Quintessence of Dust
|Flag of Quintessence of Dust|
|Motto: What a piece of work is a man!|
|National Anthem: I Have Wandered Alone|
|Official Language(s)||None (English de facto)|
|- President||Eli Baker|
|- Prime Minister||Erica Ornan|
|- April Skies Revolution||1848|
|- Ratification of Constitution||1856|
|Population||5,046,382 (2006 census)|
|Currency|| Sovereign (|
|Calling code|| |
|ISO Code|| |
|NS Sunset XML|
The country's territory is enclosed by two river systems, the Ohara and the Biltern. Off its west coast lies the Dustbowl Sea, in which Quintessence of Dust has assorted maritime interests, and to its south, it controls the narrow but economically significant Fang Straits, leading into the central waters of the IDU mainland. Resources, with the exception of timber and certain metals, are relatively scarce. Although small in geographic area, its tiny population means it also retains a low population density, with most people living in the major conurbations.
The modern republican state was born in 1848 in the wake of a sequence of revolutionary tumult that brought the autocratic Kartoven Empire to an end. Its form of government has changed little since then, weathering several rebellions and two civil wars, while its limited former colonial holdings have been granted full independence. It joined the International Democratic Union in 2006, and the United Nations in 2007. Quintessence of Dust is generally regarded as a liberal nation, combining free trade, extensive welfare systems and civil libertarianism with a largely pacificist international agenda.
- 1 History
- 2 Government and politics
- 3 Human rights
- 4 Geography
- 5 Administrative divisions
- 6 Economy
- 7 Demographics
- 8 Culture
- 9 Military
Prior to 1848 there was no state known as Quintessence of Dust: although the phrase was often used in revolutionary literature as representing what a state free of imperial rule might be, this was not necessarily in reference to the specific geographic area of the modern nation.
- Main article(s): History of Quintessence of Dust
There is evidence of human habitation of the lands of Quintessence of Dust stretching back over scores of millennia, but it is unclear at what point the people became ethnically distinct; this is complicated by the lack of homogeneity among modern Quodites, as well as evidence for essentially nomadic existence predominating during the period 15,000-5,000 BCE. By the Iron Age, however, the land enclosed by the Biltern and Ohara had probably begun to become culturally differentiable from that further north and east. Archaeological evidence of the period remains scarce, and most concerns foreign interaction, thus leaving us rather clueless about early Quodite civilization.
The Quodite territories were first gathered under single political rule with the Empire of Seven Stars, based out of the capital Veringia in the Sponson region. This empire spread over two centuries from about 430 BCE, but had drastically withered in size by 210 CE, and had disappeared completely by the fourth century. By this point, Christianity had been introduced to the region. There was also substantial trading activity, but very little military activity: an attempted invasion by northern raiding parties was successfully repelled in 372 CE at Kynythin, but otherwise it seems the region developed relatively peacefully. Archaeological evidence points to advanced agriculture and pottery, with ceramic relics turning up in many foreign countries. It has sometimes been argued that by this stage, Quodite civilization was organized into anarchist communes; this is much disputed, particularly with reference to the role of gender.
The Kartoven Empire
By the end of the first millennium, city states had risen to degrees of prominence and power eclipsing more local communities; both internal and external trade continued to progress to sophisticated levels whilst warfare remained infrequent and crude. Thus the first developed military, the Army of Kartoven, met with little sustained resistance once set upon a path of conquest by King Johannes IV, later Grand Sun Emperor Johanes I. The Kartoven Empire has its first historical reference in the Treaty of West Gordons in 980 CE, following the annexation of Ingrit; it was to last for almost nine centuries.
Actually centered in the region's weakest economic area, expansion concentrated on acquiring resource rich areas, establishing communications, many of which form the backbones of Quintessence of Dust's modern road system, and reaching the coast, which was achieved in 1040. The Empire was originally ruled by a regent elected from a council of senior officials, but became a hereditary monarchy in the thirteeth century with the Charter of Lauron.
Initially pagan, and later holding to no specific religion, the Empire only became institutionally religious in the fifteenth century, and its role as enforcer of Roman Catholicism coincided with the rise in its unpopularity. The seventeenth century saw two major revolts and as of 1800 four Emperors had been assassinated.
