The Messengers
Steven Johnson

I wrote a young adult novel (unpublished, but might go back to it) some time ago about a female DJ who who gets rescued by passing aliens and ends up having to rescue them in turn. Part of the humor of the story was that her mother and her friends were into 70s style, new age, alien worship.

I did some research on the alien fad of the 70s. Someone should do some formal research on the connection of this fad to how people felt about the Cold War. As a child I did not see this. As an adult it seemed blisteringly clear. Some people were terrified of aliens in a way they couldn’t speak about in relation to the USSR. Others worshipped aliens as a substitute God to rescue them from the threat of nuclear annihilation.

In the US and Britain I keep hearing this paranoid, “Oh my gosh! We can’t let the aliens know we are here! They might invade! They might do to us what we did to lesser civilisations!” In the meantime we are experiencing the invasion of refugees and illegal aliens who are escaping the physical and social consequences of climate change. Our governments are mistreating these people and have a vague fear they may rise up and boot us out of our comfy world of privilege.

Paranoia is on the rise.

Let me put a few points forward to allay fears about being seen by the universe. First, the extraterrestrials have to be at least as advanced as ourselves to look our direction in any potentially effective manner. Do we think we would still abuse a new world if we found one? If so, we have some work to do on ourselves. Next, given the technology and resources needed to get to our planet, the extraterrestrials who would make it as far as our corner of the galaxy would require a culture of cooperation: one that wouldn’t bring about the destruction of their own planet before they could even take the leap into space, one where the collaborative efforts of all their peoples make it possible to generate the knowledge and build the technology for space travel, and one that could keep it together during the trip. Finally, given the vast amount of empty space between stars, their ships would need to be largely self sufficient for generations to make it. Surely they would have means to retrieve what they need from the cosmos without taking advantage of our tiny planet. We have an over-inflated view of our importance in many invasion scenarios.

I see no problem in sending out messages saying, “Hi! How are you? Wanna chat?” What we really need to do is take a long hard look at our fears: understand where they come from and start doing some sensible things to make this a planet worth visiting.

Peace and kindness,


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