Questions From a Pangalactic Anthropologist
A flying saucer creature named Zog arrived on Earth to explain how wars could be prevented and how cancer could be cured. He brought the information from Margo, a planet where the natives conversed by means of farts and tap dancing. Zog landed at night in Connecticut. He had no sooner touched down than he saw a house on fire. He rushed into the house, farting and tap dancing, warning the people about the terrible danger they were in. The head of the house brained Zog with a golfclub. (Kurt Vonnegut Jnr, Breakfast of Champions)
I have worked hard to understand. I’ve been here as long as many of you. You all seem to understand what’s going on. You seem to get how things work. You seem OK with it all. You function. I don’t.
The difference is, I think, that I’m not from around here. And by ‘here’ I mean this solar system. There, I said it. But before you run away – bored, most likely, by yet another weirdo on the internet pretending he’s a little green man in disguise, let me say this: I need your help. Yes, you. Please. I need you to help me. This is serious.
I promise I will not talk about where I come from and what my people are like (besides the fact that they aren’t little, or green, or even men – you wouldn’t believe how alien we really are!). That’s not why I’m writing this blog. I’m writing it as a plea to what one of you called the ‘wisdom of crowds’. I want answers, damnit. And I sure as Photon am not getting them from the media or from the families and groups I have infiltrated. I’ve had inklings of answers from what you call ‘memes’, but they only ever hint at answer – mostly, their sarcasm covers over the answers I really want. And of course there’s that writer Kurt Vonnegut Jnr. Now that man had some real answers. But there’s so little else to go on.
So yes, it’s time to cast my phylon wider. I’m getting desperate. My time here grows short, my need more urgent and I am too confused to make even the most basic report back home to the Pod. What will they think of me? Two generations on Terra Sol 3 and not a single coherent thing I can say?
I am not looking for the obvious answers. Or even the right ones. Most particularly, I am not looking for pop psychology, self help, motivational, religious or ‘leadership’ perspectives. I’ve heard all of them before. I’m looking for the truth. The plain, honest, unfiltered truth from your own perspective. (And I really am not trying to be funny.)
(Note: I will be using collective pronouns like ‘us’ and ‘we’ and ‘our’ in these questions. I’ve been here long enough to feel like I am one of you… even if I understand next to nothing about you freakishly strange bipeds. There is also no particular order or structure to these questions.)
- Why is it that the vast majority of us are so wary of deep and free thinking? Is it because we’re afraid of where it might take us? Do we not think that we’re capable? Is it dangerous? Is it just easier / more enjoyable to fill our time with something else?
- How is it that we treat the plight of those who are further away from us geographically, culturally or economically with such apathy? Is there a limit to the human ability to feel compassion? Is this limit genetically determined? Or do they just deserve what they get?
- How are you not absolutely overwhelmed at the beauty of the planet you live on and the galaxy it is part of? (I have to ‘track’ my senses sometimes to avoid seizures. You would not enjoy my seizures – lots of mucus is involved.)
- Why do we do things to each other when we are on the roads in our cars that we would probably never do to each other face-to-face? It just seems to me that we become so much more aggressive, selfish, rude and uncaring when we’re behind our steering wheels. Is it an unleashing of repressed, pent-up frustration or is it something else?
- How can we call both a piece by Beethoven and a ‘song’ by some new teenage pop sensation ‘music’? Shouldn’t there be different words for them? And perhaps a warning label?
- Why are human beings so enamored with bureaucracy? I really don’t understand why we waste so much time standing in queues, filling out forms and getting things stamped. Is it because we secretly enjoy it?
- Why do we still seem so inclined to fight and kill each other? Is it population pressure? Rare resources? Greed? The simple belief that the lives of those we hurt isn’t worth as much as our own? (And while we’re talking about violence, why aren’t our leaders out on the front lines of the orchestrated violence we call ‘war’ – why is it mainly our young men and women fighting and dying? A how is it that we’re so blasé about civilian casualties?)
- Collectively, we have the wisdom of a civilization three times our age. It’s all there in our books. And now much of it is even digitized. Why don’t we read more?
- Why do so many of us waste so much when so many others need so much?
- How do so many of you become so creative? I ask this because I have seen how so many schools, parents and others actively stunt creativity in young people? Are there secret creativity foundries somewhere I don’t know about?
David can be reached on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/MrDavidVos