April Skies Revolution
By the nineteenth century, the Kartoven Empire had become known as the "sick old man of the north". It had made no major territorial advances in years, had been shamed by numerous military defeats, and was increasingly unable to counter resistance. Its colonial administration was in disarray, and the only check to anti-imperialist tendencies was factionalism within the movements opposing the regime. In April 1848, the dams of Pelstadt burst, flooding the city; this was widely taken as a symbol, and a wave of revolutions swept the nation. Fourteen states declared independence; of them, only two were recaptured. The imperial armies were routed at the Battle of Schwesten, and by October, the capital was in flames, the Emperor in prison, and a Quodite republic in mind.
The states convened a conference to negotiate terms of federation, and in 1856 the Constitution of Quintessence of Dust was ratified. It included an extensive Bill of Rights, several provisions for direct democracy, and was generally regarded as sweepingly progressive in terms of civil, political and social rights. Its critic point out that colonies were not given home rule and their inhabitants treated as second-class citizens, that many of the promises of the Bill of Rights could not be met, and that it would not be conducive to the formation of majority governments. The latter proved severely problematic as the Congress wasted twenty years shuffling coalitions whilst public works fell into disrepair. Angered at the inefficiency of the central government, Sconch, Sponson and Robary issued an ultimatum, for a government to be formed within twelve months or face secession. When no coalition was approved in 1879, they carried through their on their threat.
First Civil War
The secessionist states were joined by only four others, but between them they accounted for a critical proportion of the nation's capital, and had control of virtually all trading ports. The government knew economic prosperity was untenable without them, and reluctantly declared war. The ensuing civil war lasted only three years but was horrifically bloody; desertion and defection became so endemic that by the end, both sides had minimal armies. Frendry and Grinwarwick renounced their association to the secessionists and joined in the destructive invasion of Sconch, whilst Sponson splintered into two, then three separate entities. The war ended with the Peace of Deshant after the West Sponson capital, Moria, was razed to the ground, and its terms proved remarkably lenient on the rebels, greatly facilitating swift reconciliation, whilst reconstruction of "the Broken West" was aided by foreign interests.
The Sunshine Republic
Quintessence of Dust met the twentieth century head on. Its populace was regarded as enlightened and liberal and its government as efficient and noble. Foreign observer Giovanni van Ribetto famously observed that he had seen a "Sunshine Republic". But this optimistic view obscures many of the harsh realities then facing the Quodite people. Vast swathes of the population still lived in poverty; public sanitation, welfare and healthcare provision and law enforcement were non-existent; and tariffs introduced in an effort to raise revenue after a federal income tax bill was voted down saw foreign investment dip, leading to recession.
In 1902, a law banning religion was passed by a three vote majority. When ruled constitutional in a highly contentious Supreme Court decision, protests erupted across the nation. These calmed after a few months, but three years (false) rumours that Christian groups were being put to death surfaced, and the rioters returned. The law was repealed in 1908, and freedom of religion included in the Bill of Rights four years later. A strange experiment in social policy, the public reaction to the law was no less surprising given the notable lack of religious conviction amongst the populace. Religion has never been popular in Quintessence of Dust, and hence the protests must be seen more as supportive of freedom of conscience rather than indicating widespread spiritualism.
Second Civil War
In 1919, the government was overthrown by revolutionary socialists. The revolution was extremely sudden and limited in scope, and many in the west actually thought it was a hoax when initial news reports appeared. An attack by the Army failed to oust the revolutionaries from the capital, and several other cities saw attempts at similar topplings of state officials, although few were successful. Nonetheless, the revolutionary government was never destined to last long, and by the winter of 1920 order had been restored as a sustained assault on the capital was launched, combined with a blockade of goods. A new coalition took power, but the people of Quintessence of Dust were shaken. An unpopular tax hike coincided with the shooting of student protestors, and with revolution still in the air, the Socialist Party won an unprecedented straight majority at the 1926 elections.
