skills than just rhetorical ones) will run against those limits so severely I will need to make that determination that my time is better spent elsewhere. I think I’m still too busy exploring where those limits are to have any particular ambitions yet outside of my desire to see Antifa continue to effectively keep this site free of the kind of people who would impede us all.
 

Sopo

former prime minister of new sorvun
Forum Administrator
Honoured Citizen
Citizen
Great interview! Toonela is a gem.
 

Maowi

⛄ I'm walking in the air ... ❄
Vice Chancellor
Deputy Minister
Citizen
This is great, a lovely & very informative interview!
 

Pierce

Former Veep
Fantastic interview! As a former Delegate of SLU, it's great to see the region still going strong and still welcoming to newcomers rising to leadership positions. Particularly reassuring that SLU's foreign affairs progress seems to be flourishing
 
Top