In the distant past, alien garrisons may have been posted to various orbital platforms such as a hypothetical planet orbiting beyond Mars (or around it?) that may have been blown to fragments, and others.
Our astronomers assert that billions of years of gradual meteoric activity caused the random planetary craters we survey by telescope today. On the other hand, extra-solar flotillas might have herded swarms of asteroids and comets – both as shields and as missile weapons – with which to pummel planets. If this bombardment lasted months between million-year-long intervals of cosmic tranquility, cumulative impact forces could have shattered or displaced planets, topped off or bailed out marine basins, stripped or thickened atmospheric blankets, shifted continents and drilled the planetary pockmarks we observe today.
Only recently have geologists concluded that geological layers on Earth that had been thought to represent centuries of volcanic activity, were laid down during a few brief cataclysms and their erosive aftermath.
Venus is devoid of tectonic features and cratered with absolute randomness. It seems to have undergone a crust failure so complete that its entire surface liquefied and turned inside out. Mars bears an enormous crater in its Southern Hemisphere, as if a moon-sized chunk had struck it there, and a reciprocal deformation of the planetary surface on the opposite side, raised above the average elevation of such a sphere along the strike path, and sucked lower around its margins. According to a consensus of astrophysicists, the Pacific Basin may have been carved out and the Moon formed by the ejection of a super-lunar mass during another cosmic collision between the Earth and a Mars-sized planet. Unforeseen new findings might come to light on the timing of trans-species die-offs and planetary morphology (see De Grazia, 1981).
A hail of cosmic fragments may have all at once snuffed out the late Bronze Age civilizations of Akkad, the Old Kingdom of Egypt, Greece, Israel, India, Afghanistan and Hongchan, China. A subsequent flurry may have annihilated the Early Iron Age civilizations of the Mycenaeans, the Hittites, the Egyptian New Kingdom, as well as those of the Late Bronze Age Israel and the Shang Dynasty in China. This second kill-off took place a thousand years after the first. Once again, it smashed all its victims almost simultaneously. Otherwise, could we be talking about super El Niños? The Society for Interdisciplinary Studies, at http://www.knowledge.co.uk/sis/, is a good source of material on this topic.
It is interesting to picture the synergistic effects of a relatively modest (thus more frequent if natural and less difficult if artificial) asteroid or comet diving to the Earth into a seismic fault or a volcanic hot spot. Enormous lahar beds in India and Siberia may have formed in this manner, as well as when Java separated explosively from Sumatra.
Other cosmic collisions may have scored civilization-wrecking Tilts on the terrestrial pinball machine. Psychiatrist Immanuel Velikovski (Worlds in Collision) speculated that a massive celestial pass-by took place some 3,500 years ago. The planetary turmoil it overshadowed might have included the Exodus. The scientific community dismissed his findings. In like manner, positivist reactionaries (“I’m positive you’re wrong.”) dismissed the first reasonable speculations about plate tectonics, as well as many more scientific hypotheses that turned out to be correct despite a host of elaborate denials.
One of these days, I may draft a chapter on the official sabotage of scientific truth in favor of a well-funded status quo already confirmed to be faulty. At least those instances I could recover. Chapter? Archives, rather! Go consult with those decrepit minds described above, who refuse to learn anything new and forbid anyone else to do so, as long as they can get away with it. Intellectual psychopaths who spoil the knowledge of their victims instead of their life and happiness.
Of late, speculation has revolved around the idea that the volcanic explosion of Thera or Santorini, and the Bible's Exodus may have been related events (in 1628, 1400 or 1200 BCE, depending on the source — the preferred date seems to vary with skirt hemlines). The ten Plagues of Egypt, as well as the parting of the “Red Sea,” have been linked to the after-effects of this titanic explosion. Leon Pomerance appears to have spearheaded this idea.
I wonder why records of those Plagues did not include a Cinemascope description of the tidal wave that would have swept in from the Mediterranean into the valley of the Nile, drowning Egyptian civilians by the million and perhaps the Hebrews as well before they could have gotten away.