Their attempt to establish a socialist republic foundered, however, when Depression swept the land. By 1932, the country had broken down, with vast trains of unemployed migrants clustering at shanty towns around major cities. Socialist President Durant Wainwright tried to institute martial law, but met with the renewed threat of secession (which did not happen this time). Factional groups seized major cities, and the government was essentially disbanded. Peace only came when statesman General Artellius Kryager managed to retake Priassa from fascist control and formed a loose alliance that crushed communist resistance in the east. The exact nature of the Second Civil War has been contested: it was ideological rather than territorial, and some see it more as a series of rebellions than a sustained conflict.
Recovery and consolidation
Recovery from the effects of the Second Civil War was not quick, and was heavily reliant on foreign investment, arguably slowing the rebuilding of the manufacturing sector, which only became competitive again by the 1960s. A national health service was introduced, and to fund it, the federal government levied an income tax for the first time, sparking tax revolts and the election of four Freedom Party Congressional representatives. Through the "Grey Years" of national regeneration, Kryager's steady leadership proved invaluable; by the 1950s, Quintessence of Dust boasted a vibrant cultural scene and an impressive record on civil rights.
Trouble was brewing in the colonies however. Largely ignored throughout the "century of progress", the people of the Quintessential Tropics celebrated the centenary of the ratification of the constitution by hanging their governor and trying to declare independence; however, support for the move was not popular on the islands, and the metropolis was quickly able to reassert its sovereignty. In retrospect, this proved a mistake, or at least their handling of the affair was poor, as the imposition of a non-native governor and harsh punishments of numerous rebels only served to increase opposition to their presence, both in the colonies and at home. A series of wars broke out from 1979, with independence finally being granted in 1991.
Quintessence of Dust's government continued to be run by coalitions. The shocking death of popular President Olleno Sanchez saw a mild conservative reaction that included major military expenditure, significant tax cuts, and scaling back of the expansive welfare system. In the 1990s, the country's economy weathered mild recession, fighting back in the manufacturing sector as well as the emerging markets in technology and financial services. The decade was relatively untroubled by social unrest, and the nation celebrated the second millennium as secure and stable, and began moving towards greater international involvement.
Government and politics
Quintessence of Dust is a constitutional republic, having abolished its monarchy in 1848. The President is head of state; this is currently Eli Baker. Cabinet members are also directly elected; although they have no legislative authority and are strictly accountable to Congress, they have broad discretion to appoint officials within their own departments, meaning they are often considered among the most powerful individuals within the political system, particularly in the cases of the Secretaries of the Interior, State, Treasury and Defence departments.
The Prime Minister is the head of government and directs the legislative agenda. The Prime Minister is elected by their fellow members of Congress and although the incumbent, Erica Ornan, is the leader of the largest party (the Social Democrats), there is no constitutional requirement for this.
There is relatively significant involvement in the political system, although election turnouts have been steadily dropping in recent years. The nation has a history of grassroots activism and is home to numerous campaigning organizations; trade unions and workers' rights, women's rights, anti-militarism and environmentalism are particularly popularly supported topics. There are regular marches and demonstrations in major cities, and numerous days of observance on political issues.
The federal legislature is the Quintessential Congress, composed of 200 members, with states represented approximately proportionally. The Congress is elected every four years, though by-elections are quite frequent. It has sweeping theoretical and constitutional powers, but in practice devolves many decisions to local governments. Each state has a legislature, and in turn municipal and regional councils and assemblies tend to remain relatively free to legislate.
Few political parties hold significant pan-national sway, and no party has held a Congressional majority in thirty years. The history of the Quintessential Congress has been one of coalitions and compromises. Further, independent candidates have fared fairly well: there are currently 18 members of the Congress not affiliated to any party. The current composition is:
|Social Democrat Party||64|
|Central Democratic Party||30|
|Northern Liberal Party||28|
|Southern Liberal Party||22|
Quintessence of Dust's legal system operates on common law principles. The judiciary is independent and judges are appointed rather than elected. The system of appellate jurisdiction is quite complex, with several courts having overlapping prerogatives. The highest court is the Supreme Court. It has fifteen members, appointed for life by the President subject to approval by Congress; Congress can theoretically remove a Supreme Court justice on a two-thirds vote, but this has never happened.
