Sunday, April 18, 2010

Knowledge-base Tool Kit: Extraterrestrial Projection

On the surface, what is being discussed here may seem lighthearted and all, but we've all seen sensationalism around extraterrestrial beings at one point or another, be it from fringe cult groups who advocate personal UFO encounters or sightings, or entertainment mass media concerns. It seems that people are fascinated by the desire to find out, and some are even obsessed with the notion of 'we are not alone' in the universe, i.e., life outside planet earth, perhaps higher forms of life such as those typified by various depictions of the often 'big-headed" and "bulgy-eyed" extraterrestrial creatures generally identified with manned UFOs.The question then becomes, how much do humans project themselves onto these "beings", directly or indirectly? What paradoxes can one glean from such projections?

On the last point about the fascination around exotic "beings" beyond planet earth and the feeling of "not being alone in the universe", one can't help but get a sense of hypocrisy about the whole affair to the extent that humans cannot even get along amongst themselves within their very own species and show tolerance to that some .1% genomic differencesif not even less when taking just the superficial outwardly-manifested physiological differences into accountbetween humans. Nationalistic and xenophobic backwardness abound human societies, creating a situation wherein a person's very "being" can become an "illegal" entity just for "being" somewhere other than his/her place of birth. Such is the attitude of humans towards fellow humans. With such animosity and intellectual backwardness of humans towards their very own kind, usually justified on the account of cultural and bio-physical differences that presumably come with birth rights to social privileges over "others", can one not objectively admit that there is a tad bit hypocrisy in human eagerness to encounter even more exotic "beings" of vastly distinct species, from outside planet earth, and to confirm their beliefs of "not being alone" in the vast universe? Why can't the same eagerness be applied to the differences that already exist within humanity itself, right here on planet earth? The paradox here is obvious: "You can't handle differences among yourselves right here on the same planet, yet you yearn and lust for even more different folks, presumably from somewhere else in the universe, where one from earth is bound to get lost".

It is hard to pass up, when one comes across extraterrestrial themes in movies and games, that these exotic "beings" are generally humanoid in character. Is that accidental, or is it yet another reflection of human projection onto would-be extraterrestrial beings? Take Sci-fi shows like say, Star Trek, The Forbidden Planet, Space Odyssey, Space 1999, etc; in each of these shows, exotic beings are endowed with humanoid characteristics in some fashion or another. In Star Trek for one, the majority of their encounters are with "exotic" beings from planets afar, if not galaxies afar, which are of human physiques and generally like what some would call, "white people", on planet earth.  Furthermore, what's wonderful about most of these exotic beings, is that they readily speak human language rather fluently, particularly in English! Even with the small biological differences amongst humans on this planet alone, humans don't all speak, or importantly, readily speak the same singular language without first integrating into a group, community or society different from their own, and learning a language different from their own primary one. Nor do all humans even speak English with the same accent like say, some Anglo-Saxon personality.Yet, exotic beings of vastly different species, notwithstanding their remarkable physical resemblances to planet earth humans, are supposed to be able to instantly speak some singular human language form fluently, usually in Englishwhich is no longer just a language of planet earth itself, but somehow promoted to the language of the universe and spoken by virtually all the discrete extraterrestrial beingsnot just from planets afar, but also possibly from different galaxies, and thereby able to speak with their "foreign" earthling counterpartsthe humans! Much of the time these humanoid extraterrestrial beings invariably speak with the very same English accent(s) as some "Anglo-Saxon" space crew, it should be noted. Even supposing there are chances, within different galaxies, for a situation akin to our own galaxy, wherein the environment is ripe for the sustenance of life, is one to take it for granted that in literally across discrete countless galaxies, that one would run into the very same path to evolution as that which occurred on planet earth in our own galaxy, with little to no deviation, thereby culminating in planets respective to each galaxy eventually being inhabited by vastly distinct species but ones which display the very same physique or body plans as humans, who can even possibly get lost among humans? In viewing shows like Star Trek, this is the impression that one is bound to get, if he/she is to take time to think about it for a moment. One would have to assume that in some distant galaxy, to which an 'exotic' beingwho is virtually physically indistinguishable from say, a "white" male or female of planet earthbelongs, as is often the case in the aforementioned show, there lies a planet of origin which essentially resembled that of planet earth, hosting evolutionary paths that is virtually indistinguishable from that of planet earth, including the evolution of anatomically modern human-like "beings" from ape-like creaturesagain just like planet earth, wherein some interplay between glacialization and solar radiation environment culminated in the evolution of beings that look no different from planet earth's own "white" people of European descent. Of course, this is not to say that one does not comes across humanoid-beings of "color" [complexion] in the said TV show, but these are generally on occasional basis. Even more remarkable perhaps, is that these vastly distinct species and the human space crews mutually find each other sexually-appealing, to going as far as even becoming love interests, in various occasions; but of course, none of this should be taken seriously, because after all, these theatrics are just fiction, which need not make any sense at all, right?! Whatever the case may be, it is hard to pass up the significance of the popular portrayal of extra-terrestrial beingsgenerally purported to be of "high intellect"in the guise of the humanoid form, i.e. the anatomically modern human physique in particular, as a reflection of human projection onto would-be extraterrestrial beings.