Simcha Jacobovici directed an fascinating documentary film, The Exodus Decoded, in which he merges the Hyksos and the Jews into one historic people, and explains the Ten Plagues of Egypt and the drowning of the Egyptian Army during the Exodus as outcomes of the volcanic explosion of Santorini. See http://www.amazon.com/Exodus-Decoded-History-Channel/dp/B000HOJR8A.
The Minoans in exchange for the Jews?
That would bring into new perspective Arthur C. Clarke's haunting short story, "The Star." It describes a space research expedition come home from Star of Bethlehem. Its science crew discovered that when the star went nova, it fried the civilization that had orbited around it. That civilization perished so that people on Earth could observe the star’s flare-up on the day Jesus was born.
My brother-in-law, Billy Graham (a fine musician and video producer, not the preacher of the same name), believes it was a comet that appeared twice to the Magi – before and after it passed around the sun – and directed them toward Jesus' manger in Bethlehem. He had a silver medallion struck to commemorate this event. http://www.swdsilverornaments.com/commemoratives.htm. This interpretation of Matthew 2 is feasible. The star appears to have guided the Magi twice in different directions before and after their summons by Herod.
There followed the Plague of Justinian in 542. Massive mortality spoilt the Byzantine Empire’s last opportunity to renew itself. A volcanic eruption (or a meteor strike on a tectonic soft spot?) tore the island of Java from Sumatra. Terse local records make note of horrific casualties. This titanic explosion caused a nuclear winter whose cold reached all the way into the tropical headwaters of the Nile. It set off one of the first non-biblical pandemics recorded in Western history.
The Plague of Athens comes to mind, prior, as do a few more mentioned in the Bible. Many more neighboring epidemics and perhaps regional pandemics must have broken out, as many more as there were teeming human towns and trade networks: dirty Petrie dishes and used tongue depressors scattered across the planet.
Around Lake Victoria, fleas became vectors of plague because abnormal frosts activated the plague bacteria they carried in their guts, otherwise harmless in the muggy tropics. Luxury ivory shipments transmitted this plague to Constantinople and from there by commercial and military transport to the remainder of the Roman empire. This plague spared peripheral barbarians and struck its urban victims instead — that allowed Arab Muslims to overcome Byzantine Orthodox Christians and their Persian Zoroastrian adversaries who had cross-infected each other during prior conflicts. David Keys presents this fascinating thesis in Catastrophe: An Investigation into the Origins of the Modern World, Ballantine Publishing Group, 2000.
Another conundrum. If Jurassic Earth was uniformly tropical (its oceans ten degrees warmer than ours today), what prevented monstrous hurricanes from wearing down the coastline to bedrock? Could these storms explain the remnants of Paleolithic ecosystems found flash-buried under what appear to be tons of storm-tossed sediment?
We may have to cope with comparable Grand Chaos cyclones, now that we’ve poked awake global warming. It is quite likely that human fertility – with its infinite complexities and subtleties – will crash in response to the environmental variables of Grand Chaos. I would rather we had chosen to do so as a caucus of fully informed Learners, peacefully and in good order. Then again, my expectation that institutional stupidity will loosen its death grip on the human condition is constantly disappointed.
For example, I note our collective stupidity arising anew to propose – well financed and thus always louder – so-called geo-engineering projects that would mask the heat-death of the world our industrial exploitation has caused, without moderating it in any way, on the contrary. “Let’s just transform the Earth’s atmosphere into that of Venus and see what happens!” I wonder if the same stupidity, nursed so tenderly on Earth, achieved a similar outcome on Venus: all of its civilization’s mighty works reduced to slag for speedy profit?
Outer space may also hold omnivorous civilizations poised to study, hunt, domesticate and enslave us. In short, they might inflict on us the same indignities we reserve for less well-organized prey. I am troubled by the biblical allegory of the shepherd and his flock. Sooner or later, the former fleeces and butchers the latter.
