From an interview with a Terran denizen.

What is the Union of Socialist Republics of Earth? Now that's quite the hard question to answer. I think I only became aware of its existence when I left my republic to study environmental management at the Cordoba university. I vaguely recall asking my mother about the stars-and-wheat roundel that featured on the factories by the railway, but that's about the extent of my childhood and teenage knowledge of the USRE. I know this is something spacers like you don't really get, but the Earth is big. There are what, half a billion offworld denizens? There's five billion human beings on this ball of water and dirt, one and a half on my continent alone. We are humankind, as far as history is concerned. See these fields, the mountains to the south and the highlands to the north? That is the extent of the socialist republic I've spent my childhood in. There are fifty million people within its confines; it's more than the majority of inhabited planets, and yet we are but a rounding error in USRE public policies. That is the extent of its scale.

And yes, of course, before Cordoba I was taught about the USRE in school. I learned how it was the first superpower to rise from the ashes of the early Low Age, how it emerged out of the state of Kerala in India and spread from there, first to the subcontinent then to the rest of Eurasia, China notwithstanding. There's a shore, about a hundred kilometers to the west. It is dotted with the rusty wrecks of old tanks, their tracks bathed in saltwater, and each year we adorn them with flowers and remember the seven years of conquest, when USRE armoured divisions went from Kandahar to Bordeaux and gathered three hundred million people in their wake. I believe this is what you think about when you consider the USRE -- the conquest, the union of a hundred republics under the same banner, the stars-and-wheat over half the Earth. But that is not how we perceive it at all. For you see the USRE from above, you don't dive in the complexity of the Earth, in the folds of its landscapes and societies. You could live a whole life within USRE territory without ever interacting with one of its state servants, let alone enforcers. Spacers often ask how a single state can administer that many people and polities, and the answer is that it doesn't. I do not blame you for thinking the contrary. It's an easy lure. The USRE has a capital city, it has a legislative assembly, it has an army, it even has a head of state. It looks like one of the nationstates of old.

And yet. Can you identify a USRE culture? A nationality? I've travelled all across the union. I have seen the nest cities of India that survived the Low Age cuddled around their nuclear reactor; the sprawling megalopolises of western Africa; the whimsical ruins of Europe; the reclamation zones of South America; the houses of wisdom in the Maghreb; the floating cities of the Caribbean and, yes, even the five hundred spaceships of the High Fleet, watching over the Earth. We speak a thousand languages, we are Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Yoruba, and the stars know what else, we are communists, socialists, anarcho-syndicalists, you may even find a few capitalists here and there, lost in time. The capital is New Delhi, yes, and it does not matter. And yet -- I have said we, didn't I?

The USRE is our common denominator, and it is not a culture, nor a religion, nor a tongue. It is an idea, simple and radical. No more. No more famines; no more pandemics; no more genocides; no more destruction. It is the child of the Low Age, it is a billion fists raising in the air, a billion cries for equality, for social justice, for subsistence, for the right to live. That, again, is not something you can grasp. There used to be eight billion people on Earth. We lost half of them. There are entire cultures, languages, religions, histories that were extinguished, snuffed out by the Low Age. It is often said that the Earth has lost more than the rest of humankind can even dream to create, and trust me, spend a year on our planet and you will feel it in your very soul. Loss is everywhere. It suffocates us. Blind spots, muted histories, ruins, ruins, ruins everywhere. Life used to be cheap, so cheap we squandered for three hundred years, so cheap we built our new cities on piles of bones.

And you cannot understand how the USRE rose to power without understanding that there lies its promise: life is not cheap. Humans cannot be sacrificed. If a multicontinental administration has to be created so that not a single child ever starves again, then so be it. If the most formidable fleet ever assembled by humankind must stand idle so that the Earth is a sanctuary, so be it. That is how they conquered half the Earth, that is the ambition contained within the stars-and-wheat. You will be fed. You will be healed. You will be educated. You will have a roof to sleep under. You will be safe. Come; give us the poor, the hungry and the dispossessed. In the Low Age, it was a statement so powerful it moved continents. And it still is, for the Earth remains wounded. We do not starve anymore, we do not hurt and we do not kill each other, but deep down, we know that we are never far from death.

And yes, you can see the contradiction -- by organising itself as a federal framework, by deciding that the only answer to famines was to ferry billions of tonnes of wheat across the oceans, the USRE chose to be an empire again and by doing so it runs the risks of retreading the old paths of the industrial age. We are aware of it. We live with this weight -- the burden of oppression, the burden of industry, the knowledge that other roads could have been taken and yet were refused, all of this remains here, at the back of our heads. The stars-and-wheat stands ready to devour itself; and yet in two centuries and a half, it remained balanced.

For the USRE has seen the depths of the apocalypse, and certainty is alien to it. It will forever remain an empire on the edge, superpower of this kinetic age.

ADDENDUM -- USRE Infographic

USRE logo created by Lazare Viennot.

All content in the Starmoth Blog is © Isilanka
Written content on Starmoth is distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike 4.0 license