The two main documents of Quodite law are the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The former lays out the framework for the operation of government and the latter the assorted rights, freedoms, privileges and duties of the citizens. Federal law is created in Congress, but state assemblies play a significant role in the legislative process. The Quodite legal code is notoriously disordered and bureaucratic: its tax code, for example, is heavily criticised as needlessly complicated. Theirs is also a fairly litigious society, with a number of campaigns for tort reform.
Traditionally self-sufficient in energy terms, Quintessence of Dust has partly as a result of severe depletion of domestic resources and partly from the weight of public opinion moved towards a more cooperative stance internationally, although it remains a net exporter of electricity. Once thought of as exceptionally well placed for energy resources, its situation is now much more critical after decades of inadequate conservation. Coal has been more or less entirely used up and gas reserves are dwindling. There is not significant use of hydroelectric power.
Nuclear power remains wildly unpopular; a recent poll suggested over 60% of the voting populace would support an immediate moratorium on nuclear power. The government has generally supported nuclear power, and has persevered in public information campaigns promoting nuclear as the truly environmental option. The nation has not had a nuclear accident, but it has been alleged that nuclear material from the Thren Sor plant may have fallen into terrorist hands. New plants are planned, and heavily protested, though this has seemingly not influenced voting trends as Congress has generally approved nuclear energy bills.
There is significant use of decentralised and renewable energy sources. As well as often being compatible with Quodite lifestyle, such measures have been actively encouraged by government legislation, including tax breaks, over the past decade. Wood burning is very common; peat burning and other biofuels are also widely used as energy sources. Solar power is much less in fashion, chiefly because of the expense of the technology.
Quintessence of Dust has historically been regarded as a non-interventionist, borderline isolationist state in terms of external politics, having consistently taken neutral stances in international politics. There are signs of change recently, however, as it becomes more involved on the world stage.
Although there has been a strict adherence to the doctrine of neutrality in military terms for a long time, with neither involvement in foreign endeavours nor the seeking of help in colonial conflicts, this has been much less true in terms of trade, leading many to question the isolationist tag sometimes attributed. Support for free trade and open borders has therefore seen Quintessence of Dust indirectly assisting certain parties to conflicts disproportionately, though this has never been acknowledged politically.
Quintessence of Dust has historically been involved in a number of aid deals, both as donor and recipient depending on the areas involved, and several of its agencies have assisted in overseas disaster operations. Previously having shied away from involvement in particular trade organizations, instead negotiating agreements bilaterally, there are signs that it may become more involved in neoliberal institutions.
In 2006, Quintessence of Dust joined the International Democratic Union, including its associated free trade agreement, and since obtaining membership has become actively involved, through Secretary of State James Dwight, in promoting regional cooperation and negotiating the formation of a regional legislative organ.
Quintessence of Dust is a member of the United Nations, having joined on New Year's Day, 2007.
Quintessence of Dust has generally been regarded as having one of the better track records on human rights within the international community. A number of human rights advocacy organizations are based in the nation.
The Bill of Rights includes protections for many basic human rights, including freedom of conscience, freedom of expression, freedom of association and the right to self-defence. Freedom of religion is now a constitutional right, although religious association was at one stage banned within the nation. There is a strict separation of church and state. Some advocates of freedom of religion have criticised a perceived culture of "state atheism", arguing it is excessively difficult for religious charities to gain tax exemptions and that it can be difficult for the openly religious to get jobs, especially in government service. Discrimination law is less advanced than in some nations, partially because of constitutional blocks to certain laws prohibiting discrimination in the workplace.
Punishment is heavily regulated. The death penalty, most of other forms of corporal punishment, exile and forced labour are all illegal. Torture is illegal, and the government has joined the international crusade against the practice, including extraordinary rendition, which it has strongly condemned and refused involvement in. Retroactive laws are also illegal. The use of force by the police is subject to strict monitoring; concern has been expressed over occasional acts of racially-motivated violence on behalf of police officers, on the use of weapons such as tasers, and on the use of solitary confinement. In general, the Quodite justice system emphasises rehabilitation; the prison system is underfunded, and there is an active campaign to secure better conditions for prisoners.
