You know, with all of the focus on diversity – women, POCs, LGBTQI, neuro-diverse, differently-abled, non-NA-enculturated – I’m here to tell you that we’ve entirely overlooked one very important minority. Perhaps the most important minority:
That’s right. The others that are more other than the other others.
I’m talking about the untold tens-of-billions of sapient beings scattered throughout our galaxy (and the rest of the universe(s)) who we’ve rendered non-human right from the get-go. Not from Earth? Alien! ET! Xeno!
Those about whom we say “if they invaded, everyone on Earth would suddenly realize we’re all human!”
Talk about unconscious bias! If they invaded? There are billions of different alien species. A handful of bad actors, yet we instantly assume everything alien is out to eat us or take our women.
Speaking of which. Why do we automatically assume all those aliens are heterosexual sex maniacs? There could be as many as 59,999,999,999 other species out there and you’re going to try and tell me that dual-genders is the only way to go? They might have even evolved beyond sex. (Which makes their interest in human females even more problematic.)
I mean, we’ve certainly got our problems down here, but the prescient H.G. nailed the relationship when he wrote ” that as
men humans busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man person with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.”
A drop of water. Compared to an ocean you’re just about on a par with how many of them there are compared to us. (See, even I’m doing it! Them!. What an utterly dismissive way to refer to billions of individual species with trillions of individuals. As if they were giant ants! And not just giant ants, but nuclear-irradiated MUTANT giant ants. I’m referring to them as if they were all insects, creatures we disdain, loathe and pretty much kill without a second thought. Even if some of them are insects, its just not right!)
Out of all of those billions of species, we seem to have settled on a small handful of types and imbued them with a limited set of motivations. What have we seen to date? Insect people, lizard people, octopus people, short humanoids, tall humanoids, big brain – small body people, red or black people that look like Satan(!) (depending on your media), amorphous shape-shifting people, small brain – big bodied people, bird people, hairy ape/sasquatch/bear cub people, big-eared people, big-eyed people, people made of light, people made of energy, people made of swarms, cat people, cyclops people, dog people, starfish people, horse people, worm people – as if we could encompass the enormous variations with a handful of anthro-centric descriptions, limited by our oh-so cosmopolitan one-solar-system view.
And what kinds of motives do we ascribe to them? They’re members of highly intelligent, advanced technological species, but they’re lost on Earth and need our help; or they’re only here to check us out for a short while and need the assistance of a native; OR, they’re just here to warn us that something we’re doing/not doing is going to lead to our destruction, but they can’t really help us sort things out; or they want our water (adding insult to injury. How stupid do we think they are?); or they need US – those paramecium swimming in a drop of water – to help them!; or they want to enslave us, mine our precious minerals, change our atmosphere, live among us for the amusement factor, destroy our planet, destroy our sun, destroy our galaxy…
Sure, a couple seem to have genuinely wanted to be our friends, but even then we’re suspicious of their motives. (Spock never did make Captain, did he?)
What kinds of cultures do they come from? Amazingly, cultures just like the ones found right here on planet Dirt. We can’t seem to be able to give them their own space – everything they do has not only to be interpreted based on our own limited experiences, but we have the chutzpah to judge it; living in harmony with nature isn’t right…maintaining a non-interference policy isn’t right…living as a hive culture isn’t right….
We’re judging them!?! We should ask that ant colony its opinions on personal privacy and the advisability of making ones own way in life and see how that works out for us.
But, obviously, aliens are either stupid, helpless, evil or stupid and helpless or helpless and evil or stupid and evil (if not for the latter, Earth would most definitely not be the Edenic garden spot of the Orion Spur we all know it to be). Somehow, we – humanity – despite our separations of culture, color, gender… – have managed to prevail.
Would there, could there, even be a science fiction without aliens? Where do we turn when we write our stories about disaffection, otherness, being a fish out of water, learning to fit in, coming of age? Where do we turn when we want to learn about ourselves?
We’ve imbued them with our worst qualities, made them stand-ins for every fear and neurotic whimper we’ve managed to conjure up over the course of a hundred centuries, and we still don’t realize that them is us. We’ve hardly ever really looked right at them. We know who we think they are, but we really don’t know who they are.
Aliens of Earth, I’m looking at you.