Nobody knows how they would respond to the presence of the unknown until they actually come face to face with it. My chance to find out, how I would react, came some time ago now and to this day – some twenty or so years later – I still regret the decision I made on that bone cold night in November.
I'll set the scene. I was walking home from a party in the Sale area of Greater Manchester (UK). It was the early hours of the morning on the sixth of November with the smell of bonfires and fireworks, from the evening before, still hanging in the air. My route would take me across an open field and over a stream (known locally as Baguley Brook) that ran through it.
As I approached the field I saw that it was covered by dense, thigh high ground mist that completely obscured the grass beneath. It looked quite spooky; if there had been ancient, moss overgrown tombstones rising up out of that mist they wouldn't have looked at all out of place.
I stopped to light a cigarette and check that there wasn't any potential muggers loitering about before stepping from the relative safety of the well lit street out onto the much darker field.
As cold as the night was: somewhere in the low singles Celsius, it did not prepare me for the sub-zero temperature of the mist that penetrated the fabric of my jeans with an icy, crystalline coldness. 'Best not hang around here too long' I thought.
I proceeded carefully as the ground was uneven and I couldn't see where I was putting my feet. Once across the footbridge that spanned the stream I followed a path that diverged, diagonally, away from it at a tangent of about forty five degrees.
It was when I'd reached a position approximately fifty feet from the watercourse that I noticed them.
Two bright points of light skimming about, below the level of the mist, on the bank of the brook – they seemed to be cavorting or playing with one another. This was strange – this was decidedly weird.
'What the f....! is going on here?' I wondered. I stood there a moment watching and shivering. Still watching I lit a cigarette with hands that were trembling almost uncontrollably – it wasn't just the cold. Without thinking I started to walk slowly toward the lights. As I walked I could feel excitement spreading like a physical force throughout my entire body – I was, quite literally, shaking like a leaf.
After covering about half the distance I stopped – I stopped because they had stopped. They were no longer zipping wildly about; they were now hovering with a slight up and down, side to side, motion about three feet apart. Were they aware of me? Was I witnessing some form of sentience here?
From my closer vantage point the lights now took on the appearance of small, opalescent orbs – like tiny stars - but, as they were obscured by the mist, I still couldn't make them out clearly enough to identify exactly what they were or relate them to anything within my own experience.
It was this fact – the not knowing bit – and my growing awareness of the vulnerability of my situation: I was alone - confronted by an otherworldly, perhaps malign, presence - that decided my next move. I wasn't going to approach them any closer. I was going to get the f...! out of there.
As I retreated the orbs reverted to their former behavior: flying about, for what seemed like the sheer fun of it, and circling rapidly around one another.
When I eventually stepped off the field and out of the mist back onto a familiar street I turned and looked to where the lights had been – I could no longer see them.
Should I go back for another look? I was cold to the core, physically aching with tension and sweating profusely - I thought it more prudent to go home, get warm and go to bed. The unknown would have to remain precisely that: unknown - for a little while longer.
Over the ensuing years I have, in my mind's eye, revisited that scene many times. I have also sought explanations (ball lightening?), rationalizations (two guys, hunkered down in the mist, using battery powered model cars to beguile the unwary?) but nothing seems to fully account for what I saw.
As I write this, on a drab gray day in February, I am - in fact - looking out over those same fields; the spot where my otherworldly encounter played out is clearly visible from where I sit. It seems a very ordinary place right now.
The lasting impression I am left with of that night does not solely concern the weirdness of the actual event: my reaction to it - and the 'what if' factor - both haunt me in equal measure. Why did I react with such fear and apprehension to the presence of what were, on the face of it, two tiny innocuous objects?
We are not, after all, born with 'things to fear' hard wired into our brains. Children are, in fact, born fearless and so need to be protected from - and taught to avoid - the everyday dangers that the modern world exposes them to.
There is, however, one fear that some – pedagogues with hidden agendas - insidiously instil in young, impressionable minds. This is the 'fear of the other' which has another name – racism.
This is why we fear ET. We have been predisposed, by design, to regard the extra-terrestrial as being our racial antithesis - our natural enemy. The mechanism that has been used: by those seeking to manipulate our perception of the world, to demonize ET in this manner is really quite easy to understand – they simply cast him in our own image and invest him with our own brutally self-serving motives and behavior.