In other respects, however, Quintessence of Dust has adopted very progressive stances on human rights. Migrants have historically been well-treated: borders are largely open, and even those whose applications for asylum fail are provided with reasonable care and support pending return to their nation of origin. Such measures are by no means universally popular, and the nation has sought multilateral aid in funding them. There is good protection of sexual privacy, including a largely unrestricted right to an abortion; abortion is available on the state healthcare system. Homosexuals can marry and couples may adopt children, regardless of sexual orientation.
With a land area of 122,835 km² (47,424 square miles), Quintessence of Dust is one of the smallest nations in its region: it is of approximately equal area to administrative subdivisions in a number of its neighbours. Its low population of just over 5 million means it retains a similarly low standing in population density rankings. Its general appearance is somewhat triangular and sometimes known as "the arrowhead", and it spans roughly the same difference horizontally as vertically, with about 500 km between both its northernmost and southernmost points and its westernmost and easternmost ones.
The country is topographically variable, with an extensive mountain range in the north east sloping down to flat coastal areas to the south and west. Much of its land is hilly, but there are also quite large expanses of very flat moor and bog. It contains the highest point of elevation on all of Mich-Inzl, at the summit of its tallest peak, Magnolia Mountain. There are no major lakes, and its surface water area is 2,576 km² (2.1% of its total area). Soil is of generally poor quality and good agricultural land is very limited. The nation is heavily forested, particularly in the north.
It has a continuous coastline of 822 km. Its relatively mountainous terrain has been combined with historically skilled land reclamation projects and flood defences to largely mitigate the threat of flooding, and erosion of the coastline is not a major problem. Agriculture and settlements have extended up the cliff edges with little problem. The major risk of flooding comes from the Ohara and Biltern rivers, rather than from the sea.
Its climate is temperate, but weather patterns vary somewhat. There are generally considered to be three distinct zones. The north east has very cold winters, often with heavy snow, and mild summers, often accompanied by heavy precipitation; the west has cool winters, with snow less common, but with heavy rain a constant, and warmer, drier summers; and the south has the mildest winters and hottest summers, though still experiences heavy rain throughout the year. There are strong winds, particularly a strong, cold wind from the west and a warmer, softer one from the southeast. Over the course of the year, its hours of sunlight vary quite considerably, with very long summer days and just a few hours of light in winter.
Quintessence of Dust is a federation of 22 states, although in practice many of these districts had never exerted sovereign independence prior to their incorporation, having been under the control of the Kartoven Empire. The states vary widely in area, population, environment and economy, but most share common heritages and interstate rivalries tend to be exclusively friendly. Although state powers are limited by the constitution, in practice local governments carry out most of the proceedings of day-to-day governance.
- Rom Kafur
- East Sponson
- West Sponson
- North Sponson
Though generally classified as a free market, Quintessence of Dust's economy is more mixed than some. Despite the limitations of size and resources, it is relatively strong and has been extensively modernised in recent years. Although the nation is heavily reliant on foreign trade, this has not retarded its economic development. The standard of living is generally good, with reasonably low unemployment and fairly broad state welfare provisions.
Unions have played a significant role in Quintessence of Dust's history. The workforce is more unionised than many other free market nations and unions are subject to various government protections. They are now more popular in general, having fallen out of favour in the later decades of the twentieth century after a series of damaging strikes and revelations of widespread corruption, and Quintessence of Dust has been involved in organizing international union confederations.
Government intervention in the economy varies by subject, with the United Nations generally classifying the nation as having "medium" economic freedoms. There is not significant state ownership of industry, outside energy production. Working time and pay are negotiated, although there is a basic minimum wage. Workplace safety regulations are considerably more stringent. Environmental regulations are generally viewed as excessively lax; although this is partially offset by substantial independent conservation, there are also signs of changes in legislative philosophy towards stricter controls. There is also comprehensive regulation of the banking and financial services industries.
Unemployment rose in 2005, for the first time in several years. The Quodite economy is in something of a transition stage as some manufacturing and processing jobs are outsourced and the technology and services sectors grow, but even critics of the government's pursuit of free trade admit there is no impending crisis, as there is good provision for retraining and computer literacy is high. Quintessence of Dust is less technologically developed than its neighbour Ceorana but is advancing in this respect.
