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  Desmond Tutu and the Little Green Men
by Steven D. Laib, J.D. M.S.
February 2003

Is Desmond Tutu right when he predicts that if aliens were to visit Earth, they would be shocked by America's lack of humanitarianism?

Recently, Desmond Tutu, former Archbishop of Cape Town went on the record as believing that the 9-11 attacks were the result of “poverty hunger and disease” in the third world, which he implied were the fault of the United States. He followed this remark with another statement to the effect that if an alien visited the earth he would be shocked by America’s lack of humanitarianism, and the amount of money it spends on its military. Forgetting for a minute the fact that America is the largest sponsor of humanitarian aid in the world, for which it receives very little thanks, Tutu is quite obviously not thinking very clearly.

Some years ago a democratic presidential candidate, I believe it was Ted Kennedy made remarks to the effect that future generations would judge us on how we treat our poor and elderly. His implication was that we had better spend more on welfare and old age benefits or our great grandchildren would think us terrible people. How on earth could he know, or even profess to know such a thing? Similarly, how could Desmond Tutu know what an alien visitor would think?

Situations like this make me think of the myriad of possible futures which have been portrayed by science fiction authors over the years. Somehow these authors have learned not to have preconceptions of what the future may bring. They have also learned how to posit friendly, unfriendly and neutral alien cultures. Few have fallen into the trap of seeing any culture which is capable of interstellar flight as necessarily models of socialist humanitarianism. Only socialistic politicians and idealists can afford to believe this, after all, it is in their best interests to convince others to believe as they do. They totally ignore that some alien militarist culture could very well have conquered all of its local enemies and then decided to look for more off world – and we are it. Rent a copy of Independence Day if you need a reminder.

As for the future of human society, perhaps the true believer in a future humanitarian paradise should take a look at Soylent Green, or Bladerunner. J. Michael Straczynski, author and developer of the Babylon 5 series presented a us with a future where people are much as we are today, some good, some bad, some indecisive, or forced into circumstances beyond their control. Like many, his stories offer hope for many of us, if we are willing to take a stand in our lives for what is right. He also dreamed up a large number of alien races with all too human political tendencies on one hand, and totally divergent cultures on the other. They were, in their way, reflections of the best of us and the worst of us and likely indicators that we will never outgrow that capacity for freedom of thought; a capacity which produced a Gandhi and a Hitler in roughly the same generation.

There is an old Norwegian poem which runs roughly as follows:

Friends Die
Cattle Die
Thou thyself must die as well
I know something that doesn’t die
Judgment over the dead.

We know that future generations will comment on us, will write essays and books, and teach classes about what happened at the turn of our century, just as we did about the last. What we don’t know is exactly what they would say or think, or for that matter, whether or not they will agree with the way we handled things. There is one other certainty. We cannot know what will be the shape of things to come. Only time will tell, and only those fortunate to live long enough will know if their predications will be correct.

At my age it is unlikely that I will see the truth of my predictions. I make them none-the-less, confident that if future generations turn out to be socialistic idealists, their progeny will look back longingly on the years when we were still smart enough to invest time and resources in productive enterprises so that people could take care of themselves and their families instead of depending on the government. As for Mr. Tutu’s little green men, the last thing anyone should expect is a re-run of The Day the Earth Stood Still. Infinitely more likely is something out of Straczynski’s vision where the aliens are comprehensible even if they are not human. Certainly they will not bring instant peace, wonder drugs and the ability to solve all our social problems if we will just follow their ways. More than likely, they will have as much to learn from us as we from them. Still, just in case Tutu is right, I think that when I get home it might be a good idea to check the basement for pods.

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