Charity Taxes: Changes to System, and Current Response at 14%
Before getting to the data, we announce that the Sôgmô will begin pioneering two new changes to the charity tax system starting next season. First, the Sôgmô has announced that the Central People’s Government will begin to send notices to remind citizens of the equinox or solstice ten days before each administrative holiday. These notices will remind citizens of elections and the next change, optional due dates for forms. These optional due dates will include Reminders about charity taxes will now be sent out 10 days before each administrative holiday, optional due date at midnight following the equinox or solstice in UTC. So, for example, the optional deadline for taxes this season would be 23:59 UTC on 20 March 2023.
Now to the data. So far participation in charity taxes this past season, Winter 2023, is down. 3 respondents have so far declared their charity taxes, a response rate of 14% and down from last season’s 28%. More respondents may submit their charity tax declarations after the initial publication of the equinox report. In terms of monetary donations, Sandum citizens have so far donated $1,424.74 USD to charity this winter, and have donated clothing, furniture, and food to charity. Respondents have volunteered 263 hours, and have given charity to: individuals in needs, indigenous and educational causes, political and religious organisations, local schools, shelters and survival centers, unions, and historical societies.
Council Election: No Candidates, Speakership reverts to the Sôgmô
No candidates stood for the annual election of the Speaker of the Council of the State of Sandus. As such, according to precedent the office reverts to the Sôgmô, who has announced that the position will be subject to a project intended to streamline government. See details below.
Spring 2023 turns to long-term, constitutional planning
The Sôgmô has announced their intention to draft and disseminate several new plans to affect the State of Sandus. These plans cover projects like citizens’ optional service to the State of Sandus, an organisational plan to streamline government, and also a cultural plan for a new Sancta movement.
“Quadrants” Planned to Increase Service
After the creation of the civil identification number early this season, the Sôgmô’s efforts have moved toward giving additional structure to how the government plans for work. Since the government is comprised of a handful of unpaid civil servants, including the Sôgmô, the Central People’s Government is hoping to encourage individual citizens’ service to the State of Sandus and the Central People’s Government work by the creation of individual service projects. Under the new project, citizens who want to do service to the State of Sandus identify themselves by a certain “quadrant,” a grouping of citizens according to a quarter of the year.
The process works like this: citizens enroll in the program according to one of four season-based teams, and the Sôgmô or an appointed “president of the serviceholders” (praesidens municipum in Latin) registers individuals’ service projects in their appointed season. Each season gives its name to the individual teams, called the Hibernales (Winter), the Vernales (Spring), the Aestivales (Summer), and the Auctumnales (Autumn), and the teams compete with one another for a service medal at the end of the year.
As Sandus’s equivalent of the Roman tribe, the individual teams may be added to a person’s Sandum name if they have tria nomina. For example, the Sôgmô’s full name as a member of the quadrans Auctumnalis is Gaius Soergel Publicola Auctumnalis.
Sôgmô to Prepare Plan to Streamline Government
The Sôgmô is preparing to announce a plan to streamline the Central People’s Government to reflect life in Sandus as it exists now, with the limited resources that the community has, and in a way that is more pragmatic for the structure of a micronation staffed by a handful of citizens. This plan will include the creation of certain functionary offices that do specific tasks alongside the current ministerial system, as well as reforming the Council of the State of Sandus so that the body is led by the Sôgmô who will have a larger mandate to hold biannual plenary meetings. All of these efforts are part of a larger effort to focus the constitution of the State of Sandus on streamlining civic activity to reflect the size of our micronation.
Since the Sandum constitution is unwritten, each plan is in effect a particular vision for the micronation that develops constitutional importance, hence why the Sôgmô and the Party have the power to draft plans. It is unclear what the final scope of this plan will be, but the Sôgmô has expressed a willingness to work with the public and with the Party in drafting the plan. The functionalist method will complement ministers in government, since functionaries can be related to certain policy areas. For example, the current office of Feaster is a functionalist office that organises parties and feasts in the State of Sandus for public holidays. As a policy area, this is overseen currently not by a ministry (as is usually the case) but by a collegiate state enterprise, the College of Priests (Collegium Sacerdotum). This new structure will be used under the plan more flexibly, according to the needs of the State of Sandus.