Quintessence of Dust's welfare state is internationally renowned, but in truth this is a slight deception: increasingly desperate government reports have made it clear the entire system is in drastic need of overhaul. Disorganized, overstretched and underfunded, it will not be able to continue in its present form for much longer.
The system is universal: all may claim, and even sickness and unemployment benefits are not contingent on previous employment. It is also heavily centralised, with state governments playing little role in its administration, and private enterprises almost none. Privatisation is strongly opposed by the majority of Quodites, though they have been more receptive to certain other reforms. Companies have shown some interest in providing more extensive benefit schemes for their employers in return for tax concessions, and it is likely that any reform of the system will call on such opportunities.
At present, pensions are generous, and there is a healthcare system covering medicine and dentistry, as well as care for children and the elderly. There are options for both maternity and paternity leave, but employers may claim back the costs from the state.
To fund all this, taxes in Quintessence of Dust are quite high. Reversing the trends of the early days of the nation, this is now largely federally administered, with state taxes much less common. The tax system is heavily progressive and achieves a substantial degree of redistribution. There is an emphasis on income and corporate taxation rather than sales taxes. Quintessence of Dust has also been involved in campaigns for international airline fuel and Tobin taxes.
As a nation dependent on trade, Quintessence of Dust has developed a fairly good transport system. A dense road network covers the country. Roads are generally maintained in good repair, although this is rather variable. Quintessence of Dust is often ranked poorly in international studies on road safety, given its notable absence of speed limits on main roads and liberal legal code in this area.
The rail system is much less extensive. Although the development of a railway system was once seen as heralding the nation's entry into modernity, it has been disregarded since then as roads have taken over as the means of choice. Coaches are generally preferred to trains by passengers, and lorries for freight transportation.
Although there is no federal public transport system, a number of municipalities have developed reasonably sophisticated integrated transport networks combining trams, buses and underground trains with pedestrianised zones and cycle routes. This makes a stark contrast to rural communities, where the bus service is routinely poor.
The nation has several major airports, the largest being at Bo Deanna Complex, which has one of the most advanced flight control systems in the region. The national airline is QuodAir, with New Scope also a major international airline corporation. Ports dot the west coast, receiving new arrivals of goods, people and stories every day. There are ferry services to various locations throughout the IDU region.
The Quodite people pride themselves on their diverse heritage, a result of centuries of relatively unchecked migration accentuated by periodic heavy influxes of foreign refugees. Nationalities from throughout the IDU and further abroad are represented, although the most predominant sources of ancestry are Scandinavian. Unusually for a nation with a high rate of immigration, there is relatively little anti-immigrant feeling and it has no real voice in mainstream politics; certain recent cutbacks in aid to asylum seekers have been more as part of a general scaling back of the welfare system than as part of any xenophobic sentiment.
English is the major language, though it does not have official status as such. Many other languages are widely spoken, notably French, German, Italian and Danish, but the vast majority of Quodites are also fluent in English.
The nation's tempestuous relationship with religion has meant religious observance is extraordinarily low. A wide variety of faiths are represented, but none can claim major hold. The majority of Quodites identify themselves as belonging to no particular religion. There have been numerous prominent atheist and agnostic writers and thinkers, although there is also a significant deist movement. Of religious faiths, Roman Catholicism, Lutheranism and Islam share around 10% of the population each.
Its population is unsurprisingly unevenly distributed, given its ratio to the country's land area. People tend to clump into large settlements, the majority of which are in the west and south. Vast areas of the north and east are almost uninhabited; given their terrain, there is little inclination for that to change, although some settlements are springing up as mining operations expand.
The population is 5,046,382 as of 1 January, 2007. There would be almost no annual growth were it not for immigration, given falling birth and death rates. The median age is high, at almost 40, with relatively little gender disparity.
Although named from a play, Quintessence of Dust's most famous figures have been scientists or philosophers, rather than writers and actors. This is not to disregard the flourishing literary, theatrical and cinematic communities in several large cities, of course. But whereas economist Jens Freehling, chemist Andrew Jacobin, evolutionary biologist Phyllis Labidny and philosopher Jeremy Bloom have found international acclaim, comparatively few Quodite authors are known or read abroad.