Perhaps again, these alien omnivores may resemble Federation emissaries like those portrayed in the Star Trek television show: stuffy interstellar bureaucrats intent on some contrarian ideal of meddlesome non-interference. In that case, immediate alien contact would be with roving bandits while more ethical beings hid themselves more or less effectively from our view.
We may be under cosmic quarantine: a fitting penalty for our rabid conduct. Sun-hopping civilizations might adhere to pure peace mentality. Contact with yammering humanity might seem like pouring boiling water on one’s skin, a painful gesture carefully avoided, at least until the liquid had cooled to tolerable levels. “For the time being, sink or swim alone; we’ll take this matter up with you again at some later date, once you’ve matured a little.”
Another alternative: our governments have been notified that if a majority of humans convince themselves that aliens exist, those aliens will simply sterilize this planet in the same, offhand manner we would treat a home infestation. Problem solved, if not in a very peaceful way. It might be a question of politics : Democratic aliens in favor of treating us like a prized ecology, versus Republicans who’d rather exterminate us summarily like wolves threatening their livestock. This might explain why our leaders are so desperate to distort the truth on this topic.
In any case, the worst way to greet aliens, friendly or otherwise, would be divided among ourselves. Over and over, history has shown that internal discord is the quickest route to disaster when alien cultures collide. First, massive injustice and civil war wear away the victim from the inside, then manipulative outsiders take over with relative ease. Let enraged locals do most of the fighting for you.
Let’s expand on this subject to make it clearer. Imperialist invaders find it easier to knock off a centralized power rather than a conglomeration of smaller, independent power hubs that would need to be subdued one by one. So an alien invader would rather its planetary target were subject to one totalitarian and therefore vulnerable government rather than hundreds of independent ones. Knock out the corrupt central power and take over its control systems to finance your own: that’s the most successful formula for takeover by imperialistic outsiders.
The Learner system of governance would be designed to foil such a plot indefinitely. While a one-world government would be vulnerable to foreign subversion and military conquest (in proportion to its corruption and injustice), the Learner World Militia would remain under local control and independent of centralized command, thus even more intractable than two hundred nation-states. Regional control hubs could claim their own ethnic and cultural loyalties above and beyond mere national ones, and just as much devotion to a central Learner core dedicated to honesty and justice.
No other system of planetary governance could provide a better defense against planetary piracy, whether by hypothetical aliens or the next entirely predictable conspiracy of greedy humans. Not to mention our problems of planetary ecology that our irresponsible leadership of nation-states form a collective too stupid to address.
In our dealings with those aliens, three intellectual pitfalls await us.
· We might treat them like ourselves and ignore their unique aspirations, desires and fears.
· We may demonize them. In refusing to recognize their valid motives, we may try to harm them. That would force them to isolate us or make war against us in self-defense. This may be the current reality, driven on our side by government paranoia and reflexive suppression of relevant facts; and on theirs by unfamiliar technologies that can make them invisible to our examination.
· The third interaction, deification. It has rarely been practiced with respect to fellow humans (always fatally), but could be carried out indiscriminately with interstellar contacts. Endowed with acute technologies and inscrutable motives, they might seem godlike to us. We might view enslavement at their hands as fair punishment for our sins instead of plain bad luck at the cosmic lottery. We could accept everything they told us as divine inspiration. In short, their shit mightn’t stink to our nostrils; it might even be addictive to us. In addition, they might demonstrate beyond the shadow of a doubt that they or their predecessors in their semi-immortality were responsible for historical interventions we always assumed were “divine.” Awkward. Millennial cults predispose their adherents to this kind of self-deception, as when the Aztecs were exterminated by Spaniards. If I sought to take over a newly discovered civilization, I would do everything I could to impersonate its most cherished deities.
