In every city of every country in the world, people are at odds–with their neighbors, with their governments. With their own psyches.
Everywhere you look, there is sexism, racism, classism. Insecurity and utter ignorance. Not to mention some of the worst pop music in the history of the genre. Humanity is a mess.
And just when it seems things aren’t so bad—just after you read or hear of one gratifying action done out of common dignity and compassion–up come three more acts of selfishness, hate and vast human dysfunction. Something’s gotta give.
Call me mawkish, but I believe whole heartedly in those tender words the prolific lyricist Hal David put to Burt Bacharach’s elegant melody: “What the world needs now is love, sweet love.“ It’s true.
But before that, in the name of love, what the world needs now is an invasion from outer space.
Seriously. We need an earth-shaking event around which to rally–not as a country or as any one culture or group of people, but as a planet. We need a startling, tense and action-packed reminder that we are but flesh; that we all bleed, that despite being as unique and dissimilar as gorgeous flowers in a well-tended garden, we are one.
Many have forgotten this. Remarkably, others never knew or believed it. It’s time we all learn and remember. I think an invasion from outer space would do the trick.
Sounds extreme, I know, but nothing else seems to make us respect our magnificent circumstance for any length of time. Earthly happenings such as massive earthquakes, deadly hurricanes, name-taking tornadoes and unspeakable crimes do bring people together. However, in the end, those things do little more than conjure “regional empathy.” Depending on where you live, that tsunami simply made for dramatic television footage of a terrible crisis HAPPENING TO SOMEONE ELSE.
People like to say that, at least in America, on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, we came together as a nation, but that’s not true. What happened was on 9/11 America’s usual whipping boy–minorities, the poor, women–got a temporary reprieve, as all of us, the systematically disparaged included, focused our suspicions, ignorance, fears and hate upon Muslims. Didn’t matter whether they were law-abiding citizens who were just as shocked, saddened and angry about the attacks as anyone else. Indeed, in recent years, the closest the world has come to unification is its collective preoccupation with Islam and its stupefying inability to separate the religion from horrific, senseless terrorism.
An invasion from outer space would change all that. Nothing encourages instant, sincere brotherhood among angry and forever bickering humans like the surreal vision of space ships landing in every capital of every country on earth, carrying advanced beings from a distant galaxy who simultaneously render useless all our weapons, interrupt our cable TV and Internet and take away our inherent craving for Pepsi and bacon.
Suddenly, it wouldn’t matter who controlled the Gaza Strip. It wouldn’t matter your religion or whether you were rich or poor, white, black, brown, red, yellow or a combination. The only hue we’d all concern ourselves with would be the alternately hideous and fashionably green of our visitors.
Almost immediately, the crisis would neutralize the earthly phenomenon called celebrity. In the event of a space invasion, there is no VIP section. To beings from another planet, we’re all bad actors.
Unintentionally, the aliens would scare the shit out of us, like 9/11 scared the shit out of us and just as natural disasters humble us. But for once in the history of the world, human beings would find camaraderie in being collectively scared shitless of something besides one another.
When the chief alien spoke, its sound system would allow it to communicate with the whole world at once. What it would tell us is what they’d observed of us for decades—that we were narcissistic, mean, evil and nasty. And that’s just how we treated ourselves.
The alien would declare our treatment of our fellow man, animals and the planet no less than unconscionable. Somehow, this alien’s singular speech would have the uncanny power to address every person on earth in the specific way in which each living individual needed to hear it. While we wouldn’t want to listen—-it would be shameful to hear-—without cable or Internet, we’d have no choice.
They would come in peace, the aliens, and stay for six days–during which time they’d see to it that all our basic needs were met. That way, they said, we wouldn’t have to do anything but meditate on all the ways we’d squandered our precious existence. The space beings would make us see the joy and value in loving one another at all costs.
On the morning of the seventh day, all over the world the space ships would be seen making their ascent. Undoubtedly, some of us wouldn’t want them to go. As they departed, the cable and the net would come back on (the pigs, on the other hand, secretly met with the aliens and cut a side deal so the space creatures wouldn’t restore man’s zeal for bacon).
I know. It’s a ridiculous story. However, its absurdity makes man’s reality—our fussing and fighting, our hate and bigotry and killing one another–all the more insidious. Sadly, THAT stuff, you can’t make up.
Steven Ivory, journalist and author of the essay collection Fool In Love (Simon & Schuster), has covered popular culture for magazines, newspapers, radio and TV for more than 30 years. Respond to him [email protected]