August 29, 2010

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY: Fermi’s Paradox, Alien Nations and the Past, Present and Future of Humanity

Fermi’s Paradox: the apparent contradiction between high estimates of the probability of the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations and the lack of evidence for, or contact with, such civilizations…
One of my favorite recent movies was DISTRICT 9. The immediacy, intensity and the sheer audacity of aliens picking a nation to hover over that WASN’T a super power made it one of my favorites.
But my all-time favorite in the category of Aliens Who “Crash Land” On Earth And Have To Be Integrated Into Human Society movie is ALIEN NATION. For me, both the movie and TV show were revolutionary in concept and fascinating in execution.
D9 and AN dealt with very similar issues from utterly different points of view. With arguably different intent, the two movies illustrate the same sad-but-true perception of Humanity: given aliens in need, we’ll accept them with open arms then tie them up in red tape until they have no choice but to become us (ALIEN NATION) or revolt and break free of the tape (DISTRICT 9).
And how is this any different from the rest of Human history?
Of course, everyone will leap on the first bandwagon that rolls by: how straights treat gays. They’ll shout, “That’s exactly the same way Humans treat the aliens! This has never happened before in history and we’re so persecuted!” Of course, all straights want to put ‘em in concentration camps to separate them from all the non-gays, right? First time it’s EVER happened, right?
Um…isn’t that what Americans did to anyone who was even remotely suspect of having Japanese heritage after The Day That Will Live In Infamy? Even if they were second generation, born and bred Americans, they were suspected of being Japanese sympathizers and needed to be locked away.
Er…what about the red-headed Irish refugees fleeing the Irish Potato Famine: “One honest immigrant wrote home at the height of the potato famine exodus, ‘My master is a great tyrant, he treats me as badly as if I was a common Irishman.’ The writer further added, ‘Our position in America is one of shame and poverty.’ No group was considered lower than an Irishman in America during the 1850s.” (
Uh…isn’t that what happened to African slaves when they were brutally captured or bought from other African tribes who had captured them during one or another war? They were put away on plantations and legislated out of humanity and into the realm of tractors and land – possessions to be bartered with as the “owner” saw fit.
Well…virtually every society has oppressed women at some time or another, freed them then oppressed them again. Islam is NOT unusual in this on-again-off-again granting of women’s rights: India, Europe, Iran, Britain, the United States, Mexico, Sweden, Japan, Arabia, and Germany have all extended then retracted rights at some time or another.
Then there’re those Greeks and Romans, The Paragons And Inventors Of Freedom And Democracy…During the reign of Greece, “Thucydides recalls that 7,000 inhabitants of Hycarra in Sicily were taken prisoner by Nicias and sold for 120 talents in the neighboring village of Catania. (; “The institution of slavery in ancient Rome reduced those held to a condition of less than persons under their legal system. Stripped of many rights, including the ability to marry, slaves were the property of their owners.” (
The thing is, is that it isn’t any different from the rest of Human history. What is frightening is that we in the 21st Century believe that First Contact will be a happy event and SHOULD happen and that POOF! the aliens will be welcomed with open arms and a new Golden Age will ensue as we solve all our problems because we know that we are no longer alone.
What might happen though is that our Visitors will be tied up in red tape so thick they won’t know what hit them. Hopefully they won’t have seen the ENTERPRISE episodes that take place in the Mirror Universe (
Then again, if They have read our history, seen our TV shows and watched our movies – maybe Fermi’s Paradox isn’t quite so paradoxical…

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