Revisiting the issue of nationalism and associated chauvinism, one is hard-pressed to take no notice of the condition of the earlier Star Trek releases of having had regular space crews or casts that bespoke a certain socio-ethnic variety; one had for example, a "Black" female regular (Uhura), an "East Asian" male regular (Sulu), an "East European" male regular (Chekov), an "extraterrestrial"or at least part "extraterrestrialregular (Spock), and "Western or West European" regulars (Scott & Kirk). One can suppose that such an ensemble of space crew is not all that out of character of the real world or that far-fetched, especially if they were to have been recruited largely from the same nation-state; however, could such a diverse crewwho, for those who are familiar with the TV series, are generally portrayed as working in harmony, wherein no regard is given to "racialist" and/or nationalist differencesbe equally cohesive, were the crews recruited from different nation states with competing national interests? It is certainly a question worth pondering, but to take note of the status quo of the real world, while joint "international" space programs had been mounted, such as the fairly modest existing International Space Station (the so-called ISS), these have been plagued by competing national interests of individual member states, and the interplay between such interests and budgetary restrictions placed on member states for some reason or another. One need only look at the spacecraft models invoked in the likes of Star Trek Sci-fi concerns, and realize that such massive space vehicles are likely to entail not only great technological leap from that currently in place, but also likely to be prohibitively expensive crafts to put together by today's political standards, and one that would require unwavering international cooperation and consistent joint funding, spanning years upon years, if not decades upon decades; can today's competing or antagonistic nation-states pull something of that feat off? Questionable, at the very least! The very notion of nation-states is itself outmoded and can only find expression in the form of competing polities, each pushing for respective "national interests" of not so much as ordinary citizens, but largely those of the generally smaller ruling and business layers of society.

Hypothetically speaking [obviously], i.e. from experience on earth, if extraterrestrial beings indeed exist elsewhere, it would perhaps be in their best interest not to be 'discovered' by those "Humans" from earth. For if they do exist in a certain planet "discovered" by "humans", then those humans are going to deduce one thing from this, without wasting much time on the thought: availability of resources on the newly "discovered" planet. From experience on earth, such a development would likely soon translate into GENOCIDE, unless the new found inhabitants are many more times technologically superior to the "earthlings".

Is it any wonder that most science fiction movies about extraterrestrial invaders, interestingly seem to depict said extraterrestrials in a negative light, usually as resource-driven genocidal maniacs? However, when a movie storyline involves a "human" intrusion into a foreign planet, it almost always depicts that person as the saint on the planet, who just so happens to have gotten off on the wrong foot, generating unwarranted hostility from the natives. Such antagonistic depictions of the extraterrestrial beings vs. human characters are in fact reflections of paradoxes that exist in human behavior and attitudes. If one didn't know any better, one would say that these reflect [including all the above-mentioned] the unconscious (though sometimes conscious) desire of storytellers and movie producers to paint extraterrestrial creatures in "human" image. As mentioned earlier, i.e., from experience on earth, it is quite plain to see the relationship: history has shown on various occasions, that when certain human groups "discover" (so they claim) new territories on earth, the next thing that comes into the picture, is the step towards genocide, i.e., ruthless efforts to wipe out pre-existing inhabitants, so that the invaders can have all the resources in their “new found” territory(s) to themselves. The funny thing about this (if it weren't so tragic), is that these invaders often paint themselves as the righteous ones, while depicting the hostility towards their blatantly unsavory presence as being unwarranted; yet still, when this very same behavior is ascribed to extraterrestrial beings, it no longer becomes righteous, but evil and out to do humanity harm, while the hostility towards such invasion is interpreted as fully justified. Henceforth, the paradox in the matter of an action being righteous on one hand, and then that very same action becoming evil on another, is part and parcel of human projection of itself onto extraterrestrial beings, and the propaganda value of such caricaturization depends on who is telling the story, and when & where; i.e. perception from the oppressor's angle, or from the lens of the oppressed!

It may sound silly, but if the present author were an extraterrestrial creature residing somewhere in the mysterious universe, the last thing that this author would probably want, is to meet ‘discoverers’ from planet earth.

Insights based on personal notes from 2005 (clickable link).