The USA’s weapon predominance tempts us to dominate the Earth’s poor. The Aztecs fell into the same trap. Supremely confident on their own turf, they oppressed their neighbors with the delicate brutality of their Flower Wars. This kind of warfare entailed wounding and capturing adversaries for cannibal butchery later on instead of killing them outright. It optimized the use of hard wood and razor-sharp obsidian weapons as opposed to the tactics and weapons of fire and steel, good for nothing but immediate mass murder.
Aztec weapons elites wound up feeding thousands of human sacrifices a week to their core population. In the same way, transglobal managers humiliate and victimize entire nations to exploit their mineral, forestry and fisheries reserves as well as cash crops while suffering minimal casualties among their mercenaries and none at all among themselves.
The outcome of this institutional shadism? A few hundred European freebooters, armed to the teeth, led a horde of disgruntled Indian allies against the Aztecs. Together they invaded the Aztec capital, seized and executed its ruler. A ferocious counterattack sent them reeling. Then they returned to exploit this New World civilization melting away from Old World epidemics.
A few extraterrestrial freebooters might treat us in the same way: recruit our bitterest enemies abroad and disenfranchised minorities at home, and return us the favor of our prior abuse. American Conspirators of Greed would find such an ironic state of affairs hard to accept, given their arrogant past. They might collaborate with the invaders, no matter what the cost to their subordinates. For the same reason, some Silk Road monarchs collaborated with the Mongols, some Europeans, with the Nazis, and some African chieftains, with slavers. Ah, the glorious inheritance of psychopaths!
Another weapon myth is the notion that human spear teams crossed the Bering Straits dry-shod about ten thousand years ago. It is said they exterminated dominant fauna across the Americas. They wielded stone-tipped spears: chipped obsidian Clovis and later, stemmed spearheads cunningly grooved into wooden shafts to detach upon impact. Their prey was said to have included twenty-foot imperial mammoth, sixteen-foot ground sloth, one-ton beaver, saber tooth tigers smaller than a lion but twice as heavy, packs of dire wolves weighing hundreds of pounds each, and short-faced bears six feet tall at the shoulder on four legs, that could have gutted a bison with ease. Our tank-like grizzly bears would have been intermediary predators in that kind of pumped-up ecology.
Even further back in time, our ancestor Australopithecus afarensis would have faced the same problem in spades. These child-sized human precursors occupied African savannas swarming with gorilla-sized baboons, double-sized rhinos, hippo-sized wild pigs and equally monstrous predators. I’ve asked myself how big and nasty snakes must have grown in those days. Twenty-foot mambas? Half-foot-wide rock vipers?
Indeed, Barbara Ehrenreich raises a similar point in her book, Blood Rites (Metropolitan Books, New York, 1997). She concludes that our fixation with self-sacrifice – whether to bloodthirsty gods, insane ideologies or warfare in general – is based on psychic traumas endured during tens and hundreds of thousands of years. Back then, humans would have been easy prey for saber tooth tigers; sluggish, tasty cat food on the hoof, soft and chewy on the outside and crunchy within.
This incessant torment of predation-fear awakened a spirit of self-sacrifice in our ancestors, which might have served them well at first. It drove suicide commandos of berserker human teenagers into banzai charges against unstoppable predators that were dismembering the human tribe at leisure.
We persist in honoring these martial talents. For example, adrenaline-induced pain suppression, strength enhancement and time dilation; intense physical training based on hazing, humiliation and terror; cold-blooded, microscopic battle planning; group success through individual sacrifice; danger and fear, pain and suffering, as well as of the urge to survive, all of them mystically defied: these attributes would have enhanced human survival under such ferocious pressures.
However, the large cats eventually disappeared. By what mysterious means? Such fearsome predators would have thrived facing off against the banzai charges of their kibble-beasts.
