Why Aliens Won’t Talk To Us – An Update

About five years ago, I wrote a piece titled “Why Aliens Won’t Talk To Us.”  I trotted out the usual suspects – cricket and crop circles – but our world has come a long way in 5 years, so it’s time for an update.

Unless you flunked out of Math, Science, Stats, Probability, Literature, Philosophy, Biology and Logic — all at the same time — you realize that millions of galaxies, billions of stars and trillions of planets equal a damn good chance that there is intelligent life (besides us) somewhere in the Universe.  It just makes sense, right?

So why won’t aliens talk to us?

BTW, Bubba and Bobbi-Sue’s shaky iPhone video of the sun glinting off a Frisbee™ doesn’t constitute alien contact.  And — just for the record — aliens probably have better things to do with their time than probe fat guys, lose their skulls in Central America or leave painfully childish clues to their existence for weirdo TV documentary filmmakers to find.  (Just sayin’!)

So, with no credible evidence, we must assume that aliens simply don’t want to talk to us.  Why?

I think that they think we’re strange.  And not just regular isn’t-that-cute strange, either – more like “Mother of God!  We need to stay away from those weirdos” strange.  Let me give you a few examples:

Our Choice of Beverages – Over 70% of the Earth’s surface is water, an essential ingredient to life, but rather than just drink the stuff and get on, we do things to it.  We add sugar to it, we add caffeine, we add carbon dioxide, we add dyes to give it colour, artificial flavour to give it taste and toxic chemicals that we’ve already proven are going to kill us if we ingest them.  Then, just to insult our own intelligence completely, we take all that crap out, bottle it and call it healthy.  Aliens have to be thinking, “What’s wrong with you people?”

Professional Sports – Games and recreation are an important aspect of intelligent life, but when you’re paying a man more than the GNP of Mali to kick a ball once a week and the guy who scrubs the floor in a hospital minimum wage, something is definitely out of whack.  Aliens can sense this stuff.

Tattoos – It must be very confusing to aliens when the same people who wouldn’t be caught dead wearing last year’s fashions are still sporting the same ink they got when they were dating Joshua — three boyfriends ago.

Kanye West and Taylor Swift – When these two are the result of 3 million years of natural selection, aliens must wonder just how much of the human brain is devoted to ego.

Litter – If you were an alien, you’d have to ask yourself, “What kind of intelligent life would promiscuously throw their garbage all over their own planet?”

Crocs – Why would an intelligent species make an indestructible piece of footwear that everybody hates and that looks hideous?

And finally, the real reason aliens don’t wanna talk to us:

Twitter – If aliens are monitoring our social media (which I’m sure they are) they’ve obviously run across Twitter.  Think about it! Would you want to communicate with a species whose idea of an intelligent conversation is hurling insults and calling each other nasty names?  Seriously, aliens probably take one look at the shitshow on Twitter and say, “Screw it, Zoltran!  Let’s go to Mars.  They might not have any water, but at least Martians are civil to each other.”

Group Think: A Slow Motion Mob

When I was a kid, long before Disney rewrote Hamlet into The Lion King, there were African nature programs.  They were all pretty much the same.  They featured one or two hairy somethings, with human personalities, waddling around, having adventures.  At some point, before the first commercial, an anonymous zebra would get eaten — just to prove things were serious.  Then the creature, whoever he was, would get into a couple of close scrapes himself.  In the end, however, the hero would survive, learn the tricks of the trade, and a new crew of little hairy somethings would emerge from the den.   Basically, it was the circle of life, Grasshopper — with a jugular and some big, ugly teeth.

The one I liked the best, though, was the one about the migration of the gnus (wildebeests, if you’re South African.)  It still wows me that one minute there’s this big herd of gnus, just hanging out on the Serengeti.  Then, one of them turns to his buddy and says, “Man, this place is totally lame.  I’m going south.”  Suddenly a couple of million herbivores are on the move.  Without thought or discussion – they’re just going — and dragging zebras and antelope with them.

The group mind is fascinating in its simplicity.  I’ve seen this happen with people.  You’re standing in line, waiting for a movie or a bus, and one guy shuffles a half-step forward.  Everybody in the line suddenly perks up and readjusts (even the people in front of him, where it doesn’t matter.)  Agitate that line and the people will start to bunch up towards the front; irritate them, and they’ll start banging on the door; piss them off, and you’ve got a mob.  It’s all just group think accelerated.  More importantly, though, the reverse is also true.  Group think it’s really just a mob in slow motion.

The problem with a mob, regardless of what speed it’s travelling at, is it doesn’t think.  You’ve never heard of a lynch thoughtful discussion.  When somebody’s about to swing, it’s always a mob who’s holding the rope.  Those townspeople going after Frankenstein with torches and pitchforks aren’t about to listen to reasonable arguments for and against; they’re out to put a hurtin’ on somebody – or something.  The crowd screaming for the blood of Christ didn’t care if they had to suck up to the eternally-hated Romans to get it, and flogging wasn’t going to be good enough because they’d already bought the hammer and nails.  A couple of centuries later, everybody’s sorry about that (After all, the “Do onto others…” thing is a pretty cool philosophy) but at the time, crucifixion seemed like a grand idea.  But group think isn’t just about frustration and shouting and spur-of-the-moment homicide.  It runs deeper than that.  Group think bends the rules of reasonable discussion.  It turns secular examination into religious fervour.

The very best example of this?  A couple of hundred years ago, in September, 1793, Robespierre and some of his amis were sitting around Paris with a revolution on their hands.  They formed the Committee of Public Safety and started chopping off heads.  By the time they were done, somewhere between 20 and 40 thousand people had been whacked; ironically, most of them peasants.  What we now call The Reign of Terror, ended only when it began to eat its own and Robespierre himself had to kneel before Mademoiselle La Guillotine and lose his head.   But for ten months, the Committee murdered people (There’s no other way to say it) relentlessly, day after day – and here’s the kicker – in full view, and with the public’s approval.  This is group think at its worst.   This isn’t the flare of a mob breaking innocent windows.  It’s the body politic, so intoxicated with its own righteousness that it calmly, carefully, convinces itself that it holds the moral authority to anoint the saints and punish the sinners.

When group think controls the agenda of a nation, honest people are fooled into believing the words of the demagogue.  They abandon rational thought for the fears and tears of emotion.  They hold no reference to reason but follow the wild-eyed cries of the crowd, metaphorically rending their garments.   As the tumult of the time builds, otherwise discerning people follow the loudest voice.  The slow and thoughtful sounds of logic are shouted down by misplaced passion.  Thinking itself staggers under the weight of the tyranny of thoughtless, unexamined belief.

Here in Canada, we maintain our good name in the world (despite what some would tell you) precisely because we are a discerning people.  We do not rush to adorn our dead with saintly shrouds or hurl our reason on the funeral pyres of our heroes.  We are not swept away by the tenor of our times.  We do not chase the worship of every newly-minted Golden Calf.  We are a slow, deliberate people, loving, hopeful and optimistic; and although we need to be reminded of that sometimes, we are not so brutish that these ideals have eluded us.

But mostly Canada’s good name in the world rests on the fact that we understand that we’re all in this together.  We know that the secrets of our future are not the exclusive province of one man or one group or one philosophy. We are not the puppets of carefully crafted presentations.  It is not in our nature to build pedestals for heroes or shrines for saints, so when we do, we risk being fooled by shimmering platitudes; truisms that seek to exploit our good intentions.  They would have us forsake our reason to blindly follow the single most persistent voice. When we do that, we are nothing more than a slow motion mob — no matter how well-meaning.