Column Date 2006-03-20

The coming intergalactic war

This is a serious issue.

At least it’s serious to Paul Hellyer, ex-Deputy Prime Minister of Canada and former Minister of Defense.

He gave a speech recently at the University of Toronto in which he stated that "UFOs are as real as the airplanes that fly over your head." Then he added, "I'm so concerned about what the consequences might be of starting an intergalactic war, that I just think I had to say something."

You see, Mr. Hellyer believes that we, in the U.S.A., are secretly preparing weapons for use against space aliens, and that this could easily trigger an intergalactic war without any warning.

Wow. I didn’t know things had gotten so serious. I mean, maybe we really do have weapons of mass alien destruction, and our government hasn’t bothered telling us about it. (It wouldn’t be the first time they’ve kept us in the dark.)

But to be honest, I disagree with Mr. Hellyer: I don’t think our puny weapons will worry the space aliens.

After all, if their technology is so advanced that they’ve already traveled billions of light-years through the trackless void of space to check us out, I don’t think they’ll be too impressed with our weapons.

They’ll probably look at us the same way we’d look at a group of Neanderthals who have just figured out that throwing rocks at another person can hurt. Not much to worry about.

But in case space aliens are really out there, quietly watching and judging us, we’d better be very careful.

The last thing in the world we want to do is get them angry, because there’s nothing worse than a peevish space alien. (I learned this from years of reading science-fiction stories.)

And what would get them angry? Our TV shows, for one thing. Look at it this way: if everything you knew about earth people came from watching TV, how would you feel about us?

They might tune in to Jerry Springer and see overweight, semi-literate human beings screaming and cursing at each other.

Or a daytime soap opera where Cornell, the leading man, has been in a coma for five years, and Missy, his beautiful, young wife, just ran off with Harris, his thrice-divorced, 70-year-old, HIV-positive father.

They might watch an environmental report, showing all the ice melting at the North Pole, and glaciers turning into rivers.

Or an evening newscast about any of the following places: Darfur, Iraq, Kashmir, Afghanistan, Nepal or Chechnya, to name but a few of the two-dozen big and little wars happening on earth on any given day.

And if they ever find C-Span, we’ve had it. All they have to do is watch a debate in congress about taxes. Or oil. Or birth-control. Or our national flower. Or anything, for that matter.

Back to the Hon. Mr. Hellyer, though. He doesn’t have any answers for us at this point. But he suggests that we fund a long-term study “concerning our terrestrial society’s...communication...with advanced, ethical Off-Planet cultures now visiting Earth.”

Come to think of it, after watching what’s happening on earth, why would any intelligent space aliens waste their time hanging around this part of the universe?

One week of prime-time television and they’d put their spaceship into warp drive get out of here as fast as possible.

©2005 Peter Tannen