The latest theory proposes that a big rock fell out of the sky onto a glacier (thus no trace of the impact remains) about ten thousand years ago and wiped out so-called Clovis man (named for his signature spear points) as well as big beasts all at once across the Western Hemisphere, for future recolonization by the first American-Indians and the wildlife found in contemporary zoos. It killed off all the first-tier predators and herbivores on two continents, preserved those of the second-tier; allowed a second wave of humans after wiping out the first one. What micro-surgical selectivity for such a planetary hammer blow! Just like other recorded extinction events and the selection of miraculous survivors. How very fishy!
In any event, humanity got trapped in an extraordinary process of species transformation from prey-only to predator-mostly. Lacking a focus for its mortal anxieties, it found no better nemesis to worship and stalk than one another.
Dr. Ehrenreich describes the bond that battle elites (my term) share with their victims/hosts. Depending on the level of social complexity, they are either predators and prey (Learner’s Level Two) or parasites and hosts (Levels Three and Four). Learner concludes that the ultimate relationship would be as co-equal, peacefully integrated symbionts (Level Five).
Once upon a time, I watched a striking television documentary. During that gloomy presentation, a pride of lions stalked a herd of Cape buffalo. Enraged, the bulls counter-attacked the big cats en masse, chased them up some thorn trees and besieged them there until dark. The humbled pride shook free of its tormentors and beat a nighttime retreat across a flat desert plain. In the early morning gloom – as we watched by starlight scope – more buffalo crossed the cats’ path and routed them once again. The cattle trampled two lion cubs despite their mother’s desperate attempts to divert them. Under similar circumstances, a human spear team – slow moving, more vulnerable and requiring much more time to mature – would have been summarily blotted out.
It is one thing to sit in a soft armchair (as I’m doing now) and talk about chasing a mammoth over a cliff edge and into a convenient crevasse. Multiple times. It would be another one altogether to face these oversized specimens 24/7 across clear terrain without big rifles, jeeps, plenty of clean water and high-power ammo.
Exactly how were we supposed to have dispatched these creatures, with bare hands and brittle stone flakes on a stick? We are talking about fifteen-foot cave bears and packs of super-wolves as massive as lions and more ferocious than the monsters that haunt our nightmares.
Intimately familiar with their territory and the habits of none-too-bright buffalo, well-established Amerindian tribes may have gotten away with something like that at much better odds; even though they never really succeeded until they got hold of horses and guns from the Western world — and then all too briefly.
Stampeding a herd of shy herbivores over a cliff edge, that might have worked for a few territorial hunters intimately familiar with their prey. But such a scenario is implausible for footloose nomads crossing unknown territory and facing unfamiliar species. The problem would remain: how to stampede herds over cliff-edges and not over your vulnerable campsite and soft, slow troops.
Africans, who are intimate neighbors of elephants, have an expression for them: “They don’t think like animals, but like enemies.”
Humans weren’t the only pack predators who used such ambush tactics. They probably learned them from feral dogs that hunted in relays. Besides, primitive man could cover long distances for days on end, tracking down his prey faster than they could flee from him. Animals are good at bursts of speed but inferior to men at daylong plods.
With good reason, migratory animals instinctively shunned such geological traps. Their ancestral grazing corridors would have shunted them away from these precipices. That type of optimal hunting zone, constantly revisited by stupid herds, would not have been frequent and dependable enough to serve as multiple way stations for continental migrants on the hunt.
African Pygmies up-thrust their spears into the underbelly of elephants – according to Paul Lackman – exploiting the thick concealment and neurotoxins that jungle vegetation provided. Nevertheless, even once they’d equipped themselves with steel assegais, Masai tribesmen took heroic casualties to protect their beloved cattle from smaller, modern hunting cats.
But newcomers, armed with nothing more than sticks and stones, confronting endless hordes of monsters across featureless terrain, much of it flat and barren? No way, not without prohibitive casualties. Go ahead, invoke any atlacatl (spear thrower) technology you fancy. In the long run, casualties would outpace your human pack’s ability to replace them with slower growing, more vulnerable and far more precious children.
