Issue 195: 2019 03 28: Culture Clash

28 March 2019

Culture Clash

Aliens know better.

By Neil Tidmarsh

So that’s why we haven’t had any contact from them.  It isn’t that they don’t exist; they’ve simply chosen not to visit us, for our own good.

Aliens from outer space, that is.

Scientists gathered in Paris last week for a conference on the Fermi Paradox, sixty-nine years after the physicist Enrico Fermi first asked the question “Where are the aliens, then, considering that at least one of the almost infinite number of solar systems and galaxies out there must be home to intelligent life and advanced civilisations?  Why haven’t they visited us, considering that some of them must be much more advanced and intelligent than ourselves?”

In Paris this week, one of the scientists, Jean-Pierre Rospars, had the answer.  If aliens were capable of contacting us, then they must be massively more intelligent and advanced than ourselves; but if they are so massively more intelligent and advanced, they will know that contact with Planet Earth would be a disaster for us human beings, as contact with an advanced civilisation is always disastrous for a less-advanced civilisation.  Think of the contact between indigenous peoples and European armies/explorers/missionaries etc from the sixteenth century onwards; clashes which the more technically-advanced always won, and which left other cultures broken and exploited.  So those aliens have decided to stay away, to save us human beings a lot of suffering.

How very considerate of them.

But perhaps they’re not quite so selfless.  Perhaps what really bothers them is the probability that Planet Earth’s human beings would tiresomely demand an official apology from them in a few hundred year’s time (or a few thousand year’s time) for all the damage which contact would inevitably have inflicted on us and our planet.

This week, Mexico’s new populist left-wing president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, wrote to King Felipe VI of Spain and to Pope Francis demanding an apology for the Spanish conquest and colonisation of the Americas from Hernán Cortés’ destruction of the Aztecs in 1519 onwards.  “There were massacres and oppression.  The so-called conquest was waged with the sword and the Cross” President López Obrador wrote.  He is “calling for a full account of the abuses and urging them to apologise to the indigenous peoples for the violations of what we now call their human rights.”

The government of Spain promptly refused to oblige.  “We firmly reject the contents of the President’s letter” was the reply.  “The arrival 500 years ago of Spaniards to present Mexican territory cannot be judged in the light of contemporary considerations.”  No doubt it has one eye on the looming snap election next month, where Spanish national pride (in the face of Catalan separatism) is bound to be an issue (as, no doubt, the Mexican president has an eye on this opportunity to consolidate his position as the indigenous peoples’ champion), but it nevertheless has a point.  The people, government and king of Spain are not responsible for what happened five hundred years ago.  This week the second wealthiest industrial dynasty in Germany, the Reimann family, admitted shame for the pro-Nazi actions of Albert Reimann during the Third Reich and offered to pay millions of Euros to an appropriate cause, but this is such recent history as to be not comparable at all to President Obrador’s cause.  It would be patently ridiculous for the government of the UK to demand an apology from Normandy for the 1066 invasion, or even from the Netherlands for William of Orange’s take-over of 1688.

There were indeed massacres and oppression and abuses in Mexico following the arrival of the Spanish. But there’s little to be gained from re-opening old wounds now, no point in encouraging division and re-awakening old pain.  It’s not as if anyone is denying the history.  Better by far to continue the healing, to work constructively towards the future, towards a mutually beneficial post-colonial relationship between the two countries.

No doubt the aliens know that they’re better off without any of those complications.  Best not to get involved in the first place.  Best to keep those human beings at arms length and have a good laugh at them from a distance.

They must certainly find plenty of amusement in our actions, especially in our puny attempts to reach out towards them.  Last week, Nasa announced that the first all-female spacewalk was to happen on Friday; but the plan had to be scrapped when one of the female astronauts found that her medium-size space-suit no longer fitted, and there wasn’t another large-size suit for her to wear.  No, this isn’t an April fool; an astronaut’s size often changes under the effects of zero-gravity – one report said that she had gained an extra two inches in height.  So, please, no jokes about “Well, it fitted perfectly when I tried it on in the shop!” or “My wardrobe’s full but I’ve got absolutely nothing to wear!” or “Does my bum look big in this?”  We’ll leave that to the aliens.  We can always demand an apology from them, if we hear them sniggering.



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