Hey Pal: What is it about early December? In the early days of this otherwise festive month, sad and tragic historical events tend to happen: the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Ecole Polytechnique massacre, and now, the death of Nelson Mandela.
With all due respect and reverence to all of these very important events, there is another anniversary that my mind always goes to at this time of year. And in light of that, this post is a replay of a post that first ran exactly one year ago. Here goes:
Pal, let’s assume, as I’m sure we both do, that there is life on other planets. And let’s also agree that some of those species are bound to be vastly older, wiser and more sophisticated than we humans.
Now, let’s take a larger leap and imagine that a federation of these superior alien races has identified that there appears to be intelligent life on Earth, and a delegation is on its way to determine if we have evolved enough to handle first contact, and to gauge our potential to be useful contributors on the galactic stage.
And, just for fun, let’s get really silly and imagine that they arrive today and I’m the one they talk to first.
I would be honest in my assessment. After all, I don’t want to learn the consequences of lying to superior aliens. I would have to tell them that, unfortunately, there is a lot of evidence that we are not yet ready to be welcomed into their fold and begin our training. On the other hand, there is a lot of evidence that we are. Some examples:
As you can see, a huge percentage of the world’s population is still religious. A more chilling way to make the point is this: recent polling results revealed a whopping 68% of registered Republicans in the U.S. – the most powerful country on the planet – believe in demon possession while only 48% believe in climate change (Huffington Post).
With all due respect to the billions of thoughtful, moral, intelligent church-goers out there, this madness has to stop. As long as the prevailing world-view is based on supernatural beliefs, we will continue to make irrational and dangerous decisions. Wars will rage and towers will fall. Legislatures will waste untold hours bickering about who should be allowed to get married rather than solving actual problems. Girls will be forced to have their rapists’ children. Other girls will be killed by their fathers for looking at boys. Obviously, these are the extremes, but they are the result of people living for an imagined afterlife at the expense of this world, and being guided by books written by men who thought the Earth was flat.
On the Other Hand…These Guys…
There are others, but here are some wonderful examples of those leading a charge to convince the world that there is probably no God and that we should stop making decisions based on something for which there is no evidence. They espouse a naturalistic, scientific world-view. They are driving us toward a future when what we know has muscled out the need to believe. They want humankind to agree this world is the only one we’ve got, and this life is the only one we’re going to live. Once we buy into that, we will treat the world and each other better, and make the most out of our life on Earth.
Next, I would talk to the aliens about the next generation…
Unfortunately…The kids working at Best Buy
- Customer walks into Best Buy – tentatively approaches, and is ignored by, three clumps of employees who stand in circles playing with their toys.
- Customer finally finds an employee who is alone. “E-excuse me?” he ventures.
- Employee finishes typing text before slowly looking up, and says – “S’up?”
- Customer asks how long the external hard drive in his hand will last.
- Employee says: “Oh, like…tons of years.”
- Customer, realizing all is futile, mumbles thanks and walks away.
- Employee chirps: “You’re welcome!” And returns to his texting, truly believing that he has made a difference today.
This is the generation in whose hands our future rests?
On the Other Hand…The kids at “We Day”
- In 1995, 12-year-old Craig Kielburger, from Thornhill, Ontario, reads a headline about a Pakistani boy who was murdered for speaking out against child labour.
- He immediately travels to Asia to see for himself. While there, he publicly cajoles the Canadian Prime Minister into meeting with him, and into raising the issue of child labour with the leaders of both India and Pakistan.
- He goes on to establish Free the Children and Me to We: international organizations dedicated to making the world a better place; appears on the Oprah Winfrey Show several times. Momentum grows. Jump to…
- …2012: thousands of cheering children pack into the Air Canada Centre for Kielburger’s “We Day” to learn how to change the world, globally and locally. Al Gore and Martin Sheen both speak. So does Spencer West, a guy without legs who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro to raise $100 000 for clean water in Ghana. The next day, programs to fight hunger and poverty are started in schools all around Ontario. Meanwhile, “We Day” moves on to 7 other major cities around North America.
This is the generation in whose hands our future rests.
Assuming I still have the aliens’ attention, I would go on. On the plus side, there are the Olympics, the Mars Rover and social workers. On the negative, there is war, creationists and people who think the colour of your skin matters.
All in all, it seems to be a wash.
The last thing I would do, in an effort to tip the scales, is play John Lennon’s “Imagine”:
Imagine there’s no heaven It’s easy if you try No hell below us Above us only sky Imagine all the people living for today
Imagine there’s no countries It isn’t hard to do Nothing to kill or die for And no religion too Imagine all the people living life in peace
You, you may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one I hope some day you’ll join us And the world will be as one
Imagine no possessions I wonder if you can No need for greed or hunger A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world
You, you may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one I hope some day you’ll join us And the world will live as one
And the aliens would say, “Yes – this is it. This man with the gentle voice has perfectly described an evolved society in just 131 words. It’s genius. There is hope for humankind. Please take us to him right away.”
And I would say, “I can’t.”
And they would say, “why not?”
And I would say, “because someone killed him. Someone killed him 33 years ago today – December 8, 1980.”
And they would ask, “why?”
And I would say, “Uh, for no particular reason.”
And they would say, “thank you for your time,” get back in their spaceship and tell the Galactic Federation – not yet.
And maybe many years from now they will check back and see if we’re any closer. And maybe we will be. One thing’s for sure: you, me, and that yahoo from Best Buy will be long gone. Sorry I blew our chances, Pal.
In the meantime, peace…