Alien Newsletter #17: The End of Days/2021
In which our alien considers yet another year confined with the humans, and another year of the humans trapped with themselves
Network Note: As yet another pandemic year ends, it appears like the planet is in sore need of a disinterested and disembodied third party to give a galaxy-eye view on where its societies may be heading. Our alien, in its latest missive, considers the unusual tendency of certain Greatest Apes, magnified by its technological feats, to embrace despair, and considers another far-off civilization that did so, to its ultimate downfall. May we heed the words of such a message as we maneuver cautiously through yet another holiday season.
It is somewhat poignant to consider the current plight of the Greatest Apes. As you may know, they consider much of their progress in terms of years: “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” was a popular power slogan amongst the political subset of GAs back in the ever-more-distant climes of the 20th century. And if we were to consider if the Greatest Apes are any better off than they were a year ago, perhaps they are, within some measurements. Water still runs from the taps of the households of wealthy countries and food, while expensive, is still plentiful enough not to cause undue alarm. Even the fires that cloaked much of the planet’s northern hemispheres earlier in the year have been extinguished. Yet during a time often given to frivolity and unsightly woolen top-garments amongst the species’ more sentimental members, there is an undercurrent of dread and anxiety that hovers over their societies. The initial euphoria of their vaccines has given way to uncertainty, now that their promise has been severely undermined by continued outbreaks and a brand new variant that just may evade its protection. And all the GAs can do in response is attack and blame each other for their woeful conditions.
Above all the fights and battles waged by the Greatest Apes, the most difficult one appears to be the fight they wage amongst themselves over uncertainty. Whether it is their institutions of learning or their chapels of devotion, the Greatest Apes function best under atmospheres of certainty. They plan entire civilizations upon predictable patterns: weather, work schedules, rites of passage and so on. When these patterns are disrupted, the ground underneath them shifts. Collapse beckons.
And this is the unspoken concern at the hearts of the Greatest Apes: is this it? Are we finally facing the grim demise of everything that we know, and what lies next? Perhaps the most recent and largest model for a potential collapse lies in the former Holy Roman Empire. I will spare you the details, but it is popularly thought that the end of the HRE brought the Dark Ages upon the world, a time of drastically simplified social organization, rampant disease and poor dental care. Since then, the Greatest Apes have built up a horrific arsenal of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, which would most certainly be used by tribe upon tribe should the fragile taboos levied upon such weapons by education and custom be allowed to expire — which they most certainly would if there was not a deeply concerted effort to maintain them, or better yet, to dismantle such weapons, and allow the specifics of their construction to dissolve into history alongside the societies that created them.
So the Greatest Apes face the coming year recognizing the limits of their powers and their visions to control their own destinies. Such cruel circumstances have not brought out the best or the kindest impulses in them. In fact, there is one subset of them that recalls the unfortunate denizens of the lost star Nguzien. The Nguzien citizenry, as you may recall, outlawed all forms of joy and happiness within their territories. Nguzien, as you remember, was a cold, mist-covered carnivorous planet that had a bad habit of eating the citizenry at a moment’s notice. You’d be levitating along, minding one’s own business when the ground would open up and suck you in. And that would be the end of you.
The Nguzien citizenry had built its entire animating worldview around this inevitability. Life was a curse, and any sort of attempt to make the best of their situation was met with the highest penalty in their land. However, an experiment conducted by an observant UAF rover in orbit above their star determined that the dissidents of the citizenry were far less likely to feel bad about being eaten than those who considered it a given, and orchestrated their entire lives around this unchangeable fact. While they still got eaten, they suffered less, and the uneaten portions of their lives were far more fulfilling as a result.
I recognize there is a similar subset of Greatest Apes who have been transformed by the pandemic into the Nguzien — isolated, terrified and enraged that anyone else would dare see their condition differently than themselves. These “hopium” addicts, according to them, are weaklings, too cowardly to embrace the truth of the situation. Of course, this presupposes that these misery-addicts are in sole possession of the truth, and presume that the worst case scenario will carry the day, or that they themselves are not spreading a disease as insidious and deadly as the one they are trying to avoid.
As we know, the Nguzien citizenry were eventually swallowed up and later regurgitated by the planet in a mass extinction event referred to as The Great Bulimia. The lost star has remained uninhabited ever since. However, a handful of them managed to catch a ride upon the bits of flotsam expectorated by the star and sailed to another world that only ate sand moss. It is cause enough to know that these survivors just so happened to be the ostracized hopium addicts so despised by their kin. For them, deliverance came not through their own efforts, but by extraordinary patience and a little bit of luck, reminding us all that freedom finally does come for those living entities willing to wait for the doors of their cells to one day rust apart and then finally open to whatever comes next.
The odd tradition of NORAD tracking Santa Claus explained.
Apparently, the Christ entity for which one part of this holiday season is named after was one of us.
The Greatest Apes may still struggle with their payloads by sea, but not by air.