Music is very popular, and has been influenced by the "melting pot" infusion of different cultures. Virtually every form of music can be found somewhere, although jazz and blues are especially well explored. There is a notable dance scene, and Quodite pop and rock acts compete favourably in national and international charts against foreign artists. Folk history, as explored through music, but also art and literature, is rich. Quintessence of Dust also enjoys a strong operatic tradition.
Quintessence of Dust has a well-regarded education system that emphasises critical thinking, wide reading and interdisciplinary study. Primary and secondary education is free, although a small percentage of children are educated in private institutions or at home; undergraduate study at most universities is also free, and grants for postgraduate study are widely available. Enrollment levels are high, with almost 90% at secondary level and 40% pursuing further education, whilst the adult literacy rate is over 99%. Full-time education is compulsory to the age of 16, and attendance at part-time courses in academic or vocational subjects required for the subsequent two years.
Primary education runs from the ages of 5 to 11, although a majority of children attend pre-school programs prior to this. There is no real specialisation at this level, with one teacher generally taking all lessons for the duration of the year. Literacy, numeracy and basic science are stressed, a language is taught from the age of 7, and there is little formal testing. Secondary schools are generally non-selective and non-specialised; parents have a degree of choice in where to send their children, but critics have said this is still too limited. A full curriculum is taught to the age of 16, and schools are expected to provide opportunities for sports, music, drama and other extracurricular activities. Most students staying on after 16 study for the International Diploma.
One of the distinguishing features of Quintessence of Dust's education system is its promotion of a broad field of study; even at university, students are expected to take courses from several faculties, and a significant majority graduate with honours in more than one subject. This arguably contributed to Quodites' famed thirst for knowledge, love of reading and ability at languages; it has also caused concern as increasing numbers of students, especially in the physical sciences, head abroad to more traditional university systems.
The most popular sport in Quintessence of Dust is predictably football. Sports do not enjoy the size and intensity of following in some other nations, although there is considerable corporate investment in sponsorship and advertisement. Indoor sports, particularly racket games, are quite widely played; outdoors, cricket is the main summer sport, whilst pursuits from mountaineering and cycling to sailing and kayaking are also pursued throughout the year. Skiing and other winter sports are available to many Quodites on annual holidays in mountainous areas.
The armed forces of Quintessence of Dust are the Quintessential Defence Forces (QDF). The four branches are army, navy, air force and marines. The coast guard, once a fifth branch, is now a civilian organization; a volunteer militia has also been raised in past times of war, but is now considered defunct. A combination of apathy and pacifism amongst the population, the nation's extremely limited military history and considerable cuts in defence spending in recent times has rendered the QDF weak and underfunded, and it is generally regarded as one of the poorest militaries in the world. There is no compulsory military service. The nation currently employs around 30,000 armed forces personnel during peacetime, split roughly 3:1:1:1 between the army and other branches. There are around 300,000 reservists, though their state of readiness is of considerable doubt.
The QDF falls under the jurisdiction of the Defence Department, and the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces is appointed by the President, subject to Congressional approval. This is currently Admiral Winter Clarkson. There are constitutional checks on the powers of the military including prohibition of acts of unprovoked aggression or imperialism. There is a special provision for the declaration of war: each state must send one delegate to a National War Congress at the capital, to approve a motion by a two-thirds vote. This has in fact never occurred, as Quintessence of Dust has never entered into a declared war since its inception.
Current QDF operational priorities are exclusively non-combative, and aside from general duties of national security and defence include preventing smuggling, providing disaster relief and assisting in peacekeeping missions. Quintessence of Dust is a member of several international security organizations and alliances, and has also supported progress towards international law to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the militarisation of space. It maintains various bases and research facilities, including a small number in other countries.
Quintessence of Dust maintains a very small nuclear arsenal, having announced its development of nuclear weaponry in 1957. Almost since that moment, there has been intense public support for disarmament, even to the point of a constitutional amendment prohibiting the nation's military from engaging in a first military strike. Although Quodite nuclear capabilities are not significant in military, its command and control systems are generally well regarded, with its own Global Peace Strategy Institute rating it as one of the safer nuclear nations, despite concerns over a possible incident of illicit acquisition of radiological material from a power plant.