Excerpt from A Past Outside of Time Infantilism at the Start of the Crisis
Many of the events during the first twenty years of the Crisis Era were incomprehensible to those who came before and those who came after; historians summarized them under the heading of “Crisis Infantilism.”
It was commonly thought that Infantilism was a response to an unprecedented threat to the entirety of civilization. That might have been true for individuals, but it was too simple an explanation when applied to humanity as a whole.
The Trisolar Crisis’s impact on society was far deeper than people had imagined at first. To give some imperfect analogies: In terms of biology, it was equivalent to the moment when the ancestors of mammals climbed from the ocean onto land; in terms of religion, it was akin to when Adam and Eve were banished from Eden; in terms of history and sociology … there are no suitable analogies, even imperfect ones. Compared to the Trisolar Crisis, everything heretofore experienced by human civilization was nothing. The Crisis shook the very foundation of culture, politics, religion, and economics. Although the impact reached the deepest core of civilization, its influence manifested most quickly at the surface. The root cause for Crisis Infantilism may well be found in the interaction between these manifestations and the tremendous inertia of human society’s inherent conservatism.
The classic examples of Crisis Infantilism were the Wallfacer Project and the Stars Our Destination Project, both international efforts within the framework of the United Nations—initiatives that soon became incomprehensible to anyone from outside that period. The Wallfacer Project changed history, and its influence so permeated the course of civilization that it must be discussed in another chapter. The same elements that led to the birth of the grand Wallfacer Project simultaneously conceived the Stars Our Destination Project. That project, on the other hand, quickly faded away after launch and was never heard from again.
There were two main motivations for the Stars Our Destination Project: first, to increase the power of the UN at the beginning of the Crisis; second, the genesis and popularity of Escapism.
The Trisolar Crisis was the first time that all of humanity faced a common enemy, and it was only natural that many placed their hopes in the UN. Even conservatives agreed that the UN ought to be completely reformed and given more power and more resources. Radicals and idealists pushed for an Earth Union and for making the UN into a world government.
Smaller countries, in particular, favored elevating the status of the UN because they saw the Crisis as an opportunity to get more technological and economic aid. The great powers, on the other hand, responded to this coolly. In actuality, the great powers all invested heavily in space defense after the Crisis. In part, this was
because they realized that contribution to space defense would become the foundation for national strength and political status in future international relations; it was also because they had always wanted to invest in such large-scale basic research, but the domestic demands of their citizenry and constraints imposed by international politics had made such efforts impractical in the past. In a sense, the Trisolar Crisis provided the leaders of the great powers with an opportunity similar to the opportunity given to Kennedy by the Cold War—similar, but a couple of orders of magnitude greater. While all the great powers were reluctant to place their efforts under the aegis of the United Nations, due to the rising tide of calls for true globalization, they were forced to cede to the UN some symbolic, political commitments that they had no intention of honoring. The common space defense system advocated by the UN, for example, received little substantive support from the great powers.
In the history of the early Crisis Era, UN Secretary General Say was a key figure. She believed that the time for a new UN had arrived and advocated transforming the institution from what was little more than a meeting place for the great powers and an international forum, into an independent political body with the power to genuinely direct the construction of the Solar System’s defenses.
To achieve this goal, the UN needed sufficient resources, a requirement that appeared impossible to meet given the realities of international relations. The Stars Our Destination Project was an attempt by Say to acquire such resources for the UN. No matter the results, the very attempt was a testament to her political intelligence and imagination.
The basis for the project lay in the Space Convention, which was a product of pre-Crisis politics. Based on the principles enacted in the Law of the Sea Convention and the Antarctic Treaty, the Space Convention was negotiated and drafted over a long period of time. But the pre-Crisis Space Convention was limited to resources within the Kuiper Belt; the Trisolar Crisis forced the nations of the world to set their sights farther out.
Since humans had not even been able to set foot on Mars, any discussion of outer space was meaningless, at least prior to the expiration date of the Space Convention fifty years after it was drafted. But the great powers viewed the Convention as the perfect venue for political theater and amended it with provisions regarding resources outside the Solar System. The amendment provided that the development of natural resources outside the Kuiper Belt, and other economic activities regarding them, had to take place under the auspices of the United Nations. The amendment went into excruciating detail to define “natural resources,” but, basically, the phrase referred to resources not already occupied by nonhuman civilizations. This treaty also offered the first international law definition for “civilization.” Historically, this document was referred to as the Crisis Amendment.
The second motivation for the Stars Our Destination Project was Escapism. At the time, the Escapist movement was still in its early stages, and its consequences were not yet apparent, such that many still considered it a valid choice for humanity in crisis. Under such conditions, other stars, especially stars with their own planets, became valuable.
The initial resolution proposing the Stars Our Destination Project would have the UN auction off the rights to certain stars and their planets. The intended bidders were states, businesses, NGOs, and individuals, and the proceeds from the auction would be used to fund the UN’s basic research into a Solar System defense system. Secretary General Say explained that the universe had an abundance of stars. There were more than three
hundred thousand stars within one hundred light-years of the Solar System, and more than ten million within one thousand light-years. A conservative estimate suggested that at least one-tenth of these stars had planets. Auctioning off a small proportion of these would not affect the future of space development much.
This unusual UN resolution attracted wide interest and attention. The permanent members of the Planetary Defense Council (PDC) mulled it over, but each decided that adopting it would not lead to adverse consequences in the foreseeable future. On the other hand, voting against it would incur a heavy cost under the prevailing international political climate. Still, debates and compromises followed, and the final version of the resolution that passed was limited to stars more than one hundred light-years away.
The project was halted almost as soon as it began for a simple reason: No one bought the stars. In total, only seventeen stars were auctioned off, and all at the minimum reserve price. The UN earned a grand total of only about forty million dollars.
None of the winning bidders ever revealed themselves. People speculated on why they spent so much money to buy a piece of useless paper—even if the paper was supposed to be a binding legal instrument. Maybe it felt cool to own another world, but what was the point when you could see but not touch it? Indeed, some of the stars were not even visible with the naked eye.
Say never thought of the project as a failure. She claimed that the results were just as she predicted.
Fundamentally, the Stars Our Destination Project was a political proclamation by the UN.
The Stars Our Destination Project was quickly forgotten. It was a classic example of the irregular behavior of human society at the beginning of the Crisis.
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