They would probably be struck by the hollowness of what we call growth
Distracted as we are by the global coronavirus emergency, relatively few people paid any attention on April 27, when the Pentagon declassified and shared its spectacular video footage of unidentified flying objects (UFOs).
Three clips are now available at the “Naval Air Systems Command FOIA Reading Room” about which the US Department of Defense says: “[We are] releasing the videos in order to clear up any misconceptions by the public on whether or not the footage that has been circulating was real. The aerial phenomena observed in the videos remain characterized as ‘unidentified.’”
In 2017 and 2018, this remarkable documentation had been leaked by The New York Times, which recapped a few days ago: “The videos, captured by naval aviators, show objects hurtling through the sky, one rotating against the wind, and pilots can be heard expressing confusion and awe. When they first appeared online, they breathed new life into the decades-long conversation about whether interstellar visitors had ever come to Earth.”
For the storied Scientific American, popular astrophysicist Katie Mack wrote in response: “While Mars may be the poster child for the possibility of local alien life, given the growing evidence that it once had a thicker atmosphere and liquid water on its surface, Jupiter’s Europa and Saturn’s Titan and Enceladus might hold even more promise. And that’s just in our cosmic backyard.
“Thousands of other stars in our Milky Way galaxy are known to have their own planets, and estimates suggest that something like one in 10 of those planets might have the kinds of surfaces and temperatures that could potentially sustain liquid water. Which means that they, too, could harbour life. The idea that Earth is fully unique, the one inhabited world in the universe, or even the Milky Way, seems a bit absurd.”
Mack says: “It’s not that [astronomers] don’t think aliens exist. To the best of my knowledge, most of us do,” but also cautioned, “starting with only a few grainy hard-to-interpret videos, the jump to aliens is so extreme that it would take something much more compelling than what anyone has seen so far to get me to even begin to walk down that road.”
But if X-Files-type scenarios are in fact lurking just beyond our understanding, what would the hypothetically hyper-advanced visitors think of us, and the world we have built? What if they are observing, recording, and analyzing this extraordinary Covid-19 moment? What conclusions would they derive?
Perhaps they would see us as we think of ants, where those with the highest status are hidden deep inside carefully constructed superstructures, while other more selfless cohorts are deployed to face the threats and challenges of the outside world. At this point of time, it’s painfully obvious that humanity’s accustomed elites can actually do almost nothing useful, or of practical benefit to anyone.
Their most valuable coronavirus contribution is to stay home away from everyone else (if only they’d shut up, that would also help).
It’s also highly probable that any alien eyewitnesses would be struck by the hollowness and unsustainability of what humans have been consistently programmed to value as “progress” and “growth.”
This record begs many pertinent, related questions: Why would humans build vast cities that are literally unliveable? Which are suffocated in air that is perilously unhealthy? Why would they try to live without adequate water supplies (like an estimated billion South Asians)?
In this moment of intense truth and revelation, it’s impossible that anyone could overlook the inherent grotesque irony in the US burning millions of dollars in jet fuel to fly billions of dollars in airborne military hardware, ostensibly to pay tribute to health care workers who are compelled to risk their lives every day by wearing garbage bags, and home-made masks, because genuinely suitable protection (which costs comparatively nothing) is impossible to find, and has never been a national priority in any case.
Just last Sunday, India occupied itself in an identical indulgence. The Air Force flew its jets in formation, and showered flower petals on hospitals. The Navy illuminated its battleships, and fired flares. Military marching bands drummed up patriotic fervour, while the country’s president Ram Nath Kovind tweeted: “Appreciate the gesture of our armed forces to express the country’s gratitude towards all frontline warriors leading the fight against Covid-19. The nation stands united, as all of us reiterate our resolve to defeat coronavirus through our collective determination and discipline.”
At the exact same time, streams of migrant workers lined highways across India, entirely bereft of supplies or succor, walking desperately towards the relative security of home. Millions more have been left stranded, and increasingly destitute, effectively imprisoned in cities like Bangalore which callously refused to support their desired journeys back home, because “the economy needs them.”
Just imagine what the aliens would think of that?
Vivek Menezes is a writer based in Goa, India.