ET, they would have us believe, is coming here to dispossess and destroy us in much the same way as European explorers went out to the New World - in centuries past - to inflict savagery and enslavement upon the indigenous populations that they found there.
This subliminal message is all pervasive - it even contaminates the intellects of some surprising individuals. Take, for instance, Professor Steven Hawking who: in a TV documentary program about the SETI project, said that we shouldn't be searching for or trying to contact alien civilizations because history teaches us that when a technologically advanced civilization comes into contact with a technologically backward society the latter always suffers, often horrendously, as a result.
The effectiveness of propaganda, for that is what we are dealing with here, depends – entirely – on its ability to engender and perpetuate prejudicial thinking within its target audience. To achieve this propaganda follows two basic rules: keep the message simple and keep on repeating it ad infinitum.
Now because the message must, by necessity, be kept as plain as possible it nearly always consists of one of the following: an over-simplification, a bald statement unsupported by any facts or a flagrant lie. Therein lies propaganda's main weakness – its basic message is always open to attack from academics and intellectuals (disseminating any counter-arguments widely enough to be effective is, however, another matter).
Lets take a look at this basic message – it goes like this: ET is coming here to take something away from us. This basic missive is then broken down into specific variants for delivery through the privately owned and controlled media system.
Before I examine these variants I would ask the reader to accept – as a 'given' – that the extra-terrestrial is much more technologically advanced than we are or, to put it another way, anything we can do (or conceive of doing) ET can do a whole lot better. This will avoid any undue repetition.
Variant 1 – ET is coming here (sometimes from a dying planet) because he wants to make our world his home world.
Scientists are actively researching methods by which an inhospitable planetary environment can be transformed to support human life. This process is called terra-forming; the first candidate for such treatment will be Mars.
Variant 2 – He is coming here to steal out resources/mineral wealth.
Planets are formed from the accretion disks that surround young stars. After planetary systems have become established, however, there is usually still a lot of stuff left over: in the form of asteroids and comets etc, that has not been incorporated into these systems. This stuff is identical, compositionally, to the stuff that makes up the planets - ergo it would be far more practical for ET to capture and mine this dangerous (ask any dinosaur) debris in his own backyard than cross the galaxy to come here and then have to truck it all back home again.
Variant 3 – ET is coming here to enslave us.
This is an easy one. We have factories chock full of robots - the evolution of which continues apace. They are stronger and have more stamina than us - before long they will also be smarter.
Variant 4 - The extra-terrestrial is a plant/parasite that needs to infect a host organism (us) to survive.
Bio-engineering is a science still in its infancy. So far we have only been successful with cloning technology. This will soon change: growing tissue in a laboratory is now achievable - this will be augmented by stem cell research which will, one day, allow us to grow specialized tissue (organs/muscle/bone/blood) and eventually (nightmare scenario?) complete organisms that don't require either donors or parents.
If ET (remember – whatever we can do he can do...) required a host body he would simply make one.
The message, then, does not stand up to scrutiny. We do not possess anything that the extra-terrestrial either wants or needs. We have, therefore, nothing to fear from him.
If the reader has any lingering doubts about that assertion consider this: it is now possible, given the technology and access to information at our disposal, for a single person - or small group of people - to create and deploy a weapon of mass destruction.
Now think of an individual whose lifespan has been extended: by advanced medical technology, far beyond anything that we might reasonably expect - whose
intelligence quotient far outstrips that of an X number of neurally networked quantum computers and who is a card carrying member of a society that has, perhaps, a billion year's worth of scientific achievement stashed away in its footlocker. Think of ET. How much destructive force could he - if he was that way inclined - bring to bear on any perceived enemy?
We can be sure about one thing when it comes to advanced alien civilizations – they have, long ago, foresworn war. The amount of power that such civilizations are able to invest in the individual members of those civilizations renders war obsolete.
So I'll say it again – we have nothing to fear from the extra-terrestrial.
I'll finish with some words of advice. If you ever find yourself facing a situation similar to the one I faced on that November night all those years ago – do not do what I did, do not run away – stand your ground and prepare for an experience that will change your life. Who knows? It might be your experience that changes all our lives.
First contact – bring it on.