Days of Change

Another World | June 22, 2015

One of my stranger thoughts lately is about aliens. Many of us idly consider if there is any life out there. If there is, are they even enough like us to communicate. The perfect alien would be humanoid, but with something (attractively) exotic about them. We’d like them to be more intelligent, but not condescendingly so. It would also be cool if they had solved some medical or engineering problem that vexes us.

One of the things people who don’t like science fiction don’t get is that almost all the stories are an allegory for the human condition. Alien “races” simply highlight different aspects of ourselves. Ironically, I thought about this when I was watching “The Last Ship” on TNT. It has no aliens, only a story of a world destroyed in less than a year by a deadly virus with a cure, but one that can’t get to everyone fast enough. This makes the series an anthology. Each episode relates how different people deal with a radically different existence.

Apocalyptic fiction is popular these days. It’s set in a world where life is hard. The trappings of modern civilization are gone. Death is a constant reality. I refer to it with the Roman term of “bread and circuses.” As long as people are fed and entertained, society is maintained. If that is interrupted, there is chaos and a broken society. For Americans, the harsh reality can be found in the past. The further back you go, the tougher life was.

There are constants in the human condition, but the day-to-day of life in the firs world has changed drastically in the last handful of generations. Could I relate to someone from a century ago, where I have my own car, a climate controlled house, a supermarket (and various mini restaurants) filled with cheap food and virtually unlimited entertainment and connectivity? It’s a comparison that’s been made before, but the modern world is like an alien world.

That’s the irony. An “alien” race represents our dream of seeing the distant future in our own lifetime. We don’t want to meet people too much like ourselves. We already can’t stand those people in other countries. What we can know, however, is the difference between ourselves and our ancestors. In the end, what’s more important? Is it knowing our true nature or seeing flying cars?


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  1. Th character Q saw our true nature and tried to hold us accountable for it. I’ll take the flying cars, thank you.

    Comment by Mary — June 23, 2015 @ 12:55 am

    • The mechanics of a flying car are very hard to work out. A helicopter costs around 6 figures, which is comparable to a high-end sports car.

      The whole Star Trek Universe promotes human nature as egalitarian and socially progressive if only we could break the bonds of poverty and war. I tend to think of human nature as tirelessly trying to make the world into what we want through intelligence and sheer will, if only we could break the bonds of dictatorship and socialism.

      Comment by 1539days — June 23, 2015 @ 1:46 am

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