Part of this plan includes changing the rules of the Council to make the Sôgmô the official in charge of the democratic body, getting rid of one of the three “Grand State Officers.” Those changes go together with the Sôgmô’s recent proposal to change the Council’s business model, so that the Council would hold two synchronous plenary meetings a year to vote on bills. The Council would continue to meet asynchronously for the body’s regular business and for voting on resolutions.
Sancta Holidays to receive new names, part of a new movement to better define what Sancta is
The Sôgmô and the Feaster have proposed giving each Sancta holiday an additional also-known-as name that describes the holiday’s significance, especially for Sancta holidays whose names are preserved in Latin. The same is currently done for the Χαλκεία, an ancient Athenian holiday dedicated to Athena and Hephaestus, which we know as Athena’s Day (29 November), or our Thanksgiving. These names will be slowly incorporated into the calendar over the next year, written in each holiday’s calendar description, and used in national media. The Central People’s Government will foreground these names compared to the Latin names.
This practice of giving a descriptive alias to certain Sancta holidays will be used in Sandum media increasingly in the future, and represents an emphasis on what the Sôgmô has called humanism in Sancta culture, a kind of republican or universal humanism. The idea goes that, if ancient gods like Ceres represented real things (wheat), then the gods cultivated by members of the Collegium Sacerdotum in public rituals are merely symbolic representations. This practice has continued in European-descended cultures since Antiquity and the Renaissance, when art frequently depicted ancient gods as symbolic representations. Modern kings and queens have historically even drawn on these classical traditions of mythological gods and heros for art and propaganda, and so it is acceptable if the Collegium Sacerdotum, as the micronation’s cultural institution, and the government develop an image focused on this tradition. So, it is ok if the Sandum state, as a republican micronation, uses them too.
But the question of belief that the government and the college will leave to individuals. In the last year and a half, the College of Priests’s new Cult of Athena (a state organ, and one in which the Sôgmô is a leader) has largely assumed certain public holidays dedicated to the goddess, and the humanism involved here is similarly secular. As a republic, the State of Sandus can cultivate the use of a certain Sancta or public pantheon to represent the same cultural or religious symbol. So this new cultivation movement is both aesthetic and cultural—and possibly religious, if you are a believer as some polytheists may be.
Happy Birthday, Athena! Her Cult Statue Consecrated
On Friday 17 March, the Sôgmô dedicated and consecrated the cult statue of the goddess Athena, Sandus’s very own matron. The holiday, which is one of the three major holidays for the cult, celebrates the goddess Athena’s mythological birth from the head of Zeus. To celebrate, citizens threw a party and the cult’s leader, the Flamen Minervalis (an office held by the Sôgmô), made the statue legally and ritually sacred. As sacred property, the statue is now public property held in trust by the Sôgmô.
The Cult of Athena receives its name not from the infamously compulsory social group but from the Latin name for the state organ, Cultus Minervae. Its Latin name refers to a particular method and community that cultivates a particular deity. The Latin verb colere, from where the words cult and cultus come, means both to worship and to cultivate. As such, the Cult of Athena is a work-group in the Collegium Sacerdotum, a state enterprise dedicated to culture, cultural leisure, philosophy, and religion. The cult puts on festivals for public holidays dedicated to the goddess Athena, whom the Sandum people consider to be a symbol of Sandus. Since 2020, the cult has taken over the official celebrations for the Armilustrium, Athena’s Day (Sandum Thanksgiving), and the Minervalia, as well as a series of minor holidays dedicated to her mythological family (Jupiter, Juno, and Mens).
The cult’s increased role in the State of Sandus better reflects several of the plans explained above. The recent changes are the context for the development of the Collegium Sacerdotum’s cultivation movement, and the functional role of the cult reflects the development of the Central People’s Government according to functionalism.