Renaissance soldiers traded deadly crossbows and compound reflex bows for expensive firearms that were unreliable and unsafe to use. They turned out to be slower to reload and harder to shoot. In skilled hands, a military bow was more accurate, had a faster rate of fire and a longer effective range. New soldiers relied on the fearsome flash-bang-smog that guns produced and horrific wounds caused by their fat bullets. Bows are noiseless, as are atlacatl spear throwers.
Were expert bowyers replaced by gunsmiths who found their trade more profitable? Each weapon system requires a different set of fabrication skills.
Some historians have asserted that gunplay is easier than shooting a bow and arrow. Keeping a primitive gun clean and in good working order, your powder dry and using it effectively under fire without harming yourself and your fellows, juggling a slow-burning match and an open flask of loose gunpowder, all the while standing out in the open under enemy fire and cold steel assault: those skills would have called for just as much hard-earned experience.
Archeologists have retrieved a few stone blades from dug-up mammoth carcasses. However, those tiny blades could not have brought down onrushing monsters before they flattened their puny, human tormentors. Those shards may have served as appetizer knives lost during a frenzied butchery, used until then to tease the flesh from carcasses deceased from other causes. What other causes? Now there’s an interesting question.
Imagine yourself the leader of a fifty-forager Neolithic band. Actually, that would be too large a group to feed dependably. During one bad season, it would starve out, cannibalize itself into extinction or fly apart. Let’s keep it that large in any case and say that several independent groups cooperated during seasonal hunts for big game.
How would you react if each new hunt cost you additional human casualties? Make a diligent count of your human assets and their replacement rate.
The reek of humans kills and shit heaps would attract scavenger packs and large rogue predators. As that stench drew them irresistibly, a steep price would have to be paid to kill them off or merely hold them at bay. Guarding its kills, your exhausted spear team would have had to confront every predator from miles downwind, day-in and day-out, for as long as you and your people could hold out. These New World predators would have no fear of man. Humans would have had to teach it to them the hard way, at the cost of precious human lives.
Carnivores and big grazers would have threatened the elders left behind in camp and children sent out to forage. These people would have needed additional guards taken from the hunting party. Let’s see: guards posted for the workers of the hearth, mothers and babes; more guards for scattered berry pickers and mouse hunters. You’d be down to half of your people for the long-range hunt. Factor out the sick and the lame and you’d be down to a half-dozen or so of the strongest for long and arduous hunts. No sense bringing along any dead weight.
Now, let’s see you stampede a herd of mammoths (or a single rogue charger) with a half-dozen people brandishing pointy sticks. Fire might offer temporary refuge around a fixed point but none during big moves or long hunts.
Figure it out for yourself or go ask a real hunter, as I have. They just shrugged their shoulders. Only an office-bound academic could contemplate such a thing.
One thoughtful anthropologist, Professor Bruce Huckle, conducted a test. Problem: butcher a circus elephant deceased from old age. Method: gather a few grad students, stone tools and some leather cord. The carcass turned out to be so heavy, Bruce’s team couldn’t roll it over to get at the bottom half. It began to rot within hours. In olden times, swarming with vermin and inaccessible to human butchers, it would have attracted every carnivore from miles downwind. Kill the closest one and the next closest would come around to investigate, and so on.
It’s too easy to talk about immobilizing prey in bogs; that would just worsen the problem. Could there be a less sanitary butcher shop than a shallow bog used time and again as an ambush site, slaughter pen and offal sump? Accessible water holes already attract big predators. Now, let’s fill that hole with large, rotting carcasses and see whose curiosity gets aroused.
Let’s not talk about the fatal pandemics these super hunters would have unleashed on themselves during such ecocidal treks. The annihilation of established species would have discharged their toughest microbes into humans: Neolithic Ebola! Catastrophes of this kind would have befallen expanding waves of migrants in close touch with camps established further north: a gradualist response to the above objection, unsupported by archaeological evidence.
Disease would have thrived just as readily among scattered hunter-gatherers as among dense-packed townies. Wild birds, insects and rodents would have spread them just as quickly, Learner friends.