When I was a boy, I was absorbed with an interest in other planets of the Tau Cetian system, just as you were interested in the planets of the Solar system. Homeland, as you know, is the fifth planet from the sun, and it has three moons. The fourth planet is a warmer twin of Homeland. It has very little native life, and has been colonized; but since its total planetary population would scarcely fill a small suburb, you don’t hear much about it in the news. The inner planets are small, hot, and metal-rich, the outer planets are gaseous giants.
But as a boy my special interest was in the second planet, Lumis. Lumis has a very long rotational period, which results in severe temperature changes between night and day. Since it does have an atmosphere of sorts, there are very high winds and vicious sandstorms. Lumis is geologically unstable and is subject to unpredictable volcanism and seismic activity. But idealism ran high during the early days of space travel in the forty-third century, and valiant attempts were made to establish mining operations there. The attempts all failed, but they sure made exciting reading! Entire camps were blown away in the awesome wind; mountains disappeared or reappeared overnight: the unstable surface humbled even the most advanced mining techniques. Lumis conquered its would-be conquerors, and has been left in victorious solitude ever since.
At the time, there was talk of colonizing the planet, but this talk came from comfortable scientists back on Homeland. “Colonize Lumis?” the Lumis workers asked in disbelief, “No way!”
Earth reminds me of Lumis. The exciting part about Earth is not the geography, the meteorology, the relative seismic stability, or any other physical feature. Those are just fine! Earth is an enchanting place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to be stuck here forever.
Now don’t get me wrong, your planet does have a few good points. The year is the right length, even if the days are a trifle short; and the seasons provide just the right amount of variety. Your Moon is very impressive, which makes up for the fact that you only have one. The climate is very hospitable most everywhere on the globe, and there are ample habitable areas in temperate zones. The flora and fauna is rich and varied. Although Earth is geologically active and prone to severe weather patterns, it isn’t anything serious. There is considerable environmental damage; but there’s nothing broken that can’t be fixed.
Earth is an eminently habitable planet, except that the owners are crazy.
I have only been on Earth for a total of six years over the past ten, and look at what has happened! There have been major political upheavals everywhere! The United States is going through severe political trauma, the Soviet Union dried up and blew away, Czechoslovakia split in two and Yugoslavia shattered into pieces, while at the same time Germany was reunited, peace broke out in Ireland, South Africa had a complete change of government! There has been major famine in Africa; India and Ceylon have internal strife and poverty, a major epidemic has broken out, but the primary response has been superstition and moralism—And that’s just a sample!
Humans are very, very busy creatures! Don’t you ever come up for air? I’m exhausted just thinking about it!
Living on Earth is very tiring for a visitor from a place like Homeland. You have only been civilized for about ten thousand years, but your history is as eventful as if it were a hundred thousand years long. It’s not that you are progressing at a fantastic rate of speed (you are barely progressing at all), it is just that humans have a perverse penchant for intense drama. Everything is an emergency! The fate of the world is constantly at stake! If someone told me that a group of people dowsed themselves with gasoline and set themselves on fire to protest Daylight Savings Time, I’d be inclined to believe it!
Earth is to anthropology what Lumis is to geology. On Lumis you could fall asleep in a valley and wake up on a mountain top—assuming you could sleep with all that noise! On Earth, you almost have to read the newspaper every morning to find out what country we’re having today! Living on Earth makes me realize why the alternate-universe type of science fiction story was invented here. Did you know that visitors to Earth have to pass rigorous medical tests to prove that the stress won’t kill them? It is no wonder that the average human life span is so short.
Humans are individually very charming people, but collectively you are an adolescent race. You work very hard at accomplishing nothing; you have pointless fads and cruel cliques, you play your music too loud, and you’re very vain. You fight too easily, and you go too far. Even when your cause is just, your advocacy is to excess!
Like adolescents, you are also sticklers for conformity. There is some cultural variety on Earth (though it does not approach the richness of Homeland or Zerpick), but the trend is to suppress minority languages and cultures. (Some societies, especially in Europe, are actually committing cultural suicide even as I write!) Many social and political problems on Earth stem from the fact that you constantly try to suppress diversity, which inherently cannot be suppressed! Only on Earth do you find a planet-wide dress code for businessmen, for example!
Despite human efforts, it is a axiom of anthropology that there will always be a multiplicity of languages, ideologies, religions, philosophies, governments and theories; because people have a right to lead their lives in accordance with their own wisdom, and if you deny them that right, they will do it anyway. You have an obligation to enlighten your neighbors; but they have a right decline the opportunity. Each must respect and tolerate the other. A sentient being has the fundamental right to be wrong. The function of society is to safeguard this diversity while preventing collapse into chaos.
The human craving for conformity can be seen in your form of government. All the various forms of government on Earth are simply variations on this one theme: they impose the will of the powerful upon the powerless: the powerful might be a dictator, a ruling party, the majority of citizens, or a social class. On Homeland, we have many forms of government, but they all function largely as traffic cops, who try keep people from bumping into each other as they do whatever they please.
Humans have a lot of potential, and will someday join the Spiral Arm Cultural Interchange; but you’ve got a lot of growing up to do first. Yours is the worst adolescence known, and that’s why the project was set up: to observe and facilitate this maturation process. Small efforts, like my effect on you, on Alexander and Luther (Plato died of a drug overdose), and on your electronic correspondents, are a carefully-planned, if small part of our plan.
Unlike humans, we Homelanders are patient. A redirected creek can cause a mighty river to change its course. We have the time to indulge in these long-range solutions. We, along with the other sentient species of the Spiral Arm, are firm in our resolve to nurse humanity to adulthood. We have four hundred more years to go, if we stick to the current schedule.
I’m very sorry to run on like this, but I guess I’ve had this penned up inside me for a long time. You know I am a human Booster, so I suppress a lot of what I feel about humans when it is contrary to my goal. It just all spilled out. I hope I have not offended you.
PS: You are probably swelling with heady pride, thinking: “If the adolescence of the human race is the worst on record, then that means we will be the greatest and grandest race ever, when we reach our maturity!” If this is your thought, it’s only human. Just lie down with a cool cloth on your forehead.